education.vic.gov.au

School operations

Insurance for Schools

2  Insurance policies

2.1  Public liability insurance

2.1.1  Department insurance arrangements

The Department, as an agency of the State Government, holds Public and Products Liability Insurance with total cover of $1 billion for any one claim and in the annual aggregate for all claims. This policy protects the Department against:

  • claims for personal injury (including death) suffered by third parties – i.e. people who are not employees (employees are covered by WorkCover)
  • claims for loss, damage to or destruction of other people’s property.

The Department and/or its employees must be legally liable for the policy to respond. For example, if a student is injured at school and lodges a claim against the school, the student and/or their parents must establish that the school staff failed to take reasonable care to protect the student from an injury that was reasonably foreseeable.

The policy has a $5 million self-insured retention (SIR), with the cost of claims within that figure borne by the Department. These claims are managed by the Legal Division. All enquiries about a potential claim should be directed to Legal Division on the below contact details:

Legal Division
Phone: 03 9637 3146
Email: legal.services@education.vic.gov.au

2.1.2  Indemnities for school councils, members and volunteers

School councils

A school council is a body corporate constituted under section 2.3.2 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic)

The Department may decide to indemnify school councils (as a body corporate separate to the school council members) for claims of common law negligence and employment disputes (including for claims of discrimination).

A school council (as a corporate entity) will not usually be indemnified for other types of school council liability, such as GST and taxation, or functions that are not directly related to the administration of a school.

Refer to School Council Liability and Legal Proceedings.

School council members

School council members are further protected by a legislative indemnity. This protects school council members against liability incurred by the school council caused by any actions reasonably carried out by school council members in good faith during the course of their duties as school councillors. Refer to section 2.3.32 of the Education and Training Reform Act (Vic) 2006 and School Council Liability and Legal Proceedings.

Volunteer school workers

Injury or damage caused by volunteers

Volunteer school workers and volunteer student workers are protected by section 37 of the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic) which effectively provides that the school council (and not the volunteer) is liable for anything done, or not done, in good faith by a volunteer while performing activities on behalf of the school. 

Injury suffered by volunteers

Volunteer school workers and volunteer student workers are also covered as if they are employees if they are injured in the course of the volunteer work. Refer to Part 5.6 of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006. 

Work for Centrelink payments volunteers

The Department has a separate Personal Accident Policy for those persons undertaking voluntary work at schools as part of their Centrelink payment commitments. For information about this policy contact Mike Roleff at michael.roleff@education.vic.gov.au

Damage to volunteer’s property

Volunteer school workers, including Centrelink volunteers and volunteer student workers may seek compensation from the Department for damage to their property sustained in the course of their volunteer work. 

2.1.3  Use or hire of non-school facilities

Schools regularly use municipal or shire council facilities, shopping centres, local streets and other facilities to conduct educational programs, fund raising activities and functions for the benefit of students and the local school community. Schools are often required to produce evidence of Public Liability Insurance cover for use of these facilities.

Schools must provide a Public and Products Liability Certificate of Currency if requested as evidence in these circumstances. Please refer to the Resources tab to download copies of relevant certificates.

Note: You are not required to produce evidence of Public Liability insurance when dealing with a local council. The Department’s insurer, the VMIA, has entered into an arrangement with Liability Mutual Insurance, (the insurer of most Local Councils in Victoria) under which neither the Department nor the Local Council need to supply proof of insurance when hiring each other’s premises.

Should a local council insist on evidence then you should refer them to the VMIA website.

School councils must not agree to indemnify other parties

A School Council does not have authority to agree to indemnify a third party. School councils must not sign any document agreeing to indemnify other parties. For example, school councils must not indemnify a school camp provider or excursion provider when entering into arrangements for that school camp or excursion.

The Department will not indemnify or insure other parties

The Department’s Public Liability Policy will not, under any circumstances, be extended to cover the legal liability of other parties. The Department will not agree to endorse its Public Liability Policy to provide other people or organisations with indemnity nor will it agree to insurance in joint names. School councils do not have the authority to enter into such arrangements.

It is recommended that organisations hiring out facilities to schools such as local sporting ovals, civic centres and theatrettes have their own public liability insurance to cover their negligent acts that result in injury to persons using the property or damage to school equipment. Always ensure they have adequate public liability insurance before using their facilities by requesting a copy of a Certificate of Currency.

Should an organisation insist on an indemnity or for the school’s policy to include their name as a condition of hire, schools must:

  • take all reasonable steps to make clear that the Department’s insurance does not provide such cover; and
  • not proceed with the hire of that facility.

Risk management

Before making the use or hire of school facilities available, school councils should ensure that reasonable care will be exercised at all times to avoid or minimise the risk of injury or property damage from the use or hire of the facilities. Whilst insurance can cover financial loss, it does not cover such risks as reputational loss, which can also be harmful to the school. A good risk management program can minimise the chances of such events happening

Refer to Risk Management.

2.1.4  Use of school facilities by third parties

Schools may make their facilities available for use by third parties and this is encouraged by both the Victorian and Commonwealth governments. Refer to: Community Use of Schools — Hiring, Licensing and Community Joint Use Agreements.

The following groups are not required to provide evidence of public liability insurance when hiring school premises:

  • not-for-profit community groups engaged in low risk activities such as book reading groups, some special interest groups, foreign language tuition.

The following groups are required to obtain and provide to the Department evidence that they have $10 million public liability insurance when hiring school premises:

  • any group (including not-for-profit) engaging in high risk activities
  • all for-profit/commercial organisations
  • any group required to have insurance by their association (for example, incorporated sporting clubs)
  • any group required to have insurance for regulatory purposes.

High risk activities are activities that pose a significant risk to school property, personnel, students or other members of the public. This would include, for example, fireworks displays, bouncing castles, horse riding, animal shows, woodwork and mechanical activities and fun fair activities involving machinery.

Schools can contact michael.roleff@education.vic.gov.au for further guidance on whether an activity is a high risk activity or not.

For the groups requiring $10 million public liability insurance, schools must ensure the group provides the school with a Certificate of Currency evidencing that they have public liability insurance up to $10 million.

School councils will continue to be covered through the Department’s Public Liability Insurance Policy with the VMIA. However, insurance coverage is not extended to third parties hiring school facilities. Schools are advised to approve any third party use of school facilities in writing, including that the Department’s insurance does not extend to any injury or damage caused by the third party.

2.1.5  Public liability insurance for sole contractors

The Department arranges public liability insurance with the VMIA on behalf of certain contractors who have difficulty obtaining insurance cover.

The Department’s insurance cover applies to the following contractors:

  • school cleaners that are sole traders or in partnership (not companies)
  • school refuse and garbage disposal
  • general basic maintenance by the school handy person.

The contractors must have no employment other than the work they carry out at schools to be covered by the Department’s Public Liability Insurance. 

Only those contractors that meet the criteria above are covered under the Department’s Public Liability Insurance Policy.

If the contractors do not meet the above requirements, then they are not covered by the Department’s Public Liability Insurance Policy and need to supply a Certificate of Currency as evidence that they have obtained public liability insurance with a minimum policy limit of $10 million, and that the policy is current and placed with an APRA registered insurer. For template contracts for engaging contractors refer to:

Schools can contact Schools Procurement for support when engaging a contractor at schools.procurement@education.vic.gov.au

Schools can contact Legal Division for advice on engaging a health professional to provide services at school at legal.services@education.vic.gov.au or on 03 9637 3146.

The VMIA has placed very strict conditions in the Department's Public Liability Insurance Policy in this regard.

Claims for damage or loss caused by a contractor covered by the Department’s Insurance Policy are handled directly by the VMIA. Schools can complete the claim form which can be accessed via the VMIA Make a Claim page. This link is to the VMIA’s 'Insurance — Making a Claim' web page and has clear instructions on the process required. Schools can download a claim form — Public Liability Claim (PDF) — or use the online incident reporting form.

For all enquiries regarding School Cleaners please contact: Department of Education and Training, School Cleaning Advice Line via email: cleaning@education.vic.gov.au

2.2  Property insurance

2.2.1  Department insurance arrangements

The Property Insurance Policy protects the Department against the cost of loss, destruction or damage to property owned by the State of Victoria or the Minister. Examples of insured perils include fire, storm and tempest, explosion, water damage, earthquake, burglary, boiler explosion and flood. This policy has a limit of $3.625 billion for any one loss or series of losses arising out of one event, with the cost of claims under $3 million being self-insured and borne by the Department.

A specimen insurance policy wording can be found in the Resources tab

2.2.2  Schools

Buildings, fixtures and fittings

School buildings, fixtures and fittings are included in the Department’s Property Insurance Policy, however it would be rare for any event to exceed the policy excess. Typically, and depending on the amount of the loss and the type of fixture/fitting, the cost of incidents may be borne by the school or by the Department.

In certain circumstances the Department can reinstate damaged buildings/infrastructure back to its original condition. It is Department policy to only replace facilities to the extent of the school’s designated facility area. For more information see the Capacity and Area Allocation Advice.

Schools that have sustained damage through an incident or event must ensure the safety of everyone onsite and contact the Department's Incident and Security Operations Centre on 1800 126 126.

Schools should also contact the Make-Safe service provider on 1300 133 468 to respond to the incident. The VSBA, through its service provider, will make the site of the incident or event safe for staff, students and the community. After the initial steps to make the affected areas safe, the VSBA completes an assessment to determine whether further works are required. This assessment may result in the reinstatement of all or part of the damaged facilities.

School councils are encouraged to obtain separate insurance cover for any facilities outside of their facility area to be satisfied that these could be replaced when they are damaged or destroyed. Additional insurance can be purchased from the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA). Facilities constructed under the Building Education Revolution (BER) program are always considered within a school’s designated facility area and are therefore covered under the Department’s Property Insurance Policy. Schools can see which buildings were constructed under BER on the SAMS plans, accessible via the School Facilities Profile website (login required). For more information on the Make-safe Program, refer to the policy for schools on Buildings and Grounds Maintenance and Compliance.

Electronic and other specified equipment – School Equipment Coverage Scheme

The School Equipment Coverage Scheme (SECS) is a self-coverage scheme of the Department managed by Victorian School Building Authority (VSBA). This scheme covers specified contents in schools. VMIA is contracted to administer these claims on behalf of the Department under the direction of the VSBA.

Most importantly, the SECS does not cover leased or hired equipment. Most lease or hire agreements require the lessee (the School Council) to take out insurance to cover replacement or repair of the leased/hired equipment. 

Information about the SECS can be found in the SECS Guidelines in the Resource tab.

Enquiries relating to the SECS policy or Reinstatement should be directed to the VSBA at vsba@education.vic.gov.au ​or on 1800 896 950.

2.3  Principal controlled Construction Risks Insurance

Department insurance arrangements

The Department has arranged Construction Risks Insurance with the VMIA. 

What is 'principal controlled'? This means an insurance contract arranged and controlled by the Department, not the builder.

The policy covers:

  • contract works up to $200,000,000 – loss or damage to property which is to be used in the course of construction during the construction period from various causes – this includes portable classrooms including fixtures, fittings and contents supplied by the Department whilst the works are in progress to a limit of $2 million
  • Public Liability $500,000,000 – legal liability for personal injury and damage to other property arising from the construction works.

The Department, school councils, the builder, the builder’s sub-contractors together with construction and project managers are all covered by the policy. Construction plant and equipment is not covered by the policy.

The policy is subject to the following deductibles which the builder is responsible for paying in the event of a claim:

  • Section 1 Contract Works $10,000 each and every claim
  • Section 2 Public Liability
    1. $50,000 in respect of worker to worker liability claims
    2. NIL for all other injury claims
    3. $10,000 in respect of any other claim – for example, damage to another person’s property.

A specimen insurance policy wording can be found in the Resources tab.

2.4  Travel insurance for teachers and students

Department insurance arrangements

The Department has 2 travel insurance arrangements. These are:

  1. Business Travel insurance with the VMIA which is travel funded and undertaken on the business of the Department, that is arranged through Procurement Division
  2. School Travel Insurance facility with the VMIA which provides coverage to schools that arrange study tours and the like for students and accompanying teachers, where the cost of the travel is borne by students and their families.

The cost per person for school based international travel insurance is $50 inclusive of charges and the cost per person for school based interstate travel insurance is $3 inclusive of charges.

Travel insurance purchased through VMIA from 1 July 2021 does not provide cover for losses that are related to COVID-19.

Examples of COVID-19 related losses include, but are not limited to:

  • cancellation or postponement costs of travel due to COVID-19 related causes, including travel restrictions imposed by state or federal governments (for example, lockdown and/or border closures)
  • additional unanticipated costs of extended stays due to COVID-19 related quarantine requirements or as a result of government-imposed lockdown and/or border closures. When planning travel, please consider the financial risks to families and ensure that families are aware of the potential financial losses involved.

Schools should also consider financial, reputational, and relationship risks and implement mitigation strategies. Examples may include:

  • negotiate cancellation terms with camp providers for full or agreed partial refunds and communicate these terms to families
  • ensure parents are aware of insurance limitations and that cancellation related costs and/or unanticipated additional costs due to COVID-19 causes are uninsurable and cannot be protected against.

For travel already booked for which VMIA insurance was purchased before 1 July 2021, COVID-19 related coverage is not excluded.

Copies of the policy schedules can be accessed below:

A specimen insurance policy wording can be found in the Resources tab.

To arrange cover or discuss any aspect of policy coverage, please contact Mike Roleff in the Financial Compliance Unit at michael.roleff@education.vic.gov.au or call 03 7022 2309.

2.5  Insurance arrangements for school councils

School councils must arrange their insurance requirements with the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (with the exception of WorkCover for school council employees).

Typically, school councils have purchased insurance for facilities that are not within a school’s entitlement and/or assets that are not insured by the Department through the School Equipment Coverage Scheme. These assets include leased photocopiers, leased IT equipment, shade sails, playground equipment, fencing, ride on lawn mowers, security/surveillance equipment, solar systems, artificial turf or playing surfaces and so on.

A summary of the current insurance policies available through the VMIA are detailed below:

  1. Property Insurance – Provides property cover for over-entitled buildings and/or buildings funded by the school, leased equipment and/or other equipment which the Department does not provide coverage for under the School Equipment Coverage Scheme and includes glass replacement and theft of cash.
  2. Public Liability – Schools may arrange additional public liability coverage (through the VMIA) to provide protection to external parties involved in hall hire, community use of school facilities and market stall holders if required. Schools must otherwise ensure external parties have and show evidence of their own public liability insurance (unless they are a not-for-profit entity engaging in a low risk activity – refer to 2.1.4 Use of school facilities by third parties above).
  3. Group Personal Accident Insurance – This covers all enrolled students for accidental bodily injury that results in loss of life, permanent or temporary disablement, broken bones or dental procedures, ambulance and other non-Medicare medical expenses, damaged clothing, and kidnap and ransom events.
  4. School Council Motor Vehicle Insurance – This covers loss or damage to school-owned vehicles and anyone who drives a vehicle for school business. Schools must insure all school-owned vehicles with the VMIA. Refer to: Vehicles (including buses) — owned or hired by a school.
  5. Motor — Special Contingency – This covers damage to motor vehicles and motorcycles owned or leased by the insured persons while parked in the school’s car park.
  6. Motor — Loss of No Claim Bonus – This covers loss of ‘no claim bonus’ and ‘excess’ for designated staff and volunteers in the event of accident where their comprehensively insured private vehicle was being used on authorised school business.

Full details of the various policies including terms and conditions are available through the VMIA website together with copies of policy wordings and a broad range of FAQs.  Visit the VMIA School Councils page.

Guidance chapter on the various insurance policies that the Department has in place including public liability, property, principal controlled contract works and travel insurance

Reviewed 27 August 2021

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