04 September 2009
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Table of contents

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Section 2: Planning & Administration

This section provides an overview of the planning and administration stage. A checklist for planning and administration is included in Section 3. This may form the basis of a risk management plan.

Step 1 - Selecting a Venue
Step 2 - Obtaining Parent / Caregiver Permission
Step 3 - Staff Supervision
Step 4 - Risk Management Plan

Step 1 - Selecting a Venue

School principals and school aquatic/excursion coordinators are encouraged to seek out aquatic venues that have made a commitment to aquatic safety and improvement against best practice guidelines.

The Royal Lifesaving Society Guidelines for Safe Pool Operation is a venue based risk management tool for improving aquatic health and safety. These guidelines act as a voluntary guide for operators in meeting minimum best practice standards.

Pool audits are provided by a number of aquatic industry leaders, including the Royal Life Saving Society.


Hiring Agreement

Principals should seek to obtain the venue emergency action plan and any local rules or regulations relevant to the venue. Schools that hire a venue, or part thereof, should receive from the venue management a letter of agreement or a hiring agreement, which clearly establishes the responsibility of the venue management and the hirer (the school).

These responsibilities will include:

  • supervision
  • responsibility in an emergency
  • responsibility for first aid.

This agreement should be countersigned by the hirer to indicate that the terms and conditions have been accepted. The letter of agreement should clearly establish:

  • Information regarding the likely number of persons using the venue, and if appropriate their skills.
  • The name of the hirer’s representative who will be personally present and in charge of the group.
  • The age of the hiring group.
  • The number of lifeguards to be present during the session.
  • Respective responsibilities of the venue management and the hirer in an emergency. A distinction should be drawn between generated emergencies (eg. injuries) and venue emergencies (eg. structural problems).
  • Any local laws that may be enforced.
  • Rules of behaviour to be followed, if different to the normal rules.
  • Any specific advice to be given to users.
  • Responsibility for the provision of first aid services.
  • Access to first aid equipment.

The hiring group should be provided with a copy of the emergency action plan and procedures.

NSW Sport and Recreation Centres

The 11 NSW Sport and Recreation Centres are popular venues for school camps and day activities. Pool and other aquatic activities are usually offered as part of a camp program. All NSW Sport and Recreation Centres conduct unstructured aquatic activities.

A proficiency test, in the form of ‘The Challenge’, must be conducted before the first aquatic activity at camp, unless the school provides evidence of testing having been recently conducted (within a period of two school terms). Wrist bands identifying proficient and non-proficient swimmers will be issued and must be worn for the duration of the camp.

NSW Sport and Recreation standards stipulate that the centre will provide pool supervisors with Bronze Medallion, resuscitation and oxygen equipment qualifications at a ratio of one supervisor to 50 students.

School staff will be required to provide general supervision and support to allow the qualified pool supervisor to focus on water safety.

The overall ratio of school teacher supervisors to students in the pool will be not more than 1:20..

Schools with Pools

Schools with pools should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that the pool meets the same safety requirements as community swimming pools.

Schools with pools should consider the following fundamental aspects:

  • an emergency action plan
  • rescue equipment
  • signage – depth markers etc.
  • risk management.

Schools with pools should further undertake an Aquatic Safety Risk assessment to ensure:

  • student and staff welfare
  • appropriate maintenance.

Appendix 4: 5 Star Water Safety Partner Benchmarks

Step 2 - Obtaining Parent / Caregiver Permission

Unstructured aquatic activities are usually conducted as an excursion or part of an excursion. Parents/caregivers specifically must provide consent for their child(ren) to participate in the aquatic activities.

Students who are nominated by their parents/caregivers as swimmers will be required to complete the Water Survival Challenge.

Students who are nominated by their parents/caregivers as non-swimmers (or unknown ability) and are permitted to participate in the unstructured aquatic activity will be provided with a yellow wrist band. These students will need to be assessed on their ability to walk with balance and stability in waist deep water.

Students, whose parents/caregivers do not provide permission for their child(ren) to go in the water or are unable to walk with balance and stability in waist deep water will be involved in non-aquatic activities.

Schools should seek out relevant policy or guidelines in relation to the conduct of excursions via NSW Department of Education and Training, the Catholic/ Diocesan school authority or the Association of Independent Schools of NSW.

To access information that should be included on aquatic activity permission notes - Department of Education and Training schools should follow the following link and open the unstructured aquatic activities section.

Step 3 - Staff Supervision

The teacher:student supervision ratio for unstructured aquatic activity must not exceed 1:20.

The number of supervising teachers required at the activity will depend on the number of students, their age and maturity, the type of activity and the conditions at the venue. At least one of the supervising teachers must possess recognised current training in CPR.

School principals/aquatic coordinators should engage suitably qualified pool staff, local swimming teachers or parents etc to act as the aquatic supervisor if no one on the school staff holds suitable current aquatic qualifications.

Teachers providing supervision do not require any special aquatic competencies to provide appropriate supervision, scanning and surveillance support for unstructured aquatic activities.

School principals are advised to refer to the Guidelines for the Safe Conduct of Sport and Physical Activity in Schools and relevant school sector guidelines and policies for information relating supervision requirements.

Students with Special Needs

Before working with students with special needs extra information is required. The individual's health plan should provide information including:

  • their ability to understand and follow directions, including non english speaking background students.
  • whether they require help entering and exiting the pool
  • whether there are any further medical issues that supervisors should be aware of
  • whether parents, caregivers or attendants will be attending to their personal needs.

Additionally and as an example, students with seizure conditions are particularly vulnerable in the water and require close supervision. Any student with seizure conditions must have 1:1 supervision.

Step 4 - Risk Management Plan

The degree of planning required is influenced by the nature of the unstructured aquatic activity, the level of risk and the student group. For activities that have previously been planned and conducted, previous risk management plans may be reviewed and reused.

An important component of the risk management process is consultation, which should include staff, external venue providers and parents.

Principals should retain the documented plan as verification of the planning undertaken. The documentation will aid communication of the plan, and can also be used in future planning of unstructured aquatic activities. All staff participating in the activity should be given a copy of the risk management plan.

A sample of the type of indicators that a risk management plan may include is provided in Section 3.

All plans should be developed in conjunction with relevant excursion policies developed by the respective sectors and individual schools. Sporting or physical activities should also be organised in accordance with the Guidelines for the Safe Conduct of Sport and Physical Activity in Schools available at http://www.sports.det.nsw.edu.au/spguide

Support Resources

For NSW Department of Education and Training principals, the following resources are available at the Department’s OH&S website, https://detwww.det.nsw.edu.au/adminandmanage/ohands/excursions/

  1. Guidance in completing the risk management plan proforma for excursions.
  2. Risk management plan proforma for excursions.
  3. Sample risk management plan for excursions.
  4. Excursions policy.

To support schools, a database of venue and safety information from common excursion sites is available on the OH&S website. These should be considered and if appropriate attached to the excursion risk management plan.

AIS school principals may refer to the AIS Risk and Compliance team for additional advice.

Schools in the Catholic education sector may refer to Diocesan/School Authority Guidelines, or the Catholic Education Commission’s Student Safety Policy Guidelines in the publications section of the CEC website, www.cecnsw.catholic.edu.au