Decision Making Responsibilities for Students

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Purpose of this policy

To provide a guide as to who is responsible for students and the common decisions that need to be made in relation to their education and welfare.

Policy

In determining who is responsible for making a specific decision in relation to a student, the principal or relevant staff member should consider the following:

  • Whether the student is an “adult” or “mature minor.” If so, the student can make his or her own decisions.
  • If the student is not an adult or mature minor, consider the following:
    • Parental responsibility
    • Whether there are any of the following Court orders in place:
        • Parenting Order
        • Family Violence Protection Order
        • Protection Order.
  • Whether there are any of the following informal arrangements in place:
    • Parenting Plan
    • Carer.
  • Consider the decision that needs to be made:
    • Does it relate to a long term issue about the care, welfare and development of the student? If so, then the following persons can make the decision on behalf of the student:
      • The persons with “parental responsibility” for “major long term issues”
      • The person who has “guardianship” of the child or young person
      • The person who has been given responsibility for this decision pursuant to a Court Order or Parenting Plan.
    • Does it relate to other issues about the care, welfare and development of the student? If so, then the following persons can make the decision on behalf of the student:
      • The person with “parental responsibility” who is spending time with the child or young person at the particular time
      • The person who has “custody” of the child or young person
      • The person who is the “carer” of the child or young person.

It is the responsibility of principals and staff to request copies of relevant court orders or informal arrangements that are in place.

Parents, guardians and/or carers are responsible for providing principals and staff with up-to-date information and documentation relating to relevant court orders or informal arrangements that are in place.

Adults and mature minors

Adult

A person is considered an adult once they are 18 years of age. An adult student can:

  • Sign their own enrolment forms
  • Consent to a referral to student support services
  • Consent to medical treatment 
  • Consent to participation in an excursion or school approved activity
  • Enter into an agreement to purchase school materials such as text books and stationery.

Mature minor

The law recognises that as children become older and more mature, they are more capable of making their own decisions about a wide range of issues. The law recognises that a child may reach this stage even before they are 18 years of age. These children are referred to as “mature minors.”

To determine whether a student is a mature minor, see: Decision Making by Mature Minors

Other children and young persons

In determining who can make decisions in relation to children and young persons who are not adults or mature minors, it is important to consider all of the following:

1. Parental responsibility

Parental responsibility is defined as all of the duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which, by law, parents have in relation to children.

Each parent of a child under 18 years of age has parental responsibility for the child unless this responsibility is varied by a relevant Court Order or Parenting Plan.

2. Relevant Court Orders

Parenting Orders

Parenting Orders are Court orders made pursuant to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and may deal with any of the following issues:

  • Person with whom the child is to live
  • The time a child is to spend with another person 
  • Communication a child is to have with another person
  • The allocation of parental responsibility
  • Any aspect of the care, welfare, or development of the child.

In allocating parental responsibility, the Parenting Order may differentiate between “major long term issues” and other issues.

Major long term issues are issues about the care, welfare and development of the child of a long term nature and include the following:

  • The child’s education (both current and future)
  • The child’s religious and cultural upbringing 
  • The child’s health 
  • The child’s name 
  • Changes to the child’s living arrangements that make it significantly more difficult for the child to spend time with the parent.
Where more than one person is responsible for making decisions about “major long term issues,” it is expected that they will consult with one another, and make a genuine effort to come to a joint decision about the issue.

    Where the decision to be made is not a major long term issue, the decision may be made by the person with whom the child or young person is spending time with. This person can make the decision without consulting with any other person who may have parental responsibility for the child.

    Family Violence Intervention Orders

    Family violence intervention orders are Court orders made pursuant to the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic). They protect family members from behaviour committed by other family members.

    Family violence intervention orders may provide for some or all of the following protections: 

    • Prohibit family violence
    • Exclude a person from a particular residence
    • Prohibit a person from approaching, telephoning or contacting another person
    • Prohibit a person from being anywhere within a specified distance of where another person lives, works, attends school or child care
    • If a child is to be protected by the Order and there is a parenting order in place, it may revive, vary, discharge or suspend the parenting order
    • If a child is to be protected by the Order and there is no parenting order in place, it may
      • Make arrangements for a child to live with, spend time with, or communicate with the person the subject of the order; or
      • Prohibit the person the subject of the order from  living with, spending time with, or communicating with the child protected by the Order. 

    Protection Orders

    Protection Orders are Court orders made pursuant to the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic). These orders may grant custoty and/or guardianship of a child to a person other than the parent of the child.

    When a protection order grants guardianship, it is allocating the right and responsibility for the long term welfare of a child.

    When a protection order grants custody, it is allocating the right and responsibility to have the daily care and control of a child; and the right to make decisions regarding the daily care and control of the child.

    3. Relevant informal arrangements

    Parenting Plan

    A Parenting Plan is a written agreement that meets all of the following characteristics:

    • It is made between the parents of the child
    • It is signed by the parents of the child
    • It is dated
    • It deals with some or all of the following matters:
      • Person with whom the child is to live
      • The time the child is spend with a person
      • The allocation of parental responsibility
      • Any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child.
    • A Parenting Plan is binding and can affect the allocation of parental responsibility even though it not an Order made by a Court.

    In addition, a Parenting Plan can be made after a Parenting Order. In such circumstances, the Parenting Plan can vary the Parenting Order made by a Court.

    Informal Carer

    When a child’s parents are unable or unwilling to care for them, the responsibility often falls onto relatives or significant others to take on the care of the child. Sometimes this care is provided on an informal basis that does not give the carer any legal status over the child or formal recognition as a carer. 

    In these circumstances, in order to allow these carers to work with schools that the child is attending or seeking enrolment at, they should be asked to complete an Informal Carer Statutory Declaration (pdf - 252.85kb) form. This is a written statement that sets out the care arrangements for the child. 

    Generally, an informal carer who has provided the school with a completed Informal Carer Statutory Declaration may make school-based decisions for the child and may access school information ordinarily provided to a parent. 

    It is important to note that, subject to any court orders, generally, a parent’s decision overrides any decision made by an informal carer. Other factors that might be relevant to decision-making and information-sharing for the child include a consideration of whether the child is a mature minor or any safety and wellbeing concerns.

    4. Decision to be made

    Decision to be made

    Who is responsible if the child or young person is not an adult or mature minor

    • Enrolment/transfer 
    • Nomination of emergency contacts
    • Year level movement
    • Development of Student Health Support Plan
    • Development of Individual Learning Plan
    • Development of Behaviour Support Plan
    • Consent to referral to Student Support Services Officers
    • Persons with parental responsibility for “major long term issues”
    • Persons with guardianship
    • Persons allocated this responsibility pursuant to a Court Order or Parenting Plan
    • Persons who are carers under an Informal Carer Statutory Declaration
    • Non – attendance at school when it is open for instruction

    If it relates to a specific day(s)

    • Persons with parental responsibility
    • Persons with guardianship
    • Persons who are carers

    If it relates to chronic non-attendance

    • Persons with parental responsibility for “major long term issues”
    • Persons with guardianship
    • Persons allocated this responsibility pursuant to a Court Order or Parenting Plan
    • Persons who are carers under an Informal Carer Statutory Declaration

    See: Student Engagement

    • Consent to participate in day excursion
    • Persons with parental responsibility and with whom the child is spending time with
    • Persons with guardianship
    • Persons allocated this responsibility pursuant to a Court Order or Parenting Plan
    • Persons who are carers

    See: Excursion - Parent or Carer Consent

    • Consent to participate in overnight excursion, camps, overseas excursions
    • Persons with parental responsibility for “major long term issues”

    It is important to note that where there is a parenting order or a pending application for a parenting order, it is an offence for a person to take or send a child outside Australia unless it is with the written consent of each person with parental responsibility or a court order.

    • Persons with guardianship
    • Persons allocated this responsibility pursuant to a Court Order or Parenting Plan
    • Persons who are carers under an Informal Carer Statutory Declaration

    See: Excursion - Parent or Carer Consent

    Managing Disputes

    Whenever faced with a dispute between persons who are responsible for decision making in relation to a child, principals and staff should:

    • avoid becoming involved
    • avoid attempting to determine the dispute
    • act neutrally and not adopt sides
    • act in the best interests of the child of young person involved
    • act in the best interests of the school community.

    Schools are not the place to resolve disputes. These disputes should be resolved between the parents/guardians through discussion, attendance at the Family Relationship Centre or at Court.

    Legal Services Unit Contact Details

    Legal Division may be contacted via:

    Related policies

    Related legislation

    • Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)
    • Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
    • Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)