The term duty of care originates from common law practices and is the background to most school policies and procedures (Government of Western Australia Department of Education, 2007, p3). Teachers need to be aware of their obligation in relation to students left in their care and the Duty of Care Policy sets out to clearly state what a teachers and schools obligation are towards their students. The policy states what is considered to be reasonable care, how to assess the risk of a given activity, who is covered by the policy and how a teacher can discharge their duty of care. The term duty of care basically means that teachers have a responsibility to help people with whom the only relationship they share is that of the teacher-student relationship (Sleigh, 2009, p16).
The duty of care by a teacher to a student exists because of the teacher-student relationship. The relationship exists whenever a student is present for a school activity and is not confined only to school hours (Department of Education, 2007, p7). Once a student is present on school grounds with the knowledge of the school and no longer under the care of their parents/guardians the care then shifts to the school authority.
Courts determine liability by establishing whether the risk was foreseeable, what could have been done to reduce the risk, the age of the children and the cost involved in eliminating the risk (Newnham, 2000, p47). The Western Australia Department of Education also states that the general behaviour of the student should be assessed and whether they have any kind of disability (2007, p6).
The younger the student is or whether they have a disability will mean that the student requires a greater degree of supervision than older students or students without a disability. Generally younger students and some disabled students do not fully appreciate the risk of some behaviour which could lead to injury to themselves or a third party. A school needs to be aware of the risk and schedule greater supervision for these students.
The behaviour of the students should also be assessed as this affects not only the degree of supervision but also who should supervise these students. If there are a group of students known to misbehave when supervised by anyone other than their teacher it would be considered a risk for the teacher to leave the student in the care of another person.
When assessing the risk three factors should be considered. They are, the probability of injury occurring, the magnitude of the risk and the difficulty in alleviating the risk (Department of Education, 2007, p7). A duty of care is not an insurance against harm but an expectation that the teacher will take precautions to protect students from harm of personal injury where they should have foreseen a risk (Some general principles, 2010). By assessing the three criteria prior to undertaking an activity a teacher has a greater chance of being aware of...