Health and Safety

A healthy and safe school is one that is constantly strengthening its capacity as a healthy setting for living, learning and working. Students develop an understanding of the right to be safe and explore the concepts of challenge, risk and safety associated with particular situations and behaviours and take action to minimise these harms.

Healthy Children and Healthy Communities

Schools have become the focus for promoting healthy community living. Health promoting schools provide a safe and supportive environment for all members of the school community. The development and implementation of a comprehensive whole-school approach aims at improving and/or protecting the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of all members of that school community by integrating health and education issues into the school’s ongoing activities and curriculum development. School-based health promotion is promoted through local partnerships that meet local needs. Policies include:

  • healthy eating and oral health
  • tobacco control
  • physical activity
  • mental health and wellbeing
  • sun protection
  • alcohol and other drugs
  • safe environments
  • sexual health and wellbeing.

For further information, visit the Australian Government – Department of Health and Ageing website.

ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic

ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic aims to provide practical support to schools and their communities to learn to live and work more sustainably.  ResourceSmart Schools is the framework that links the wide range of sustainability programs available to Victorian schools. ResourceSmart Schools is an initiative of the Victorian Government, and is managed by Sustainability Victoria.

Sustainability Victoria assists in delivering key components of the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI Vic) framework to help Victorian schools embed sustainability into their school. There are also many local councils and other locally based entities hosting Teacher Educator Networks (TENS) that provide support for sustainability in Victorian schools.

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is the most severe form of allergic reaction and is potentially life threatening.

It must be treated as a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment and urgent medical attention. Common allergens for children include: Eggs, peanuts, tree nuts such as cashews, cow’s milk, fish and shellfish, wheat, soy, insect stings, medications.

In all schools, the Ministerial Order 706 Anaphylaxis- Anaphylaxis Management in Schools clearly outlines the requirements of schools in managing students at risk of anaphylaxis. Any school that has a student or students at risk of anaphylaxis must by law have an anaphylaxis management plan for each student, developed in consultation with the student’s parents/carers and medical practitioner, prevention strategies for in-school and out-of-school settings, a communication plan to raise staff, student and school community awareness about severe allergies and the school’s policies and regular training and updates for school staff.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic (long-lasting) inflammatory disease of the airways and affects people of all ages, but it most often starts during childhood. In those susceptible to asthma, the inflammation causes their airways to spasm and swell periodically so that the airways narrow. The individual then must wheeze or gasp for air. Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.

Illicit Drugs

All schools have a Duty of Care and a legal duty to take reasonable steps to protect students in their charge from risks of injury that are reasonably foreseeable. A whole school approach to drug education including health promotion, prevention and early intervention for student wellbeing and engagement, based on the principles of harm minimisation, aims at build on knowledge, skills and behaviours to enable young people to make responsible, healthy and safe choices. It encompasses all policies, practices, programs and initiatives connected with prevention and reduction of drug-related harm, and the building of resilience in individuals and school communities.

Infectious Diseases

Under the Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 2001, schools are encouraged to support the prevention and control of transmission of infectious diseases by implementing standard precautions to be used at all times by all people in a school and provide prompt and consistent responses during the outbreak of infectious diseases, as advised by Commonwealth or state health authorities. Schools must be aware of and abide by exclusion requirements during an outbreak of an infectious disease to protect staff and students.

The school exclusion table is maintained by the Department of Human Services and outlines the minimum period of exclusion from schools for infectious disease cases, length of time parents/guardians of children who are not immunised against the outbreak should keep their children at home and contacts prescribed by regulations 13 and 14 of the Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 2001 – Schedule 6.

Eating Disorders

Most research acknowledges that the development of eating disorders involves a complex set of interactions between cultural, social, family, personality and physical factors (including genetic factors).Eating disorders involve self-critical, negative thoughts and feelings about appearance and food, and eating behaviour that harms normal body composition and functioning.

The key clinical feature of anorexia nervosa is the individual’s deliberate goal to achieve and maintain a low body weight at which the body does not function normally. About half those with anorexia nervosa achieve this weight loss by dieting and avoiding foods. Others may achieve weight loss by a combination of dieting and use of purging behaviours, such as vomiting or use of laxatives. Excessive exercise is increasingly being used to reduce weight.

Another key feature of anorexia nervosa includes an intense and irrational fear of body fat and weight gain. In addition, individuals frequently possess a misperception of their body weight and shape to the extent that they may feel or see themselves as fat, when actually they are emaciated. A further important feature of anorexia nervosa is that sufferers believe their value as a person rests with their thinness – other aspects of personality and relationships are not important in comparison.

The key feature of bulimia nervosa is the re-occurrence of uncontrolled periods of binge-eating, followed by behaviours designed to compensate for the binge. During a binge, the individual may consume large amounts of food in a rapid, automatic and powerless fashion. A sense of loss of control over eating is a key feature. The binge eating may evoke the sensation of anger and other negative feelings and creates physical discomfort and anxiety about weight gain. Thus, after a binge, the individual uses some form of compensatory behaviour to counteract the effect of the food eaten, such as extreme dieting, fasting or use of excessive exercise. The compensation may also take the form of a purging behaviour such as self-induced vomiting or laxative abuse.

Individuals who binge or purge tend to be highly critical of themselves and have very low self-esteem. They may feel ashamed of their behaviour and withdraw from social gatherings, fearing they will be found out. They may also feel helplessly trapped in this cycle. These feelings are frequently very damaging emotionally and physically, as binge eating and purging behaviours may, like anorexia nervosa, result in metabolic and hormonal changes. Individuals suffering from anorexia and bulimia nervosa share many similar attitudes towards food and weight and shape.

Both groups may have a distorted body image, an intense fear of fat, an excessive preoccupation with food and body weight, and the strong conviction that a slim body shape is absolutely crucial for self-acceptance. Unlike anorexia nervosa, those with bulimia nervosa are, by definition, a normal weight or above. A person who is a very low weight but also binge eats and purges is described as having anorexia nervosa.

One disorder which comes under the EDNOS category is binge eating disorder (BED). This problem is characterised by recurrent episodes of binge eating but is not followed by unhealthy compensatory behaviours. These binges are accompanied by a sense of loss of control and are associated with low self-esteem and depression and, in some cases, weight gain. As in the case of bulimia, treatments for binge eating disorder are usually very effective. Unfortunately, the shame which often accompanies bulimia nervosa and binge eating problems often prevents seeking help. However, if an eating related problem is causing distress then it is important to seek professional help. In addition, feelings of inadequacy, depression, anxiety and loneliness, as well as problematic family and personal relationships, may also contribute to the development of eating disorders. Once the pattern has started, eating disorders may become self-perpetuating. Dieting, bingeing and purging help some people to cope with painful emotions and to gain a degree of control of their lives.

Head Lice

Anyone can get head lice (Pediculosis). While children are at school many families will have contact with head lice. People get head lice from direct hair to hair contact with another person who has head lice. Head lice do not have wings or jumping legs so they cannot fly or jump from head to head. They can only crawl.

Schools are encouraged to work collaboratively with parents and the broader school community to develop head lice policies and to implement practices and procedures to prevent and to minimise the impact of head lice outbreaks on school populations.

The discovery of head lice can be a sensitive issue. Schools are asked to continue to exercise sensitivity towards this issue and to avoid any stigmatisation by maintaining student confidentiality.

Immunisation

Every day immunisation saves lives and makes it possible for people to live free from the illness and the disability caused by many infectious diseases. Immunisation not only protects those people who have been immunised, but it also protects those in the community who may be either too young or unable to receive immunisations themselves due to illness, by reducing the spread of disease in the community.

Different immunisations are recommended and available for free depending on a person’s age and their prior health history. In Victoria, immunisations are available through the local council or GP. For more information regarding these recommended immunisations, please refer to the National Immunisation Program (NIP) schedule. It is very important children receive the recommended immunisations according to the schedule. If a child has missed any of the recommended immunisations, it is important that the child’s parents speak with their GP or local council.

A school entry immunisation status certificate for each child must be presented to the child’s primary school on enrolment. This certificate is very important in assisting health authorities to protect children in the event of a vaccine preventable disease occurrence in a school. An unvaccinated child may be excluded from school for a period of time to reduce the spread of the disease. Further information regarding school entry immunisation status certificates can be found at the Victorian Department of Health website.

School Vaccine Program

Secondary schools play an important role in supporting immunisation by forming an effective relationship with their local council and ensuring effective facilitation of their school’s vaccine program.

From 2015, schools will be legally authorised to share parent and student contact details with local council for the purpose of immunisation. The Diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (dTpa) vaccine will be offered to all students in years 7, 8, 9 and 10 as delivery of this vaccine transfers to Year 7. From 2016 onwards, this vaccine, in addition to the Human papillomavirus (HPV) and chicken pox vaccines, will be offered to Year 7 students only. HPV vaccine for Year 9 boys will cease at the end of 2014.

For information on the current schedule of vaccines delivered as part of the secondary school vaccine program, see the National Immunisation Program Schedule. For further immunisation information visit the Immune Hero website.

Sexuality Education

Sexuality education can be included as part of the curriculum and taught in context of a whole-school approach linking curriculum, teaching and learning with school policies (e.g. those related to homophobia, bullying, student wellbeing), as well as creating strong community links.

This can include exploring human development across the lifespan as a continuous process involving changes and stages. Positive and negative emotions, factors that affect self-worth an identity, social conventions and developing healthy relationships, are some of the aspects explored within the curriculum.

Sexuality education also examines physical development, including the reproductive systems, sexual development and sexual maturation, and may explore a range of issues related to sexual health and personal safety.

For further information on incorporating sexuality education with VELS, visit the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development website.