There has been a plethora of advice around the re-opening schools and colleges, and particularly with regard to the insurance implications. Mark Rose’s blog touched on this, in addition to general risk management advice you should consider both before and after opening of the school and his blog can be found here. Given the intense interest and indeed confusion generated around insurance, we are now providing some additional commentary relating to insurance cover and insurer’s likely requirements.
Education insurance policies will not specify actions which must be taken outside of some very specific conditions for high risk activities, and will instead normally rely on the broad requirement to take reasonable care/precautions. This requirement is open to some interpretation (even where it is defined in the policy, it will remain broad), but it should be considered that adhering to legal requirements, following government and local authority advice, acting in a sensible manner and mitigating risk to the insurer are all aspects of taking reasonable care. The government has provided significant guidance around the considerations for opening of schools, and includes the requirement to conduct a risk assessment and ensure appropriate training of staff. Even if you fail to follow all of the advice being provided, your actions would need to be significantly prejudicing an insurer’s position for them to refuse insurance indemnity on the grounds of not following the reasonable care condition.
At this stage no insurer in the education field has excluded claims arising out of Covid-19, and therefore should there be any claims made against the school the insurers would respond accordingly. There have been claims that some insurers will require advance notice of the school’s intentions, or indeed to review risk assessments, before providing insurance cover for reopening, but this would be both impractical and unlikely on the basis of normal insurance policy wordings.
Some school’s have asked whether it is possible to deviate from the Government’s advice on eligible year groups. The legal implications of such a decision are not clear, and insurer’s are unlikely to give a specific answer on their position either way. If following a full risk assessment you feel it is possible to adequately socially distance year groups and comply with other Government guidance, you should document in full the reasons why you feel the decision is appropriate and ensure it is signed off at a senior level and ideally by the local authority. We believe that providing the Government do not specifically forbid other year’s being allowed back to school and that you have documented detailed risk assessments insurers are unlikely to feel you have not fulfilled the reasonable care condition, but it would be our recommendation to follow the Government’s guidance.
Other questions we have been asked revolve around inviting vulnerable staff and pupils back to school, or those who live with someone classed as vulnerable; whether it is OK for children of teachers not enrolled in the school to be at the school to assist with childcare arrangements; and how to deal with larger events which are in the diary such as sports days. In each occasion the advice remains the same. Seek guidance via the government website, to understand if there are any specific requirements you should consider. Risk assess and ensure risks are appropriate, including that social distancing measures are possible. And take reasonable care in the decisions you take. Where you follow this simple set of measures, your liability insurance will respond to any legal liability claims and you should also mitigate any associated reputational damage.
Returning to school and college – am I insured?
Thursday 04 June