Child protection units
Child protection is a sensitive, challenging area for school communities. Because children and young people are relatively powerless in abusive relationships they rely on responsible adults to intervene and to assist them. The New South Wales Department of Education and Training, as an agency responsible for the care and welfare of students in schools, has a charter to protect the young people in its care from sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect, and from improper conduct of a sexual nature. It is the role of the Department of School Education to:
- provide educational programs in schools in child protection
- protect students in schools from abuse and neglect and to assist in the recognition of suspected child abuse and neglect
- provide ongoing support to students within the normal duties of school staff.
Even young children can be taught ways to protect themselves from abuse. They can be ‘enlightened without being frightened'. They can be taught to network with trusted adults and to be aware that there are people and services to help them within their community. In the past, many children and young people have received little or no information about what constitutes abuse or when, how and where abuse occurs. It is important to give students enough information so that, if faced with a situation of potential abuse, they can react quickly and seek protection effectively. It is important that students learn:
- about feeling safe and their right to be safe
- to recognise appropriate and inappropriate behaviours
- that appropriate touching is an important part of positive relationships
- that they have a right to say NO to a person who touches them inappropriately or threatens their safety • that it is important to tell trusted adults about such situations
- that they may have to keep on telling people until they are believed
- that help is available to them within their communities.
Scope and sequence
Balanced child protection education incorporates teaching and learning in three broad themes.
Protective skills cannot be used unless children recognise situations of potential abuse or when abuse is occurring. It is important that students develop knowledge and skills, appropriate to their age and stage, about what constitutes abuse.
Power in relationships
When discussing power in relationships, particular attention is given to building confidence in relationships which are positive and caring. Skills in establishing and maintaining positive relationships, including accepted cultural practices related to caring touch, are reinforced.
With knowledge about positive relationships and about child abuse, children can take appropriate actions if they are in threatening situations. When learning about protective strategies, students are given the opportunity to analyse situations, to identify feelings and to explore alternative courses of action and their consequences. The diagram on the next page outlines the scope and sequence of child protection education from Kindergarten to Year 10. The three themes are divided into specific focus areas appropriate to each stage of learning.