A new report released today by Regan Cunliffe shows that almost four years after the Vulnerable Children Act was enacted, up to 62% of schools did not have a Child Protection Policy, with a known 267 schools not being in compliance.
This amounts to up to a possible 484,000 children affected. Additionally, of those schools which were known to not have a Child Protection Policy in this report, ERO did not identify any related policy issues in 94% of cases and misled parents and caregivers by providing explicit assurance in their reports that they had checked compliance or policies relating to the Act for 68% of cases.
This report uncovers a systemic nationwide failure involving school boards, principals, NZSTA, ERO and the Ministry of Education in relation to the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.
In May 2018, Regan Cunliffe discovered that the school at which three of his children attended, Helensville Primary, did not have a Child Protection Policy. Additionally, the ERO’s report for the school in 2016 provided assurance that they had checked legal compliance and stated no issues.
The author hypothesised that the situation at his children’s school was not an isolated case. No literature or data on the adoption and contents of Child Protection Policies by New Zealand schools and when they were implemented could be found. This research addresses that gap and is extremely important in providing transparency and knowledge to all parents and state agencies for the first time.
Regan Cunliffe says, “Parents and caregivers entrust their children to the care of their schools and expect them to be in safe hands. They expect that schools have carefully thought through and planned for future scenarios so that if, and when they occur the school is prepared to handle it and how it will be handled is clearly explained to all involved.”
“The results of this investigation are sobering. Despite all the efforts made by lawmakers to do what they can to protect children, too many schools have not taken their duty of care obligations seriously. This reinforces the notion that along with our disgraceful record of child abuse in New Zealand, as a country we also do not take child abuse, including emotional abuse and emotional safety and their implications for later in life, seriously.”
“It is of grave concern that the requirements to have a Child Protection Policy has not been taken seriously by many schools in New Zealand. Boards of Trustees’ primary responsibility is to ensure that every student is able to attain his or her highest possible educational achievement and that the school is a physically and emotionally safe place for all students and staff. All parents and caregivers should be asking questions of their schools.”
“Our tamariki need all the protection they require to function safely, grow to the best of their ability and become emotionally well-balanced, contributing members of our society,” he says.
In light of this report, the author requests that the Minister of Education Hon Chris Hipkins launches a formal inquiry into New Zealand schools’ compliance with the Vulnerable Children Act 2014, the Education Review Office processes, and Board Assurance Statements made by Boards of Trustees.
The report, Vulnerable Children Act 2014 Compliance within New Zealand Primary and Secondary Schools, is available at: improbable.co.nz