Taking Risks

| More

Suggested course duration: 5.5 - 11 hours

In this course we are going to be taking a closer look at outdoor learning and risk assessments. After an introduction to the Every Child Matters and Learning Outside the Classroom agendas, the activities will provide you with ideas on getting your pupils to identify risks and involving your pupils in carrying out a risk assessment. The final activity offers an idea that will make your pupils become more aware of hazards in the school grounds by relying on senses other than sight.

Completion of this course is intended to be a CPD activity, rather than a 'resource grab'. You are encouraged to adapt the ideas presented here to develop your own resources or unit of work. The intention is that completion of the unit will result in the development of new skills and pedagogical techniques, and offer opportunities for reflection.

Staying Safe

Suggested completion time: 10 -  20 minutes

Keeping safe and being aware of risks is one of the five outcomes of the Every Child Matters agenda. The five in full are as follows:

  • be healthy
  • stay safe
  • enjoy and achieve
  • make a positive contribution
  • achieve economic well-being.
How inspectorate determine if the 'stay safe' outcome is being met.

1. Children & young people and their carers are informed about key risks and how to deal with them

2. Steps are taken to provide children & young people with a safe environment

3. Steps are taken to minimise the incidence of child abuse and neglect

4. Child protection arrangements meet the requirements of "Working Together to Safeguard Children"

5. Children & young people who are looked after are helped to stay safe

6. Children & young people with learning difficulties & disabilities are helped to stay safe

From DfES (2004) Every Child Matters: Change for children

Going outside

Suggested completion time: 15 - 30 minutes

As part of the ECM agenda, the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) manifesto was launched in November 2006. This stresses the entitlement of all children to high quality outdoor learning experiences and aims to encourage schools to develop and make more use of outdoor provision. This does not necessarily mean travelling far, as high quality learning experiences can take place in the school grounds and the local area.

One of the eight 'doorways' of the National Framework for Sustainable Schools is 'Buildings and Grounds':

"By 2020 the government would like all schools buildings and grounds to be regarded as living, learning places where pupils see what a sustainable lifestyle means through their involvement in the continual improvement of the school estate."

Another doorway is 'Local well being':

"By 2020 the government would like all schools to be models of good corporate citizenship within their local areas, enriching their educational mission with active support for the well-being of the local environment and community."

Imagine that you have decided to further develop thinking about identity and place by engaging with the real world through active fieldwork, either in your school grounds or in the locality.

How do you think preparations for fieldwork will be able to fulfil aspects of the ECM, Outdoor Learning and the Sustainable Schools frameworks? How are these agendas connected in this context to Community Cohesion?

This course focuses on working with these agendas and enabling children to learn more about keeping themselves safe, identifying risk and supporting others to be safe. Think about the activities that are most relevant to you and the context in which you will undertake them.

Activity 1: Picture the Risk

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

PicLits is a free software programme with a gallery of images and a word bank as well as a freestyle writing mode. Choose an image to use with your class and use the drag and drop technique with the given word bank to begin to develop a sense of place. Then, working as a class, switch to the freestyle writing mode and ask pupils to identify risks and say what they might do to keep themselves safe.

Here is an example:

How might you develop this for pupils to work at computers in small groups or pairs?

How well did pupils identify hazards? Was their ability to see hazards linked to the kind of environment shown in the image?

What barriers were there to learning, e.g. did pupils have adequate vocabulary to communicate landscape features and hazards?

Activity 2: Our Risk Assessment

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Before taking children out on fieldtrips, teachers are required to undertake a thorough risk assessment. It is good practice to involve the pupils in this too – although of course you can't take them outside school to do this, you can bring images of the route to be visited back into the classroom.

First, if you are taking children out into the neighbourhood for a fieldtrip, whether it is within walking distance of the school or via transport into the wider locality think about these key questions:

  • Why have you chosen a particular location?
  • Is it relevant to pupils?
  • Have they had some input in identifying where you might go?
  • Do you have focus for the trip and how was this chosen?

Take a look at this example presentation which shows how you can involve pupils in risk assessment:

Download this presentation as a PowerPoint

Thnk about the following:

  • How will you adapt this to use with your class?
  • How would you structure the lesson?
  • How might you adapt the given writing frames?
  • What images will you use and why did you choose them?
  • How will you evaluate the lesson?

Activity 3: Blindfold Buddies

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

This activity is one for the school grounds. Using your knowledge of both your outdoor provision and your pupils decide how much prior input is needed. For example, will you need to use photographs of your route with pupils before going outside?

Walk a chosen route with your pupils and point out the obvious hazards. These will most likely not be too serious because you are on school premises so they might comprise e.g. a bench that pupils might bump into, a patch of nettles, a low lying branch etc.

Put pupils into pairs and explain that one is to be blindfolded (in practice it's easiest to ask them close their eyes and try not to peek). Their partner has to guide them by the arm and give directions, warning of any dangers and looking out for them – stress that the leaders should walk very slowly. Then partners swap over. Ask the partners to rate each other on trust and care. You might need to have a very quick practice session first.

Once you have done the activity, reflect upon the following questions:

  • How well did pupils enjoy this activity?
  • How successful did they feel at this task?
  • How did you support them to feel confident and successful?

Ask your pupils how they felt walking along relying on their other senses without being able to use sight? Did this help them perceive a familiar place in a new way? What would it be like to continually experience the world without visual input? Can the right instructions help to 'paint a picture' in your head?

How might you develop this activity? 

Could your pupils produce their own safety map of the school grounds to share with other pupils?

How could you use this as a focus for school grounds improvement and link to your school Access for all policy?


Conclusion: How does feeling safe contribute to sustainability and community cohesion?

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Activity 3 might have highlighted the user friendliness (or not) of your school grounds for those who are visually challenged or have some other kind of mobility challenge.

Read this article about considering mobility through fieldwork (Simon Catling et al, 2006). GA members with a subscription to Primary Geography can download this for free.

One of the principles underpinning sustainability is real participation. How have you enabled all your pupils to genuinely participate in risk and safety issues through these activities? What ethical issues have you encountered?

Finally, consider how feeling safe contributes to a sense of identity and to community cohesion. How can you gauge the impact of this on pupils? One way would be to establish a confidence baseline before and then measure it after some work has been done. Discuss with your pupils and / or colleague(s) how you might do this and add your reflections to your learning journal.


Simon Catling with Gillian Bendall, Nicola Cook, Sally Elgie and Suzie Hammond (2006) Access denied? Primary Geographer, 59, Spring 2006

Your Learning Journey

Suggested completion time: 1 - 2 hours

Having completed the course, reflect and evaluate how you have engaged with the knowledge base to engage pupils and develop your own practice. Below are some prompts for you if you are still refining the preparations for your learning journey and some for you to consider if you are on your learning journey.

Preparing for your learning journey

Discuss with your year group partner(s) and / or mentor what ideas you might develop and how you will do this.

  • How have these examples and ideas help you to plan coherent and relevant learning for your pupils?
  • How did you adapt them?
  • What curriculum links did you focus on to link with the geography? Why did you choose them?
  • How have you enabled pupils to make connections between the local and the global?
  • How did you place value pupils' contributions and personal geographies? How did this impact on their self esteem and the value they place on themselves as individuals and as a group?
  • How do you think these activities contribute to sustainable thinking and social cohesion?

On your learning journey

  • What changes, if any did you make to your original plan? How did professional learning conversations with your coach or learning mentor influence this and the outcomes of your learning?
  • How did you evaluate your own learning?
  • What feedback did you receive from pupils or colleagues?
  • How did you share this learning with others? What feedback have you had?

Where next?

You may now wish to move on to another course in this family in order to widen and deepen your knowledge base. It is important that you end by completing the Plenary section, as this allows you to reflect on your learning.

The courses

Comment on this page

Comments made by GA members appear instantly and don't require security words to be entered - make sure you're logged in! Guest comments will be sent to a moderator for approval.

Join the GA

For professional journals, huge discounts on publications and CPD and online access to member only resources.

Join now


  • Primary Geography
  • Teaching Geography
  • Geography

Free access to subscribers

  • Nomadic School Tours
  • Cambridge International Examinations
  • Become a geography examiner
Receive our email newsletters

Sign up to our email newsletter for all the latest news and updates throughout the year.