School operations

Reporting and Managing School Incidents (including emergencies)

Step 4 — Investigation

Some incidents may trigger internal or external investigations, arising under legislation or government policy, for example by Victoria Police, the Environment Protection Authority Victoria, or other investigatory body.

The purpose of an investigation will vary according to the type of incident and typically involves the planned and systematic gathering and analysis of all relevant facts, including interviewing witnesses, examining documentation, skilled observation and obtaining expert opinion, where appropriate.

An investigation is usually different to an incident review, which does not require formal legislative, regulatory or policy power, but is undertaken for the purpose of either responding to a complaint or concern and/or determining whether an incident was managed appropriately in order to identify learnings to support continuous improvement. Refer to Step 5 Incident review and closure.

Where an incident gives rise to multiple investigations, the Department’s Security and Emergency Management Division will work with the school and relevant Department business areas to streamline investigation activities.

Where an incident is subject to a criminal investigation, the timing of any other relevant departmental investigation(s) will be subject to the advice of Victoria Police.

For WorkSafe Notifiable Incidents, the principal and/or their delegate must conduct a formal incident investigation within 24 hours of the notifiable incident, where possible, using the Hazard and Incident Investigation Template or equivalent. Advice and support is available to undertake this process from the OHS Advisory Service, phone 1300 074 715 or email

For the investigation, the principal and / or their delegate may decide to convene an incident investigation team, comprising school leadership staff, the school’s Health and Safety Representative, affected employee/s and other employees, depending on the nature of the incident. The OHS Advisory Service or the regional OHS Officer may also be able to assist, depending on the severity of the incident. The investigation should seek to identify the causes and any potential hazards, and provide recommended control and preventative measures.

Overview of potential investigations

This section illustrates the various investigations, the Level the investigation is conducted at and the area responsible for conducting the investigation.

Departmental level

  • Child Safe Standards — Internal investigations are managed by School Operation and Statewide Services Division. External are managed by CCYP, DHHS and Victoria Police
  • Employment related investigations (including misconduct and Reportable Conduct) — Employment Conduct Branch, People Division
  • Corruption — Integrity, Assurance and Executive Services Division
  • Legal or claims based — Legal Division
  • Ministerial request — Legal Division
  • Occupational Health and Safety — Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing Division
  • Privacy breach — Privacy team, Integrity, Assurance and Executive Services Division
  • Early childhood services — Quality Assessment and Regulation Division

External level

  • Child Safe Standards — Commission for Children and Young People, DHHS and Victoria Police
  • Reportable Conduct — CCYP
  • Mandatory Reporting — DHHS
  • Criminal — Victoria Police

Preliminary Screening

A preliminary investigation screening should be undertaken within two working days of the incident being reported to determine the nature of the incident, in order to determine whether or not the incident may trigger an investigation, in addition to a school-based review. In very serious cases, the responsible person (being either the principal, region or central office) should use all reasonable efforts to undertake preliminary screening in well under the maximum of two days.

For incidents that are rated:

  • Low and Medium — the principal must undertake the preliminary screening
  • High and Extreme — the region or central office will undertake the screening. In this case a principal may also choose to conduct a school-based inquiry

Where an incident involves an allegation of employee misconduct the preliminary screening will be conducted by the Manager, Employee Conduct Branch.

Chapter in the Guidelines and Procedures for Reporting and Managing School Incidents explaining the types of investigations that might be triggered as a result of an incident

Reviewed 24 March 2021

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