School fetes and festivals are a fun and effective way of raising funds for a school, but with potentially thousands of visitors, the possibility of an accident is always there. What insurance might you need and what other issues do you need to take into account?
You (or the Principal/school council) will need to contact your school’s insurer to determine that you are covered for a particular event and to find out if there are specific insurance requirements or documentation needed from outside contractors. An external contractor will have their own public liability insurance but this only covers the contractor and their equipment, and will not cover the organisers or any other aspect of the event.
If your school committee is a paid member of your state P&C/P&A organisation, your membership will most likely include public liability insurance to cover any event endorsed and organised by the P&C on the school grounds. If the event is held off-site or is expected to have more than 500 people, you should call your state organisation as you may need extra insurance or they may need to notify the insurer.
If you expect to have excess amounts of money onsite due to a fete or large event, this will probably not be covered by your standard insurance, and you may need to ask advice about purchasing extra Money cover.
Volunteers who are working at a school fete or event are protected under the same terms as teachers, assuming they are working at the request of the principal or council and the event is for the benefit of the school. As such, if they are injured while they are volunteering they are entitled to compensation.
Engaging external contractors
If a fete organiser wishes to have commercial operators onsite during the event, such as food trucks, side-show rides or professional entertainers, then a written contract must be negotiated prior to the event. In these instances it is usually required that these external contractors already have their own public liability insurance, and it is imperative that you ask to see their documentation as a condition of the contract.
This should outline the following: when and how they are allowed on the school grounds (such as setting up their equipment), what service they are offering, if there is a specific area they need to occupy (including access to power or water), that they hold their own public liability, and what financial agreement has been made. It is important that the contract includes the correct wording indicating the school is not liable for any injuries they (the contractor) may sustain.
With rides and entertainment such as bouncy castles and inflatables, make sure you find out if they need to be supervised by the operator themselves or can be managed by a volunteer from the school. Who is responsible for supervision will affect the insurance and liability.
Who can sign written contracts?
Unlike a school council, not all parent associations such as P&C and P&T committees are legal entities and therefore ‘the committee’ cannot technically sign a contract. Only committees that are incorporated bodies are considered legal entities. When a committee is not a legal entity, an individual member within that committee must sign any contracts with commercial operators such as an amusement rides company or catering company.
While this may concern some people, it is even more important to note that the government indemnifies individuals against any legal liability as long as a) they are members of the parents club or association, b) they have been requested to sign the contract by the school and c) the activity is for the benefit of the school1. Additionally, where a committee is registered with their state body and pays a registration fee, public liability is included as part of this.
On the other hand, a school council is actually an incorporated body and has specific powers to enter into contracts. Indemnity for individuals within the council is provides by The Education and Training Reform Act 2006.
If in doubt, check with your state Education Department and they will be able to put you in contact with the appropriate body to help determine what cover you require.