Health and Safety
Ensuring the health and safety of the pupils, staff and members of the public on the school premises is an essential part of risk management and should be led by the governing board at the appropriate level.
Whether the governing board is the direct employer of staff, i.e. in academy trusts, voluntary aided and foundation schools, or has been delegated employer responsibility by the Local Authority (LA), in the case of community or voluntary controlled schools, it should ensure that schools under their control are compliant with the appropriate health and safety legislation. Schools who are not the direct employer of their staff may be requested by their LA to follow their health and safety policy.
Health and safety is a collective responsibility of the governing board and it is rare for individual governors to be found liable for health and safety issues provided that they perform their legal duties responsibly. In practice, the board’s oversight of health and safety is likely to be conducted at committee level through a dedicated health and safety committee, or another committee delegated with these responsibilities. The relevant committee reviews reports and information to monitor the school’s practice against its policy to ensure compliance with legislation, good practice, mitigate against risks etc. Although not a statutory requirement, some governing boards choose to nominate a governor to have specific oversight of health and safety, report to the board on compliance and on any presenting issues. However, delegation will not absolve the board of their responsibilities as a corporate body.
Regardless of how the governing board’s responsibility for health and safety is carried out in practice, it is important to remember that the responsibility is carried out at a strategic level. The operational management of health and safety issues, such as health and safety checks, should be delegated to appropriately trained employees in the school. For example, it would be appropriate for a governing board to receive a health and safety audit and scrutinise the senior leadership’s handling of the subject. However, it would not be appropriate for a governor to conduct the audit, even if a governor has some health and safety experience themselves.
Visit The Department for Education's (DfE) website for advice and information on health and safety.
The DfE’s guidance on good estate management also refers to how those with duties for health and safety in schools should make sure that the policies and the condition of the estate are compliant with appropriate legislation.
NGA’s questions for governing boards to ask series includes a set of overarching questions relating to health and safety, which governing boards can adapt and use to suit their circumstances.