Where is the Line – Child Safety and the School Environment

It is common for schools to enter into agreements and arrangements with third party hirers to lease or manage certain parts of the school campus (e.g. performing arts centres, sports grounds next to school campus, swimming pools).

The difficulty schools face is when that third party uses the campus space during or before / after school hours. It may be difficult to know when the school’s child safety obligations are enlivened and what due diligence needs to be taken.

Child Safety in the school environment

All Victorian primary and secondary schools must comply with Ministerial Order 1359 – Implementing the Child Safe Standards – Managing the risk of child abuse in schools and school boarding premises (MO1359) to be registered and remain registered as a school with the VRQA.

To comply with MO1359, the school’s governing authority (Principal, Board of Directors, School Council etc.) must ensure the school meets all the elements of MO1359 in all school environments.

MO1359 defines ‘school environment’ broadly as:

Any of the following physical, online or virtual places, used during or outside school hours:

  • a campus of the school;
  • Online or virtual school environments made available or authorised by the school governing authority for use by a child or student (including email, intranet systems, software applications, collaboration tools, and online services); and
  • Other locations provided by the school or through a third-party provider for a child or student to use including, but not limited to, locations used for:
    • camps;
    • approved homestay accommodation;
    • delivery of education and training such as registered training organisations, TAFEs, non-school senior secondary providers or another school; or
    • sporting events, excursions, competitions or other events.

Compliance can be difficult when third party hirers have staff who engage directly with students during or outside of school hours (i.e. sports or instrumental lessons) in circumstances where the service is provided on campus, or in a separate / isolated facility on the school campus, but which may not be directly authorised by the school (i.e. the student’s caregiver pays for sports lessons directly to the provider).

As the contractor – or contractor’s staff – are interacting with students in the school environment with the authorisation of the school – MO1359 applies. This means the recruitment, screening, equity, and all other obligations apply.

Why is this important?

This is important because the school now needs to ensure compliance:

  • strategies, which are needed to embed an organisational culture of child safety and identify, reduce or remove risks of child abuse within the school environment;
  • child safety materials (policies, procedures and codes of conduct); and
  • screening, supervision, training and other human resources practices.

How we can help

Moores has experience working with schools to create child safe practices including within leases, facility hire and services agreements. If you would like to discuss this article with us further, or learn more about our services, please do not hesitate to contact us.