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The Safety of Children during Transition Periods

March 12, 2021

In the Consultation Regulation Impact Statement following the 2019 NQF Review, one area of concern found was the transition periods between services. For OSHC, this included the transition between school & OSHC both of a morning but more substantially of an afternoon.

This topic was covered in Chapter 3 on Safety, Health & Wellbeing, starting on page 28 of the report.

TRANSITION PERIODS

Many of those in the OSHC industry can empathise with the struggle of an afternoon session when there are missing or unaccounted for children at roll call. This can often happen for a number of reasons, including (but not limited too):

  • Families have failed to inform the Service of their child’s absence from the service
  • A lack of supervision whilst leaving the duty of care from the school environment and transition into the OSHC environment. There is a discord often as to who is responsible during this transition
  • A child takes an alternative option to get home (leaves with a friend, catches the bus despite being on the OSHC roll)

When we are sometimes accounting for upwards of 200+ children of an afternoon, this period of time can prove stressful.

Between 1 January 2012 and 30 June 2019, there were 841 children reported as ‘missing or unaccounted for’ during transition periods between school and OSHC nationally. Most of which (784) were reported in the afternoon session.

Consultation Regulation Impact Statement P.28

Further studies have shown that these instances where a child is unaccounted for or missing, causes negative impacts on the child as well as the families & educators working at the time.

According to survey research by Henderson et al., 44.9% of respondents reported a health impact from an incident of a missing child, and 98.9% of respondents reported an emotional impact. Children with additional needs (physical, mental, socio emotional needs) were disproportionately represented in statistics, representing 38% of incidents reported.

Consultation Regulation Impact Statement P.28

The report simply puts that the problem is that “there is a distinct gap in regard to duty of care during transition periods between schools and OSHC services”

OPTIONS FOR CHANGE

As part of the review, the report puts forward 5 options for change:

A.    No change

B.     Legislative change to specify staff supervision requirements during periods of transition between education and care services.

C.     Recommendation to state and territory school authorities and non-government school sector organisations to develop policies and procedures to safely transfer children between schools and education and care services.

D.    Require that where relevant, an education and care service has a policy and procedures for the transition period between education and care services (for example between school and OSHC, or OSHC and preschool), including a risk assessment process.

E.     Develop further guidance to support policies and procedures relating to the delivery of children to, and the collection from, education and care service premises, with an emphasis on transition periods between services, as well as further guidance for parents and families around notifying when a child is unable to attend an education and care service.

OPTION B –   Legislative change to specify staff supervision requirements during periods of transition between education and care services.

Option B places the responsibility and ‘burden’ onto the OSHC services. The report raises the possibility of the potential of needing to increase staffing to meet these supervision requirements. This may, in turn, place a financial burden on the services.

“These additional costs may be reflected in service fees, increasing the cost experienced by families in accessing the service. In certain areas, shortages of qualified staff may affect the viability of the service if they are unable to comply with the legislative requirements.”

Consultation Regulation Impact Statement P.31

OPTION C – Recommendation to state and territory school authorities and non-government school sector organisations to develop policies and procedures to safely transfer children between schools and education and care services.

Option C requires schools to actively engage in supervising children on school grounds until a clear hand over of responsibility and duty of care has been established. Whether that be with the authorised person collecting that child directly from school or the OSHC Service.

This option also offers more opportunities for collaboration and consultation between schools and the OSHC Service.

OPTION D – Require that where relevant, an education and care service has a policy and procedures for the transition period between education and care services (for example between school and OSHC, or OSHC and preschool), including a risk assessment process.

Option D will support Services in taking responsibility for implementing procedures regarding the transition periods between school & OSHC.

Services will be mandated to implement procedures around unaccounted for children during transition times, how to make this period of the session less ‘risky’ and to ensure all educators are aware of their responsibilities to children during this time.

Implementing a risk assessment around transitions may reduce the amount of ‘missing or unaccounted for children’ during this time.

OPTION E – Develop further guidance to support policies and procedures relating to the delivery of children to, and the collection from, education and care service premises, with an emphasis on transition periods between services, as well as further guidance for parents and families around notifying when a child is unable to attend an education and care service.

Option E encourages strong partnerships between families & Services. The report comments that is option:

“Encourages families to take an active role in preparing children for the transition period and notifying when a child is unable to attend a service will support the development of personal responsibility and reduce the instances of incorrect reporting, whereby a child is reported as missing or unaccounted for while at home or receiving adequate, approved supervision in another setting.”

Consultation Regulation Impact Statement P.33

FEEDBACK

  • Feedback is sought on whether services hold a duty of care for children during transition periods between school and education and care services.
  • Feedback is sought on the significance of the risk of the children ‘missing or unaccounted for’ under the current arrangements.
  • Feedback is sought on the measures currently undertaken by providers to mitigate the risk of ‘missing or unaccounted for’ children.
  • Feedback is sought on the preferred option/s to reduce the risk of children missing during these transitions.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

We would love to hear your thoughts on the options proposed and what you think would support your service and its quality education and care of children.

It is important to note that not one option has to be implemented, a combination of proposed changes could be the best practice option.

Acknowledgement of Country

At Firefly HR, we acknowledge the traditional owners of the land we work & connect with you from today. As a base, Firefly HR connects from the land of the Garigal or Caregal people, and would like to acknowledge all 29 clan groups of the Eora Nation.

At Firefly HR, we connect – although online, and meet by story sharing, learning, taking on non verbal queues, deconstruct and reconstruct information, and move in non linear directions at times. We use symbols without realising, and link with our own land and community.

This is all interconnected. We are utilising Aboriginal pedagogy with these processes and in our daily work.

We acknowledge the land that we are on today has been the core of all spirituality, language, knowledge, and sacred sites. This knowledge is what us and others need to embrace to ensure a future for our children and our children’s children.

We need to hear, respectfully, and listen.

As a guiding principle to the National Quality Framework that Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures are valued, we are working on building the foundations here and believe a strong, meaningful acknowledgement of country is important.