Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Setting clear boundaries

Yellow Caution Tape Roll

Q.Our school only has boundary fences on three sides and the field is often full of youngsters playing football in the evenings and at weekends. I know that they are technically trespassing but it seems harmless enough. However, one of the governors has suggested that we would be responsible if one of them gets hurt. Is that true?

A.Under the Occupiers Liability Act you have responsibilities both to 'visitors', that is, people who have a right to be there or are there with your permission; and to those on site without your permission. However, you are not responsible for the safety of trespassers except where you fail to protect them from a hazard that you know about or ought to know about.

So, assuming that the field is clear of large holes and obstructions, you will not be responsible if they hurt themselves playing football. However, if one of them wanders into the school building area, climbs onto a roof that cannot bear his weight and falls injuring himself, you will be liable unless you have taken protective steps.

It is probably sufficient to have a warning notice (accessible both to readers and non-readers) but ideally hazards should be fenced off in some way.

Finally, do the youngsters know they are trespassing? Notices stating that the school grounds are not public property should be erected in appropriate places and some effort should be made to exclude trespassers. Clearly defined boundaries are important.

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