While our core business is about learning, skill development, social skills and preparation for life, safety is something that looms large in the life of the School.
Some of the areas we have to be continually aware of in our daily operations include:
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Working With Children checks
- Campus security
- Privacy laws
- Environmental safety (Remember the smoke-filled days of 2019?)
Below are some of the many areas that a school must be aware of in terms of safety:
- Duty of Care: Schools and teachers have a duty to take or exercise ‘reasonable care’ to protect students from risks of harm that are ‘reasonably foreseeable’ whilst they are involved in school activities, or are present for the purposes of a school activity.
- “All people – employees, students and the general public – must be given the highest level of protection against risks to health and safety that is reasonably practicable in the circumstances. Those who manage or control the workplace are responsible for eliminating or reducing the risks, so far as is reasonably practicable.”
- “Under the NSW Work Health and Safety Act 2011, the school must do everything reasonably practicable to ensure that students are not exposed to risks to their health or safety while they are at school. Under the Common Law, the department and its staff have a duty to take reasonable care to keep students safe.”
- “It is well known that students perform better in a school whose staff has high motivation and morale. Significant contributors to high motivation and morale among staff are freedom from the risk of physical or psychological pain and disease.”
- “Risks to psychological and physical health can result from work-related stress, violence, harassment and bullying.”
The principal of an elite Sydney private school has urged parents to “chill” and told them the fees they pay do not entitle them to behave aggressively towards teachers. In a recent school newsletter, the head of St Andrew’s Cathedral School, Dr John Collier, wrote that he was “very displeased at the current level of agitation from a minority of parents” and that he was having to deal with “too many parents who have verbally abused, physically threatened or shouted at a staff member”.
- NSW principals last year reported greater levels of burnout, stress and sleeping trouble than in any state except Queensland, even before this year’s bushfires, floods and the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted school operations. The Conversation, ABC.
- Revelations violence in NSW schools has risen by a third, with attacks on teachers also increasing. Daily Telegraph.
Safety of students, staff and parents plays a large role in the policies and protocols that our School lives by.
We unashamedly plan and act to make our students and staff as safe as possible, so that they can get on with the teaching and learning which is our core business.
Sometimes this means we have to take steps to defuse situations that place our people at “foreseeable risk”.
These steps are never taken lightly.
“Some overseas data indicated that young students who were aggressive and bullied others in school ran a clearly increased risk of later engaging in other problem behaviours such as criminality and alcohol abuse. It was found that approximately sixty per cent of boys who were characterised as bullies in Years 6 to 9 had at least one conviction at the age of twenty-four. Even more dramatically, as many as thirty-five to forty per cent of the former bullies had three or more convictions at this age.” Report on Violence in Australian Schools,
The safety of all people who come on campus is an ongoing priority at St Columba.
We know that violence and bullying are rife in our wider society. While we are limited in our capacity to heal these problems in the world, we believe that the provision of a safe place to learn and grow at our School is something we should be able to offer our community.
And we will.
Principals, teachers and community groups identify the portrayal of violence by the media and entertainment industries as a specific cause of school violence. Negative modelling and lack of balance act to reinforce negative values and contribute to violence. The Committee accepts that the media and entertainment industries are outside the control of the school. It is for parents to control the programs children watch and the video games they play. Sticks and Stones, Report on Violence in Australian Schools, Australian House of Representatives.
“If you don’t feel safe as a child, you can’t learn.”
Schools provide a safe learning environment for most children. It is erroneous to conclude that schools are unsafe. In some areas, rather than being places of violence, schools provide havens and places of safety away from the violent community. Sticks and Stones, Report on Violence in Australian Schools, Australian House of Representatives.
Mr Terry Muldoon
Principal, St Columba Anglican School