Your school’s policies and procedures (not just those based on wellbeing) will reflect your (or your predecessor’s) views on their purpose.
If they are based on the concept that they are a necessary evil then they may be minimal, hidden, and out of date. If originally they were written to “cover your back” then they will be dominated by legal language and difficult for the non-legal person to read and understand.
More realistically they should be the deliberately thought out actions to be taken under certain circumstances. They enable everyone to provide the same solution and offer equity. They save everyone thinking through what to do whilst allowing all views to be represented at the time of writing.
Having said that, below you will find four warning signs that should prompt you to review your policies as soon as possible.
Warning Sign One: Not Changed
Change has always been a fact of life although, in recent years, the pace of change has increased dramatically. Technological change would be one of the fastest in today’s society but that, in turn, forces change in many other ways – financial, relational, time management and so on.
If your school policies have not been reviewed within the last three years (at the most) then they could well be heading towards obsolescence. Some examples would include:
- Do you include online safety issues and how they should be dealt with?
- What level of detail is included on gender-related issues?
- When did you last consider age appropriateness?
- Has the internet usage policy kept up to date with bandwidth, storage, portability of data etc.?
- How do you handle students’ use of their own devices at school, on the network or not?
- How do you communicate with parents? Live reporting? Phone application?
- Do they adequately cater for all family types: single parent; shared parenting on a rotation basis etc.?
Warning Sign Two: Not Accessible
When the policies are written, even as they are being devised, there needs to be a decision concerning who they are being written for. The policies concerning wellbeing would be appropriate to be written for staff, students and parents. All three of these groups would have an interest in the contents. Therefore you have to keep them in a place where each group can gain access.
These places could include:
- Staff Intranet
- Staff room – in a folder with printouts (don’t knock it because it still works)
- Student portal
- Accessible to parents at the school office
- Electronically accessible by parents – depending on your method of communication.
- Provided to all relevant parties in the case of a dispute.
Warning Sign Three: Not Understandable
There is a risk of making the documents so focussed on the liabilities that the legal profession write them in such a way that they are difficult to be read by non-legal minds.
Recently a lawyer took the Instagram terms of service and “translated” them so a child could understand them. So this bit of legalese:
Instagram does not claim ownership of any Content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service…
Officially you own any original pictures and videos you post, but we are allowed to use them, and we can let others use them as well, anywhere around the world. Other people might pay us to use them and we will not pay you for that.
Warning Sign Four: Not Sufficient
The final reason you may need to review your policies if there are gaps in the range you have available. Do you have all of these issues covered in one or more of your school’s policy documents?
- Student Support Services
- Student Engagement
- Computer and Internet Use
- Using Social Media
- Student Safety
- Child Protection
- Suicide Awareness Strategy
- Health and Wellbeing Services
This list is not exhaustive and you could have many additional policies – these are listed to provide a guide to what should be included as a minimum.
Nigel Lane is an advisor to schools on School Wellbeing. You can find out more about him by visiting www.nigellane.com.au or just give him a call on 0412 971 933