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Duty of Care to Students

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The Duty of Care for student's policy plays an important role in all Western Australian Education Department Schools today as it thoroughly explains what duty of care means, how teaching staff may apply their duty of care to students and which circumstances non-teaching staff, external providers and volunteers may owe a duty of care to students.

The Department of Education's Western Australia Duty of Care for Students Policy (DETWA, 2007) is subject to teaching staff, non-teaching staff, volunteers and external providers and aims to prepare them with information that will assist them in providing a duty of care to students; not to ensure that no harm will ever occur, but rather a duty to take reasonable care to avoid harm being suffered.

In discharging their duty of care responsibilities, teaching staff must use their professional judgment to ensure that the person taking over the students care is suitable for the task. The teacher must also provide the non-teaching staff, volunteer or external provider with clear instructions on the level of care required. The teacher must consider factors such as the number of students requiring supervision, the ages of the students, nature of the environment and the activity to be undertaken, as well as the general suitability of the proposed carer. Only once they are satisfied can they discharge their duty of care.

The Duty of Care Policy (DETWA, 2007) covers the following areas:

* Procedures

* Relevant legislation or Authority

* Definitions

* Appendix A - Duty of Care school based applications

* Appendix B - Liability

The duty of care policy (DETWA, 2007) is one of the many important policies and legislations that the Western Australian Department of Education has in place today to protect their staff and students. Failure to provide adequate care to students can result in injured persons suing the Department of Education. The best way for anyone involved in providing care for students is to ensure they familiarise themselves with the Duty of Care's Policy (DETWA, 2007) requirements.


A teacher from a local high school was interviewed and provided two scenarios in which this report will analyse. The first scenario focuses on the teachers' responsibility to the students during a school excursion to the zoo. The second scenario discussed will address her duty of care when working in a hazardous environment in a classroom setting.

Case scenario 1

Year 7 went on a school excursion to the local zoo as part of the science course, Animal Kingdom. The teacher interviewed, Miss Nam*, had 27 students in her care. The students wore their school uniform and travelled by bus to and from the zoo.

The Duty of Care Policy states that "members of the teaching staff will owe a duty of care whenever a student is involved in a school activity or present for the purposes of a school activity" (DETWA, 2007). The main responsibility of the staff and the school is to ensure that the students are supervised and to protect them from any harm. Miss Nam* assessed the risk involved if she allowed the students to ride the cable car which spans the length of the zoo. She assessed the probability of any risks occurring such as a mechanical fault, but was not satisfied that the risk was worth taking and therefore did not allow the students to ride the cable car.

Miss Nam* was provided with a folder with each student's name who were in her care, their permission slips and a record of their allergies and usual medications. In applying her duty of care responsibilities, she considered the student's age, physical and intellectual impairment, medical condition, behavioural characteristics, the nature and environment of the school activity. After careful consideration, she did not allow students to wander off by themselves, nor did she allow them to purchase any food from the canteen in case of any allergic reactions. Miss Nam* employed numerous measures to ensure the requirements of the policy (DETWA, 2007) were met. There were no injuries or harm caused to the students who were in her care.

Case Scenario 2

During senior chemistry, Miss Nam* demonstrated an experiment she planned her students to duplicate. The students were in Year 12, aged between 16-18 years old and there were a total of 26 students in the class. They were working with chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, sodium hydroxide and various household



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