Last Updated: Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Managing Risk in Outdoor Learning

What is this?

​This tool supports those who are responsible for outdoor learning to recognise that there is a balance between risk and benefit.

Who is this for?

​Any practitioner who is responsible for the planning or delivering of outdoor learning.

​​This tool aims to identify risks, eliminating them or reducing them to a tolerable level. Focusing on risk alone can inadvertently create a negative situation where any risk is seen to be unacceptable.

How to use this approach

In organised outdoor learning it is common for there to be a residual level of risk that is judged to be tolerable and in balance with the benefits that will accrue. It is desirable to give equal consideration to risks and benefits throughout the planning process to avoid benefits being eclipsed by a small possibility of harm.

Hazards and risks cannot be considered in isolation; it is necessary to consider the maturity and experience of learners, the expertise of those leading them, wishes of parents and many other factors. Engagement with actual risk is vital if learners are to develop the skills to deal with the succession of risks they will meet in their own lives.

This tool supports practitioners to evaluate and improve their practice around risk assessment and to think, relation to the experience being planned

  • Is the level of challenge appropriate to the learner group?
  • How will risks be assessed and balanced against the expected benefits?
  • Can the rationale for this experience be justified if events don’t go as planned?
  • Are the management arrangements suitable for the location selected?
  • Are the leadership and supervisory staff suitably skilled, qualified and experienced?
  • How do we communicate with parents and carers?
  • Could we benefit from enrolling partners?
  • Are there any relevant examples of good practice that we can draw on?

​​Explore this approach

On occasion, an outdoor learning experience of great value may be judged to be right and proper even if some significant risks cannot be eliminated or significantly reduced. This is not a position to be entered to lightly and without thought of the possible consequences.

The risk/benefit tool is intended to clarify thinking in such situations and so establish a proper balance between risk and benefit. Using a mind map to mark out the journey identifying hazards and how to protect ourselves or minimise the risk is a useful way to engage learners and support them to be safe.


Word file: ​Outdoor Learning Risk Benefit Tool (26 KB)