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Schools (Volume 13)

The Victorian Government continues to implement historic reforms and initiatives to prevent sexual abuse from occurring in schools and ensure effective responses where it does occur. These include reforms that commenced on 18 June 2021 that require boarding schools to be registered with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority on substantially the same basis as schools.

Child Safe Standards within Victorian schools and boarding schools

As outlined in Volume 6, the Victorian Government has introduced 11 new Child Safe Standards (Standards). The new Standards will help schools and boarding schools protect children from abuse. The government will assist with the implementation of the new Standards by providing guidance, resources and training to staff before they come into effect on 1 July 2022.  

PROTECT resources  

The Victorian Government continues to improve its PROTECT website, which provides resources and guidance for all cross-sector education staff, to ensure all schools have the required information to create child-safe environments. Key changes made to the protect website throughout 2020-2021 included:

  • adding information on the requirements in Ministerial Order 870 for boarding schools to create child-safe environments
  • adding information on child protection, privacy and information sharing and reporting obligations, to cover information sharing and family violence reforms
  • adding information to support schools to comply with the new Standards in relation to international student programs
  • updating the Sexuality and Consent Education Policy, strengthening teaching resources on consent education and developing factsheets on sexual consent and school obligations.

Mandatory reporting eLearning module

The Victorian Government has refreshed its eLearning module for mandatory reporting and other obligations for teachers in government and non-government schools and staff in early childhood and care settings. 

The revised information better aligns the module with the most up-to-date guidance on how to identify and respond to child abuse. The module also includes new content about the Child Information Sharing Scheme and Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme. The mandatory reporting module is a compulsory training requirement to be completed by all registered teachers and early childhood and care staff annually.

Sexuality education can safeguard against sexual abuse and is included in the Victorian Curriculum at both primary and secondary school level.

In March 2021, the Victorian Government announced that from Term 2 of 2021, the teaching of consent in an age-appropriate manner would be mandatory in all government schools. 

The delivery of age-appropriate sexuality education in Victorian schools is a component of the Health and Physical Education curriculum taught across government, Catholic and many independent schools. The Victorian Government provides optional teaching and learning resources for schools to use in delivering sexuality education. These evidence-based, age-appropriate resources include Catching on Early and Catching on Later, and aim to support schools to teach the sexuality education components of the curriculum. Consent is covered in the Catching on Later resource used with students between Year 7 and 10.

The 2020-21 Victorian Budget also invested $37.5 million to continue the Respectful Relationships initiative for a further four years. Respectful Relationships is a recommendation of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence and is also a key primary prevention strategy for children displaying problem and abusive sexual behaviours. The initiative supports schools to promote and model respect, positive attitudes and behaviours, and teaches students how to build healthy relationships, resilience, and confidence. The whole school approach to Respectful Relationships facilitates schools to embed a culture of respect and gender equality across the entire school community. More than 1,950 Victorian government, Catholic and independent schools are signed on to the Respectful Relationships whole school approach, including all government schools. 

In line with recommendations of the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence, the Victorian Curriculum provides the basis for teaching and learning about respectful relationships, through identifying the knowledge, skills and understanding that help students to engage in respectful relationships. 

Complaint handling resources

The Victorian Government has updated its guidance on Student Sexual Offending and Problem Sexual Behaviour.

The government has also developed a fact sheet on sexual consent, disclosures, and school obligations to support schools if they receive disclosure of student sexual offending. The fact sheet includes information about:  

  • who schools should contact for support 
  • how schools can communicate with their community about issues of consent and sexual assault, and 
  • reporting obligations for schools, including in relation to historical allegations of student sexual offending.

Child safety during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Victorian Government has continued to support vulnerable students and provide on-site learning for vulnerable children during remote learning. 

The Victorian Government has continued to respond to queries about child safety from early childhood and care providers, schools, higher education and training providers and families through a dedicated Department of Education and Training COVID–19 advice hotline. It also published: 

  • guidance for staff on child safety, reportable conduct and duty of care in remote online learning environments 
  • a student-facing web page with information on staying safe online and raising concerns at school 
  • the #ihaveyourback campaign in partnership with Melbourne Football Club, promoting upstander behaviour and sharing ways to address cyberbullying 
  • updated Cybersafety and Responsible Use of Digital Technologies Policy for schools 
  • a new social media policy that includes measuring and addressing child safety risks, and
  • advice to schools on using technologies to support flexible or remote teaching and learning. Schools were advised to use only government-provisioned technologies, particularly those with video-conferencing functions, due to significant challenges associated with appropriately managing privacy, security and safety.