The Education and Training Reform Amendment (Child Safe Schools) Act 2015 gives the VRQA new responsibilities and powers for the regulation of school education. The changes are expected to commence on 21 December 2015 unless some provisions are proclaimed earlier.
The VRQA will gain new responsibilities in relation to child safety. This includes regulating school providers against new Child Safe Standards.
The Child Safe Standards are under development, led by the Department of Human Services. The Act makes provision for the requirement for Victorian schools to comply with those standards to be formalised via a Ministerial Order.
The VRQA will also gain several new powers:
- guideline-making powers in respect of schools
- the power to review one or more prescribed minimum standards i.e. ‘specific’ rather than ‘general’ reviews
- widened information sharing powers
- the power to impose interim conditions on schools prior to a review being completed
- the power to accept enforceable undertakings from schools where non-compliance with a minimum standard is identified.
These powers may be used in some instances to ensure child safety.
The changes form part of the Victorian Government response to the Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse.
As the VRQA and other agencies work towards implementing the Child Safe Standards the VRQA will engage stakeholders via regular stakeholder meetings, special events if required and other communications.