Duty of Care Policy

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INTRODUCTION
On the, 26th of June 2007, the Department Of Education made effective Western Australia’s current ‘Duty of care for students’ policy. This policy was deemed necessary, as it strives to protect the immediate and on-going safety of students and teachers. The aim of the policy is to create the safest possible learning environment for all students, and for to serve as a guideline for education professionals. All teachers, school authorities, some non-teaching staff and external providers are subject to this policy and must adhere to it. By constantly reflecting on the policy, it can evolve into an essential everyday tool when upholding ethical and legal responsibilities.

Students must have individual responsibility for their own actions and safety; they are not entitled to expect to live in a risk-free environment (Swain v Waverley, 2005). However, “it is a legal duty to take reasonable actions in order to protect the students from any potential risks of injury or harm that could be considered reasonably foreseeable.” (DETWA, 2007 p.3) While pupils are on school premises, school authorities and teachers owe pupils a duty of care of general supervision concerning their physical safety: Richards v Victoria [1969] VR 136 (FC); Geyer v Downs (1977) 138 CLR 91l; Commonwealth v Introvigne (1982) 150 CLR 258; Warren v Haines [1986] Aust Torts Reports 80-014 (SC NSW).

The policy explains: who owes this duty of care to students, qualification requirements when working with children, and who may be liable if that duty of care is neglected. The policy also addresses a range of issues that may occur in the school environment such as, child protection, excursions, students arriving early and departing late from school, etc. It covers the roles that teaching staff, school authorities, non-teaching staff, volunteers and external providers need to play in order to provide reasonable care for students. To ensure that students encounter minimal safety risks, maximise learning opportunities and also encourage student independence, teaching staff must use their professional judgement when discharging these responsibilities. The duty of care that needs to be exercised will no doubt often vary depending on numerous factors, which may include the student’s age, experience, capabilities, physical and intellectual impairment, medical conditions and behavioural characteristics. Without such a policy, our education system could not provide a sense of security to families, and a secure, safe learning environment would not exist. Education in the twenty-first century has many new factors to consider, one extension being a greater focus on technology. The duty of care policy helps to form a solid foundation for other important necessary policies, and even curriculum to be formed. It is the pot that supports the growth of learning. This report is to provide an analysis of the Western Australian’s duty of care policy and looks at how the policy can impact on a local primary school in two different scenarios. Scenario one, looks at how a teacher plans an excursion in line with the duty of care policy. What does this teacher do to ensure the best possible safety for her students, volunteers and herself? Scenario two, looks at children arriving at school early in the morning and the way in which a teacher handles the situation and provides reasonable care for those students.

DISCUSSION
Mrs Wendy Witmer would like to arrange a school excursion for her class of year 3 students. She wishes to visit a local museum. She has a three step action plan which includes; 1. Gaining the appropriate approval

2. Communicate with parent/guardians to gain consent and commence planning of the excursion 3. Insuring the safety of all students.
Mrs Witmer draws up and submits an ‘Excursion Management Plan’ to the school principal for review and approval. After approval was granted, she then commences planning (arranging appropriate transport,...
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