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Safe and supportive environment

What are the legislative requirements in relation to child protection?

A number of Acts relate to child protection in NSW. These include:

  • the Ombudsman Amendment Act (Child Protection and Community Services) Act 1998 which added Part 3A to the Ombudsman Act 1974
  • the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 relating to working with children check clearances for all persons at the school engaged in child-related work
  • the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) 1998 which sets out the responsibilities of Community Services with regard to child protection.

What are a school's responsibilities in relation to the legislative requirements for child protection?

A registered non-government school must have policies in place to:

  • ensure that staff who have direct contact with students are informed of the legal responsibilities related to child protection, mandatory reporting and other relevant school expectations
  • ensure that requirements to notify and investigate allegations of reportable conduct in compliance with the Ombudsman Act 1974 are made known to staff
  • ensure that all persons engaged in child-related work at the school, as defined by the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012, have a working with children check clearance from the Commission for Children and Young People, as required
  • ensure that evidence of working with children check clearances is maintained by the school for all persons in child-related work at the school as required under the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012
  • respond to reportable matters in accordance with legislative requirements
  • ensure that all staff who are mandatory reporters under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 are informed of their obligations and the process that the school has in place in relation to mandatory reporting.

What does a safe environment mean?

A safe environment is one where the risk of harm is minimised and students feel secure. Harm relates not only to dangers in the built environment, involving such matters as architecture and construction, lighting, space, facilities and safety plans, but also refers to violence, physical threats, verbal abuse, threatening gestures, sexual harassment and racial vilification.

What does a supportive environment mean?

A supportive environment facilitates and enhances the social, academic, physical and emotional development of students. A supportive environment strives to be one in which:

  • students are treated with respect and fairness by teachers, other staff and other students
  • members of the school community feel valued
  • effective teaching and learning takes place
  • positive support and encouragement are provided by members of staff and students
  • non-discriminatory language and behavioural practices are defined, modelled and reinforced by members of the school community
  • consultation takes place on matters relating to students' education and welfare.

What does student welfare mean?

Student welfare encompasses the mental, physical and emotional well-being of the students. provisions for student attendance are integral to providing for student welfare. The provision of student welfare policies and programs is essential in developing a sense of self-worth and fostering personal development. Student welfare could include:

  • programs that the school provides to meet the personal, social and learning needs of the students
  • effective discipline
  • monitoring student attendance and strategies for improving unsatisfactory attendance
  • early intervention programs for students at risk
  • student, family and community support networks
  • opportunities that the school provides for students to:
    • enjoy success and recognition
    • make a useful contribution to the life of the school
    • derive enjoyment from their learning.

What are the requirements for ensuring a school provides a safe and supportive environment to its students?

A registered non-government school must have in place policies and procedures in relation to:

  • security, with specific reference to:
    • students
    • buildings and facilities
    • evacuation procedures
  • supervision, with specific reference to protocols and guidelines, including risk management, for students undertaking on-site and off-site activities

  • codes of conduct for members of the school community, with specific reference to:
    • rights and responsibilities of students and staff within the school community
    • behaviour management
    • anti-bullying including contact information for School Liaison Police and/or Youth Liaison Officers and other support services available to the school community
    • the role of any student leadership system (or equivalent) in the school and the monitoring of the system
    • management and reporting of serious incidents
  • complaints or grievances, with specific reference to processes for raising and responding to matters of concern identified by students and/or parents

  • pastoral care, with specific reference to:
    • personnel responsible for pastoral care including use of and access to counselling
    • identification of and provision of support for students with special needs
    • health and the distribution and monitoring of medication
    • response to serious incidents and emergencies
    • homework
  • student attendance, with specific reference to:
    • processes for monitoring attendance
    • school analysis of student attendance data in relation to its impact on student learning
    • intervention strategies to improve unsatisfactory attendance, including implementing teaching strategies and programs designed to improve learning and student engagement in school   
  • communication, with specific reference to formal and informal mechanisms available between stakeholders interested in a student's education and well-being.

While the title and scope of policies and procedures that a school has in place in relation to the above areas will vary from school to school depending on the school's philosophy, ethos and practice, each of the above areas must be addressed within the totality of the school's policies and procedures.

Where students are approved to study with an outside tutor or are undertaking courses/subjects with an external provider, the registered non-government school must have policies and procedures in place that are appropriate to ensure the safety and welfare of such students and to promote their personal and social development.

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