System Safeguarding & Development

System Safeguarding and Development


Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic presented a wide range of issues for schools and the operation of the Catholic Education offices.  Each of these issues were met with high levels of immediate response and support in a range of areas including safety, finance, media and communications, industrial relations and human resources.

The Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) of the CEO became the oversight body for the system response to the pandemic.  Comprised of the most senior leaders of CESA, this group met daily at the height of the crisis, scaling its work according to the ever changing demands brought on by the pandemic.  In addition, the three education sectors co-operated on the sharing of information so that the entire South Australian schooling sector could adopt consistency in COVID messaging for parents, staff and children (where applicable).

In the area of safety, a key plank of the COVID response was to provide principals and CEO with the latest public health advice that emanated from SA Health.  In the calendar year there were 65 Principal Updates sent to Catholic schools to keep leaders and staff informed of matters that impacted on school operations. Similarly, there were 30 different updates sent to the staff in the Catholic Education Offices. The most challenging times in the year were times of individual school closure, as well as the periods of State shut down which occurred in April and November. The timely and rapid rollout of information via webinars followed by templated letters and other resources enabled leaders to adapt and respond with a surety that kept children and staff safe, and enabled learning to continue in an online mode.  Every section of the CEO contributed to the successful completion of the school year.

Media and communications played a significant role in ensuring parents were kept well informed through the COVID crisis. Social media platforms and websites played a crucial role in ensuring fast and accurate messages were accessible. The PR/Communications section of the CEO provided advice on templated letters as well as responses to journalists who wanted to hear how COVID-19 was impacting the Catholic schooling sector.

In the busiest time of the pandemic, principals sought clear advice on leave and other industrial entitlements for their staff. This advice was crucial given that some staff felt vulnerable due to their own circumstances. The HR consultants in the People, Leadership and Culture section provided constant guidance which was promulgated via the COVID-19 Principal Updates. In addition, when the Federal Government introduced Job Keeper allowances, all schools were required to provide information to support the financial health of the sector. The HR and Finance sections were pivotal in successfully managing how Federal money was able to flow into the system to support the viability of schools.

Policies and Procedures

The System Safeguarding Section was responsible for the substantial revamp, re-write and publication of some major SACCS policies and procedures in 2020. These included:

Duty of Care Policy and Procedure; Reporting Harm of Young People Policy and Procedure; Camps, Excursions Sporting and Adventure Activities Policy and Procedure; and Student Overseas Travel Excursions Procedure.

Each of these new documents are important papers for school reference in the conduct of the normal operations of the school. They aim to keep children safe. They also keep staff safe in the knowledge that by adhering to the directions in the policies, schools are compliant with the latest standards.

Work Health and Safety

Due to COVID-19 the year 2020 was unlike any other year with regards to ensuring a safe workplace for our staff. Many new challenges emerged, including the safety of staff working from home. There were many groups or individuals involved in making decisions that impacted on worker safety. This included: CESA WHS (under Catholic Safety Health and Welfare), principals, business managers, board members, WHS co-ordinators and others with responsibility for decision making within each organisation.  Each rose to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and provided our schools and offices with a safety management system, meeting all legislative requirements.

As a proactive response to the threat to the mental health of workers, System Safeguarding undertook to make available two valuable resources for CESA staff to access. The first was a short course to alert staff to strategies they could use to assist others who were suffering emotional distress as a result of the pandemic. The second resource was a webinar tailor-made for CESA by a skilled presenter with broad experience in managing change. This hour-long webinar called “How to Prevail and Prosper in High Stress Times” remains as on ongoing resource for staff to access.

CESA’s commitment to keeping our people safe and returning those staff members who were injured, back to work, and compliance with WHS and Return to Work legislations has ensured retention of CCES Self-insured Registration for a further four-year period.

During the changed working conditions of 2020, Catholic Safety Health and Welfare staff undertook a review of all safety management procedures, introducing some new procedures eg Traffic Management, to ensure the continued safety and wellbeing of our staff and students.

The Learning Manager online WHS training system continues to provide mandatory WHS training in most of our schools. The Learning Manager management system now incorporates other mandatory SACCS training for staff including Protective Practices and Code of Conduct. Consequently, this provides a safe workplace and helps to protect the reputation of our schools/colleges and most importantly helps to keep everyone in the community safer.

Child Protection

Child Protection issues remain at the forefront of the System Safeguarding. This team works closely with a number of external organisations to ensure that all matters concerning child safety receive immediate and high priority.  Some of those organisations include: Screening and Verification Authority, Professional Standards Office, Teacher Registration Board, Department for Human Services and the other education sectors.  As an example of the work of this team, by late 2020, there had been more than 11,000 electronic screenings undertaken and over 120 critical incidents handled by case managers across the CEO, with many of these having a focus on child protection matters. 

Corporate Services Seminars

The impact of COVID-19 meant that face-to-face seminars were abandoned and replaced by the provision of two online webinars covering topical areas.  The first webinar had a main focus on COVID related HR issues, as well as information related to family law. The second webinar focussed on ‘managing staff performance’ and was presented by the senior business partners in the CEO HR team.