What Risk

What Risk?

What do you see in this picture at first? Imagine it’s you with 50 children – what are your thoughts? I take a deeper look into risk in Out of School Hours Care (OSHC) in this article.

With the end of Vacation Care recently finished in NSW, you can start to reflect (that word again – but trust me, it’s a good thing) on the activities provided to the children – what worked well, what did they enjoy and what you could do next time?

But, what is risk? “Risk is the potential for uncontrolled loss of something of value. Values (such as physical health, emotional well-being) can be gained or lost when taking risk resulting from a given action or inaction, foreseen or unforeseen (planned or not planned).” – https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Risk

With talk going on amongst OSHC educators, I noticed a bit of chatter on what each centre had been up to and then the risk topic came up. It made me want to address two aspects:

1.      Risk Assessing.

2.      Risk Benefits.

Risk Assessing:

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Regulation 101 of the Education and Care Services National Regulations lists ‘Conduct of risk assessment for excursion’ and what a risk assessment must do which is (refer image):

Risk assessing isn’t always easy at the start when we try doing them in OSHC – there is almost 92734738473 variables to consider, or close to and then over thinking whether you have forgotten an area or not.

My biggest advice is to risk assess to suit your service.

I often see questions pop up on the ratio side of risk assessing, especially for excursions. One thing I often see is ‘water based has to have a ratio of 1:5’ or ‘excursions has to have a ratio of 1:8’. What the centre down the road does, will not suit your service. We are all different with an array of variables.

So, what are your variables? What could you consider?

  • Mix of children coming and ability? Age ranges?
  • More Kindergarten children than older children?
  • Staff that can work the day? Are they experienced? Least experience? Do they have a interest / knowledge in the area (e.g. can they swim if it’s a swimming activity)?
  • Are they comfortable travelling (motion sickness) – both staff and children?
  • What type of transport you use? Does it suit the group? Is it a distance? Is there toilet opportunities along the way? What is the route to be taken?
  • What the weather will be?
  • Venue – does it have items needed such as running drinking water, toilets?
  • In centre – does the school permit the activity? Will it create an issue? E.g. water activities may wreck

And so many more not listed above.

Belinda Kennedy, OSHC Educator from Leichhardt OOSH says “risk assessment is not just ticking a documentation box- it’s a cycle of identifying hazards and their associated risk, and then using the hierarchy of controls to mitigate or prevent the potential harm. It’s not something you complete before an activity, educators should be constantly assessing risk, at the rate that circumstances around them are changing.”

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Risk Benefits:

I actually like to look at Vacation Care as an opportunity to provide experiences for children. Experiences parents can’t always provide or have access to, and I still imagined myself as the child – what would my thoughts be. I like to look at it all with a risk benefit lens (a child’s lens perhaps?).

Calum Waldegrave, who is a play advocate and a fantastic Assistant Coordinator & OSHC Educator of 9 years says of risk during vacation care “Whilst a lot of our risky play is confined to our school, vacation care provides us an opportunity for different kinds of risks; crossing roads, traffic, playing in rock pools (coastal watch – as pictured), exposure to different flora and fauna (reptile park). These may be new exposures for children to see and feel. They will actively explore and find out what they don’t know by applying what they do know to make sense of it.”

Whilst we are so mindful of risk assessing (which considering Quality Area 2 is fantastic) we are also perhaps not always considering the risk benefit.

“An ideal environment for developing and testing skills in safe, creative play environments. Children need opportunities to:

  • Develop skills in negotiating the environment (including risks);
  • Learn how to use equipment safely and for its designed purpose;
  • Develop coordination and orientation skills;
  • Take acceptable risks; and
  • Learn about the consequences (positive/negative) of risk taking 

Risk does not always have a negative outcome. Many positives can come from taking risks.” – Kidsafe NSW https://www.kidsafensw.org/playground-safety/challenging-play-risky/

Risk Benefit Example:

I’ve done a variety of vacation care activities due to the risk benefit – surfing at a large Sydney beach was by far the ‘riskiest’ but was the most fun I’ve ever had on an excursion and the fun wasn’t for me, it was for the children. We had one child in particular who had a medical condition (epilepsy) and was known to have seizures.

We still, with working with the family, went ahead as this child really wanted to participate. She was sick of being told to sit out of activities at school and excluded. When risk assessing this area, we made sure we had 1:1 ratio for this child, so they could participate. We put on the staff members that could surf themselves and had a passion in the area, all were strong swimmers, 3 staff members had bronze medallions and the provider of the activity was made aware in advance.

That joy of providing that positive experience to a child, who was often excluded from events at school, was priceless.

I like to look at it as variables, situational and communication.

  • Consider all the variables.
  • Consider the situation.
  • Communicate with stakeholders before, during and after.

What experiences will you be providing next vacation care?

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