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education.vic.gov.au

Teaching and Learning Resources — Selecting Appropriate Materials

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools

Contact

Arts, Assessment and Reporting Unit


Date:
January 2020

Policy

Policy

The purpose of this policy is to outline Department policy and guidance on selecting suitable teaching and learning resources for students.

Summary

  • Schools must ensure that teaching and learning resources provide challenging and engaging learning programs for students but do not offend students or the wider school community due to their obscene, offensive or controversial nature.
  • The Department provides guidelines to inform teachers’ and principals’ decisions regarding the selection of teaching and learning resources, available on the Guidance tab.
  • These guidelines also outline how schools should respond to objections raised about the use of specific teaching and learning resources.

Details

Principals must ensure that:

  • the school complies with the Selecting Teaching and Learning Resources Guidelines, available on the Guidance tab
  • the school community is informed of possible controversial texts prior to their use in classrooms
  • students and parents know they can raise objections to the teaching and learning resources

Teachers and principals need to ensure that the selection of teaching and learning resources:

  • considers the expected student learning outcomes and standards described in the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority curriculum framework
  • considers the particular needs of its students
  • does not expose students to highly offensive or obscene materials or themes
  • ensures that teaching and learning resources are suitable for the age group using them
  • considers the words, behaviour, images or themes of the resources in terms of the:
    • context
    • impact on the audience age group
    • literary, artistic or educational merit of the material
    • intention of the author and general character of the material

​​Principals may consult with school council or other members of the school community regarding the selection of teaching and learning resources.

To ensure that staff respond reasonably and respectfully to objections to the use of specific teaching and learning resources, schools must:

  • ensure the objection is provided to the principal
  • establish the basis for an objection
  • at all times demonstrate respect for the views of the objector
  • identify the basis of the objection by referring to the section: Resolving issues concerning objections to teaching and learning resources on the Guidance tab
  • make every effort to resolve objections to the use of specific teaching and learning resources through discussion and conciliation

Definitions

Offensive or obscene material
Material about which there is a consensus that it is unacceptable.

Controversial material
Material about which opinions can differ.

Teaching and learning resources
The ‘teaching and learning resources’ referred to in the guidelines include any spoken, written or visual text or activity used or conducted by schools, for example:

  • text books
  • novels
  • films
  • plays
  • radio programs
  • multimedia
  • digital learning resources including video, audio, text, animations and images
  • lectures
  • speeches
  • performances

Contact

Arts, Assessment and Reporting Unit


Guidance

Selecting Teaching and Learning Resources Guidelines

These Guidelines contain the following chapters:

  • Overview
  • Questions to ask when selecting teaching and learning resources
  • Selecting films and computer games
  • Staging public events or school performances
  • Controversial topics
  • Resolving issues concerning objections to teaching and learning resources

Overview

Overview

Selection of appropriate and effective teaching and learning resources is a critical component of delivering the curriculum in Victorian government schools.

Schools need to ensure that teaching and learning resources balance the need to provide challenging and engaging learning programs, with the use of teaching and learning resources that do not unreasonably offend students and the wider community.

Schools also need to be able to respond reasonably and respectfully to objections about the use of specific teaching and learning resources.


Questions to ask when selecting teaching and learning resources

Questions to ask when selecting teaching and learning resources

Teachers, in liaison with principals, need to consider the following when selecting teaching and learning resources.

Question 1

Are the proposed materials/themes within the resource likely to be regarded as highly offensive or overly obscene by the school community?

If so, then the resource cannot be used irrespective of any possible educational value.

Question 2

Are the proposed materials/themes within the resource controversial or likely to be regarded as inappropriate by some students or their parents?

If school staff anticipate that the selected texts or other resources are likely to result in objections on the grounds that they are inappropriate, the school must:

  • arrange for alternative resources to be made available where requested
  • inform the relevant students and their parents of the controversial nature of the resource and inform them that an alternative is available if students or parents hold a genuine and reasonable objection

In the event of individual students being given alternative teaching and learning resources, teachers should endeavour to integrate the alternative study or activity into the classroom program and ensure that the student is supported in their position and not isolated from their classmates.

Question 3

Are the proposed resources prescribed or suggested VCE text by the VCAA?

If so, then these teaching and learning resources are appropriate for students studying VCE subjects.

Note: It is important that selection procedures should include consideration of the appropriateness of VCE teaching and learning resources when they are proposed for use by students in the years/age groups preceding VCE studies.


Selecting films or computer games

Selecting films or computer games

When selecting films or computer games for use in schools, teacher and principals must consider whether or not the film or game’s rating is appropriate for the age level of students and that the content meets the requirement for selecting teaching and learning resources articulated in these guidelines.

The following additional actions are required, prior to showing students any film or computer game:

  • G and PG rating — No parental consent is required.
  • M rating — Parental permission must be obtained for students under 15. Schools may wish to use the sample consent form for this purpose.
  • MA 15 rating — This resource can only be shown to students who are 15 years or older. Schools should only consider showing MA 15 rated resources to students under the age of 15 in exceptional circumstances where it is critical to deliver the educational program and where parent consent has been obtained (see Resources tab for sample consent form). In all cases, students must be supervised by a teacher throughout the viewing/playing.
  • X, or R rating — The resource cannot be used.

Note: In all cases the official classification rating must be used in determining whether the resource is suitable: refer to the Australian Government Attorney-General’s classification website for the information for schools — showing films and playing computer games fact sheet. Television classifications and warnings must also be heeded, for example, warnings about disturbing images and sexual references.

Important: Schools must obtain a licence to play films for non-educational purposes. Refer to: S283-2011 The Co-Curricular Licence for Screening — A Licence to Screen​ Films for Non-Educational Purposes.


Staging public events or school performances

Staging public events or school performances

For the whole school community

Public events staged by schools and open to the school community (including small children in family groups) must be suitable for general exhibition. Where there is a doubt as to the suitability of public performances, the principal should consult teachers and consider whether the teaching and learning resources are suitable to be performed or displayed before audiences of any age. Where possible, the principal should also consider consulting with the school council or other members of the school community, for their views on whether or not the teaching and learning resources are considered suitable.

If the principal considers the teaching and learning resource is unsuitable for some age groups, the principal should either:

  • not permit the performance, event or display, or
  • consider recommending restricted entry

For a particular age group

Some teaching and learning resources may be considered to be an appropriate focus of study for some students, for example, year 11 and 12 students, but inappropriate for others. In this event, the principal, in consultation with teachers, may approve the staging of the performance, display or event provided that:

  • the school community is informed well in advance of the event that the resource is inappropriate for some age groups
  • the warning is repeated immediately prior to the performance, display or event

Controversial topics

Controversial topics

Controversial topics will often be appropriate and important subjects of study in schools and, at times, cannot be avoided in the context of teaching and learning.

However, the contexts of controversial topics or themes about which objections can be anticipated include:

  • themes related to magic or fantasy
  • racial and religious themes
  • sexual activity, nudity and related themes
  • drug misuse or addiction
  • crime, violence or cruelty
  • suicide and excessively bleak scenarios
  • the depiction of revolting or abhorrent phenomena
  • satirical or comparative perspectives on race, religion or gender

If objections are raised in relation to controversial topics, they should be managed in accordance with the Resolving issues concerning objections to teaching and learning resources section of these guidelines.


Resolving issues concerning objections to teaching and learning resources

Resolving issues concerning objections to teaching and learning resources

Before considering any action it should be established that the objection is based on the objector feeling or believing that the teaching and learning resource is inappropriate and will harm the student in some way. Objections based solely on the grounds that the teaching and learning resources are alleged to be educationally unsound or aesthetically unsound do not warrant action in relation to these guidelines but should be managed in accordance with the school’s general complaints policy. In the regular course of teacher-student and teacher-parent communication, teachers should discuss or explain the choice of particular teaching and learning resources in terms of educational value, where relevant.

Process for responding to objections to teaching and learning resources

Stage 1

If the school receives an objection to the use of a teaching and learning resource then the school determines the basis of the objection and tries to resolve the matter through discussion with the objector. Regardless of the outcomes of this initial discussion details of the objections should be circulated to the relevant teacher(s), coordinator(s) and the principal for information and any necessary action.

Stage 2

If after the initial discussion the objection is not withdrawn the principal liaises with teachers and coordinators and:

  • the principal considers that the teaching and learning resource is offensive or obscene, regardless of educational value, the teaching and learning resource must be removed from the school curriculum
  • the principal considers that the teaching and learning resource is objectionable or inappropriate to the objector only, and that the objection is reasonable in all circumstances, the principal ensures that an alternative teaching and learning resource is offered to the student

Stage 3

If an alternative teaching and learning resource has been offered and is unacceptable to the objector and the issue remains unresolved for this or any other reason, the principal refers the regional office in accordance with the school’s and the Department’s policy on managing parent complaints.


Resources

Resources

Schools may use the following form to seek consent from parents and carers for students under the age of 15 to watch or use M or MA+ materials as part of their educational program. 


Reviewed 03 April 2020