This policy outlines school staff roles and responsibilities when members of parliament (MPs) or candidates for election visit Victorian government schools or attend school functions, including during referendum or election years, and caretaker periods.
- MPs and candidates commonly visit schools to strengthen school-community connections.
- Sometimes visits are initiated by the school (for example, an invitation to an award ceremony or concert) and sometimes visits are initiated by the MP or candidate (for example, a request to tour the school).
- Principals are encouraged to accommodate requests for MP and candidate visits to schools.
- School employees must always remain politically neutral in their work – this extends to decisions to host or invite MPs or candidates to the school and during any visit.
- Schools must notify their regional director and area executive director of any proposed visit by an MP or candidate.
- Particular requirements exist during the caretaker period in election years.
State and Commonwealth MPs are regular visitors to schools for events such as the official opening of facilities, fetes and presentations, or to tour schools.
Principals are encouraged to accommodate requests from MPs and candidates to visit schools.
Where there is an operational reason why a visit cannot be accommodated on a specific date or time (for example, because of examinations, school holidays or a swimming carnival), principals are encouraged to discuss an alternative suitable time.
When issuing invitations or agreeing to host MPs or candidates, including ministers, principals are required to notify their regional director and area executive director of the date, time, reason of the proposed visit, and whether the media are likely to be present. Principals must ensure this information is provided to the regional director and area executive director as early as possible, ideally no later than 5 working days before the proposed visit.
The principal should confirm, together with the regional office, the respective roles of the MPs or candidates, such as speaking roles and order of which awards are being presented.
Where the Department of Education organises a government event, it will manage compliance with this policy.
Election and referendum periods
In the lead up to a state or federal election or by-election (including during a caretaker period) or in the lead up to a referendum, there may be an increase in the number of school visit requests from MPs and candidates.
At all times – that is, regardless of whether it is the caretaker period – public sector employees (including school employees and members of the teaching service) must maintain their impartiality and integrity, particularly with regard to party political activities, and they must not use their position, access to information, or school facilities to advocate (or be perceived to advocate) for or against the current government, a particular political party, and a candidate or political issue in relation to an election or referendum campaign.
During election or referendum periods, this will usually mean principals should continue to accept all reasonable requests for visits, unless there is an operational reason not to. Where there is an operational reason why a visit cannot be accommodated on a specific date or time (for example, because of examinations, school holidays or a swimming carnival), principals are encouraged to discuss an alternative suitable time with the MP or candidate.
During the caretaker period, invitations to school organised events might occur at reduced levels. If a local MP or candidate is invited to a school organised event or requests an invitation, it would be appropriate for other local candidates to be given the opportunity to attend in addition to any government representatives. However, MPs and candidates should not be given the opportunity to use such events to campaign for the election, make election commitments or refer to any matters relating to the election.
Principals must ensure that any printed or electronic material (including badges) that may be considered political in nature is not distributed, promoted or displayed at the school or during a school event, and that school resources are not used for political purposes.
MP or candidate stand-alone events
Where MPs or candidates are using schools for stand-alone events, such as a media event or media conference, limited logistical support may be provided by public sector employees, including school employees. This logistical support during the caretaker period, and at other times if these events are held must only be the minimum necessary to ensure that an event can be conducted. It is not appropriate that use of schools extends to such activities as engaging public sector employees, including school employees in political dialogue. Nor should use of premises unreasonably disrupt the normal operations of the school.
Maintaining an impartial and apolitical approach
Partisan or party political materials, including materials that promote a particular political party or candidate, must not be distributed, promoted or displayed in a school, other than for educational purposes (and if being done so for educational purposes, care should be taken to ensure that this is done in a way that is apolitical and fair).
A school may publish on school channels (such as a newsletter) photos and factual information about the visit but must not promote a particular candidate or party.
A school may communicate a funding announcement or an election commitment to its community, provided the communication is restricted to factual information about the commitment, does not promote a particular political party or candidate, and that the school communicates commitments from all political parties in the same way.
Reviewed 26 October 2023