At SCAS we tour – Music, Dance, History, Geography, Civics, Football, Netball, Camp, HRIS, HICES, CIS etc. etc. The list goes on.
Buses. 5am starts, 11.30pm returns.
Canberra, Sydney, Kincumber, Newcastle, Lake Keepit, The Barrington Tops, just to name a few of our destinations.
“Junk” food supplies, DVDs.
Where to sit, who to sit with,
“Oh, no I forgot my…”.
Every parent who sees their child get on a bus hopes that they will enjoy the experience laid out before them, hope that there will be a learning value in what they are doing and hope they are safe. Be safe. Keep them safe.
Highways, dirt tracks, expressways.
Swimming pools, running tracks.
Universities, city streets, classes.
Lakes, beaches, national parks.
Duty of Care
Every time a bus leaves for an off-campus destination we are required to take steps to ensure the safety of those who travel on behalf of or are representing the school.
Of all the pieces of legislation (over 100) that impact on the running of a school, it is those that refer to a “duty of care” that are paramount.
Duty of Care (Def.): noun. A moral or legal obligation to ensure the safety or well-being of others.
The term is not unique to teachers and students but also applies to employers and employees, doctors and patients and a range of other situations prescribed by law.
The duty of care responsibilities of a school are to “Take all reasonable action to protect students from risks of harm that can be reasonably predicted. For example, risks from known hazards and from foreseeable risk situations against which preventive measures can be taken… the risks associated with any activity need to be assessed and managed before the activity is undertaken…. Considerations of safety relate to physical and psychological well-being of individuals.”
Taking these requirements into account the school has a process that meets our legal duty of care. The paperwork – Variation to Routine documents, permissions, manifests, medical and first aid lists etc have become an inevitable part of every teacher’s life.
On top of this duty of care for students the school, as an employer, has a duty of care to its staff under WHS legislation. We have to “eliminate or minimise risk to health and safety from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking”.
What does this mean to our school?
Any students whose behaviour is found to be damaging the wellbeing of themself or others on any excursion, camp or trip can result in a parent/s being required to collect that student from the activity.
Any student whose behaviours are, in the professional opinion of staff, likely to endanger others or compromise the school’s duty of care could be refused access to activities, camps etc. The school is required to make reasonable adjustments to allow students with higher needs to participate in school activities. Sometimes these adjustments might require the attendance of a family member to ensure duty of care is possible.
In short, students whose behaviours have a negative impact on students’ or staff capacity to carry out an activity safely and effectively, whose actions breach our rules and whose behaviours do not meet our standards may face consequences, including disciplinary actions or exclusion.
It is possible that parents may sometimes find our processes and restrictions “unnecessary” or overly cautious – even overly strict or severe. Occasionally, parents will even seek to give their children permission to do things the school does not approve, thinking this means the school can allow such activities.
I remind parents that the school’s legal responsibilities can actually exceed those of a parent. The level of duty of care for a school has been found in court to extend beyond acting “in loco parentis”.
In matters of safety and good management of excursions and camps there are no compromises.
Never to Tour Again
As a youngster I was aware of the legend of John Donnelly supposedly having his representative future terminated by an unofficial “never to tour again” edict.
Supposedly for his “larrikin” off the field behaviour. Later I found out that, while his off field behaviour was indeed legendary, it was his epilepsy and the complications of touring a sports team with someone who suffered from this disease that may have been the real reason behind the decision to end his representative career. In the end, John Donnelly died as a result of a seizure in the surf at Byron Bay.
So what has that got to do with SCAS? Look at the images below. At the time these were taken rugby league often saw a “softening up” period at the beginning of games, particularly finals and representative fixtures. Punches thrown, jaws and teeth broken, brain-damaging concussion common. The “biff” was part of the game. Today, a punch means suspension.
The game has moved on. So have the responsibilities of schools.
If this seems a lot like creating a “cotton wool” generation, I ask parents to remember that the world (and the law) has changed since they were at school “in the good old days”.
We can no longer pile the team in the back of the coach’s ute and head off to training or a game. We can no longer accept terms like “boys will be boys” to justify or excuse dangerous behaviours. We cannot ignore evidence of behaviours that will place others at risk and fail to act to limit the risk. We will not condone the actions of a few spoiling an activity for others. We must be compliant with our responsibilities.
So, sometime in the future there may arise a situation where a student is banned from an activity because his/her behaviour presents the school with an example of foreseeable risk – to the other students, to staff or to the good management of the activity.
In such an event, all we can say is “This is us meeting our responsibilities, we really have no choice”.