Child Safety Policy
Maryborough Education Centre’s (MEC) Child Safety Policy sets out the school’s commitment and approach to creating and maintaining a child safe organisation where children and young people are safe and feel safe and provides the policy framework for the school’s approach to the Child Safe Standards.
This policy applies to all staff, volunteers, visitors and contractors in the school environment, whether or not they work in direct contact with children or young people. This policy also applies to school council members where indicated.
The policy will apply to the school environment (see Definitions section). The policy covers both school hours and outside of school hours.
Child abuse includes:
- any act committed against a child involving:
- a sexual offence; or
- grooming; and
- the infliction, on a child, of:
- physical violence; or
- serious emotional or psychological harm; and
- serious neglect of a child.
Child-connected work means work authorised by the school, school council, or Secretary of the Department of Education and Training and performed by an adult in a school environment while children are present or reasonably expected to be present.
Child safety encompasses matters related to protecting all children from child abuse, managing the risk of child abuse, providing support to a child at risk of child abuse, and responding to incidents or allegations of child abuse.
School environment means any physical or virtual place made available or authorised by the school for use by a child during or outside school hours, including:
- a campus of the school; including Campus 1 (Balaclava Campus) and Campus 2 (Beckworth campus)
- online school environments (including email and intranet systems); and
- other locations provided by the school for a child’s use (including, without limitation, locations used for school camps, sporting events, excursions, competitions, homestays, and other school activities or events)
School staff means an individual working in a school environment who is:
- employed by the Department of Education and Training;
- directly engaged or employed by a school council; or
- a volunteer or a contracted service provider (whether or not a body corporate or any other person is an intermediary).
STATEMENT OF COMMITMENT TO CHILD SAFETY AND CHILD SAFETY PRINCIPLES
MEC is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people. This will be the primary focus of our care and decision-making.
We know children can struggle to achieve their personal best if they are not safe from abuse. “The school’s approach to creating and maintaining a child safe school environment is guided by our school philosophy and values. At MEC our vision is ‘to be an inclusive, connected and flourishing learning community.’
MEC has zero tolerance for child abuse.
We are committed to providing a child safe environment where children and young people are safe and feel safe, and their voices are heard about decisions that affect their lives. Our child safe policies, procedures, strategies and practices will be inclusive of the needs of all children, particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disabilities, LGBTQI and Students and children who are vulnerable
Every person involved in MEC has a responsibility to understand the important and specific role they play individually and collectively to ensure that the wellbeing and safety of all children and young people is at the forefront of all they do and every decision they make.
At MEC our values guide the decisions and behaviours of all members of our school community, including in relation to child safety:
- Activate our curiosity and work to make the world a better place
- Aim to be good people, good friends and good community members
- Interact with understanding, consideration and care
- Value and celebrate diversity and promote inclusion
- listen with an open mind and encourage others to have a voice
- know and follow the school rules and expectations
Child safety principles
In its planning, decision-making and operations, MEC will:
- Take a preventative, proactive and participatory approach to child safety;
- Value and empower children to participate in decisions which affect their lives;
- Foster a culture of openness that supports all persons to safely disclose risks of harm to children;
- Respect diversity in cultures and child rearing practices while keeping child safety paramount;
- Provide written guidance on appropriate conduct and behaviour towards children;
- Engage only the most suitable people to work with children and have high quality staff and volunteer supervision and professional development;
- Ensure children know who to talk with if they are worried or are feeling unsafe, and that they are comfortable and encouraged to raise such concerns;
- Report suspected abuse, neglect or mistreatment promptly to the appropriate authorities;
- Share information appropriately and lawfully with other organisations where the safety and wellbeing of children is at risk; and
- Value the input of and communicate regularly with families and carers
Strategies to embed a child safe culture
MEC’s culture encourages staff, students, parents and the school community to raise, discuss and scrutinise child safety concerns. This makes it more difficult for abuse to occur and remain hidden.
All child safety documents, including this policy, the Child Safety Code of Conduct , the school’s Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures, Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools and the Four Critical Actions for Schools are readily available online and in hard copy from the General Office for all staff and students to read at any time.
Child safety is everyone’s responsibility. All school staff are required to:
- Act in accordance with the school’s Child Safety Code of Conduct, which clearly sets out the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour
- Act in accordance with the Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures at all times, including following the Four Critical Actions for Schools where necessary
- Undertake annual guidance and training on child safety
- Act in accordance with their legal obligations, including:
- Failure to disclose offence (applies to all adults)
- Duty of care (applies to all school staff)
- Mandatory reporting obligations (applies to all mandatory reporters, including teachers, principals, registered psychologists, and registered doctors and nurses)
- Failure to protect offence (applies to a person in a position of authority within the school)
- Reportable conduct obligations (applies to all school staff in reporting conduct to the principal, and applies to the principal in reporting to Employee Conduct Branch)
- Organisational duty of care (applies to the school as an organisation)
- For more information on these obligations, see Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools.
As part of MEC’s child safe culture, school leadership (including the principal and assistant principal[s]) will:
- Consider the diversity of all children, including (but not limited to) the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disabilities, and children who are vulnerable, when implementing the Child Safe Standards
- Ensure that child safety is a regular agenda item at school leadership meetings and staff meetings
- Encourage and enable staff professional learning and training to build deeper understandings of child safety and prevention of abuse
- Ensure that no one is prohibited or discouraged from reporting an allegation of child abuse to a person external to the school or from making records of any allegation.
As part of MEC’s child safe culture, school mandatory reporting staff are required to:
- complete the Protecting Children – Mandatory reporting and other obligations online module every year
- read the school’s Child Safety Code of Conduct on induction, and maintain familiarity with that document
- read the school’s Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures on induction, and maintain familiarity with that document
- read the school’s Child Safety Policy (this document) on induction and maintain familiarity with that document.
As part of MEC’s child safe culture, in performing the functions and powers given to them under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, school councils and school council members will:
- Ensure that child safety is a regular agenda item at school council meetings
- Consider the diversity of all children, including (but not limited to) the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disabilities, and children who are vulnerable, when making decisions regarding the Child Safe Standards
- Undertake annual guidance and training on child safety, such as the Child Safe Standards School Council Training PowerPoint.
- Approve the Child Safety Code of Conduct to the extent that it applies to school council employees and members, and if updated, note the new document in its school council meeting minutes
- When hiring employees, ensure that selection, supervision and management practices are child safe (unless delegated to the principal).
School leadership will maintain records of the above processes.
- Embed a culture of child safety, with the appointment of a school child safety officer and committee, to discuss child safety in classes or year level assemblies, or information sessions on child safety for families.
Roles and responsibilities
School leaders will ensure that each person understands their role, responsibilities and behaviour expected in protecting children and young people from abuse and neglect. Staff will comply with the school’s Child Safety Code of Conduct, which sets out clearly the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.
Specific child safety responsibilities:
- The Child Safety Officer is responsible for reviewing and updating the Child Safety Policy on an annual basis.
- The Principal and Child Safety Officer are responsible for monitoring the school’s compliance with the Child Safety Policy. The school community should approach the Principal if they have any concerns about the school’s compliance with the Child Safety Policy.
- The Child Safety Officer and Child Safety Committee are responsible for informing the school community about this policy and making it publicly available.
- Other specific roles and responsibilities are named in MEC’s other child safety policies and procedures, including the Child Safety Code of Conduct, Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures, and risk assessment register.
MEC follows the Department’s Recruitment in Schools guide to ensure child safe recruitment practices, available on the Department’s website.
All prospective volunteers are required to comply with our school’s Volunteers Policy, including in relation to assessing the suitability of prospective volunteers and obtaining checks required under this policy including maintaining a valid Working with Children Check at all times. This will include requiring all volunteers in any setting to hold a valid Working with Children Check.
Training and supervision
Training and education are important to ensure that everyone in the school understands that child safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Our school culture aims for all staff and volunteers (in addition to parents/carers and children) to feel confident and comfortable in coming forward with any allegations or suspicions of child abuse or child safety concerns. We train our staff and volunteers to identify, assess, and minimise risks of child abuse and to detect potential signs of child abuse. This training occurs annually or more often as required. We also support our staff and volunteers through ongoing supervision to develop their skills to protect children from abuse, to promote the cultural safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children from linguistically and/or diverse backgrounds, and the safety of children with a disability and vulnerable children.
New employees and volunteers will be inducted into the school, including being referred to the Child Safety Policy (this document), the Child Safety Code of Conduct, and the Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures on the school website. They will also be supervised regularly to ensure they understand our school’s commitment to child safety, and that their behaviour towards children is safe and appropriate. All employees of our school will be monitored and assessed via regular performance review to ensure their continuing suitability for child-connected work. Any inappropriate behaviour will be reported by school staff to the Principal or Assistant Principal and will be managed in accordance with MEC’s Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures where required.
Reporting a child safety concern or complaint
The school has clear expectations for all staff and volunteers (including homestay providers) in making a report about a child or young person who may be in need of protection. All staff (including school council employees) must follow the school’s Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures, including following the Four Critical Actions for Schools if there is an incident, disclosure or suspicion of child abuse. Immediate actions should include reporting their concerns to DHHS Child Protection, Victoria Police and/or another appropriate agency and notifying the principal or a member of the school leadership team of their concerns and the reasons for those concerns.
MEC will never prohibit or discourage school staff from reporting an allegation of child abuse. The school will always take action to respond to a complaint in accordance with the school’s Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures. In accordance with Action 4 of the Four Critical Actions for Schools, MEC will provide ongoing support for students affected by child abuse.
The Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures can be found at Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures
Risk reduction and management
MEC believes the wellbeing of children and young people is paramount, and is vigilant in ensuring proper risk management processes, found in the MEC risk assessment register. The school recognises there are potential risks to children and young people and will take a risk management approach by undertaking preventative measures.
We will identify and mitigate the risks of child abuse in school environments by taking into account the nature of each school environment, the activities expected to be conducted in that environment and the characteristics and needs of all children expected to be present in that environment.
MEC monitors and evaluates the effectiveness of the actions it takes to reduce or remove risks to child safety; more information can be found in the school’s risk assessment register.
Listening to, communicating with and empowering children
MEC has developed a safe, inclusive and supportive environment that involves and communicates with children, young people and their parents/carers. We encourage child and parent/carer involvement and engagement that informs safe school operations and builds the capability of children and parents/carers to understand their rights and their responsibilities. Our school is committed to supporting and encouraging students to use their voice to raise and share their concerns with a trusted adult at any time of need. Students can access information on how to report abuse via the MEC intranet, student services, Mentor/Classroom teacher, and student reception.
When the school is gathering information in relation to a complaint about alleged misconduct or abuse of a child, the school will listen to the complainant’s account and take them seriously, check understanding and keep the child (and/or their parents/carers, as appropriate) informed about progress.
The school will promote the Child Safe Standards in ways that are readily accessible, easy to understand, and user-friendly to children, including:
- All of our child safety policies and procedures will be available for the students and parents at MEC to read at www.maryborougheducationcentre.com.au
- PROTECT Child Safety posters will be displayed across the school
- School newsletters will inform students and the school community about the school’s commitment to child safety, and strategies or initiatives that the school is taking to ensure student safety
- Age-appropriate discussion of child safety with students, the Four Critical Actions are actively taught to mandatory reporters and other school staff, the whole school is encouraged to contribute to risk assessment and mitigation, information relating to the Child Safe Standards is addressed and explained at year level assemblies or parent information sessions e.g. E-Safety.
The school will use its health and wellbeing programs to deliver appropriate education to its students about:
- standards of behaviour for students attending the school;
- healthy and respectful relationships (including sexuality);
- resilience; and
- child abuse awareness and prevention.
This includes, Respectful Relationships, sexuality education, e-smart education programs.
This school is committed to communicating our child safety strategies to the school community through:
- Ensuring that the Child Safety Policy (this document), Code of Conduct, and the Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedure are available on the school and at the sign in desk in the front office.
- Once per term reminders in the school newsletter and on social media of our school’s commitment to child safety
- Ensuring that child safety is a regular agenda item at school leadership meetings and staff meetings for discussion
- Including child safety information in handbooks and student planners.
Confidentiality and privacy
Related policies and documents
Related policies and documents include:
- Code of Conduct
- Child Safety Responding and Reporting Obligations (including Mandatory Reporting) Policy and Procedures
- Child Safe Standard 6: Risk Assessment
- Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools
- Four Critical Actions for Schools
- Recording your actions: Responding to suspected child abuse – A template for Victorian schools
- Identifying and Responding to Student Sexual Offending
- Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Student Sexual Offending
- School Policy and Advisory Guide – Duty of Care
- School Policy and Advisory Guide – Child Protection Reporting Obligations.
POLICY EVALUATION AND REVIEW
To ensure ongoing relevance and continuous improvement, this policy will be reviewed every year. The review will include input from students, parents/carers and the school community.
Review PERIOD (1 Year)
This policy was last updated on Wednesday 26th August 2020 and is scheduled for review as part of the school’s annual review cycle.
This policy was last ratified by School Council on Wednesday 26th August 2020.