Strategies to embed a culture of child safety

Child Safe Standard 1: requires schools to plan, implement and review strategies that will embed a culture of child safety.

Guidance for schools in developing their response

Child Safe Standard 1 provides part of the overarching framework for all the Standards, alongside Child Safe Standard 2 which requires a policy or commitment to child safety.

This guidance outlines what is required of schools for compliance with Ministerial Order 870 and provides advice on effective strategies and practices within a school to embed an organisational culture of child safety.   

Governance arrangements, underpinned by a firm commitment from school leadership to a school’s values and standards are the starting point to embedding a culture of child safety.

Strategies that seek to prevent harm and neglect (including physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, racial and cultural or religious abuse) all contribute to a child safe culture. It is therefore critical that child safety is part of the everyday thinking and practice of all within the school community.

It is important to maintain the momentum of a child safe culture by monitoring performance and checking that child safety continues to be prominent in the school’s governance and planning.

Compliance with Child Safe Standard 1

 In preparing for compliance, schools are expected to:

  • review the school’s child safe practices across each of the Standards and identify priorities
  • address gaps and priorities by developing an Action Plan including allocating responsibilities to school leaders for completing the actions. This may include looking at what examples of evidence schools may already have to demonstrate compliance.
  • determine timeframes for meeting gaps identified. This will include allowing time for new policies or procedures to be considered and approved by the school governing authority.

In preparing for compliance schools are encouraged to:

  • update their school statement of philosophy and values to acknowledge the importance of child safety and protecting children from abuse
  • create a child safety officer/leader position or role in the school to promote the Action Plan and review and report on its delivery. Refer to: Key Activities of a School Child Safety Officer or Leader Role (PDF, 122KB)
  • conduct briefing sessions for school staff members to ensure a high degree of awareness of the Standards and school strategies.

Action Plan templates

Ministerial Order background

The Child Safe Standards apply to all organisations involved in child-related work in Victoria.

Ministerial Order 870 provides the framework for how schools are required to comply with the Standards. Overall responsibility for ensuring compliance rests with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA).

In relation to Standard 1, the Ministerial Order states that: 

“The school governing authority must:

  1. develop strategies to embed a culture of child safety at the school
  2. allocate roles and responsibilities for achieving the strategies
  3. inform the school community about the strategies, and allocated roles and responsibilities
  4. put the strategies into practice, and inform the school community about these practices
  5. periodically review the effectiveness of the strategies put into practice and, if considered appropriate, revise those strategies.”

Sustaining and improving the school's child safety culture

If a school is satisfied that its culture of child safety meets or exceeds the minimum standard in the Ministerial Order, the school needs to ensure that it can demonstrate the strength of its organisational culture to the VRQA.

Some indicators of good practice and good practice advice are outlined below. The specific ‘good practices’ are suggestions, and are not compulsory or exhaustive.

Schools are encouraged to be innovative when building or improving its culture and organisation.

Develop strategies to embed a culture of child safety at the school

Indicator of good practice

Members of the school community (teachers, parents, students, etc.) feel empowered to discuss child safety and raise any concerns about child abuse.

Good practices

  • effective governance arrangements are in place to authorise and agree on strategies
  • embed the goal of child safety in school documentation to convey the vision, mission and strategic direction of the school in relation to child safety
  • recognise the diverse needs of children in the school. It is important that schools are inclusive and culturally safe places for children and parents. Importantly, some children (for example, young children, children with a disability) are at greater risk of abuse or exploitation and need greater levels of supervision and support
  • include child safety as a standing item on leadership team and staff meeting agendas.

Allocate roles and responsibilities for achieving the strategies

Indicator of good practice

Key people have appropriate skills and capacity to undertake child safety roles and responsibilities. This includes teachers and school leaders and also extends to support staff, student counsellors, business managers of contracted service providers who work with or near school children. 

Good practices

  • school-based roles and responsibilities for child safety are known and understood across the school community
  • make sure students, school staff, and members of the school community know who to contact if they have a concern about child safety in the school. Make sure this information is kept up to date, and is accessible to all

Build capability by

  • making training available in relation to key responsibilities
  • including responsibilities in position descriptions or as part of staff development processes
  • providing ongoing induction and training for all staff and volunteers in child safety including how to recognise and respond to child abuse.

Inform the school community about the strategies and allocated roles and responsibilities

Indicator of good practice

Child safety is a core part of the school’s public and internal communication.

Good practices

  • the school’s communications about the child safety strategies:
    • identifies key people and roles (covers the roles of all people in the school community)
    • covers the range of school environments (for example, camps, online)
    • uses a mix of communication tools (for example, verbal, online, print)
  • provide opportunities for staff, students, parents and the school community to engage with child safety (for example, community forums).

Put the strategies into practice and inform the school community about these practices

Indicator of good practice

Keep the school community updated about the school’s progress in putting strategies into practice, changing strategies or developing new strategies.

Good practices

  • child safety champions - one or more roles in the school with responsibility to promote, monitor, and report on the implementation of the school’s child safety strategies (with appropriate leadership support)
  • report progress to the school governing authority
  • provide ongoing opportunities for staff, students, parents and the school community to engage with child safety issues (for example, community forums).

Periodically review the effectiveness of the strategies put into practice and, if considered appropriate, revise those strategies

Indicator of good practice

There is a system (including schedule, roles and reporting) for periodic review (for example, every two years) and improvement of child safety related policies and practices.

Good practices

  • proactively planning the school’s approach to review, including governance oversight
  • consult with staff, and the wider school community to inform strategic decisions about child safety
  • consider continuous improvement opportunities such as incorporating child safety questions in existing surveys to measure awareness and confidence in the school’s approach.
  • conduct a review after a potential risk or report occurs in the school
  • outcomes of all reviews are communicated.