Duty of care for students – ‘Duty of care is a legal concept that relates to the common law. The common law is a collection of legal principles that have been established over time by the courts’ (WADE, 2007)
The duty of care policy plays an integral role in schools in combination with other school policies and practices. The ‘duty of care for students’ policy explains clearly what duty of care means, and what the teaching staff responsibilities are and how teaching staff may discharge their duty of care to students, and also the circumstances in which non-teaching staff, external providers and volunteers may owe students a duty of care. This paper is intended to highlight the purpose, outcome and discharge enabling outcomes expected for those responsible for the care of students. DISCUSSION
As mention in the introduction, the policy was created to explain clearly what duty of care means, how teaching staff, as professionals, may discharge their duty of care to students, and the circumstances in which non-teaching staff, external providers and volunteers may owe a duty of care to students. The policy covers the definitions, relevant legislation or authority, and procedures, inclusive of appendices for duty of care – ‘Appendix A’ - school based applications and ‘Appendix B’ - liability. The policy explains thoroughly that the responsibility in the duty of care is to exercise professional judgement to provide a safe environment for all students by pre-empting any foreseeable/unforeseeable risks and hazards by applying preventative measures to avoid and minimise those risks. Allowing for encouragement for students' to develop their independence and maximise their learning opportunities. The duty owed to students is not a duty to ensure that no harm will ever occur, but rather a duty to take reasonable care to avoid harm being suffered. (WADE, 2007) Some of the issues that the policy covers are;
•Duty roster before school, recess, lunch, and after school •School activities in school grounds and outside school grounds – transport for example •Physical and intellectual impairment
•Medical conditions such as allergies for example
•The nature of the school activities and environment - meaning level of risk •Students age, experience and capabilities
•Student health care
•Working with children’s check and National Police clearance certificate •Non-teaching, external providers and volunteers owe of duty of care to students without a member of the teaching staff present •Students on school grounds before and after school hours •After school activities
•Student leaving school grounds during school hours
•Liability in negligence for teaching staff and volunteers – in the WA Policy for duty of care to students, however, ‘the definition for ‘Volunteer’ differs from ‘volunteer’ in the Volunteers (Protection from Liability) Act 2002 (WA). Not all persons who fall within the definition of ‘Volunteer’ in the policy will necessarily fall within the scope of the‘ Volunteers (Protection from Liability) Act 2002 (WA).
The policy is important to have so as to give informative guidelines to staff of the importance of minimising the risk of harm and injury to students. However knowing that there is almost no way of preventing risk or harm, but providing the staff with a guide as to how they can reduce and avoid risk of injury or harm and risky behaviours causing injury or harm. The policy provides staff with clear guidelines including inclusions and exclusions regarding their responsibilities to staff, students, and parents. The policy is an important guide and information that includes definitions of when the duty of care is part of your role. ‘This is whenever you as a representative of the school are in charge of students and their actions’. (Whitton, et al. 2010) The Policy is subject to Teaching staff, non-teaching staff, external providers and volunteers....