Once the children in your nursery reach the upper age range from three to five years old, the nursery itself becomes a place for learning and developing their inquisitive minds as much as it is a place that cares for their physical needs. However to merely confine the children to a single room in order to learn can be entirely counter-productive, and indeed education inspectors will be seeking evidence that children’s learning takes place outside of the nursery room on a regular basis.

Field trips or outings need not necessarily be unduly expensive. Young children in particular can learn a great deal just by viewing their local environment in a certain way. They should experience different kinds of weather and not just view going outside as something that they can do only when the weather is fine and dry. The field trip can even be just a walk around the outside of school or locality to fire their imagination on a topic.

On occasion however it may be particularly beneficial to the children if they can take a field trip to somewhere a little further afield. In such cases there are some excellent guidelines you can follow to ensure that your trip is as safe, educational and entertaining for the children as possible.

The first thing to consider regarding the field trip is whether your intended destination is suited to the children you will be taking with you. A phone call to your intended destination should provide you with adequate information on whether the venue is suited to the age range and ability levels of your group of children. Ask for a list of activities on site that are suited to your age range of children, ask if these activities are linked to the national curriculum (many attractions now offer packs for nursery staff, playgroup leaders, pre school staff, teachers etc that link the activities they offer on site into the national curriculum for you). Discuss these issues with your staff and if you decide the trip is going to be worthwhile for the children, then you can begin to plan a procedure that will ensure the children will remain safe whilst on the trip.

These procedures must be applied to the welfare requirements of children as prescribed in the Early Years Foundation Stage and must include items such as;

-          Checking before your trip that there is sufficient insurance cover for the trip.

-          Parental consent for each child attending the trip must be sought and given. For trips to the local shops and small outings a general consent form can be used, however for a specific trip further afield, a consent form specifically for the trip must be given, complete with details of the procedures that will be followed on the trip.

-          A risk assessment of the trip and venue will have to be completed. Many venues now have their own risk assessment available and this can be supplied upon request. However it is still the nurseries responsibility to ensure that issues such as the adult to child ratio is still legal and that any medical issues pertaining to the children on the visit are known beforehand and catered for.  The risk assessment will also cover that the minimum staff ratio’s for groups are maintained throughout the trip, that the staff on the trip will have access to a first aid kit and mobile phone and whether parents will be required to accompany their children on the trip.

-          All staff on the trip should be informed of the procedures to follow in the case of an emergency. They should also have full details available of emergency contacts for the children.

-          A list of equipment needed to cover for the risk assessment, such as snacks, spare clothes, wet wipes, towels, prescribed medication etc should be made to ensure that the needs of all children and any emergency can be addressed.

-          Children should be provided with a sticker which they can wear on their coat which list the name of the venue and its telephone number, however it must never contain the name or any other personal information pertaining to the child.

-          Ensure that there is one member of staff on the outing who holds a current first aid certificate in paediatrics.

-          Finally, all this information complete with the name of the venue, the date and time, the method of transport used to reach it (including details of any insurance cover and a list of the drivers), the estimated time of return and a full list of the children on the trip complete with the staff members who are responsible for them, should be kept in a record.

Although this list does sound particularly daunting, it is worth remembering that many venues can now provide you with a risk assessment of their facility and can offer you guidance and advice on what to put in your risk assessment for the trip.

The point of the risk assessment is to insure that the likelihood of anything going wrong is kept to a minimum, but also that if something should go wrong that all staff are clearly informed of the procedure to follow in such circumstances. All schools, pre school’s, playgroups and nurseries in the UK now have to adhere to these governmental guidelines.

One final point to make about such trips is the use of the term ‘educational’. At the ages of 3-5 years old, almost any trip, however trivial, is a chance for a learning experience for the child. A trip into a local street outside your nursery school, perhaps to look at a tree that the child may have walked past 100 times may sound particularly dull, but even this seemingly drab visit is an opportunity for education in many cross curricular areas. What does the bark feel like? Does the tree have leaves? Why or why not? What is living around the tree? What type of tree is it? What animals need trees? In such a way, any visit to any attraction is an education opportunity for your group of children. Your imagination is the key to firing theirs and once you have achieved that, the rest is easy, that’s true whether you are at the top of the Eiffel tower, or standing in the mud, in the rain, outside the nursery gates!

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