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Duty of Care for Teachers

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Duty of Care for students

A. Introduction

The purpose of this report is to recognise the importance of the policy "Duty of Care" in a local primary school. Duty of Care relates to the responsibility of teachers to protect students from foreseeable injuries that may occur on school premises (Whitton, Barker, Nosworthy, Sinclair & Nanlohy, 2010). The report will include three different scenarios of a local primary school and how teachers meets the requirements of the policy Duty of Care. The three scenarios consist of early arrival at school, students missing the bus at the end of school and students getting sunburn during school hours. The report will also contain measures that the school will use to ensure the requirements of the duty of care policy are met.

B. Discussion

1. The Policy

The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984, introduced the policy "Duty of Care" into Western Australian workplaces to help prevent risks and injuries occurring in workplace environments (Western Australia Department of Education, 2007). Duty of care is a duty imposed by the law to take care to minmise the risk of harm to another (WADE, 2007). The duty of care that a teacher owes to his or her students is to take reasonable care to avoid acts or errors, which could expose them to a probable risk of injury (WADE, 2007). Schools have similar duties with wider responsibilities such as ensuring adequate supervision, safe premises and equipment for students (Western Australia Department of Commerce, 2008).

Teachers, non-teaching staff, volunteers and external care providers are subject to the policy's requirement as they all have instances where they are responsible for providing duty of care (WADE, 2007; WADC, 2008). The Department of Western Australia (2007) also suggests that teachers need to use professional judgment to help students stay away from any risks that may occur and maximise there learning opportunities. The role in ensuring the policy's requirements will vary, depending on issues such as what types of risks are involved, the circumstances of each risk, the age and the number of students, the nature of the environment and also the kind of activities the teacher implements (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009).

It is important that schools and teachers apply with the Duty of Care policy to help avoid harmful risks and injuries from occurring (WADE, 2007; Whitton et al., 2010). If there were no guidelines that teachers followed in providing the appropriate care for students then risks and injuries would become more common in schools (Commonwealth of Australia, 2009).

2. Scenarios

Early arrival on school premises

A number of students arrive early to school at about 7:40am each morning. The first teachers usually arrive about thirty minutes later.

The above scenario demonstrates the breach of a schools duty of care policy as students have inadequate supervision on school premises (Newnham, 2000). The school will be at fault for any injuries, which may occur within the thirty-minute arrival difference between teachers and students (Whitton et al., 2010). The lack of supervision for children may result in dangerous activities being undertaken on school property, therefore the school being at fault for failure to provide a general duty of care (Newnham, 2000; WADC, 2008). Human Resources Division (2005) discuss a code that applies to all staff members of schools in relation to the responsibility that teachers owe their duty of care during the entire time children are on school premises.

It is essential that parents/guardians are kept informed as to when supervision of students is available before and after school, and that outside these times supervision and/or collection of students is the responsibility of parents/guardians (WADE, 2007). This information should clearly be provided to parents/guardians on a regular basis (Newnham, 2000). Newsletters, memos and signs advising families an appropriate arriving time for their children and also advising the role of the schools duty of care is a measure taken to met requirements of the policy (Newnham, 2000; WADE, 2007).

Implementing a timetable or roster for formal playground supervision for staff members will ensure adequate supervision before school commences; at recess and lunchtime; and after the school



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