Schools have an important role to support children and young people and to identify where problems arise that may put their safety, welfare or wellbeing at risk. All staff and volunteers must comply with Provincial regulations while supervising any type of school activity, including those not on school grounds. There is an implicit responsibility of all persons in positions of power to report risk of harm and to provide support to children and students.
Physical Contact with Students
Physical contact with students is an important and necessary aspect of safe and effective teaching especially in activities such as gymnastics and demonstrating a range of games skills. Coaches and staff may need to use physical contact to instruct, encourage, protect or comfort.
Guidelines for Physical Contact
It is suggested that the school community meet to discuss issues about appropriate physical contact in sport or physical education and develop guidelines for students, staff, volunteers and parents, which may incorporate the information set out on this page.
In relation to physical activity, physical contact with a student to demonstrate a particular action, such as throwing a javelin or a ball, may seem quite reasonable. However teachers cannot assume that the student wants to be shown this particular action.
Physical contact during sport and physical activity should always be to meet the student’s needs, NOT the teachers. The teacher should only use physical contact if the aim is to:
- Develop sports skills or techniques
- Treat an injury
- Prevent an injury
- Meet the requirements of the sport
- Minimise the need for physical contact. Teachers should ask themselves if contact is necessary;
- Let students know why there is a need to demonstrate using a hands-on method;
- Explain what the physical contact will be and ask for volunteers, or ask students if they mind the teacher demonstrating with them using a hands-on approach;
- At the beginning of a sport program such as gymnastics, explain that the teaching of it will involve spotting by the teacher and peers;
- Be explicit about what part of the body they will be touching, for example, around the waist or hips;
- Inform the students that if they fall or need unexpected assistance to avoid injury, the teacher may make necessary physical contact. Be explicit about the fact that in a safety situation touching may not proceed as planned; and
- Give the students verbal instructions at first. If they have difficulty, ask them if they would like to be shown how to do it. If they say no, respect that it is their choice.
Supervision of Change Rooms
Teachers have a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students using change rooms. Change rooms should be supervised and teachers should adhere to the following guidelines:
- Give explicit instructions and guidelines for behaviour in change rooms;
- Set a routine for going into change rooms and keep to it;
- Announce to students when a teacher is entering the change room and allow time for students to cover up;
- Do not stand in change rooms as students have a right to privacy.
While the issue of a teacher of either sex supervising the change rooms of both sexes poses some difficulties, some suggestions for teachers in this situation include:
- Give explicit rules about what is expected of students' behaviour in the change rooms;
- Ensure that students know that if there is an emergency you will enter the change room;
- Choose two student representatives to report to you about any problems in the change rooms;
- Ask the students to come out of the change room if there is any disturbance;
- If for some reason the students remain in the change room seek a teacher of the appropriate sex to go in;
- If there is an emergency, let students know you are coming in and give a warning to cover up before going in.
New South Wales Department of Education (Australia)