Summary - 20% rise in class sizes equals 20%
rise in efforts by staff to discharge their duty of care.
Staff obligations on the rise
A full class of students can be a handful for teachers, even
more so during practical activities and excursions. Injured
plaintiffs commonly allege that educational institutions have
breached their duty of care to students by failing to properly
supervise and highlight the need for staff to remain vigilant.
Projected increases of class sizes by more than 20% are likely
to place additional burden on the already difficult job staff have
to continually supervise, monitor, risk assess and trouble shoot
issues as they arise.
This projected increase in class sizes arises from a report
released by Infrastructure NSW which has suggested existing schools
accommodate 90% of the projected increase from 752,000 students to
about 1,000,000 students.
Five tips for staff
For staff to continue to cope with current demands in
discharging their duty of care and prepare to meet the increasing
demands that seem likely to follow, we suggest the following best
Develop an activity plan and perform a risk assessment of those
Provide instructions, written if possible, prior to new
activities, and have those instructions available for review and
periodically refresh instructions to the class.
Conduct periodic reviews of the learning environment and
equipment for identification of hazards.
Proactively seek, receive and action any problems that are
identified with student conduct, equipment etc. and keep a written
log of the issue and the resolution.
Set physical boundaries for activities such as classroom or
oval and conduct supervision in a roaming fashion between the
central point and boundary areas to ensure a close proximity to the
most students and the opportunity to assess activities from
different points of view.
Beware – trap to avoid
Activities such as excursions sometimes involve staff
inexperienced in the chosen activity entrusting students to third
party experts for those activities such as rock-climbing or
While it is appropriate to seek assistance from skilled
contractors or organisations,
courts have held that it will not discharge staff from their
non-delegable duty to students.
It is still necessary for staff to ensure that the third party
service provider is appropriately qualified, the premises are
suitable, the activities appear well controlled and the equipment
appears appropriate. Otherwise, the school will not have discharged
it's duty of care.
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