9 A balanced approach to risk

Students’ experience of practical science should not be restricted by unnecessary risk aversion. 

  • Responsibility for safety is shared between the school or local authority an employer, the teacher and the technician. This should be clearly understood by all members of science staff.


  • The school should ensure that teachers and technicians have access to authoritative and up-to-date guidance including model risk assessments.

  • Teachers should assess the risks and benefits of every practical activity, and act accordingly.

  • Teachers and technicians should adopt a balanced and proportionate approach.

"Misunderstandings about the application of health and safety law have, in some cases, discouraged schools and teachers from carrying out a range of learning activities both inside and outside the classroom. These misunderstandings can also be fuelled by fears of civil action or concerns about the need for detailed paperwork. 

A proportionate approach to the management of health and safety risks in schools is about:

  • protecting pupils and staff from real harm
  • enabling innovation and learning opportunities to take place by helping those who create the risks to manage them sensibly and responsibly.

It is not about:

For schools in England, Northern Ireland and Wales

CLEAPSS advice and guidance, contained in publications such as Hazcards, Practical Procedures and the Recipe Sheets book, is recognised by DFE, Ofsted and the Health and Safety Executive as the definitive basis for safe practice for practical work in schools.

Find out more about CLEAPSS

For schools in Scotland 

Guidance from health and safety regulators the Scottish Schools Education Research Centre who support all thirty-two Scottish Education Authorities. 


Find out more from SSERC