From the Principal

We err on the side of safety

The movie:

The frightening reality:

A 15-year-old girl missing from Sydney’s north shore has been found. The girl’s family initially reported her missing on Friday after she did not show up at school. The girl was last seen at Artarmon railway station at 8.20pm on Thursday, and her family and police held serious concerns for her welfare as her disappearance was out of character. It’s unclear where the girl was meant to be on Thursday night, and a police spokesman said officers were looking at the possibility she was with someone. About 12.45pm on Monday, the girl was found safe and well in Artarmon. The police thanked the community for their assistance. SMH, April 1, 2019

Sometimes a parent will receive a text message or call informing them that their child is not at school today.

Occasionally, this will cause an emotional response because the parent believed the child was actually at school that day.

Sometimes, the child is at school but missed a roll call, arrived after the roll had been marked, or was simply “missed”.

We all make mistakes!

We make the call if we believe a child should be at school because we take our duty of care seriously.

A ‘duty of care’ is imposed by the law to take care to minimise the risk of harm to another. Teaching staff owe a duty to take reasonable care for the safety and welfare of students whilst students are involved in school activities. The duty owed is not a duty to ensure that no harm will ever occur, but a duty to take reasonable care to avoid harm being suffered.

I would rather I had to take a phone call from a parent who is angry because our system somehow failed to mark someone as present, rather than take the chance a student has gone “missing” and not informed the parents.

I would rather apologise for causing unnecessary worry than potentially compromising the safety of a student by not informing parents of their “absence”.

A Personal Story

I well remember my early days as a year patron when a frantic parent rang me to explain why her son had not attended school for that week. He had run away from home after an argument with his parents the weekend before and not been home since.

My first response was of concern but this was quickly replaced by an embarrassing sense of doubt in regard to my professional abilities – I had not noticed the boy missing from the year – or from my actual class all week!

Putting the phone down I literally ran to the classroom where I believed he should be. There he was – second row from the front – and actually doing work!

At the next period break I called the boy to my office and explained the call from his parents. He reassured me that he had been safe and couch-surfing at friends’ places for the last five days, borrowing uniforms and sharing lunches. He calmly stated that he intended going home when his parents “had calmed down”.

I know he went home that day but I was unconvinced in regard to how “calm” his parents were when they heard where he had been!

In the end, we always try to be as efficient as possible in our communication with parents but if slip-ups must happen, I prefer us to be over cautious, rather than hope for the best.


Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School
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