Purpose of this policy
To ensure schools meet these protocols when Members of Parliament or political candidates visit school sites and/or attend school functions.
State and Commonwealth Members of Parliament (MPs) are regular visitors to schools – for instance, to attend the official opening of facilities or other school functions and presentations.
Schools have the discretion of hosting or inviting MPs to the school.
The principal is responsible, in consultation with the school council, to issue an invitation or respond to a request by an MP to visit the school.
When issuing invitations or granting permission to MPs, including Ministers, principals are required to notify their Regional Director of the date, time and reason of the proposed visit, and whether or not the media are likely to be present. The principal must ensure this information is provided to the Regional Director as early as possible and ideally no later than 5 working days before the date of the proposed visit.
Where more than one MP is attending an event, the school (together with the regional office) should ensure that the respective roles of the MPs are identified.
These protocols also apply when local political candidates visit schools.
Under the Visitors in Schools policy the school must consider the best interests of students, including the duty of care and education benefits to students, and appropriateness of the proposed visit, see: Visitors in Schools
Visits to schools by MPs or political party candidates during election periods
Schools may experience an increase in the number of requests by MPs and/or political party candidates to visit during periods leading up to state and federal elections.
School staff must maintain impartiality and integrity, particularly with regard to party political activities. Schools staff must not use their position, access to information or school facilities to support parties or candidates during the election campaign.
Schools continue to have discretion when deciding whether to host MPs and/or political party candidates. However, given the obligation of schools to remain politically neutral, this will usually mean principals will either accept all requests for visits, or decline all requests for visits, during election periods unless unusual circumstances arise.
Principals of schools who refuse to host MPs or political party candidates during election periods should explain the reasons for not accepting requests.
Principals of schools who agree to host MPs or political party candidates must notify their Regional Director as soon as possible and provide the details of a proposed visit and whether the media is likely to be present.
During an election period the Regional Director must be notified of a request to visit the school made less than five days before the proposed visit and approval sought for the visit from the Regional Director. A request to visit the school made five or more days before the proposed visit may be accepted by the principal without approval from the Regional Director, although the Regional Director should be alerted to the proposed visit.
If there is a media presence, schools are reminded that the usual consent requirements associated with photographing students apply. Further guidance is available below.
Principals must ensure that school and staff members, MPs and/or political party candidates do not distribute, promote or display any printed or electronic material (including badges) that may be considered political in nature and are reminded that school resources are not to be used for such purposes.
Party political activities are not permitted at a government school
The distribution of any materials that convey partisan or party political activity, including any materials that promote a particular political party or election candidate, are not appropriate and may breach obligations under the Public Administration Act 2004 and the Constitution Act 1975.
Formal school gatherings, including school assemblies, cannot be used as a forum for political announcements.
- A Member of Parliament or political candidate for election requests to attend a school assembly to announce funding for school capital improvements that is dependent on the outcome of an upcoming election
- A Member of Parliament has asked to attend a school assembly to announce a Government initiative on behalf of the relevant Minister.
- A candidate for election requests to organise a media event involving the Principal and School Council President to announce an election commitment (so long as all candidates are given equal opportunity and the Principal remains neutral).
- A candidate for election seeks to visit the school to consult with school council about its aspirations for the school (so long as all candidates are given equal opportunity and the Principal remains neutral).
- The School Council hosts an evening for political candidates to outline their respective positions on education in the school’s catchment area.
|Attendance at functions
- A Member of Parliament or political candidate displays material that promotes a particular political party, for example, at a stall at a school fete.
- A Member of Parliament or political candidate makes a speech at the end of year function that promotes the policies of a particular political party.
- A Member of Parliament is able to talk to members of the school community about their views, for example, at a school fete.
- A Member of Parliament attends a school assembly to generally discuss how Parliament works and his or her role.
- A Member of Parliament and opposing candidate for election participate in a debate as an educational activity for school students or to inform the school community.
- A Member of Parliament makes a speech at the end of year function that includes statements about representations that he or she has made on behalf of the school community.
- Principals must ensure that schools are neutral in their engagement with Members of Parliament and political candidates and do not distribute, promote or display material that may be considered political in nature. Further, Ministerial Order 199 Teaching Service (Employment Conditions, Salaries, Allowances, Selection and Conduct) Order 2009 stipulates at 11.1.10 that:
(1) An employee must not use, directly or indirectly, the resources of the Department, school or students of the school for any activity other than for official school purposes or other activities as authorised by the Secretary.
(2) An employee must not use his/her official position, the resources of the Department, school or students of the school to produce and/or distribute material that is not in connection with his/her official duties as an employee of the Teaching Service.
This applies at all times, see: Political Activities
- Principals must ensure that the privacy of students is protected during visits, see: Photographing and Filming Students
- School employees must comply with the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees see: State Services Authority - Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees. As public servants school employees serve the Government of the day and must not give actual or perceived favour to one political candidate or party over another. Such an alignment also has the potential to become divisive in the parent and wider community.
For more information on:
- Public Administration Act 2004
- Constitution Act 1975
For more information about caretaker conventions and obligations for all school staff, see: Advice for election periods