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Alpha News, Term 3, Week 4

From the Head of Primary

Having worked in the Education sector now for over 40 years, I am sometimes asked what changes, in my opinion, have had the most impact on schools and education.  While I would cite the use of technology as a teaching tool as an absolute highlight, I believe the introduction of Mandatory Reporting for teachers via the Education and Training Reform Act 2006, is a landmark decision. For myself, (and for colleagues), there is no greater issue than the mitigation of risk of abuse for children and young people.

This reform highlighted the need to protect and keep all children safe from risk of abuse. However, despite that change, there were still gaps in the system and most people will be aware of the harm caused and subsequently  widely reported in the media. After a lengthy inquiry into how non-government and religious organisations in Victoria respond to child abuse, the ‘Betrayal of Trust’ report was tabled in 2013.

The report found that while the vast majority of children involved in non-government organisations were safe, there had been an inadequate response to criminal abuse of children. The report also found there was a need for stronger requirement for organisations to take reasonable steps to protect children. It also recommended criminal and civil law reform, and the introduction of ‘grooming’ as a separate offence. The Betrayal of Trust report led to some changes and legislative reforms in Victoria. These include: The Reportable Conduct Scheme – to provide central oversight of the way organisations respond to allegations of abuse and misconduct.
‘Failure to Protect‘ legislation – which makes it an offence for a person of authority in an organisation to fail to act in reducing the risk of sexual abuse of children.
New mandatory reporting ‘failure to disclose‘ legislation, which stipulates any adult that suspects child abuse must report it to the police.
Introduction of a ‘grooming’ offence – which makes it illegal to communicate with children or their parents or carers with the intent of committing sexual abuse.
This led directly to the development of the Victorian Child Safe Standards which were made law and came into effect in July 2016.  The Child Safe Standards have changed the way in which all schools (and a range of other mandated organisations) operate.

There are 7 Child Safe Standards implemented as law in mandated settings, including Alphington Grammar School.

The 7 Standards are as follows: Strategies to embed a culture of child safety through effective leadership arrangements.
A child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety.
A code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children.
Screening, supervision, training, and other human resources practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing staff.
Processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse.
Strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse.
Strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.
The overarching idea behind the Child Safe Standards is not just that they are a set of guidelines and requirements, but that they are imbedded into the School culture on a daily basis.

The following list is indicative of the types of strategies in and around the school, but is by no means an exhaustive list. Staff are formally trained in their mandatory reporting obligations each year through the Victorian Government Online Learning System.
Staff receive regular termly updates about Child Safe practices.
The School Board is trained in the Child Safe standards and in their responsibility to govern with these in mind.
The school has a structured formalised response towards any suspected or confirmed child abuse.
The Child Safe Policy and the Child Safe Program (which spells out how the school implements the policy) are regularly updated.
Regular Child Safe Risk Assessments are carried out.
‘Child Safe’ appears as an agenda item for meetings at all levels of management.
Visual reminders about ‘Child Safe’ around the school and in staff only areas.
Rigorous staff and volunteer recruitment screening.
Child Safe Operational guidelines implemented and reviewed regularly.
It is vital that, as a School Community, we continue to implement and review our Child Safe practices when and wherever needed.

The Victorian Government has announced that the new Standards will commence on 1 July 2022, giving organisations time to plan, prepare and comply.

The eleven new Standards will replace Victoria’s current seven standards and principles.

Key changes include new requirements: to involve families and communities in organisations’ efforts to keep children and young people safe
for a greater focus on safety for Aboriginal children and young people
to manage the risk of child abuse in online environments
for greater clarity on the governance, systems and processes to keep children and young people safe.
Changes have been made to support greater national consistency, reflecting the National Principles for a Child Safe Organisation developed following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

As we work towards implementing the new standards in July next year, we look forward to working with the School Community to further embed these within the school as we strive to keep all of our students safe from the risk of child abuse.

Reporting child abuse

If you believe a child (even an unborn child) is at risk of being abused or neglected, or there is a real risk of this, you can: call the police on 000 if a child is in immediate danger
report concerns to the Child Protection Crisis Line on 131 278 (24 hours, 7 days a week, toll free within Victoria)
contact your local Department of Human Services Child FIRST office.
Reporting child abuse or neglect is confidential.

If you believe that the safety of your children is threatened by a family member you can get a family violence intervention order.

AGS Child Safety Officers

Alphington Grammar School nominates the following staff as 2021 Key Contact Personnel as acting on instruction from the School Council with relation to the Child Safe Policy:

Dr Vivianne Nikou, School Principal
Mr Max White, School Psychologist
Mrs. Tracey Nicholson, Assistant Principal, Head of Primary School
Mr. Lukas Silver, Assistant Principal, Head of Secondary School
Ms. Mary Kontosis, Overseas Student Co-ordinator

Mrs Tracey Nicholson 
Assistant Principal, Head of Primary