New VRQA Readiness Tool: 6 key things for schools to consider

VRQA published a readiness tool for new school applications in late April. It contains new additional requirements which are consistent with VRQA’s ongoing focus areas and their updated risk framework.

6 key things we suggest new and current schools note include:

1. Appeals Process for Enrolments

This looks like the real sleeper of the readiness tool. It requires new schools to ensure an enrolment decision can be appealed.  This requires the enrolment policy to outline the processes for appeal.

2. Non-delegable duty of care

The school governing body is ultimately responsible for compliance and for students. Certain obligations under Ministerial Order 870 (MO870) are non-delegable.

Existing schools need to take care that their duty of care obligations, particularly to younger students and students with disabilities. This requires clear policies on not only Child Safety (including the ability of the school to assess staff, contractors and volunteers “between” police checks as to their ongoing suitability to work with children), but also:

  • Restrictive Interventions;
  • Anti-bullying;
  • On-site supervision, including school procedures for managing on-site supervision of students in line with the duty of care policies and MO870;
  • External provider and offsite strategies that consider children’s age, vulnerabilities and abilities

3. Child Safety

Although your policies and systems ought to be well-embedded in child safety, your policies may need updating to accommodate:

  • the new legislation named Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic); and
  • the requirements of the Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS), which have applied to independent and catholic schools since 19 April 2021.

The CISS changes privacy, child safety and regulatory implications and risks. Schools should be aware of how CISS operates and its impact on other parts of school governance, safety and return-to-school management, and compliance.

4. Governance Documents

All members of the school governing body must have been validly appointed to:

  • effectively manage the school’s strategic finances;
  • develop the school’s strategic direction; and
  • fulfil its legal obligations.

Schools need to ensure there are measures taken to ensure the governing body makes decisions in the best interests of the school and that these decisions are appropriately documented by creating:

  • Governance Charter;
  • Constitution (with mandated changes needing to be done by 30 June 2021 for ELCs in schools);
  • Instruments of delegation;
  • Conflict of interest policy and register; and
  • Related party transactions policy.

5. Other Policies linked to Enrolments Policy

As current schools will be aware, VRQA requires the enrolment agreement links to, or references, key policies and procedures. These include the:

  • Grievance Management Policy; and
  • Behaviour Management Policy.

6. Managing Complaints and Grievances

The Grievance Management Policy needs to clearly outline steps for responding to complaints, including the escalation process and provide reasonable timeframes.

There also needs to be an appeals process for the management of complaints.  The policy must also provide a review process and provide information of external organisations if the complainant is not satisfied with the complaint outcome or the way the complaint was managed.

How we can help

Moores has extensive experience in education governance and regulation, as well as child safety and enrolment policies. We can help navigate this significant area of governance for your school. Strong governance is key to child safety. For more information or expert advice, please do not hesitate to contact us.