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Responsibilities and duty of care?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by bigmacster, Jul 11, 2015.

  1. bigmacster

    bigmacster New commenter

    I was recently involved in an out of school activity whereby all of the pupils in years 6 and 7 in our town (two secondary and five primary schools) were taken to a local public recreational ground where various fun activities were laid on for the afternoon. In my capacity as an LSA, I went along to support a group of 15 year 7 children, all of whom I am familiar with, alongside the class teacher. The event ended at the end of the normal school day. As the last activity came to an end, I instructed the children to make their way over to their class teacher, who was half way across the field. It was a hot day, and the lure of the residing ice cream van and burger stall was too great for many of the children, who naturally veered towards these temptations. I had an eye on them so knew their whereabouts and instructed them to meet us at the gate. Whilst having one eye on these pupils,my other eye was on the class teacher, who had reached the gates with about half of the group with her. There were also many other groups at the gate,many of whom I noticed were head counting their particular groups. As I reached the gates, the class teacher had already left the park and was half way along the path leading back to school with half of the group. My natural instinct was not to follow as the other half of the group were still in burger/Ice cream queues and I knew that I needed to make sure that these children were safe, however, I'd not been briefed on what the arrangements were for the end of the day and the dismissal of the children......so, I waited and gathered the remaining children up, explained to them that they needed to walk back to school with me and why, and escorted them back to school, whereby I dismissed them when we reached the school gates. Once back at school, I went back to the class room to retrieve my bag, and the teacher was happy as Larry sitting at her computer in the empty room! She did not enquire about the children she had not escorted back. I am only contractually bound to work to the end of the school day, which is good as I have to leave promptly to pick my own children up in time, and I was already running 15 minutes late,so I literally had to grab my things and dash out again.

    Having not been in the job long (only six months) I'm not clear on where responsibilities and duty of care lay. My instinct says it is with the class teacher, who, in my opinion did not ensure that the 15 children in her care were supervised adequately to the end of the activity. I know I did the right thing in ensuring the remaining children were safely delivered back to school (although not knowing for sure who she had with her I couldn't be 100% sure they were all accounted for), but as an LSA who was there to SUPPORT, I don't think it was my responsibility to do this,and in the process, exceed my work time and make myself late to pick up my own children. I was prepared to do it but am certainly not paid to!

    I feel that I need to speak with someone about this,to find out whether the situation was acceptable, if my actions were acceptable and for some guidance about who is responsible for what in these circumstances. However, I am wary at school about who this should be and about opening cams of worms.

    Sorry for the long post but any advice would be gratefully received.
  2. Morninglover

    Morninglover Star commenter

    I think you did what you had to do, and would be quite within your rights to have a quiet word with the class teacher. I would also bring up these questions next time such a trip is planned asking for roles etc. to be clarified; especially as regards the end of the day.

    But, I must say, if you only expect to do exactly what you are paid for, then working in a school probably isn't for you...
  3. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    In support of you...

    1) The class teacher has been very lax here. They should have ensured all pupils were accounted for before setting off rather than leaving without all of the group. They should have also made clear who was responsible for who etc. You could bring it up with superiors but it may not be sensible with regards to work relations. I would certainly learn from this and ensure you get clarification next time.

    A few things though:

    2) You seem to suggest that you were 'only there to support' You are an adult on a trip and it is fair that you take a share in responsibility too. You should have been briefed on your role, yes, but there is nothing wrong with asking a TA to take some responsibility on a school trip.

    3) You or the class teacher should have said no to children going to the burger van... The class teacher should have been 'in charge' and not gone on ahead but as they weren't there i am not sure why you didn't?

    4) School trip, even down to the park are notoriously difficult with regards to timings. In future I wouldn't sign up to go if you NEED to be back at a particular time unless you can be assured of your return.
  4. asnac

    asnac Lead commenter

    It was a bit of a risk taking them back by yourself. I infer from your post that there would have been about seven 12-year-olds with you. Presumably there were roads to cross on the way back.

    The concern here should not be about the inconvenience you suffered. Rather, if it had gone wrong, e.g. a child left behind, or an accident after leaving the park, there would have been serious questions posed to you. The teacher acted wrongly in returning to school with only half the group, but it would have been best for you to keep your remnant of the group with you and phone the school (or the teacher if you had her number) and explain that the group had become separated and that you needed another adult to escort the children back to school.

    Be grateful that nothing did go wrong, and next time demand clarification from the leader of the group as to how things will be arranged at the end of the day.
  5. sabrinakat

    sabrinakat Star commenter

    Have to agree with the previous posters...

    I was part of a three-teacher team taking about 60 students to a localish museum (we also had two 6th formers as helpers) - We were split into two groups for the museum and associated activity, but I was 'in charge of' about 20 students (with a 6th former) on a smaller coach (the rest were on the bigger coach with the other two teachers/6th form helper). We arrived back at the school before the others (or rather in front of the school) - I walked them (only about 100 feet back onto school grounds (I was at the back); counted them and then dismissed them. It was my responsibility for good behaviour on the coach, I made sure they left no mess and that we regrouped on school grounds.

    Incidentially, I also normally have to leave 'on time' as I have a toddler who is looked after by a childminder but as long as I have some notice, I can extend his day - sorry about this, OP....but...I did arrange alternative childcare in the event that we did not return on time, and we were late by about thirty minutes. So, I could fulfil my duties as a teacher, make sure all were safely back on school grounds and then left.

    best wishes

    ps. the LA says 1 teacher for 20 is okay (I queried this), but we had student helpers as well

  6. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I am not sure? Had they been left with 20 odd kids I agree that they should have called for help, with a ratio of 1:7 though I am sure that there would be no need for extra adult support.

    I agree

    Agree with the first bit, but on the last I think it is over-egging the pudding so to speak.

    With regards to the OP not knowing the arrangement I have little sympathy. One assumes a letter will have gone out to parents after all where this will be clear. At some point it will have surely made sense to ask? Sorry, but it seems like you have turned up without having a clue about anything what is dangerous (see the major thread the other day about school trips)

    Two major mistakes for me,

    1) The Teacher not waiting for you at the gate when it was clear you had fallen behind. I bet the teacher counted before leaving the activity. This should have been communicated to you. Mrs X these 6 are with you etc. This is not your fault.

    2) You not being aware of your responsibilities and allowing them to go to ice cream vans etc. rather than insisting that they keep up with the rest of the group. If you had insisted on this then there is no issue.

    Thinking about it you could complain to someone, this may though come back on you though as well. As an employee of the school you also have responsibility for the issue. I would put this down to experience and learn from it.
  7. ValentinoRossi

    ValentinoRossi Star commenter

    Do rwhg and bigmacster work in the same school?
  8. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

  9. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    If you hadn't been briefed...why didn't you simply ask?
  10. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    I agree CWadd. Some people are happy to throw around blame for situations rather than taking a bit of initiative.
  11. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Regarding the students going for ice cream/burgers- simply say no and tell them to keep walking.

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