Each year our Child Safety Policies are reviewed by the Leadership Team. These are then provided to the College Board, via the Governance and Policy Committee, for feedback and endorsement. This suite of policies includes the Child Safe Policy, the Child Safe Code of Conduct and the Staff and Student Professional Boundaries Policy. Child friendly versions of these documents should also be made available. This year, the Student Engagement Team (SET) also reviewed the Child Safety Code of Conduct. They made recommendations to clarify and simplify language so that this Code of Conduct would be suitable for children and adults alike, without the need for an additional policy. The amendments recommended by the SET were heartily endorsed by the Governance and Policy Committee and the College Board. All these policies have been approved for the next 12 months and updated versions will be available shortly on the College website (click the Child Safety button on the home page). These policies become available as part of the College’s Child Safeguarding Program, and training is undertaken by staff members annually, in addition to Mandatory Reporting Training and Reportable Conduct Training (which takes place twice per year).
The Child Safety Committee, with staff, student and parent representation, this year also had input into the review of the Child Safe Policy, and will also be reviewing our Child Safety Risk Register at their upcoming meeting.
Our Complaints Policy has also been updated to provide further clarity regarding the process for making complaints related to child safety, in addition to making complaints of a more general nature. This updated policy will also be available on our website in the coming week.
We remain committed to building, valuing and enacting a culture of child safety in the College. Our questions to ensure this is embraced across the College, have resulted in improvements to software packages used by the College to ensure that child safety is a consideration in everything that we do.
House System Review
Lucy Carroll, the Consultant engaged to work with the community in the review of our Vertical House structure has provided her report. In summary, her findings reflect that the House System fosters strong relationships for students, parents and staff with one another. There is clear support for the maintenance and enhancement of the St Columba’s College Vertical House System. The areas of strength emerged as: belonging, relationships across time, connections between age groups, and leadership opportunities. Lucy’s observation is that the Vertical House structure is an asset for the College community, that when working at its optimum supports belonging, cohesion and relationship building.
Of course, we commissioned the review because we did have a sense that there were some opportunities presented by the House System that we were not harnessing. Through the consultation process, the following recommendations emerged for our consideration:
- Maintain the commitment to House Group sessions, considering opportunities for increasing contact time between students and their House Group Teachers. This is the organisational structure through which the House System’s strength of belonging is most evident, with the wellbeing benefits of creating safety and a positive way for students to begin the school day.
- Enhance support for the role of House Leaders and House Group Teachers. Building consistency and positive shared practice between people in these roles has a direct impact on student engagement.
- Initiate formal and informal mentoring of students between Junior and Senior Houses, and cross-age engagement within House Group sessions/lessons. Having peer support is a significant protective factor for students’ mental and emotional wellbeing. STCC can leverage the current cross-age structure to amplify this impact.
- Address the student experience of the delivery of the current Pastoral Care Program. There has been recent work undertaken to develop a targeted and age-appropriate Pastoral Care Program, which should continue to be monitored given the review feedback. Strategies to increase teacher confidence with the lesson content will have a direct impact on student engagement. Structures that support the building of relationships between students and teachers who deliver the program will create a safe environment for learning.
In this time of staff shortages, we are also aware that the stability of staffing for the House System is not where it has been in the past, and where we would like it to be. I can assure families, that stability across the House Teachers and House Leaders’ Team is one of the priorities we pursue as part of staff planning each year.
Lucy has provided a 6-minute video presenting a visual snapshot of the report summary and recommendations. You can access the video using this link. I would like to acknowledge the students and families who took the time to contribute to this review. The shared voices of the community support College Leadership in delivering better outcomes for all students. Thank you to Lucy, who gathered and listened to the feedback, ensuring that the recommendations provided were informed by our unique community context.