Common Sense Common Safety

Lord Young of Grantham’s report to the Prime Minister – Common Sense, Common Safety – has just been published. It contains important recommendations across the board in respect of health and safety practice.

The report’s analysis and resulting recommendations respond positively to many of the concerns many of us have been voicing for some years.

The extracts below have been circulated by PLAYLINK and will be of particular interest to the play, leisure and recreation sectors, education including outdoor activities, and the voluntary sector.

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PLAYLINK has circulated this information to alert practitioners to the report and to offer a taste of its findings.

‘Common Sense, Common Safety’ is well worth reading in full. It can be found at:

From PLAYLINK’s perspective, we want to draw particular attention to the significance accorded to:

  • Taking a ‘common sense’ approach to health and safety. As many readers will know, PLAYLINK, with others, has promoted the inestimable value of deploying common sense to inform judgment.
  • Shifting ‘from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk-benefit assessment’ (context for this quote appears in full below).
  • Considering reviewing the Health and Safety at Work etc Act ‘to separate out play and leisure from workplace contexts’.

Please circulate this eNewsletter to others who may be interested. Do contact us if you want to discuss the report and its potential implications. If you are not already subscribed to the PLAYLINK eNewsletter you may care to do so now.

Common Sense, Common Safety: extracts

From the Prime Minister’s foreword to the report:

We simply cannot go on like this. That’s why I asked Lord Young to do this review and put some common sense back into health and safety. And that’s exactly what he has done.

I hope this review can be a turning point. Lord Young has come forward with a wide range of far reaching proposals which this Government fully supports. We’re going to curtail the promotional activities of claims management companies and the compensation culture they help perpetuate. We’re going to end the unnecessary bureaucracy that drains creativity and innovation from our businesses.

And we’re going to put a stop to the senseless rules that get in the way of volunteering, stop adults from helping out with other people’s children and penalise our police and fire services for acts of bravery.

Instead, we’re going to focus regulations where they are most needed; with a new system that is proportionate, not bureaucratic; that treats adults like adults and reinstates some common sense and trust.

Extract from the Executive Summary

My report highlights the role that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities have in promoting a common sense approach to health and safety. Their role is pivotal in ensuring that businesses, schools and voluntary organisations can operate in a way where health and safety is applied in a proportionate manner.
Extract from section on Local authorities

There is some inconsistency across local authorities, and the rules on health and safety are not always applied with a view to a proper risk management approach. In some instances it is clear that officials are giving poor advice to organisations and individuals, who are in turn prevented from running an event (for example a school fete) when there is no legitimate reason not to on health and safety grounds. However, there is no requirement to put these reasons in writing and the specific grounds for the decision are often not made transparent.

There is also currently no system for appeal or redress when an event is banned or curtailed ‘for health and safety reasons’. They are simply required to accept the decision and not go ahead with the event as planned. They could also be discouraged from even planning such an event for fear or expectation that a local authority official will not allow it.

I would like to see the Government put a system in place whereby individuals have the right to ask local authority officials who ban events on health and safety grounds to put their reasons in writing.

Extract from section on Adventure training

I would recommend that we abolish the licensing of adventurous activities through the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority and instead introduce a code of practice that the HSE will oversee and monitor. The HSE should also ensure that those planning trips can feel confident that a provider is compliant with the code. Since this is a devolved issue, I will work with the devolved administrations on taking forward this initiative in Scotland and Wales.Extract from section on Educational visits

There have been a number of cases where schools have prevented pupils from taking part in educational visits citing health and safety as the reason for non-participation.

The process for taking children on educational visits involves a huge amount of form-filling – ranging from consent forms to risk assessments… This process can involve excessive bureaucracy that is not proportionate to the role it plays in reducing the risk of accidents. It merely serves as a deterrent and an excuse to ‘do nothing’.

As a consequence, children are potentially missing out on vital education because schools just do not have the time and resource to carry out the process and, if they do, they are too concerned about the threat of legal action should an accident happen.

We should simplify the process that schools and similar organisations undertake before taking children on trips. We should introduce a single consent form, signed by a parent or guardian, which covers all activities a child may undertake during their time at a school, enabling parents to opt out of any specific activities. Consent is already not required for activities which take place during the school day and in order to reduce the amount of bureaucracy around school trips we should underline this message to schools and local authorities.

Finally, we should introduce a simplified risk assessment for classrooms which could be made available on the HSE website. The website could also provide checklists for areas in which a fuller risk assessment is required, such as sports facilities, laboratories and workshops.

Extract from section on Children’s play areas

A further area of concern is the impact of health and safety on children’s play areas. In legal terms, play provision is guided by the Health and Safety at Work etc Act. There is a widely held belief within the play sector that misinterpretations of the Act are leading to the creation of uninspiring play spaces that do not enable children to experience risk. Such play is vital for a child’s development and should not be sacrificed to the cause of overzealous and disproportionate risk assessments.

This is a further example of how legislation primarily conceived to be applied in a hazardous environment is being brought into an environment for which it is unsuited with damaging consequences.

I believe that with regard to children’s play we should shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk–benefit assessment, where potential positive impacts are weighed against potential risk. These ideas inform the play programme developed by the Department for Education and Department for Culture, Media and Sport and I would like to see them developed more widely. Furthermore we should consider reviewing the Health and Safety at Work etc Act to separate out play and leisure from workplace contexts.

Risk-benefit links


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Home Education and Forest School

The Forest School approach is ideally suited to home educating families as it is based around child led experiential learning. Home educating families have specific circumstances and needs that are distinct from other groups and it is vital to understand and address these needs when running activities.

Follow this link to download a summary of the Forest School Home Education Project in the Dyfi Valley in mid-Wales in 2009.

The full report is available for members of Forest School Wales to download from the Other Resources / Advice and Questions / Home Education and Forest School section of this website.

14 – 19 Learning Pathways & Forest School Report Published

Forest School has been shown to a highly effective and engaging way of delivering much of the Core of Learning within 14-19 Learning Pathways, according to a recent report by Denbighshire Forest School.

The Report is based on 16 Forest School Learning Pathways Link Courses, delivered between 2006-2009, including seven year-long programmes and involving over 100 KS4 pupils from 4 high schools and 2 special schools.

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In addition to developing Key Skills, 57 pupils gained a Forest School OCN level 1, 10 gained an OCN Entry level, and 35 gained their John Muir Discovery Award. Two programmes were tailored specifically around ASDAN challenges.

The Forest School programmes attracted high levels of support from families, Educational Social Workers and other key Local Authority officers, and additional benefits included opportunities for work experience.

Download the full Project Report by following the link below, including recommendations and 16 detailed Case Studies. Additional Guidance Notes are available for members of Forest School Wales.

Forest School & 14-19 Learning Pathways in Denbighshire, 2006-2009, Project Report Sept 2010

The following Guidance Notes are available for members of Forest School Wales to download from Other Resources: Advice and Questions: 14-19 Learning Pathways:

14-19 Learning Pathways ~ Guidance Notes for FS practitioners

ASDAN ~ Guidance Notes for FS practitioners

The John Muir Award~ Guidance Notes for FS practitioners

Open College Network (OCN) ~ Guidance Notes for FS practitioners


Great new insurance rates for Forest School Leaders, Trainees and Groups

Members of Forest School Wales can now access three preferential rate Public Liability and Employers Liability insurance packages under the Birnbeck Forest School Wales Liability Scheme.

Individual Public Liability from £157; Employers Liability of around £252.

In addition to highly preferential rates these packages simplify the process of insuring Forest School sessions by including cover for trainees, volunteers and sub-contractors.

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The Birnbeck Forest School Wales Liability Scheme :

  • Endorsement 1: Qualified Individual Forest School Practitioners

Costs £157.50 plus £25 FSW membership = £182 .50
This includes cover for volunteers working with that FSL.


The Birnbeck Forest School Wales Liability Scheme :

  • Endorsement 2: Forest School Trainees

Costs £157.50 plus £25 FSW membership = £182 .50
The trainee must be working alongside a qualified insured FSL who is also a FSW member.


The Birnbeck Forest School Wales Liability Scheme :

  • Endorsement 3: Forest School Groups

i) The premium for the Employers Liability cover will be calculated by applying a rate% on the annual wages paid – thus an annual wage bill of £40,000 would create an annual premium for Employers Liability of £252.00, and for £20,000 it would be £126.00.
ii) The premium for the Public Liability section would be rated on Turnover (ie: fees collected etc) at a rate of 0.35% – thus for a turnover of £100,000 the premium would be £350 + tax = £367.50.
Larger organisations requiring both EL and PL will need to add these two costs together, plus a FSW membership of £100.

This package covers volunteers and also sub contractors without their own insurance (who are therefore providing ‘labour only’).

Cover for tools can be negotiated as a extra “bolt-on” cost.

For more information please contact Eddie at Birnbeck Finance Ltd on 01934 522252

You will need to quote your FSW membership number. If you are a trainee you will also need to quote the membership number of the qualified FSL with whom you are working.

For information about becoming a member of Forest School Wales, or to download a membership form please click here


FSW National Skillshare & Networking weekend Followup

Several members from England attended the event, attracted specifically by the skillshare format (free, families welcome) which is absent in England.

Many thanks to everyone who helped to make the event such a success, especially all the children, for keeping us grounded, and:

  • Melissa Harvey of Dyfi Woodlands for sharing some of the children’s activities from the Centre for Alternative Technology including helping us to build an eco-village
  • Tess Jenkins, from the Forestry Stewardship Council, who taught us their new Moving Carbon game
  • Hazel Wildwood for leading sessions on making a solar oven and growing & caring for young trees
  • Kevin of for donating a firewok for the members’ raffle

Participants agreed to adopt Climate Change as the focus for our next regional skillshare events, and we have started to fundraise accordingly. All members are welcome to get involved, whether in developing the web-based resources, research and piloting projects, or hosting an event. To find out more, please contact Sarah Wilson or tel: 07917210589.

Wood Craft Skills Training

The wood craft skills training events held in May, June, September and October 2009 were well attended by Forest School leaders, play rangers, teachers, learning support assistants, education officers, Scout leaders and youth workers. Feedback from the training was very positive with participants stating how they had gained in confidence and been inspired. Everyone said that they had finished the course with several ideas for projects they could use with the children they worked with.

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FSW South East Wales Gathering

Saturday 26th September

Blessed with a beautiful autumn day, participants really enjoyed using natural materials to design their own mini FS sites, at Fforest Fawr, near Cardiff as part of the CPD training on planning, developing and managing a Forest School site led by Rosie Carmichael.

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Woodlands for Learning (WfL) Forum

Presentations by Maggie Fearn and Sarah Wilson on recent developments within FSW, including the Woodcraft Skills Training Project and new website, were received with interest by Forum members at the meeting on 8th October in Llandrindod Wells. There was also a presentation and discussion about the Wales Woodlands Strategy Action Plan.

Meeting with Jane Hutt: Minister for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning & Skills

On Monday 5th October representatives of the Woodlands for Learning (WfL) Forum had their 4th annual meeting with the Education Minister (the second with Jane Hutt) and other members of DCELLS. A representative of FSW (trustee Sarah Wilson) was included in the meeting for the first time. Other people present at the meeting were: Helena Fox (Chair WfL Forum), Roz Owen (Policy FCW), Sue Williams (Woodlands for Learning team, FCW). The Minister was supportive of the work of the Woodlands for Learning Forum.

Forest School Wales visits the Royal Welsh Show

Coed Lleol invited us to join them at the Royal Welsh Show at the Environment Wales stand. Environment Wales sponsor both Coed Lleol and Forest School Wales projects. This year they have part funded the volunteer sector of our Woodcraft Skills training project.

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