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School sports

The Prime Minister has recently announced that all primary school children will be required to play competitive sports. This will form the subject of a cross-party initiative with the aim of continuing the wave of optimism and passion for sport, which has been shown during the course of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

In the Prime Minister’s view, it is no longer enough for children to take part, but instead, it is seen as important that competitiveness in sport is introduced from an early age. There are not yet, however, any concrete plans as to funding for this initiative, nor any date for commencement envisaged.

The time and dedication required to reach international sporting success is vast and can come at significant financial cost. In addition, there will be an increased pressure on schools and school staff to ensure that health and safety provisions are complied with.

For schools that have not previously offered competitive sport to students, a specific assessment of significant risks must be carried out, and any findings must be recorded. It is the responsibility of the School to ensure that such findings are clearly communicated to all staff supervising such sports. There should then be the opportunity for discussion where any uncertainties are raised. All staff should also be offered training where necessary, although this can be very basic where the risk of injury is minimal, and sufficient risk management procedures should be introduced. Once this assessment has been carried out, it may be necessary to amend the school’s general health and safety policy.

For any school that has previously had competitive sport of some kind, there may still be some changes to be made, although not to as large an extent. Schools will still need to ensure that pupils are watched closely to ensure that any injuries are assessed immediately and this may well require more staff in attendance.

It is the responsibility of staff members to ensure that they co-operate with each other on health and safety matters, and work in accordance with training. They also have a common law duty to act as any parent would do, when in charge of pupils, and should take reasonable care in all that they do so as to minimise risk to themselves and to others.

In addition, it should be noted that the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences (Amendment) Regulations 2012, provides that accidents to pupils requiring transportation to hospital, must be reported by the school to the Health and Safety Executive and to the Local Authority.

Finally, Schools will need to make sure that all sports kit is safe and kept under lock and key, so as to minimise injury outside sessions. First aid kits should always be kept in a readily accessible place and it is recommended that all staff are given up to date first aid training prior to supervising school sport.

Whilst the above may seem quite onerous, it is important to ensure that children enjoy sport and that they are not overly shielded from reasonable risk and minor knocks and bumps. In most cases, common sense should prevail, but Schools should nevertheless prepare for the worst.

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This briefing is for guidance purposes only. RadcliffesLeBrasseur LLP accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever for any action taken or not taken in relation to this note and recommends that appropriate legal advice be taken having regard to a client's own particular circumstances.

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