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The Education and Children’s Services Act 2019 (the Act) and the Education and Children’s Services Regulations 2020 (the Regulations) that support the Act, commenced 1 July 2020.
The Act and the Regulations set out the framework for the compulsory education of children in South Australia. They guide the establishment, oversight and administration of government schools and early childhood services and provide for the employment of teachers and leaders in government schools and preschools.
Some of the key matters dealt with under the Act are highlighted below.
This is not an exhaustive list and should only be used as a guide. We recommend that you read the Act and the Regulations in full.
While the Act largely deals with government schools, preschools and children’s services, some parts apply to non-government schools.
- the requirements for compulsory enrolment and attendance of children at school
- protections for teachers and staff of schools, preschools and children’s services.
The Act sets out the functions of the Chief Executive in relation to government schools, preschools and children’s services. The Chief Executive’s functions include, for example:
- determining the curriculum
- providing education and training of teachers
- ensuring the expertise and qualifications of people delivering children’s services
- developing and implementing policies related to education and children’s services.
- providing or arranging for accommodation of teachers or students
- providing or arranging for transport of students to and from government schools
- issuing administrative instructions to governing councils of schools, preschools and children’s services.
Information can be shared between schools, preschools, non-government school sectors, state authorities and prescribed health professionals to help them perform their functions relating to the education, health, safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or to manage risk to a child or a class of children.
A principal can request information from a child’s previous school when considering the enrolment of a child. This includes information:
- on the academic progress of a child
- relevant to the safety or wellbeing of the child
- relevant to the safety or wellbeing of other children or people at the school.
Parents or carers must notify their child's principal if there is any change to enrolment information, including changes to a child's name or residential address. A principal is able to request documents to provide evidence of these changes.
The Chief Executive can obtain information from a parent or carer about their child where reasonably required, such as medical information, for example.
The Act includes protections against the inappropriate disclosure or misuse of personal information obtained in the course of official duties.
Governance of schools, preschools and children’s services centres
The Act provides for the Minister to establish government schools, school-based preschools, stand-alone preschools and children’s services centres.
It also provides for the establishment and operation of governing councils for those services and makes sure that the majority of members of a governing council are parents or carers of the children that attend the relevant service.
The Act includes provision for the establishment of schools for special purposes, such as the delivery of education in hospital or other healthcare facilities and enables the establishment of governance arrangements specific to the needs of those schools.
The Act also includes provisions for the closure of schools, preschools and children’s services centres.
Enrolment and attendance
The Act includes provisions requiring the compulsory enrolment and attendance of children at schools and approved learning programs.
The Act provides that a child of compulsory school age must be enrolled in a school. A child is of compulsory school age if they are of or above 6 years of age and less than 16. A child who is 16 years of age is of compulsory education age and must be enrolled in an approved learning program. An approved learning program includes secondary education, university or TAFE courses, vocational education or training, apprenticeships or traineeships.
The maximum penalty for a parent or carer who fails to enrol their child in a school or an approved learning program is $5,000.
The Chief Executive can direct that a child be enrolled in a particular government school in specified circumstances including:
- to support a child with disabilities or learning difficulties
- to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the child or of staff and students at the school the child attends.
The Chief Executive can direct that a child currently enrolled in a government school be enrolled in another school if they’re satisfied that the student has been enrolled on the basis of false or misleading information. For example, falsely stating a child lives in a particular school zone at the time of enrolment.
To strengthen child safety measures, an adult student mustn't be enrolled at a school or in an approved learning program if they’re a prohibited person or if they don't hold a current working with children check. This does not apply to continuing students or students that are re-enrolling within 6 months of last being a student.
The Act provides that a child of compulsory school age must attend school and a child of compulsory education age must participate in an approved learning program. A parent is obliged to take reasonable steps to make sure their child attends school or participates in an approved learning program.
Parents or carers must provide a reason for a child’s non-attendance at school, or non-participation in an approved learning program, within 5 days of the child’s failure to attend. For example, the child was sick, or there was a danger of the child being affected by an infectious or contagious disease.
Principals of government and non-government schools, and heads of approved learning programs must notify the Chief Executive if a child is failing to attend school or participate in an approved learning program, without reasonable excuse, for 10 or more days in a school term.
The Act includes provision for family conferences to be convened to address a child’s regular non-attendance at school.
The maximum penalty for a parent or carer who fails to take reasonable steps to make sure their child attends school, or participates in an approved learning program is $5,000.
Suspension, exclusion and expulsion
The Act includes provision for the suspension, exclusion and expulsion of children from school in specified circumstances.
When considering whether to suspend, exclude or expel a student, principals must take into account:
- the severity and frequency of the student’s misbehaviour
- the student’s prior record of behaviour and response to previous sanctions (if any)
- the extent to which adjustments have been made at the school to support the participation of that student, or students with a disability generally
- any other relevant matters.
Religious and cultural activities
The Act provides that a principal may set aside time for religious or cultural activities. These activities must be undertaken by a person who is from a religious organisation or who represents a cultural organisation.
A principal must give parents or carers notice when religious or cultural activities involving their child are planned.
A parent or carer may request that their child be exempted from participating in religious or cultural activities.
Any children who don't participate in a religious or cultural activity must be offered an alternative activity related to the curriculum during the time the religious or cultural activities take place.
Corporal punishment prohibited
The Act states that corporal punishment (however described) mustn't be imposed on a student enrolled or attending at a government or a non-government school.
For the purposes of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935, corporal punishment will be taken not to amount to conduct that lies within limits of what would be generally accepted in the community as normal incidents of social interaction or community life.
Protections for teachers, staff and students
The Act provides school and preschool teachers, staff and students with protections to make sure there are significant penalties for those who abuse or threaten them. The protections apply to both government and non-government schools.
It’s an offence for a person to:
- behave in an offensive or threatening manner on the premises of a school, preschool or children’s services centre
- behave in an offensive or threatening manner towards any staff acting in the course of their duties
- use abusive, threatening or insulting language towards any staff acting in the course of their duties.
The maximum penalty is $2500.
Individuals can now be barred from the premises of government and non-government schools, preschools, and children’s services centres for up to 3 months. The maximum penalty for non-compliance with a barring order is $2500.
People behaving in an unacceptable manner, or posing an immediate threat to the safety of another person, can be directed by authorised people to leave the school, preschool, or children’s services centre for up to 48 hours.
The Act provides for the employment of teachers and other employees in government schools, preschools and children’s services centres and sets out provisions in relation to their conditions of employment.
Policies associated with the Act
Various department policies support the operation of the legislation. You can search for a department policy for more specific information.