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Compliance Training Plans: How Can They Help?

4/04/24
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I’m often asked by schools, “What training courses are my staff legally required to complete, and what is optional?”

It’s a valid question, but there's no simple answer. Schools are bound by a range of training obligations that are either set down in legislation/regulations or required by school regulators and accreditation authorities. However, too much training year after year can lead to staff experiencing ‘learning fatigue’. Many schools therefore want to set up training plans so that:

  1. they can demonstrate compliance with their training obligations
  2. staff remain engaged in required training without it feeling overwhelming or repetitive.

In this article, we will unpack the benefits of setting up a compliance training plan and provide you with tips on how to create a plan for your own school.

 

What Is a Compliance Training Plan?

A compliance training plan is a structured approach to educating staff about relevant laws, regulations, policies, and standards governing their roles and activities within a school.

Compliance training plans are often developed by the school’s leadership team and may be requested/reviewed by the governing body so that it can meet its own duties and responsibilities. In larger schools, the delivery of the compliance training plan may sit with the human resource manager. In smaller schools, the risk and compliance officer (or equivalent) may oversee the delivery of the plan.

It is beneficial for schools to develop a school-wide compliance training plan to capture the majority of, if not all, staff. However, departmental or role-based compliance training plans are also important to ensure that teachers, school officers, and operational staff are trained according to their positions and responsibilities.

The key objectives of a compliance training plan include:

  • ensuring legal compliance across the range of obligations impacting a school
  • ensuring that relevant training is completed at appropriate intervals
  • being a risk control (because ensuring that training occurs is one way to reduce the likelihood of a risk materialising)
  • promoting ethical behaviour and adherence to school policies
  • contributing to a positive organisational culture where staff are provided with various training modes that encourage them to learn and apply what they learn to their roles.

 

What Topics Should a Compliance Training Plan Cover?

While there are variations across jurisdictions in Australia, generally speaking, a compliance training plan should cover the following topics.

 

Child Safety

Protecting a child who has been harmed or is at risk of harm is of the utmost importance. Child safety laws and school registration requirements across Australia generally require annual training about particular child safety topics for staff, volunteers, contractors and governing body members (some jurisdictions require this only for those who have contact with children or who are mandatory reporters, while others require this for everyone working in or governing a school).

To meet these requirements, we recommend that your compliance training plan includes annual training on a number of child safety topics for relevant staff, volunteers, contractors and governing body members, including in particular:

  1. recognising indicators of harm and how harm might be disclosed
  2. procedures for reporting a child safety incident or concern internally to the school (to help it respond appropriately and to meet any legal obligations it may have, such as investigating reportable conduct and taking steps to protect students from reasonably foreseeable risks of harm)
  3. legal obligations that staff members, volunteers, contractors, governing body members and members of a religious clergy (if applicable) have in your state/territory to report to external authorities, such as the child welfare department or police (in some cases, not reporting the abuse of a child is itself a crime).

Additional topics that can assist your school to comply with training requirements include training (perhaps annually or through bi-annual refreshers) about:

  1. child safe organisation standards that apply to your school and how your school meets them
  2. your school’s child safety code of conduct
  3. working with children check/working with vulnerable people check requirements specific to your state/territory.

 

Work Health and Safety or Occupational Health and Safety

Under workplace safety laws, there is a requirement for staff to be provided training that allows them to do their jobs safely. This scope is broad, and schools need to consider specific training for each department or function within the school, as well as more general formal training in workplace health and safety to be provided to all staff. Training requirements will become clearer after reviewing relevant regulations or codes of practice, as well as hazards arising from the school and its activities. Training will supplement and embed the policies that a school creates for working safely. By providing this training, your school will be able to foster a culture of safety where staff can raise safety issues and suggest changes that benefit everyone.

Staff are also responsible under the law to perform their work safely. As part of the induction process, it is crucial that all employees should be provided with training to ensure that they understand their obligations to identify and report hazards and safety incidents, and to follow your school’s policies in relation to a range of work health and safety issues. Some key examples of school-wide training can include, but are not limited to, training on fire safety, lockdown procedures, manual handling, and psychosocial hazards (such as stress, bullying, discrimination and harassment).

Other more specific areas of work health and safety may also be covered by regulations, standards, and codes of practice which identify the types of training that should be provided. For example, training in food safety should be completed by canteen staff. Handling hazardous chemicals should be completed by maintenance teams, cleaners, and staff who work in science laboratories, where labelling and storage requirements are necessary for compliance. First aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, asthma, and EpiPen training should be completed by those staff who may be required to care for students with medical conditions based on their roles and responsibilities. More individual training may also need to be provided to ensure that all employees can perform all their duties safely, regardless of whether there are any specific regulatory requirements. Training may also need to be conducted when new equipment and procedures are introduced.

Induction training may also need to be provided to contractors and other non-staff working on, or engaged by, the school, as the school shares the primary responsibility for their health and safety with the contractors’ own employers, and there may be specific procedures which must be made known to those workers, such as reporting of incidents, first aid, and any hazards such as the presence of asbestos.

Both formal and informal training should be documented. The cadence for different types of training will depend on the risk of harm that the training is seeking to eliminate or minimise. This will be reflected in the compliance training plan.

Where there has been a serious injury or death of a person in a workplace, or a serious near miss, the state or territory workplace health and safety regulator will conduct an investigation. As part of their investigations the regulator will check that policies have been applied and that appropriate training has been provided to staff. The compliance training plan will provide evidence that a school has delivered appropriate training for staff to enable them to meet their own and the school’s work health and safety obligations.

 

Discrimination and Harassment

Changes to the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) have given rise to new obligations imposed on employers in relation to eliminating sex-based discrimination, sexual and sex-based harassment, and a hostile environment based on sex. The Guidelines for Complying with the Positive Duty under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) published by the regulator, the Australian Human Rights Commission (the AHRC), set out the seven Standards which the AHRC expects employers to implement in order to comply with their “positive duty” to eliminate those behaviours. The AHRC may require employers to provide evidence of compliance with the Standards. Standard 3 requires employers to communicate policies regarding respectful behaviour and unlawful conduct, as evidenced by delivery of appropriate training for all staff embedding the school’s policies on harassment and discrimination. Under Standard 1 – Leadership, senior leaders in the school are expected to attend education sessions on the application of this law to the school.

 

Privacy

While it is the responsibility of the school to comply with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and the Australian Privacy Principles (APP), it is the everyday activities of staff which will determine the school’s compliance. Privacy training is not specifically mandated by law, however, the likelihood of a privacy breach or risk eventuating will increase if staff aren’t trained in understanding their obligations in the way that they collect, store, use, disclose, maintain, and dispose of personal information. All staff must also understand what constitutes a data breach and what to do if they suspect or become aware of a data breach. In addition, the school’s leaders must understand how to respond to complaints and requests to access or change personal information, how to respond to a data breach and when to notify affected individuals and the regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC). Therefore, your compliance training plan should include training that will help staff to apply the APPs to their work and ensure that data breaches are reported as soon as possible to enable remedial action to commence.

 

Student Duty of Care

Under common law, schools have a duty of care to students to take reasonable steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable risks of harm. To meet this duty, schools should ensure that staff understand what this duty of care entails and that staff know their obligations whenever they are supervising students including during lunchtimes, before and after school, and at any other time including during school camps and events occurring outside of school hours. A compliance training plan focusing on ensuring that staff know their responsibilities helps not only to look after students, but also ensures that school policies are followed.

Schools that welcome international students onto their campuses should also include in their compliance training plan topics specific to these students, including specific legal requirements that may apply to the school or to specific people within the school.

Schools with boarding houses may have additional legal or registration requirements and should include in their compliance training plan training for relevant staff about the policies that support compliance in this area.

 

What Other Training Is Beneficial to Staff?

Apart from child safety, work health and safety, discrimination and harassment, privacy, and student duty of care, schools can shape their organisational culture by providing staff with learning and development opportunities in other compliance areas. Allowing staff to learn about human resource management procedures, diversity and respectful behaviours, complaints, risk management, and compliance frameworks can help upskill staff who may have responsibilities in these areas. This training is also beneficial for staff who are new to middle or senior leadership roles as it may be the first time that they have a job in which they are responsible for managing the school’s operations and enforcing its policies.

 

How Often Should Staff Be Trained?

Schools should include training frequency in their compliance training plan. However, the frequency of training is a decision that should be made at each school, perhaps by school leaders or their governing bodies. The frequency level must take into account any legal or registration requirements in your state/territory. For example, child safety training is usually required annually, and for staff to work safely they also need regular work health and safety training. In addition, your school could consider:

  • aligning training to risk management controls and treatments, because this is an effective way of monitoring risks over time
  • data related to compliance-related incidents or events (more frequent or a high number of incidents usually means an increased need for training)
  • the experience levels of relevant staff, volunteers and contractors
  • the school’s objectives in achieving a culture of compliance.

Considering these factors can guide a school’s decisions about whether training on certain topics should be completed annually, only at induction, or over the course of two to three years.

 

In Conclusion

I encourage school staff, at all levels, to be consulted with and be given the opportunity to contribute to a school’s compliance training plan so that no stone is left unturned, and so that all staff appreciate and understand the importance of compliance training as part of their engagement with the school. It is also important that the compliance training plan is monitored and reviewed over time, by ensuring that it includes all the necessary information school leaders need to make informed decisions about the training needs of its staff, volunteers and contractors.

At the end of the day, we spend a significant portion of our lives at work, and compliance training plans allow staff to become competent in compliance, ultimately benefiting the students they care for.

 

 

 

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About the Author

Melissa Larsson

Melissa Larsson leads the platform and content learning strategy for Ideagen CompliSpace as Product Manager. She has worked in education over the past 16 years, having worked in schools as a Head of House, Senior Business Teacher and Acting Deputy Principal. She has advised on syllabus development and assessment in Queensland and is also a co-author of two textbooks and a student study guide for the Business for QCE series, along with holding executive positions for a business teachers association in Queensland over the past six years. She has worked with many Ideagen CompliSpace clients as a Consultant, and has a strong understanding of the governance, risk, and compliance requirements in the education sector.

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