The biggest risks Australian schools are facing – and how to tackle them

The biggest risks Australian schools are facing – and how to tackle them

This article was produced in partnership with CompliSpace, an organisation that takes complex legal and governance obligations and translates them into plain English programs, policies and procedures.

CompliSpace has been working with independent schools since 2010 and serves over 65% of the sector. It has recently expanded its services into the Government sector, focusing on excursion risk management solutions.

From the proliferation of new and potentially unsafe technologies to the growing mental health crisis and COVID-19 pandemic, the last two years have seen significant safety risks for school communities.

However, these are just some of the many complex risk and compliance challenges facing school leaders, who will need to navigate a host of new and emerging risks as existing compliance requirements undergo some big changes.

CompliSpace, a national, leading provider of governance, risk, compliance and policy management solutions, has been working with independent schools since 2010 and currently serves over 65% of the sector, so it is well placed to understand the biggest risks schools are facing in 2022.

According to the company’s Risk and Compliance Principal Consultant, Jonathan Oliver, there are three main areas that have substantially increased the risk and compliance requirements in schools: the implementation of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and the additional legislation that each state and territory has introduced; school re-registration; and the identification, assessment and control of workplace hazards, particularly with regards to school camps and sports.

The biggest risks to schools in 2022

Oliver says one of the most significant risks facing schools is around governance – or rather, oversights in this critical area.

“Good governance means having the right people on the school governing body who set the tone from the top for the development of an effective risk and compliance culture in the school,” Oliver told The Educator.

“The school’s governing body must also be aware of the difference between operational matters on the one hand and governance and strategic matters on the other and respect that distinction in the governing body operations and decision making.”

Oliver also pointed to the importance of schools understanding the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, and how to implement them.

“The previous focus of schools was to ensure they were compliant with child safety laws. While this is still important, the implementation of the national principles requires schools to think much more broadly than just compliance,” he said.

“Schools will need to determine what they are currently doing to meet each principle and then decide what more they should be doing.”

Other key risk areas Oliver noted included student mental health and wellbeing with regards to cybersecurity, bullying and harassment; the failure of schools to recruit and retain high quality teaching staff; and non-adherence to the Privacy Act and data security laws.

Help is at hand

Oliver says writing compliant policies is not enough anymore as schools must demonstrate their compliance.

There are a number of ways that CompliSpace is helping schools ensure that compliance is demonstrated through the policy to culture pathway.

“One is by providing a range of policies by module for all of the significant policy areas that a school requires, including school registration, child safety, duty of care, health and safety, privacy, overseas students, and risk and compliance,” he explained.

“Policies are delivered on dedicated policy management software and policies can be customised so that they reflect each school’s circumstances and practices.”

CompliSpace also provides schools with training to ensure staff have the necessary training to manage risk at the frontline and meet their obligations in in key compliance areas and an online compliance and risk management tool which allows principals to obtain assurances that their school is compliant.

Other products include the Plan Check Go/Safe Trip Builder – which tailors a set of risk control policies and checklists and enables schools to complete an online risk assessment for each excursion based on the nature of the activity – and a Term-by-Term “School Law Monitor” which allows schools to keep up to date with changes that have occurred and those that are anticipated.

In terms of what lies ahead for duty of care challenges for principals, Oliver says the burden on school principals and school leadership related to the pandemic is ongoing and that CompliSpace aims to support school principals through all of the aforementioned tools, systems and content the company offers.

“Our mission is to simplify risk, compliance and policy management for organisations so that they can focus on their core purpose.”