Guidelines for visits to industry

Visiting a factory, company or any other place of work (or “site visit” in this code) involves responsibilities for both visitors and hosts.

There are possible health and safety risks, particularly in factories with potentially lethal equipment. That equipment may also be highly sensitive and very expensive, so visitors need to be monitored and to behave in an acceptable way. Following these guidelines will help ensure any site visit goes as smoothly as possible.

Questions for teachers to ask before you start

If you really want a school visit to industry to be a success, it’s a good idea to ask yourself and your colleagues a few tough questions before you even think about contacting an organisation. The most important of these is “why?”

Why are you visiting?

What do you, your school and its pupils want to achieve from the visit? Is it simply a tour to introduce students to the world of work, or does it form part of a wider study project? Addressing this question will help ensure that both school and business have a good starting point for their preparations for the visit.

Are you all fully prepared?

Once the type of visit has been decided on, the school needs to ensure that the participating pupils are well prepared, briefed and know what they are doing. If the site visit is part of wider project, the school needs to check that the preparatory work has been done by the pupils before the visit, of course. We suggest your planning covers these three stages:

  • Ensure the entire activity is planned. Ask yourself: what are the objectives for the pupils and what do they need to learn, do and prepare before they meet the organisation, either in the school or at their premises?
  • What happens at the company and how does it relate in the best way to the preparations and the learning objectives. In other words, what are the objectives of the actual day with the company?
  • How do you and the students use the visit after it is over? What will they gain from it and how can you set up school activities that transfer the experience into learning? How do you evaluate the success of the experience?

What is the role of the organisation you’re visiting?

You also need to agree the role of the organisation you plan to visit in the learning process. Failing to be clear on this point can sometimes lead to companies being highly reticent about allowing a visit. If you have done your homework, you should be able to explain clearly:

  • What the role of the organisation could be in the visit
  • How the visit would positively influence teaching the curriculum

It’s also a good idea to communicate what pedagogical expertise your school brings to the learning process and what extra expertise the organisation brings. Making the distinction between the two can be a key factor in securing a successful visit.

Appoint a contact person

Both the business and the school should choose their own contact person. For the school, this should normally be a teacher who is participating in the visit. Any company contact – and, in fact, anyone who participates in or organises the site visit – should be in possession of up-to-date clearance for working with children, if this is required by the appropriate authorities in the country concerned.

Provide appropriate support staff

The company should ensure that appropriate support staff are on hand to provide the right sort of guidance to the school during the site visit. In the case of a school project to design a new soft drink, for example, it might be important for both engineering and marketing staff to be present.

Agree the size and composition of groups

Both school and company should agree on how big the group is that will take part in a visit and the minimum age of those taking part. For most site visits, especially where there may be health and safety issues, the minimum age of the participants should normally be 12 years old.

Ensure that the approved number is present

Once the size of a group has been agreed, then the school should make sure that number turns up. It can be very demotivating for a company participant if a smaller number actually takes part in the visit.

Communicate any special needs

The school should make clear to the company if any of the group has special needs or requirements and the company should indicate if this could create any problems (e.g. if some locations cannot be accessed by wheelchair).

Decide on the number of responsible adults

Both sides should agree on the number of responsible adults from the school that will be part of the visiting group. Normally, this would depend on the number and age of the participants. For example, in groups of between 10 and 12 participants, we recommend that there should be at least two adults. It’s also important to decide if an adult’s role will be simply to ensure everything remains under control, or if they will also have a facilitating role.

Follow official guidelines

In some countries, relevant guidelines have been issued by government bodies (e.g. OFSTED in the United Kingdom). If they are available, we recommend you refer to these specific guidelines.

Stay vigilant

Where possible, one teacher should always stay at the back of the group, in order to have an overview of the conduct of the young people. Not doing this could have serious consequences, as one company found out when, during a visit to a factory, two of the pupils at the back of a group turned off the power supply for the plant – which then took a service engineer several hours to switch back on.

Organise a risk assessment

A risk assessment for health and safety issues needs to be carried out by the company – normally by the health and safety officer, in conjunction with the site visit contact person. It should describe the main hazards that could affect the visit, their risk rating and the measures that have been put in place to stop them from happening. The risk assessment form should be signed by the appropriate company officers and sent to the contact person at the school. The company also needs to make sure that anyone visiting the site is covered by its insurance policies.

Obtain proper consent

It’s the school’s responsibility to ensure that it has the consent of the parents or legal guardians of the children who are going to participate in the visit. This consent should be obtained according to local laws, regulations and working practices. Parents or legal guardians of the students must also receive a copy of the risk assessment form, so that they can properly consider any likely risks before agreeing that the child they are responsible for can participate in the visit.

Provide the right information for the visit

The company needs to provide the school with additional key information for the visit. This may include:

  • The procedure for arrivals on site
  • Key health and safety issues
  • Instructions on acceptable behaviour
  • Any rules about dress code, suitable clothing and footwear
  • Restrictions on watches, piercings, earrings and other jewellery
  • Any restrictions related to bringing or consuming food and drink on the site

Make sure this key information is understood and signed off by the school before the visit.

Ensure a good attitude from visitors

Be aware of problems that can sometimes occur with the behaviour and attitude of young people on site. Teachers should be especially vigilant. Try and avoid situations such as the case of students asking workers on a production line they were visiting why the employees were doing such a “stupid job”.

Brief visitors on health and safety

The company needs to make sure that participants are given a full health and safety briefing by an appropriate company officer before the start of any site visit and before entering any location which might have specific risks or hazards.

Avoid exposure to branding and logos

As far as possible, please ensure that any place the company has set up for the students to spend time in during the visit is marketing neutral and doesn't display company logos or advertising.

Don’t retain personal data longer than necessary

If it is necessary to collect personal data, this should only be used for the visit and should be destroyed after the visit has ended.