Like a small state with its laws and policies, the school requires a specific set of rules. This is exactly what Duty of Care for Students suggests.
According to Duty of Care (Department of Education, 2007), “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.” (6)
According to the official definition of the Department of Education (2007), Duty of Care for Students is ”a duty imposed by the law to take care to minimize the risk of harm to another” (3). This predetermines the importance of the policy.
Subjects of Policy
Duty of Care presupposes that the teaching staff, non-teaching staff, volunteers, and students should be subject to Duty of Care (Department of Education 2011).
In the case when students arrive at school earlier than the teacher does, it is obvious that the situation is getting out of control. Therefore, the necessary precaution measures are to be taken. Left unattended, the students can face certain threats. This means that the school staff is supposed to offer supervision and certain activities for the students who arrive earlier. According to Duty of Care for Students (Department of Education 2007),
Where it is known that students arrive at school at a certain time (e.g. if buses start delivering students from a particular time) the responsibility of the school to provide adequate supervision for the students commences at that time (Department of Education 11)
Since the Duty of Care presupposes that the teaching staff is responsible for the students, the ones that come early must be taken due care of.
In certain cases, misconceptions can occur concerning the state of health of certain students. Thus, in case a student has problems with his/her tonus, namely, arrhythmia, hypertension, or hypotension, the teacher is supposed to ensure that certain school activities will not bring him/her any harm. Thus, such students are not to take part in school activities involving physical strain. According to the Duty of Care for Students, “special care must be taken to protect such students if their condition is known or ought to be known and exposes them to a special risk of injury” (Department of Education 4).
To prevent possible health problems and even injuries, a teacher should provide a student with a safer environment in this case. “Taking the risk management seriously” (Tronc, 2004, p. 24) is the key priority here. Since such students are highly subject to risk, they should be treated especially according to the medical instructions.
Another point that is to be considered is collecting children after the classes. Supposing, a child does not take the school bus to return home but waits until his/her parents pick him/her. However, if the parent is often late, and the child is left unattended, there is no other way but to talk to the parent personally or even address to the police. By the Duty of Care, in the given situation, the school is not responsible for the student:
Schools should consider reporting concerns to the Department for Child Protection and/or delivering students into the care of the police if staff members regularly have to wait for significant times with students whose parents have neglected to collect them (Department of Education 12)
It can be considered that Duty of Care provides sufficient safety for the students. With help of this policy, both the students and the staff can feel relatively safe. Introducing the “relationship between the student and the school” (Newman 46), Duty of Care is the grounds to base school safety on.
The Department of Education. (2011) Duty of Care for Students. Web.
Department of Education (2007). Duty of Care for Students. Western Australia, WA: The Department of Education.
Newman, H. (2000) When Is a School Teacher Liable in Negligence? Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 25 (1), 45-51.
Tronc, K. (2004) Schools and the Law: Closing the Rhetoric and Reality Gap. Practicing Administrator, 26 (1), 22-24.