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FAQ

Tasmania

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Question: Hi, my name is Emily, I’m 16 and I want to leave school to complete an apprenticeship. Am I allowed?

Answer: Hi Emily,

In Tasmania, you can leave school after you have completed the school year in which you turned 16. However, after you have reached the age of 16, you are still required to participate in further education until you turn 17. This might include:

  • attending college or a district high school;
  • enrolling at TAFE Tasmania;
  • undertaking an apprenticeship or traineeship; 
  • doing a training course through a private provider; or
  • some combination of the above.


You will be exempt from this if you are employed for 25 or more hours per week. So if you are working full time (which is usually 38 hours per week) you will not have to participate in further education.

However, until you get a job that meets this requirement you will have to continue participating in further education until you turn 17.
If you do not attend your approved activity, your parent or guardian could be fined.

We encourage you to talk to your parents or a trusted adult (like a family friend or your school counsellor) about your plans for leaving school so they can offer you some support and advice in making your decision.

If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question: Hi, my name is Karen and I live in Hobart. My 10 year old son, Josh, has been getting physically bullied at a state school by a boy in his class. Other parents have said that he has also been violent towards their children. What can we do?

Answer: Hi Karen,

We are sorry to hear about what has happened to Josh, and hope he is OK. The school has a duty of care to take reasonable steps to keep Josh safe from harm, including physical violence.

 

Are there any anti-bullying policies the school should be following?

The Tasmanian Department of Education has published a Learner Wellbeing and Behaviour Policy, which state schools must follow.

This policy is available at: https://www.education.tas.gov.au/documentcentre/Documents/Learner-Wellbeing-and-Behaviour-Policy.pdf

This policy says clearly that all Tasmanian state schools must provide a learning environment that is safe, support positive behaviour and be free from harassment and bullying. It is the specific responsibility of Principals to ensure that safe and positive learning environments are created and maintained, and to develop and implement policies and processes for appropriate, fair and effective responses to student behaviour.

You might also be interested in the Department of Education’s Student Behaviour procedure, available from: https://www.education.tas.gov.au/documentcentre/Documents/Student-Behaviour-procedure.pdf

 

The school’s duty of care to Josh

All schools have a general legal duty of care to provide students with a safe environment in which to work and play. The school could be breaking the law if it fails to exercise due and proper care in relation to Josh’s welfare. It should have a system of supervision in place whereby its teachers can help prevent and address bullying and physical violence and should install procedures to adequately deal with the mistreatment of Josh.

If the school has breached its duty of care by failing to implement appropriate strategies to keep Josh and other students safe from bullying, and this has caused Josh to suffer harm, he may have grounds to sue the school for negligence. It is also possible that in failing to implement its anti-bullying policies, the school has not kept its promises to you and Josh under the enrollment agreement. This could be grounds to sue the school for breach of contract. While it's important to keep these causes of action in mind, a law suit would be a last resort if all else failed.

 

What can you do?

  • Meet with the Principal

We recommend that you make an appointment to see the school principal as soon as possible to express your concern and find out what he proposes to do. It may be appropriate to ask that Josh’s class teacher and also the school counsellor, if there is one, be present at the meeting so that they are fully aware of the situation.

You can take a copy of the Learner Wellbeing and Behaviour Policy with you, and point out to the Principal his specific responsibilities and those of teachers and other supervisors at the school.

 

  • Talk to the school’s Parents’ Association

You could also raise the issue with the school board or the parents' association. This might put pressure on the Principal to take action, especially if other children are experiencing the same violence that Josh has. You can contact Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends Inc at any point for support and advice.

They are available at (03) 6234 9488 or over email at admin@parentsandfriendstasmania.asn.au.

 

  • Make a complaint to the Department of Education

If you have spoken to the Principal and you are not happy with their response, the school will either have its own complaints and grievances policy, or if not it will follow the Department of Education’s Grievances Guidelines for Parents and the Community.

This is available at https://www.education.tas.gov.au/documentcentre/Documents/Grievances-Guidelines-for-Parents-and-the-Community.pdf

 

  • Seek legal advice

If you have exhausted the complaints process and still feel that the school is not protecting Josh, you could speak to a lawyer about possible causes of action against the school or the Department of Education. You can find out how to contact Legal Aid here: http://www.legalaid.tas.gov.au/.

 

Where can Josh get some support?

If Josh doesn’t feel comfortable at school, he may find it useful to talk about what's been happening. This can be with you, another trusted family member or with the school counsellor.

Josh can also call the Kids Helpline. They are a free and confidential service for young people ages 5-25 to chat about anything that's bothering them. They're available 24 hours a day on 1800 55 1800.
If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

Question: Hi, my name is Michael. My daughter Hayley is constantly being bullied at school. Every day this girl and her friends verbally and physically attack her. I’ve told the principal but nothing has happened. What can we do?

Answer: Hi Michael,

We’re sorry to hear Hayley is being bullied. We’re not sure if she attends a private or public school so we’ve given you some information for both. We hope this helps!

 

Duty of care

All schools owe their students a duty of care. This means that they must take reasonable steps to prevent and address risks to students' safety and wellbeing - including bullying by other students.

For more information, you can have a look at the Department of Education's policies here https://www.education.tas.gov.au/documentcentre/Documents/Learner-Health-Care-and-Safety-Policy.pdf and here https://www.education.tas.gov.au/documentcentre/Documents/Learner-Wellbeing-and-Behaviour-Policy.pdf.

While these policies technically only apply to state schools, the duty of care principle applies to all schools, whether public or private.

 

How can you try to resolve the matter with the school?

We understand that you have spoken to Hayley’s principal about the ongoing bullying. We encourage you to arrange a formal meeting with the principal and Hayley’s teachers to discuss the matter and develop specific actions that school can take to deal with the bullying.

We also encourage you to arrange follow up meetings to check on the school’s progress and to ensure they are doing what they said that they would do.

If Hayley attends a public school, the Department of Education has a brochure called ‘Staying Safe in Tasmanian Government Schools’ which has information on bullying and how state schools are supposed to respond to bullying. The brochure is available at: https://www.education.tas.gov.au/About_us/publications/school-brochures/Pages/Staying-Safe.aspx

The brochure advises that you:

  • encourage Hayley to talk about what is happening;
  • write down when, where and with whom problems seem to be happening;
  • make an appointment to see Hayley's teacher and the principal to discuss the matter;
  • ask about the school’s policies in this area; and
  • keep in contact with the school until you are satisfied that the problem has been sorted out.

If Hayley attends a private school, you can use these same ideas. The school's website or front office should have information about its bullying policies. If Hayley attends a Catholic school, you can find relevant policies here: http://catholic.tas.edu.au/key-documents/policies

 

 Where can you make a complaint?

  • If Hayley goes to a public school

If the discussions with Hayley’s school do not resolve the bullying, or if you are unhappy with the way that the school is handling things, you can make a complaint.

If Hayley attends a public school, you can follow the complaints process set out in the Department of Education's Grievances Guidelines, which you can find here: https://www.education.tas.gov.au/documentcentre/Documents/Grievances-Guidelines-for-Parents-and-the-Community.pdf

These Guidelines advise you to contact the Operations Manager in your Learning Service and provide them with a list of your attempts to resolve your concerns (including the date of the bullying incident, the date you raised the matter with the school and how you did this, the person you spoke to at the school and their response).

You should also let them know if you have any suggestions for how the matter can be resolved (for example, by disciplining the girl, providing better supervision, etc). You can get the contact details for Learning Services by calling 1800 816 057 or emailing ServiceCentre@education.tas.gov.au.

 

  • If Hayley goes to a private school

Private schools are also required to have grievance/complaints procedures. If Hayley attends a private school, you should be able to find this procedure on the school's website or at the front office.

Usually, complaints can be made to the principal in the first instance and then to the school board. If it's a religious school, there is usually a governance body that you can contact (for example, the Catholic Education Office looks after Catholic schools).

If this does not resolve the issue, and you believe that the school has not properly managed your complaint, you can also consider raising your complaint with the Schools Registration Broad of Tasmania by calling (03) 6165 5746.

 

Who can help?

It's possible that you and Hayley may be eligible to receive free help and support from Advocacy Tasmania to deal with the school. Advocacy Tasmania helps people to speak up for themselves. They can provide you with information, help you resolve issues and speak up for you and Hayley. You can find out more information at http://www.advocacytasmania.org.au/ or you can call them on 1800 005 131.

If Hayley is experiencing bullying and anxiety, it's important for her to talk to someone about how she's coping. If her school has a counsellor, they may be able to help. If not, Hayley can always talk to a specially trained youth counsellor from the Kids Helpline.

They're a free and private support service specifically for kids aged 5 and up. Hayley can call them on 1800 55 1800 (it's 24 hours, but there can be a wait to get through) or chat to them online at: http://www.kidshelp.com.au/kids/

If you have any other questions we haven’t answered here, please send us a Lawmail from www.lawstuff.org.au/lawmail.

Page last updated on 26 June 2015.

   
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