The Department of Education’s safety and welfare policies support and maintain the safety and wellbeing of all staff and students in their learning and working environments. WACSSO acknowledges the positive implementation of risk management strategies designed to actively respond to potentially catastrophic situations (particularly environmental). However, concerning reports of violence, assault and behavioural issues have arisen over the past year. Students, parents and schools need preventative strategies, meaningful intervention and support when dealing with societal and environmental issues which result in poor behaviour. There needs to be more emphasis on long term solutions to ensure the safety of all members of the school community.
Teaching students the right way to behave is a shared responsibility. A 2014 Auditor General report, Behaviour Management in Schools, acknowledges that while schools are part of the solution, they cannot address all the contributing factors to student behaviour without the cooperation of parents, government and the broader community. Because the causes of extreme behaviours are often complex and relate to factors outside of school (family dysfunction, mental health issues, poverty and poorly-developed social skills), management requires a collaborative approach. This includes cooperation from parents and carers, support from other government agencies and the education system.
Parents have an expectation that when their child goes to school they will be emotionally and physically safe and secure in their school environment, free from abuse, bullying, harassment, and undue risks. In accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, principals are required to maintain workplaces and systems of work to ensure those in their care are not exposed to hazards. It is the Department of Education’s responsibility to ensure school staff are equipped to recognise and report workplace hazards and maintenance; ensuring all facilities maintain optimal levels of safety.
An increasingly emergent issue facing WA schools is cyber safety. WACSSO has regular correspondence with affiliates surrounding the topic and calls for cyber safety education are intensifying - for students, schools and parents, alike. Schools are being flooded with resources and programs claiming to be beneficial to students, so how do schools choose the right program? School staff must be equipped with the right tools to vet these programs and resources. This will ensure students are being informed by expert, evidence-based knowledge.
WACSSO calls for:
- the government to develop collaborative, and where appropriate inter-agency, strategies aimed at preventing and managing the safety of students and staff in government schools; and
- the development of guidelines for vetting programs, resources and presenters so that students are being informed by expert, evidence based knowledge.
For referencing and the full report, click here.