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Education Duty of Care breaches in JDF's

As the Union representing School Support Staff in Western Australia’s public education system, the CPSU/CSA is aware and proud of the valuable work you do every day to achieve great outcomes for the children who attend your school. 

This year we have participated in the inaugural CPSU School Support Team Awards, an initiative run through our Union’s national office, to recognise the outstanding efforts of teams of members just like you across the country.

Congratulations to the fantastic team at Governor Stirling Senior High School, who were the winners of the WA State Award, and to the Kalgoorlie - Boulder Community High School team who were runner-ups. A huge thank you to everyone who entered the awards – the competition was fierce and we were overwhelmed with stories of the wonderful work you do. Well done! 

We acknowledge the important work you do is not without its challenges, and that there are lots of issues out in our school communities. Knowing this, last term we were able to negotiate with the Department of Education to enable four delegates from two schools to come in and work with us to identify the issues of high priority to our members. 

We have with us Joyce Bootsma (Manager Corporate Services) from Bungaree Primary School, Pauline Schutz (Library Officer)  from Comet Bay College, Rhian Rhees (Library Officer) Joondalup PS and Debbie O’Hara (Aboriginal Education Coordinator) Spearwood Primary School. 

They will be with us until the end of third term, and their brief is to go out to schools to discuss workload and other issues our members may have.  We are currently working within the South Metro area and so far have visited 144 schools in 8 weeks, which has given us a great opportunity to meet and have great conversations with our members.

During this period we have identified an alarming practice occurring in our schools in relation to Duty of Care and the administration of medications to students. 

Everyone in a workplace has some duty of care to others and schools are no different to this. There is a current Department of Education Duty of Care Policy (August 2012) that all schools and their staff should adhere to. Principals, Associate/ Deputy Principals and teaching staff have full duty of care to students, however the policy says:

“Non teaching staff, volunteers and external providers do not have the same special duty relationship with students as do teaching staff, and unless requested to do so , are not responsible for personally caring for students.

Non teaching staff have the right to refuse a request to personally care for students and to have their decision respected by a members of the teaching staff.”

What we have learnt in our visits to schools is our MCS and School Officer members are being made responsible for the administration of medication inclusive of, but not limited to, Ritolin - a Schedule 8 drug (drugs of addiction) - plus the taking of blood sugar levels of diabetic students and administration insulin into their stomachs. (sub-cut injection). These practices are outside the Duty of Care Policy, are not inclusive of tasks within the JDF of School Support Staff, and can place both the staff member and the child at risk.

The only School Support Staff JDF that includes Duty of Care is for Level 2 Library Officers.

This indicates only a small group of students can be left with the Library Officer. What we have discovered, however, is that Library Officers are being left with over 20 students with no teacher present, which would not reasonably be considered a small group. 

The leaders of our Union with the support of the Minister for Education, Sue Ellery, have recently raised concerns regarding Duty of Care, specifically in relation to dealing with violent student behaviour. We are committed to expanding this conversation to include the above matters in an effort to establish clearer, safer expectations of School Support Staff. 

We know that there are School Support Staff in our membership that are happy to take on Duty of Care so there are some small things you can do to protect yourselves in this situation:

  • Be a Level 2 Library Officer
  • Make sure there is a policy in place to protect yourself should there be an error in administration
  • Ensure it is in writing that the Duty of Care is being delegated to you
  • Keep accurate records of any medication you are delivering, plus record and report any errors to the Principal who should then inform the Department of Education.

 We will provide you further written updates as our work on this matter progresses. In the meantime, the two things you can do to stay in the loop, protect yourselves and build the power to make your work lives better are to:

  1. Make sure your school has a CPSU/CSA Union Delegate to represent School Support Staff. 
  2. Talk with other staff and encourage them to join their Union. You can direct your colleagues to cpsucsa.org/join to become Union members.

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