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Overview of changes of the Education and Children’s Services Act 2019

Some of the key differences and changes of the Education and Children’s Services Act 2019 are highlighted below. However, this is not an exhaustive list and should only be used as a guide. We recommend reading the Act and regulations in full.

Supporting children and students

The Act aims to make sure schools, preschools and children’s services have the information they need to support every child to succeed.

Safe learning environments

Students responsible for chronic bullying and serious assaults can be moved to a different school.

Information sharing

Schools and agencies can more easily share information to support the safety and wellbeing of students.

Information can be shared between schools, preschools, non-government school sectors, state authorities and prescribed health professionals. This is to ensure 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. 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.

The Chief Executive can obtain information from a parent or carer about their child where reasonably required, for example medical information.

The Act includes protections against the inappropriate disclosure or misuse of personal information obtained in the course of official duties.

Suspension, exclusion, and expulsion

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.

Protections for students and staff

School and preschool staff have new protections and there are tougher penalties for those who abuse or threaten them.

It’s now an offence for a person to:

  • behave in an offensive or threatening manner on the premises of a school, preschool or children’s service
  • 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 $2,500.

Individuals can now be barred from the premises of government and non-government schools, preschools, and children’s services centre for up to 3 months. The maximum penalty for non-compliance with a barring order has increased from $200 to $2,500.

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 service for up to 48 hours.

Religious and cultural activities

Parents and carers can make more informed decisions with clearer rules for religious and cultural activities.

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 seek exemption from their child not to participate in religious or cultural activities.

Any children who do not 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.

Sex education

Parents or carers can continue to seek exemption for their child not to participate in sex education unless the instruction forms part of the Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum.

Enrolment and attendance

The maximum penalties for a parent or carer who fails to enrol their child in a school or an approved learning program, or fails to take reasonable steps to make sure their child attends school or participates in an approved learning program, has increased from $500 to $5,000.

Enrolment

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 school zone at the time of enrolment.

To strengthen child safety measures, an adult student must not be enrolled at a school or in an approved learning program if they’re a prohibited person or if they do not 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.

Attendance

We’ve introduced a strong new approach to school attendance, including family conferencing to address chronic non-attendance and increased penalties for non-attendance.

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 an 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.

Staff of government schools, preschools and children’s services centres

Administration

The functions of the Chief Executive in relation to government schools, preschools and children’s services is more clearly set out in the Act. It includes, for example:

  • determining the curriculum
  • ensuring the expertise and qualifications of people delivering children’s services
  • developing and implementing policies related to education and children’s services.

Some functions of the Minister have transferred to the Chief Executive as they align with the Chief Executive’s operational responsibilities, for example:

  • providing education and training of teachers
  • 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.

Employment arrangements

The legislation updates and modernises employment provisions for the teaching service. This includes bringing together employment arrangements for government school and preschool teachers and leaders. These arrangements are now more aligned with those of the Public Sector Act 2009.

Attraction and retention

The department can offer special remuneration to attract and retain highly skilled school and preschool leaders and teachers.

Governing councils

Administration

Some functions relating to the roles and responsibilities of governing councils have transferred from the Minister to the Chief Executive. These include:

  • providing or arranging for accommodation of students
  • providing or arranging for transport of students to and from government schools
  • issuing administrative instructions to governing councils.

The presiding member of the governing council of a school must be a parent or carer of a student enrolled at that school, unless no parent or carer is willing.

Schools

The Minister can establish special purpose schools where necessary, such as schools in youth training centres, prisons, and hospitals. This will allow governance arrangements for those schools to be tailored as needed.

Preschools and children’s services centres

New government preschools and children’s services centres can be established in a similar way to schools, making it easier for you to transition from participating preschool governing councils to school governing councils.

Legal support

We’ve created the Governing Councils Legal Fund to aid governing councils of schools if they’re in dispute with the department.

Contact

Legislation reform unit

Phone: 8226 1386
Emailedlawreform [at] sa.gov.au