This is an indication that our teachers are vigilant, that they fundamentally care about their students and that they are really well educated about the signs of possible child abuse:
SCHOOL teachers are increasingly becoming child protection watchdogs with soaring numbers of abuse reports being made to authorities.
New figures reveal 5244 reports made by school staff were investigated by authorities in 2015-16, up from 4599 the previous year.
The data, due to be released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in the coming months, underlines the rising responsibilities of teachers.
Principals say an increased focus on domestic violence, and the inquiry into institutional child sex abuse could be driving the higher number of reports. Victorian Principals Association president Anne-Maree Kliman called for the reporting process to be streamlined, with some teachers stuck on the phone to authorities for up to an hour and other reports not immediately followed up.
“The time delay is a bother and I wonder how many calls got missed because of that,” Ms Kliman said.
“Sometimes we also get push-back from the (Health and Human Services) department asking what we think they should be doing.
“It’s not our job to be making those decisions.”
A Respectful Relationships program, aimed at tackling domestic violence, will be rolled out in schools this year.
It will include showing younger students pictures of both boys and girls doing the dishes and kicking the footy in an attempt to smash gender stereotypes, “gender literacy” and warnings about pornography for older students.
Judy Crowe, from the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said decades of training teachers had created a culture of reporting abuse.
“Reporting abuse is so important that it transcends concern about teachers being expected to do things that put extra work on them,” she said. “Government schools have a reasonably good record in this arena.”
The Australian Education Union’s Victorian president, Meredith Peace, said schools needed long-term state and federal funding to help the “most vulnerable” students.
The State Government last year spent $51 million on about 640 student support staff, including half who were psychologists and one in five who were social workers.
An Education Department spokesman said new standards ensured schools were “well prepared to protect children from abuse and neglect”.
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