education.vic.gov.au

Policy last updated

23 August 2023

Scope

  • Schools

Date:
February 2020

Policy

Policy

This policy describes the requirements for managing and reporting school incidents, including emergencies.

Summary

  • This policy and associated guidelines and procedures apply to incidents that impact students and/or school operations that are brought to the attention of the school regardless of when and where they occurred, provided they impact on the student or other students within the school environment, including camps and excursions.
  • Schools must manage and report incidents in accordance with the guidance and procedures described.

Details

This policy (including associated guidelines and procedures on the Guidance tab) applies to incidents that occur during or outside school hours at the following locations:

  • at government schools
  • services delivered by school councils within the school environment including:
    • outside school hours care
    • kindergartens delivered by school councils on school premises
    • VET programs delivered as part of a government school program
  • during travel to and from school
  • online school environments
  • school camps, excursions, or outdoor adventure activities
  • any other location where there is subsequent impact on students or the school community.

An incident is an actual or alleged event or situation that:

  • causes harm or creates a risk of causing harm to a student’s health, safety or wellbeing either directly or indirectly while under the care or supervision of the school, including international students (for more information about reporting international student related critical incidents, please refer to: Critical incident flowchart (PDF)External Link (staff login required))
  • impacts a student and is brought to the attention of the school, regardless of when or where it occurred, provided it is impacting on the student or other students within the school environment
  • causes harm or creates a risk of causing harm to an employee’s health, safety or wellbeing either directly or indirectly in the work setting
  • affects or risks affecting the continuity of school operations, including matters of security (including cyber security), property damage and emergencies
  • requires police notification or involves matters of serious conduct
  • is a WorkSafe notifiable incident.

School management and reporting

Schools are required to manage incidents according to 6 stages of the department’s management and reporting incidents (including emergencies) process. The Guidance tab provides detailed guidelines and procedures on the 6 stages, which are:

  1. Identifying an incident and immediate response
  2. Reporting an incident (Report for Support)
  3. Ongoing support and recovery
  4. Investigation
  5. Incident review and closure
  6. Analyse and learn

Stage 1: Identifying an incident and immediate response

The immediate safety of students, staff and the education community is paramount. The following actions may be required:

  • provide first aid
  • contact emergency services on 000
  • enact the school’s (or site’s) emergency management plan
  • capture and preserve evidence (such as ‘notifiable incidents’ to WorkSafe or for criminal investigations)
  • contact nominated family or carers.

Stage 2: Reporting an incident (report for support)

Following the immediate response, the principal (or delegate) is responsible for assessing the severity of the incident, using the Severity rating decision-making matrix (PDF)External Link – refer to Guidance tab for detailed advice.

Incidents are rated as either:

  • Low
  • Medium
  • High
  • Extreme.

Incidents assessed as Low or Medium can be reported directly into eduSafe PlusExternal Link (staff login required) by the principal (or delegate). The principal (or delegate) is to contact the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) on 1800 126 126 to report 'High' or 'Extreme' severity incidents for support (report for support). ISOC provides immediate advice and connects schools to local or centralised services that can support response and recovery. ISOC will report incidents in eduSafe Plus on behalf of the school. This assessment indicates whether the incident is likely to reoccur. If so, then additional support can be sourced from relevant services to mitigate future risk. In addition, all identified hazards, minor injuries and near misses involving employees, volunteers, visitors, contractors and members of the public must be reported in eduSafe Plus. Refer to: OHS Management System Overview – eduSafe Plus.

Certain incidents require additional steps, including the following.

Stage 3: Ongoing support and recovery

The school principal (or delegate) is responsible for providing immediate relief support to impacted students, staff and the education community. Where necessary and appropriate, additional support will be provided by school support staff and corporate office staff based in regional and central offices. When an incident is reported to ISOC, ISOC staff will ask the principal (or delegate) whether they require additional support (including recovery support) during the call.

Stage 4: Investigation

Some incidents may trigger investigations under other department policies and legislative schemes (for example, privacy breaches should be reported in accordance with the Privacy and Information Sharing policy, mandatory reporting to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing). A preliminary investigation screening should be undertaken within 2 days of an incident being reported to the ISOC.

For WorkSafe notifiable incidents, the principal and/or their delegate are to conduct a formal incident investigation within 24 hours of the notifiable incident, where possible, using the Hazard and incident investigation template (DOCX)External Link or equivalent.

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 (HSR), affected employee and other employees, depending on the nature of the incident. The investigation should seek to identify the causes and any potential hazards, and provide recommended control and preventative measures.

Stage 5: Incident review and closure

This stage outlines the process and accountabilities for incident reviews and closure. Reviews are discretionary but provide a valuable learning opportunity. The incident severity rating informs the responsible authority for closing incidents, in consultation with the principal. Incidents are closed when current and/or future risk is eliminated, mitigated or accepted.

Stage 6: Analyse and learn

This stage provides an overview of the department’s data analysis framework for analysis of incident information. Incident data analysis includes monitoring, interrogating and acting on identified trends. Security and Emergency Management Division undertake regular data analysis and reporting.

Relevant legislation

Contacts

To report an emergency or an incident of High or Extreme severity to the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) call 1800 126 126. ISOC will arrange for an eduSafe Plus report to be made.

Note: Multiple lower order incidents may necessitate support to manage the cumulative impact of incidents on the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the education community. In these circumstances, principals can request additional support by contacting ISOC.

To report a notifiable incident to WorkSafe call 13 23 60 in accordance with this policy.

Principals (or delegates) can contact the OHS Advisory Service on 1300 074 715 or via email at safety@education.vic.gov.au for help with reporting or managing staff related incidents and hazards in eduSafe Plus, implementing the OHS Management System, conducting risk assessments and other OHS issues.

Principals (or delegates) can contact the IT Service Desk on 1800 641 943 or access the Service Portal to submit a general enquiryExternal Link , report IT faults and issuesExternal Link or for help with navigating the eduSafe Plus system. The IT Service Desk can also help you with technical difficulties, network issues and general IT advice.

For general queries or feedback in relation to this policy or guidance, contact the Policy and Intelligence Unit, Security and Emergency Management Division via email at incident.support@education.vic.gov.au or phone 03 7022 1280.


Guidance

Guidelines and procedures for managing and reporting school incidents

These guidelines and procedures contain the following chapters:

  • Overview
  • Meaning of incident
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Stage 1 – Identifying incident and immediate response
  • Stage 2 – Reporting an incident (Report for Support)
  • Stage 3 – Ongoing support and recovery
  • Stage 4 – Investigation
  • Stage 5 – Incident review and closure
  • Stage 6 – Analyse and learn
  • School evacuation and temporary closures in emergency circumstances
  • Helicopter landings on school grounds

Overview

Overview

These Guidelines and procedures for managing and reporting school incidents (Guidelines) support schools to implement the key actions they are required to take to manage school emergencies and other incidents.

School staff are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Guidelines to develop a thorough understanding of how the department manages incidents, across the 3 tiers (school, regional office and central office).

These Guidelines also provide information on reporting to eduSafe Plus and action required for reporting and responding to notifiable incidents to WorkSafe.

When faced with an emergency or other incident, schools must follow the 6 incident management stages outlined in these Guidelines:

  1. Identifying an incident and immediate response
  2. Reporting an incident (Report for Support)
  3. Ongoing support and recovery
  4. Investigation
  5. Incident review and closure
  6. Analyse and learn.

Meaning of incident

Meaning of incident

Under these Guidelines an 'incident' is any actual or alleged event or situation that:

  • causes harm, or creates a risk of causing harm to a student’s health, safety or wellbeing either directly or indirectly while under the care or supervision of the school, including international students
  • impacts a student's health, safety or wellbeing and is brought to the attention of the school, regardless of when or where it occurred, provided it is impacting on the student or other students within the school setting
  • causes harm, or creates a risk of causing harm to an employee’s health, safety or wellbeing either directly or indirectly in the work setting
  • affects or risks affecting the continuity of school operations, including matters of security (including cyber security), property damage and emergencies
  • requires police notification or involves matters of serious conduct
  • is a WorkSafe notifiable incident (serious incident or dangerous occurrence).

Roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities

The principal is responsible for the initial incident severity rating and reporting. This responsibility can be delegated to other school staff at the principal’s discretion. It is recommended that the list of delegates include at least one school staff member outside the school’s leadership team.

Where an incident is rated as either Extreme or High, the regional office area executive director and/or the Director, Security and Emergency Management Division will also have governance and oversight of incident management, particularly in relation to reviewing the categorisation of the incident and coordinating supports. The nature of this responsibility will vary depending on the severity of incident and the level of support required by the principal.

The decision to evacuate a school during an emergency rests with the principal who should enact the school’s Emergency Management Plan based on the best available information. However, the principal must seek regional director approval (by contacting their senior education improvement leader (SEIL)) to temporarily close a school or dismiss students early in response to an emergency which involves a risk to the health or safety of students or staff. Additional advice to inform this decision should be sourced from regional emergency management staff, their SEIL, and emergency services agencies, where appropriate.


Stage 1 – Identifying an incident and immediate response

Stage 1 – Identifying an incident and immediate response

Identification is when an incident is observed by or disclosed to a school at any location. This can include disclosure by a student, staff member, family member or other person, to the school.

The following immediate actions should be undertaken after an incident has been brought to the attention of the school.

Ensure safety

  • Assess the safety of the situation
  • Remove the students and staff from any source of danger
  • Administer first aid and/or seek medical attention
  • If necessary, contact emergency services on 000 and enact the school’s emergency management plan
  • If a staff member or another student is accused or suspected of harming a student, separate them from immediate contact with the alleged victim
  • Provide support to any student or staff witnesses, refer to the Resources tab for further guidance and resources on supporting students and staff following an incident, such as the Managing trauma guide (PDF)External Link (staff login required) and the Recovery tools form (PDF)External Link (staff login required)

Record evidence

  • Preserve and make a record of any physical or documentary evidence
  • In cases of alleged criminal conduct, including child or sexual abuse, follow instructions on evidence preservation from Victoria Police, whenever instructions are given
  • If multiple students have witnessed alleged criminal conduct, separate them to preserve the integrity of their evidence until they are interviewed

Contact relevant parties

Notifiable incidents to WorkSafe

For incidents that are notifiable incidents to WorkSafe, the site must be preserved, except where there is an immediate need to protect the health and safety of persons, provide first aid to any injured persons or to take essential action to make the site safe.


Stage 2 – Reporting an incident (Report for Support)

Stage 2 – Reporting an incident (Report for Support)

Following notification to 000 (if required), the principal or delegate must undertake an initial severity rating of the incident to determine the applicable reporting requirements.

Rating an incident and corresponding reporting requirements

Principals must use their professional judgement to undertake an initial severity rating of the incident based on impact on student or staff health, safety and wellbeing or on continuity of school operations. Includes should be rated as either:

  • Extreme
  • High
  • Medium
  • Low.

The severity rating guides reporting requirements, governance arrangements, and guides the level of additional support provided.

Refer to the Severity rating decision-making matrix (PDF)External Link for guidance on severity rating of incidents.

Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) staff can assist the principal or delegate to determine the appropriate severity rating if required. While the severity rating influences the support provided, the principal can request additional support during the ISOC call regardless of the rating. This acknowledges that multiple lower order incidents may necessitate support to manage the cumulative impact of incidents on the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the education community.

Note: Principals must carefully consider the local context when assessing the severity rating, such as incident pattern or history, and student characteristics. These could include a student’s possible vulnerability (such as age, culture, gender, history of trauma, physical/mental capacity, balance of power between involved parties and relevant medical history).

As an incident is managed, the circumstances may change, resulting in a need to re-rate the severity of incident. While the principal is responsible for undertaking the initial incident severity rating, an incident severity rating must be updated by the responsible person to reflect any new material facts that come to light. The responsible person will be the DET staff member leading the incident response, which will either be the principal, or a person from regional or central office, depending on the severity rating.

Incidents for which an 'Extreme' severity rating should be considered include:

  • the death or permanent disability of current student or staff that occur in the school environment
  • incidents that occur in the school environment that involve:
    • a sexual offence or grooming for sexual conduct with a child under 16 years of age (offences under the Crimes Act 1958)
    • the infliction of serious physical violence, serious psychological harm
    • serious neglect of a child
  • serious misconduct of school staff that occurs in the school environment and impacts a current student
  • an incident that might necessitate the temporary closure of a school.

Note: Any incident involving child abuse, including allegations, that does not occur in the school environment must also be rated by the principal using the Severity rating decision-making matrix (PDF)External Link .

Note: School environment means any physical or virtual place made available or authorised by the school or school council for use by a student during or outside school hours including a campus of the school, online school environment and other locations provided for a student’s use (such as school camps, sporting events, excursions and so on).

Reporting the incident

When it is safe to do so, the principal or delegate must report the incident.

The reporting requirements and timelines for the 4 severity ratings are as follows:

  • 'Extreme' requires the school to report immediately to ISOC by calling 1800 126 126 (within an hour)
  • 'High' requires the school to report to ISOC as soon as possible (within 3 hours)
  • 'Medium' requires the school to report in eduSafe PlusExternal Link (staff login required) as soon as possible (within 1 working day)
  • 'Low' requires the school to report in eduSafe Plus (within 3 working days).

On receipt of a report for an incident rated 'High' and 'Extreme', ISOC will lodge the eduSafe Plus report, for coordination of area-based support to the school.

Prompt notification of incidents rated 'High' and 'Extreme' enables ISOC staff to:

  • facilitate the provision of relevant place-based and central supports, including those to aid recovery
  • provide security related support and advice to schools which helps to resolve emergencies and incidents quickly while minimising the risk to personal safety.

Depending on the nature of the incident, there may also be other reporting requirements. ISOC staff can provide the principal (or delegate) with advice on which obligations apply. Other reporting obligations may arise due to changes in legislation or expectations, so the following list should not be considered exhaustive. The principal (or delegate) must report the following to other agencies:

Incidents involving international students

In reporting an incident of any severity, the school must identify whether the incident involves international students and (if known) whether the department has accepted responsibility for ensuring appropriate accommodation and welfare arrangements. The International Education Division will be notified through eduSafe Plus and will intervene as appropriate to support the school to ensure accommodation and welfare of the student, verify relevant visa requirements are met, and notify the Department of Home Affairs accordingly.

WorkSafe notifiable incidents

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) requires notification to WorkSafe of serious workplace incidents, referred to as ‘notifiable incidents’. Refer to the Guidance tab of the Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing policy for a definition of ‘notifiable incident’.

The principal or their delegate must contact WorkSafe on telephone 132 360 to report notifiable incidents immediately after becoming aware that an incident has occurred and to provide WorkSafe with completed incident notification form within 48 hours. WorkSafe Victoria will provide a reference number on notification and will advise whether the incident site is to be isolated/preserved until an inspector arrives. More information is available in the department's WorkSafe Inspector Visit Guidelines (DOCX)External Link .

The OHS Act also requires preservation of the incident site until an inspector arrives or issues a direction, except where there is an immediate need to protect the health and safety of persons, provide first aid to any injured persons or to take essential action to make the site safe subject to some exceptions.

The following protocols should be adhered to in order to protect the notifiable incident scene:

  • Establish a perimeter to protect the scene, for example, temporary barriers
  • Evacuate non-involved persons
  • Prevent unauthorised persons from entering the perimeter or contaminating any evidence
  • Prevent any damage or further damage

For further directions on incident site preservation speak to the WorkSafe inspector when the call is reported to WorkSafe.

Refer to Notifiable incidents to WorkSafe flowchart (PDF)External Link and WorkSafe Inspector Visit Guidelines (DOCX)External Link for more information.

Examples of High and Extreme severity rating incidents that are reportable to ISOC

Examples of incidents that impact or risk impacting on the health, safety and wellbeing of students or staff

  • Death or suicide of a student, staff member or member of the school community
  • Self-harm/injury or threats of suicide
  • Injuries requiring hospitalisation
  • Concerning mental health and traumatic incidents requiring peer, professional or clinical support
  • Incidents that did not lead to injury or death but very nearly did
  • Abuse or risk of abuse or neglect including online child abuse (mandatory reporting obligations may also apply — refer to Protecting Children – Reporting and Other Legal Obligations
  • Missing student
  • Incidents involving the use of seclusion or physical restraint of a student, refer to Restraint and Seclusion
  • Online bullying, inappropriate use of social media and/or mobile phones

Examples of incidents that impact on the continuity of school operations, including property damage and emergencies

  • Damage to parts of a school building or its content
  • Loss of essential service/s
  • Emergencies and warnings
  • Bomb threats

Examples of incidents that involve matters of serious conduct

  • Alleged criminal activity
  • Aggressive and anti-social behaviour or actions
  • Forced marriage or human rights abuse
  • Family violence
  • Human trafficking
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Cyber security – attack/hacking of school system
  • Significant privacy breach
  • Suspicious activity within or near school environment

Examples of Low and Medium severity incidents that are not reportable to ISOC

The following incidents are not reportable:

  • incidents that have an insignificant impact or risk of impact on student health, safety and wellbeing, such as a grazed knee. These incidents should be managed locally and recorded in eduSafe Plus
  • incidents where school operations continue with slight interruptions, such as a 10-minute power outage.

Stage 3 – Ongoing support and recovery

Stage 3 – Ongoing support and recovery

In addition to the immediate response and reporting of an incident, many incidents will require ongoing response and recovery support.

Following an incident, schools must identify those most affected and vulnerable, address their physical and psychological needs and provide ongoing monitoring and recovery support, to try to offset the initial distress and responses.

For all severity level incidents, schools should plan to:

  • take active steps to promote and protect students’ safety and wellbeing
  • develop ongoing risk management strategies
  • support student(s) through any action they or their families take to seek justice or redress, including making a report to Victoria Police
  • provide ongoing support to all affected students and staff, as their need may change. This may include assisting to access specialist support services, including treatment, counselling, or trauma and victim support services and debriefing for staff and student witnesses as part of their recovery.

Key ongoing actions in response to the incident should be documented on the relevant student(s) file.

For incidents that are rated:

  • High and Extreme, the schools regional area executive director (AED) or delegate will:
    • contact the principal to ensure confidence in actions undertaken and planned
    • identify any needs and coordinate assistance to the school
    • update the eduSafe Plus incident report
  • Low and Medium, schools can seek assistance or advice directly from region or central teams (Employee Conduct Branch, Legal Division, regional senior education improvement leader (SEIL), Employee Safety), as required.

Department policies and guidance to guide ongoing response and recovery for specific types of incidents

In addition to any relevant school-based policies (including the school’s Emergency Management Plan and student engagement policies), there are a number of department policies that support effective incident response and recovery with respect to specific types of incidents, to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of students and staff. These include the following.

Incidents involving child abuse

Child Protection and Child Safe Standards (PROTECT)External Link

Incidents involving emergencies

In addition to this policy and guidance, refer to Emergency and Critical Incident Management Planning

Incidents involving student sexual offending or problem sexual behaviour

Student Sexual Offending and Problem Sexual Behaviour

Incidents involving suicidal ideation

Self-Harm and Attempted Suicide Response

Incidents involving restraint of student

Restraint and Seclusion

Incidents impacting on student or staff mental health

Mental health support after an emergency or natural disasterExternal Link

Incidents involving fraud or corruption

Fraud and Corruption Control

Incidents involving Occupational Health and Safety

OHS Management System (OHSMS) Overview


Stage 4 – Investigation

Stage 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 to support continuous improvement. Refer to Stage 5 – Incident review and closure.

Where an incident necessitates multiple investigations, the department’s Security and Emergency Management Division may work with the school and relevant department business areas to coordinate or 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 (DOCX)External Link or equivalent. Advice and support is available to undertake this process from the OHS Advisory Service, phone 1300 074 715 or email safety@education.vic.gov.au

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

  • Complaints (including child safety) – Internal investigations are managed by School Operation and Statewide Services Division
  • Employment related investigations (including misconduct and Reportable Conduct) – Employee Conduct Branch, People Division
  • Corruption – Integrity, Assurance and Executive Services Division
  • Legal or claims based – Legal Division
  • Ministerial requested investigation – 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 (CCYP), the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) and Victoria Police
  • Reportable conduct – CCYP
  • Mandatory reporting – DFFH
  • Criminal – Victoria Police

Preliminary screening

A preliminary investigation screening should be undertaken within 2 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 2 days.

For incidents that are rated:

  • 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
  • Low and Medium – the principal must undertake the preliminary screening.

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


Stage 5 – Incident review and closure

Stage 5 – Incident review and closure

Incident review

In the context of these Guidelines, an incident review is defined as 'an analysis of all incidents that should occur to identify what happened and the cause. This is to help determine whether an incident was managed correctly and to identify learnings to reduce the risk of similar events occurring in the future'.

An incident review is discretionary and may be initiated by the school principal, regional director, area executive director or other senior executive within the department. It is recommended that a review is facilitated by a peer who was not involved in the incident.

The review should seek to examine what was effective in the incident management, identify opportunities for improvement and develop recommended actions, focusing on:

  • people
  • process
  • organisation
  • systems
  • training.

Principals or peer reviewers may seek support from the relevant region or central division as part of this process.

Incident reviews generally should be initiated within 3 days and completed within 21 days of the incident occurring.

Incident closure

Incident closure is a formal process of closing an incident. An incident is closed with comments in eduSafe Plus once the responsible authority is confident that appropriate ongoing supports are in place and, if relevant, pending investigations are underway and/or reviews have been completed and recorded.

Authority to close an incident in eduSafe Plus is determined by the final severity level in which the incident is rated, as outlined in Stage 2 – Reporting an incident. Incidents are closed when current and/or future risk is eliminated, mitigated or accepted.


Stage 6 – Analyse and learn

Stage 6 – Analyse and learn

The department’s Security and Emergency Management Division will undertake regular data analysis of incident reporting and share this with regions.

Incident data analysis includes the monitoring, interrogating and acting on identified trends.

Data informs policy and program support of schools. Analysing data fulfils 3 core objectives, the purpose is to:

  • understand what happened
  • understand why an incident happened
  • inform what can be done to produce better outcomes for student and staff health, safety and wellbeing in the future.

School evacuation and temporary closures in emergency circumstances

School evacuation and temporary closures in emergency circumstances

The regional director (as delegate of the Minister) has the power to close a school for a period of time or allow students to be dismissed early in response to an emergency which involves a risk to the health or safety of students or staff.

Schools should enact their Emergency Management Plan in response to incidents and emergencies based on the best available information. Schools must contact their senior education improvement leader (SEIL) to seek permission to temporarily close the school for a period of time or to dismiss students early in response to an emergency. The SEIL will advise and seek approval from the regional director. To inform the decision, schools should seek additional advice from regional emergency management staff, Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC), and emergency services agencies, where appropriate.

On-site or off-site evacuation of the school in response to emergencies

In some circumstances, a school’s emergency response procedures may require staff and students to evacuate a site in response to a specific incident or threat.

When students and staff need to be evacuated in response to an emergency, students should be:

  • supervised for the duration of the emergency and until the normal dismissal time, provided that it is safe for students to travel home or
  • dismissed into the care of parents or carers during the evacuation and the details must be recorded.

Schools must obtain regional director approval (by contacting their SEIL) to dismiss students early from an on-site or off-site evacuation (or due to any other emergency).

Extreme weather conditions

With the exception of the arrangements for schools most at risk of bushfire and/or grassfire, schools are not automatically closed on days of forecast extreme heat or heavy rain.

If extreme weather conditions are impacting a school site:

  • midday recess may be reduced to no less than 30 minutes
  • dismissal time may be adjusted accordingly.

Students should only be sent home early when there is appropriate supervision. Teachers must remain on duty until the normal time to supervise those students who remain at school.

Schools most at risk of bushfire and/or grassfire must follow department policy and guidance on days of elevated fire danger based on their respective risk profile and categorisation. Refer to Bushfire and Grassfire Preparedness.

Loss of essential services

Essential services disconnection is not considered to be an emergency (unless there are extenuating circumstances) and as such, schools should not close in these circumstances. Schools should consider alternative arrangements and suitable workarounds for essential service disruption as part of their Emergency Management Plan. Refer to Emergency and Critical Incident Management Planning.

When there is prior notice of disconnection of an essential service, such as water, electricity and or telecommunications, principals must:

  • enact their business continuity plan in their Emergency Management Plan
  • contact their SEIL to make arrangements that will ensure the health and safety of students and staff
  • report the incident via eduSafe Plus or to ISOC. Refer to Stage 2 – Reporting an incident (Report for Support)
  • ensure the school community is aware of the anticipated disconnection.

When a disconnection occurs without prior notice, students may only be sent home early with the approval of the regional director (obtained by schools contacting their SEIL), and when all of the following apply:

  • the school has enacted their business continuity plan in their Emergency Management Plan
  • it is not reasonably practicable for students to be safely taken to public toilets such as at sports grounds, church yards, railway stations
  • remaining at the school would pose a health and safety risk for students
  • the students can safely travel home (based on the age and maturity of the students and the location of the school)
  • where it is not safe for them to travel home independently, a parent or carer can be contacted to collect the students
  • there is a parent or carer at home to look after them.

Reporting requirements

Whenever faced with a situation that might necessitate the temporary closure of the school, the principal must report the incident via eduSafe Plus or to ISOC in accordance with the requirements for managing and reporting school incidents outlined in this policy and guidance.


Helicopter landings on school grounds

Helicopter landings on school grounds

Emergency landings

School grounds may be used as helicopter landing sites for emergency services aircraft during emergencies for the purpose of:

  • air ambulance duties
  • fire response and reconnaissance
  • public order response
  • crime response or prevention.

Emergency services aircraft will generally provide advance notification to the school and police will attend to provide ground marshalling activities.

The urgent nature of an emergency may however preclude advance notification. In these circumstances the pilot is responsible for ensuring that the:

  • area chosen for landing is suitable
  • safety of those on the ground is not compromised.

If a landing occurs during school time the school is responsible for ensuring that students remain at a safe distance, clear of the departure and approach paths, and should consider utilising lockdown procedures to ensure the safety of staff and students.

Non-emergency landings

The department has not given approval for media, commercially or privately operated helicopters to use school grounds. They must obtain permission from the principal before landing.

Unauthorised helicopter landings on school grounds must be reported via eduSafe Plus or by calling the departments Incident Support and Operations Centre on 1800 126 126 and may require a report to police and/or to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Where a principal is considering approving helicopter arrivals or departures from the school grounds for non-emergency purposes, there are stringent requirements for the safety of spectators and protection of the environment that must be considered. Schools must contact the department's Security and Emergency Management Division at emergency.management@education.vic.gov.au for advice.


Resources

Resources

Incident severity rating, reporting and managing incidents

eduSafe Plus

WorkSafe

Response and recovery

Child protection

PROTECT — Child Protection and Child Safe StandardsExternal Link – information and advice on how to protect children, create a child safe environment, identify and report signs of abuse

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) contacts

For OHS contacts refer to Employee Health and Wellbeing Guidance tab – Useful contacts

External resources


Reviewed 22 December 2022