‘Circuit breakers’ at the heart of legislative changes impacting ECEC in SA
A range of changes, many of which impact the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector in South Australia, came into effect at the start of July when the new Education and Children’s Services Act 2019 commenced.
One core change is a “circuit breaking” power which allows for a child to be moved to a different school or education setting for the safety of others. Overall, the changes are designed to deliver safer learning environments, more protection for staff, stronger school attendance incentives and greater student support.
As well as the measures outlined above, changes to the Act mean that the department will also be able to offer special remuneration to attract and retain highly skilled school and preschool leaders and teachers.
SA Education Minister, John Gardner, said the new legislation represented “the most significant changes to education legislation in a generation, bringing the laws that govern our schools and early childhood facilities into line with community expectations.”
“We have put child and educator safety at the heart of these changes and have introduced a number of support measures which will allow schools and early years providers to get on with the business of teaching and learning” he added.
Tougher penalties for those who abuse, threaten or intimidate teachers, principals, preschool directors and other staff have been included in the new legislation, along with increased penalties for chronic and persistent non-attendance.
Fines of up to $2500 will be leveled against those who use abusive, threatening or insulting language or behave in an offensive or threatening manner to staff, with all schools, preschools and children’s centres now able to bar individuals indulging in such behaviour, with penalties for breaching a bar order lifting from $200 to $2500.
Under the changes, principals are required to give notice to parents / carers of a religious activity so they can make informed decisions about their child’s involvement, and regulations supporting the new Act make engagement in these activities an ‘opt-out’ choice for parents, rather than the ‘opt-in’ mechanism favoured by the former Government.
The Act supports enhanced information sharing, and under the changes the Education Department will be able to require parents / carers to provide information, including medical and other details about a child, to help a school or preschool cater to their needs.
To learn more about the changes under the Act, please see here.