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New Requirements for Schools in 2024

1/02/24
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The school year is kicking off and it looks like it will be another busy one for schools and their governing bodies. In this article, we highlight recent legislative and regulatory developments and other changes that are expected to occur during 2024.

 

Review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)

In 2019, the then Commonwealth Attorney-General announced that the (previous) Federal Government would conduct a review of the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) (Privacy Act) to ensure that privacy settings empower consumers, protect their data and best serve the Australian economy. Following extensive consultation, the Privacy Act Review Report was released in February 2023, with 116 proposals for reform to the Privacy Act. The Government’s response to the report, where they agreed (38 proposals) or agreed in principle (68 proposals) to most of the proposals, was released in September 2023. Legislation is expected to be introduced in 2024, following further consultation.

 

Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Act 2023 (Cth)

Last year the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Protecting Worker Entitlements) Act 2023 (Cth) (Amending Act) amended the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) by increasing the number of days of unpaid parental leave that can be taken flexibly, instead of in a block. From 30 December 2023 employees also became able to authorise their employers to make salary deductions that are recurring and are for amounts that vary from time to time, where the deductions are principally for the employee’s benefit.

The Amending Act also inserted, with effect from 1 January 2024, an enforceable entitlement to superannuation contributions in the National Employment Standards.

 

New Registration Guidelines in the Australian Capital Territory

In 2022, there were significant changes to the legislation that governs the non-government school registration process and requirements in the ACT.

In December 2022 the ACT Education Directorate released Interim guidelines – Registration Standards for Non-government Schools to help schools to meet the documentary requirements under the Registration Standards for Non-Government Schools. These guidelines were to apply until final guidelines were settled.

New Registration Standards Guidelines for ACT Non-government Schools have now been released and replace the Interim Guidelines.

Non-government schools in the ACT should be familiar with the new Guidelines to ensure that they can demonstrate compliance with the Registration Standards.

 

Amended Registration Manuals in New South Wales

The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) have published amended registration manuals that include:

  • an updated look and feel
  • reduced repetition
  • clearer descriptions of the requirements and evidence of compliance.

The amended manuals took effect on 1 January 2024.

Importantly for non-Government schools, NESA has indicated that the school registration and accreditation requirements set out in the registration manuals have not changed. Non-government school applications submitted to NESA in 2024 seeking initial registration from 2025 must demonstrate capacity to comply with the updated manuals. For non-Government schools that are already registered, NESA has indicated that schools do not need to develop any new policies or procedures due to amendments to the manuals and that NESA understands schools will transition to adopting the amended manuals during 2024 as they align their current policies and procedures to the manuals.

 

Review of Not-for-Profit Guidelines for NSW Non-Government Schools

The NSW Department of Education has been working on, and undertaking consultation about, an outcomes and risk-based regulatory framework for the not-for-profit requirements of the Education Act 1990 (NSW). The Department is also reviewing the Not-For-Profit Guidelines for Non-Government Schools (2019) (NFP Guidelines).

On 18 October 2023, the Department published exposure drafts of the Regulatory Framework and the revised NFP Guidelines, inviting stakeholder feedback by 16 November 2023. The Department had indicated that the Regulatory Framework and NFP Guidelines would be released at the end of 2023, although this has not happened yet. Schools should be aware of the exposure drafts and prepare for the release of the Regulatory Framework and NFP Guidelines.

 

Changes to the Registration and Regulation of Northern Territory Non-Government Schools

The registration requirements for non-government schools changed on 2 January 2024.

These changes have arisen due to the review of Part 7 of the Education Act 2015 (NT) that took place in 2021.

The Northern Territory Department of Education has described the changes as follows:

  • all schools in the NT must adopt and apply the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
  • non-government schools in the NT must:
  • follow new processes for registration and regulation
  • report yearly assessment results and changes affecting school operations to the Registrar of Non-Government Schools (Registrar)
  • follow a new process for complaints management
  • follow new requirements for managing student behaviour, including suspending, excluding and expelling
  • follow new requirements on information sharing
  • follow a new process for requesting a review of a decision of the Registrar.

The Registrar will develop detailed standards and an evidence guide to support non-government schools to comply. Both the standards and the evidence guide will be published on the NT Government website. Non-government schools that are already registered will have until 31 December 2024 to gather evidence to show their compliance.

Schools in the NT should prepare for the release of the registration standards and evidence guide.

 

Modernising and Creating New Sexual Offences in the NT

The Criminal Justice Legislation Amendment (Sexual Offences) Act 2023 (NT), which commences on 1 February 2024, amends the Criminal Code 1983 (NT) to modernise sexual offences, and to insert several new offences.

Some important changes include creating:

  • a new offence of grooming to engage in sexual activity with a child under 16 years of age
  • a new offence of “repeated sexual abuse —child under 16 years” to replace the current offence of “sexual relationship with child”
  • new sexual offences committed by a person in a position of authority against a person who is 16 or 17 years old. A person will be in a position of authority with respect to a young person if they are a teacher at a school, and the young person is enrolled at the school.

 

Independent Review of the Accreditation Framework for Non-State Schools in Queensland

On 31 October 2022, the Queensland Government announced an independent review that would examine the framework governing accreditation of non-state schools in Queensland, including the Education (Accreditation of Non-State Schools) Act 2017 (Qld) and Education (Accreditation of Non-State Schools) Regulation 2017 (Qld).

The review would consider how the current framework operates and, where appropriate, inform development of amended or new legislation to ensure the non-state schools accreditation framework continues to reflect a contemporary regulatory environment.

The Department of Education’s website, last updated in October 2023, states that the review is now in its final stages, with findings to be considered by the Queensland Government.

 

The Tasmanian Child and Youth Safe Organisations Framework

From 1 January 2024, various organisations, including schools, need to comply with the Child and Youth Safe Organisations Framework, comprising Child Safe Standards and a Reportable Conduct Scheme. The Framework will be monitored by the Independent Regulator. More information can be found on the website for the Office of the Independent Regulator and on this Resources page.

 

Amended Western Australian Registration Guide Took Effect on 1 January 2024

The WA Department of Education has published an updated version of the Guide to the registration standards and other requirements for non-government schools (Guide), including further explanatory notes and details about the Director General’s considerations. The updated Guide took effect on 1 January 2024.

The Department has also published a summary of the changes that have been made to the 2022 version.

 

Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act 2023 (WA)

This new Act repeals and replaces the Workers Compensation and Injury Management Act 1981 (WA).

WorkCover WA has indicated that the transition from the 1981 Act to the new Act needs to occur at the beginning of a financial year and that the target commencement date for the new Act is 1 July 2024. The first step in the implementation process is to engage and consult stakeholders on key proposals for:

  • Regulations supporting the new Act
  • WorkCover WA administrative instruments supporting the new Act.

WorkCover WA has published a Consultation Guide to the implementation proposals for the Regulations and administrative instruments, and a series of information sheets.

Schools in WA should familiarise themselves with the new Act and prepare for it to come into effect.

 

New Mandatory Reporters in WA

From 1 May 2024, it will be mandatory for psychologists and school counsellors to report child sexual abuse to the Department of Communities Mandatory Reporting Service.

From 1 November 2024, early childhood workers will also become mandatory reporters.

These changes come as part of a staggered approach to introducing new mandatory reporter groups following the passing of the Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021 (WA).

 

New Types of Reportable Conduct in WA

The WA Reportable Conduct Scheme commenced on 1 January 2023. The Scheme is intended to make Western Australian children safer by requiring heads of organisations that exercise care, supervision or authority over children to notify allegations of, or convictions for, child abuse by their employees to the Ombudsman and then investigate these allegations.

Conduct covered by the Reportable Conduct Scheme in the first year of its operation included sexual offences, sexual misconduct, and physical assault. From 1 January 2024, reportable conduct includes significant neglect of a child and any behaviour that includes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child.

Additionally, organisations are also now included in the Scheme if they:

  • are a religious body
  • are a disability service provider
  • provide accommodation and respite services for children (this includes a provider of boarding facilities for students, a provider whose main activity is to provide overnight camps for children, or any other accommodation or respite services for children).

For more information on these changes, visit the WA Ombudsman’s website.

 
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