Child Safe Standard 3: Guidance for schools on developing a Child Safety Code of Conduct to help keep children safe from harm.
Guidance for schools in developing their response
A Code of Conduct lists behaviours that are acceptable and those that are unacceptable. It identifies professional boundaries, ethical behaviour and how to avoid or better manage difficult situations.
It also assists school staff to understand how to avoid or better manage risky behaviours and situations.
It is intended to complement child protection legislation, school policies and procedures and professional standards, codes or ethics as these apply to staff and other personnel.
Compliance with Child Safe Standard 3
In preparing for compliance, schools are expected to:
- adopt the department’s
example child safety code of conduct or develop a Child Safety Code of Conduct specific to your school in consultation with school staff and the school governing authority
- identify the actions the school proposes to take, per
Standard 1, to put the school’s Child Safety Code of Conduct into effect and articulate the timeframe for this
- determine the timeframes for the school governing authority to authorise the statement as well as the timeframes for informing the school community about the statement.
Ministerial Order background
The Child Safe Standards apply to all organisations involved in child-related work in Victoria.
Ministerial Order No. 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.
Ministerial Order 870 specifies the following requirements for schools regarding a Code of Conduct.
"The school governing authority must develop, endorse, and make publicly available a code of conduct that:
- has the objective of promoting child safety in the school environment
- sets standards about the ways in which school staff are expected to behave with children
- takes into account the interests of the school staff (including other professional or occupational codes of conduct that regulate particular school staff), and the needs of all children
- is consistent with the school's child safety strategies, policies and procedures as revised from time to time."
Where there is a school council, they are the school governing authority.
Ministerial Order 870 defines some terms broadly. For example, the definition of school staff is an individual working in a school environment who is:
- directly engaged or employed by a school governing authority
- a volunteer or a contracted service provider (whether or not a body corporate or any other person is an intermediary), and including a chaplain or minister of religion. A school lead for child safety should have sufficient status and authority, including leadership support and the ability to direct other staff (where appropriate), to undertake the role effectively.
For a list of relevant definitions, refer to:
Victoria Government Gazette - Child Safe Standards
Alignment with existing professional codes of conduct
This Child Safety Code of Conduct is particular to the requirements of the Victorian Child Safe Standards and applies to all school employees, contractors, volunteers and any other members of the school community involved in child-related work with students of the school.
This Child Safety Code of Conduct identifies appropriate and inappropriate behaviour with children in a school environment. The objective is to guide school staff in identifying and regulating their own behaviour and the behaviour of other school staff and to protect children from abuse in the school environment.
The Child Safety Code of Conduct does not replace or change responsibilities under the Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees the Victorian Teaching Profession Codes of Conduct and Ethics and other professional or occupational codes of conduct that may impose certain obligations or regulations.
The Code is intended to be complementary to those other professionals or occupational codes of conduct.
For more information regarding the alignment between the Child Safety Code of Conduct and other applicable professional codes of conduct, refer to:
Aligning the Child Safety Code of Conduct to Other Professional Codes (PDF, 503KB).
An example child safety code of conduct
Principals are responsible for ensuring that the school reviews, adopts, develops and maintains a Child Safety Code of Conduct and for arranging endorsement of the Code by the school governing authority.
Each school should undertake meaningful consultation with staff, the school governing authority and others in the adoption/development of its Code of Conduct.
The principal may wish to allocate responsibility for leading the development of the Child Safety Code of Conduct to a member of the school leadership team or other appropriate school leaders.
The principal and nominated staff member/s should become familiar with the
Child Safe Standards, the
Ministerial Order 870, other departmental resource material regarding the safety and wellbeing of children, related VRQA advice and resources, as well as the contents of this guide.
The Code of Conduct must be adapted to each individual school. For example, schools may wish to insert additional text to address specific situational events or to address issues specific to a cohort of school staff, for example, parents who volunteer at the school.
This may include additional text, to qualify the example Code, such as:
- alcohol may be consumed by school staff, in moderation, and in line with the School Policy Advice Guide, at [insert event e.g. the Year 12 formal] however staff are to be mindful of their duty of care obligations and are to remain professional at all times.
Who does the code apply to?
The Code will apply to school employees, contractors, volunteers and any other members of the school community involved in child-related work.
Once finalised, the Code of Conduct should be made widely available (for example, on the school website) on an ongoing basis.
Developing the code of conduct
There are seven steps necessary to develop your Child Safety Code of Conduct:
- Creating the code
The following example of a model code of conduct can be adopted by the school or adapted as necessary.
Consultation and endorsement - creating the code
Consultation with the school governing authority, teaching and non-teaching staff, volunteers, families and children can provide unique insights into child safety practices and concerns.
The process of consultation should provide information about the Victorian Child Safe Standards and the intent of a Child Safety Code of Conduct. It should highlight who the Code will apply to and that it will apply across all school activities, including school camps and in the use of digital technology and social media.
example child safety code of conduct contained within this Guide can provide the basis for discussing the appropriateness of specific behaviours. Schools may decide to modify this example for their own context, for example, the acceptability of some behaviours may depend upon the students’ age and developmental stage or other needs.
Moreover, the lists of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours contained in the example are not intended to be exhaustive but may assist schools when customising their codes of conduct.
The Code of Conduct needs to be consistent with applicable school policies and practices pertaining to child safety including wellbeing, student supervision, the duty of care, volunteers, camps and excursions (including overseas travel), bullying policies and disciplinary procedures.
This includes reference to the student safety section of the Student Policy and Advisory Guide. For further information, refer to: Student Safety.
The Code should be provided to the school’s governing authority for review and endorsement.
Once endorsed, the Code should be widely disseminated and visible within the school community.
- school website
- posted in prominent school locations
- included in handbooks for staff and family
- included in induction kits and processes for staff, volunteers, and contractors.
Embedding the code
The Code will need to be incorporated into practices and systems to ensure all school staff employees, contractors and volunteers, to ensure:
- that all school staff (employees, contractors and volunteers) are aware of the Code and how it applies
- inclusion of the Code is part of the induction of new staff
- awareness by discussing the Code at staff meetings, communication of the Code through school communication channels, and displaying the Code in common areas (such as a staff room)
- parent, carers and other persons associated with the school are informed of the expected behaviour for the school’s leadership, staff, contractors, and volunteers
- the school’s and the department’s reporting procedures are used (as applicable), should breach of the Code be suspected or identified
- the Code is included in employment advertisements and service contracts to ensure compliance
- the Code is communicated to students in an appropriate way.
Schools may also wish to record, in a central repository held by the school, that staff, contractors and volunteers have read and understood the Code.
Reviewing the code
The school may review its Child Safety Code of Conduct on an as needs basis. As a minimum, the Code should be reviewed every three years.
Further guidance on Child Safe Standards
Related school policies
Example code of conducts and safety policies