System Safeguarding & Development

System Safeguarding and Development

Child Protection

Ensuring appropriate child safeguarding frameworks and supporting effective practices this in schools remains the core focus of the System Safeguarding Portfolio. This small team also works closely with other church agencies, education sectors and government agencies (including the Teachers Registration Board, the Multi-Agency Protection Service in the Department of Human Services, SA Police and the Department of Child Protection), sharing information between organisations where this is permitted by legislative and regulatory instruments.

In March 2022 (in response to a detailed application which is required to be made at least every five years by an organisation providing services to children in SA), the Department of Human Services issued a compliance statement confirming CESA meets the legislative requirements in relation to providing child safe environments. 

One of the key focus areas of the child safeguarding work in 2022 was the major review of the intersector guidelines on sexual behaviour in children and young people. Common guidelines have been in place since 2010 with minor revisions being applied in 2013 and 2019. In Child Protection Week (5-9 September 2022), updated intersectoral procedures and guidelines were launched, which included contemporary evidence-based descriptors of sexual behaviour that is respectively developmentally appropriate, concerning and harmful across different age groups[PL(1] .

In working towards demonstrating alignment with the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, the System Safeguarding portfolio has worked alongside the CEO’s Governance function to strengthen approaches to records management. This will remain a focus in 2023.

In terms of its day-to-day work, during 2022 the System Safeguarding Portfolio, liaised with schools in relation to 365 of the 1200 intervention orders reviewed, and conducted more than 19,000 electronic screenings of staff, prospective staff, contractors and volunteers.

Together with the Schools Performance Leaders, the System Safeguarding Portfolio provides support to Principals in relation to processes to manage critical incidents arising. In 2022, the team provided oversight and reporting in relation to 143 critical incidents.


With state borders opening up in November 2021, schools, like the wider community, were significantly impacted by COVID-19 throughout 2022.

In mid-January 2022, the State Government announced that the school term would commence two days later than initially planned, with Monday 31 January and Tuesday 1 February reserved as preparation days for staff. From Wednesday 2 February Reception and Years 1/7/8/12 students commenced face-to-face learning at school and all other year levels undertook remote learning until 11 February.

Working with the other education sectors and SA Health, CESA established and regularly updated the CESA Outbreak Management Plan to ensure a consistent approach to the implementation of COVID-19 controls, and to ensure clarity in communication to staff and families with respect to the management of COVID-19 positive cases. Importantly, in the early part of 2022, the Plan articulated the approach to managing classroom contacts, with the Chief Public Health Officer permitting staff who became classroom contacts to ‘test to stay’ rather than having to quarantine. The Plan also outlined the option to activate online learning, where necessary, to ensure continuity of learning during an outbreak situation.

At the start of the school year, families were informed that whole school events, interschool sport and instrumental tuition were on hold and that all school camps and retreats were cancelled until further notice. From halfway through Term 1, interschool sport was permitted to resume and whole school events were permitted to be held outdoors. Subject to appropriate controls in place, dormitory style camps were permitted to resume from Week 3 of Term 2.

Additionally, in accordance with SA Health rules, adults and students from Year 7-12 were required to wear face masks at school until the end of May (and on public transport until September), after which face masks only became a requirement at schools when certain outbreak thresholds were reached.

Managing COVID-19 in school Boarding Houses was not without its challenges, with formal advice from SA Health only confirmed the day prior to the start of the school year, and that advice requiring all close contacts to return home to quarantine.  CESA, together with the Association of Independent Schools SA, made numerous formal and informal approaches to SA Health and various Ministers to lobby for appropriate approaches for Boarding houses to be defined with concessions being made in early March to allow boarders to test to stay rather than automatically being required to return home to quarantine.

Weekly reporting from schools of COVID-19 positive cases was coordinated through the Catholic Education Office and provided to SA Health to support contact tracing and outbreak management.

The vaccination mandate for school staff (which existed under the State’s Emergency Management Direction) concluded at the end of March and was shortly thereafter replaced by a SACCS policy and procedure, which had been consulted on with staff, volunteers and contractors. The first SACCS COVID-19 Policy and Procedure had the same effect as the earlier mandate, maintaining the requirement for two vaccinations for staff, contractors and volunteers. Late in Term 1 there was considerable interest from the media in CESA’s position in response to the vaccination mandate ending. As the pandemic progressed and SA Health advice was updated, the SACCS policy was subsequently reviewed and after further consultation, an updated Policy and Procedure was issued in late November, with the vaccination requirement being confined to high-risk sites (being Special Schools and Units).

Staffing pressure in Term 1 of 2022 was acute. With temporary relief teacher availability having been exhausted in many instances, a number of Catholic Education Office staff and retired staff were deployed to schools to relieve where there were shortages. Sick leave hours taken was up 50% on the same period in previous years. To support staff wellbeing and in recognition of the impact of COVID-19 on the usual activities of schools, the Archbishop approved for all diocesan schools to hold two teacher preparation days ahead of Term 2, with the first held on Holy Thursday (14 April), and the second held on the first day of Term 2 (2 May).  These two dates were pupil free days, with schools required to offer supervision for students at no additional cost to families who were unable to arrange appropriate care for their children.

A change to the definition of close contacts and the removal of the requirement for asymptomatic close contacts to quarantine, reduced staffing pressure in schools from the start of Term 2. Also in Term 2, in response to the impact of COVID-19 on SACE Stage 2 students, the SACE Board endorsed changes to deadlines and assessments for a small number of subjects.

Throughout 2022 calendar year, to ensure new COVID-19 information was rapidly conveyed to schools, 96 Principal Updates were issued and regular online Teams meetings were hosted by the Director.

Additionally, more than 470 air purifiers were provided to schools by the Catholic Education Office and more than 300,000 Rapid Antigen Tests (supplied by SA Health) were distributed through the CEO to schools to support testing in accordance with the CESA Outbreak Management Plan for COVID-19 and the CESA Rapid Antigen Tests (RATS) for Regional Schools Plan. RATs were not generally provided to students in metropolitan schools, with PCR testing generally available and recommended.

Across 2022, COVID-19 positive levels varied from week to week and by school site. Overall numbers exceeded 20,000 staff and students who reported being COVID-19 positive.

Work Health and Safety

Though the management of COVID-19 was the primary Work Health and Safety (WHS) consideration in 2022, many other aspects of WHS were also progressed during the year.

Diocesan schools and most separately governed schools implemented the Salt online compliance training system (to replace Learning Manager), to provide a way to ensure staff regularly familiarise themselves with compliance related information including content essential to the WHS Framework that applies in South Australia. In 2022, the following courses went live:

  • Work Health and Safety for Schools – Health and Safety at school; Worker’s Rights and Obligations
  • Practical Work Health and Safety – Slips Trips & Falls; Ergonomics & Manual Handling; Fire & other emergencies

The Education Sector WHS Committee worked closely with Catholic Safety Health and Welfare SA on a number of other focus areas. Hazard Alerts, Audit Tools and other information and support resources were distributed to schools in relation to the following:

  • Inflatable Amusement Devices
  • Hand sanitiser (Class 3, Packing Group I & II Flammable Liquids)
  • Playground compliance
  • Asbestos Management compliance
  • Therapy Dogs on School sites
  • Training Needs Analysis
  • Portable Bunsen Burners.

The CEO and four CESA schools were also elected as work sites to participate in the Return to Work Evaluation of the Catholic Church Endowment Society’s Self-Insurer Licence.

Return to Work

CESA in partnership with Catholic Church Insurance (CCI), continues to support workers who have experienced injuries at work, providing best practice early intervention to ensure that appropriate action is taken to support workers to remain at, or return to work, following an injury including:

  • realising the health benefits of work
  • recovering from an injury
  • returning safely and sustainably to work.

CESA and CCI continue to focus on provision of a personalised, face-to-face service. Return to work Site Contact Persons are appointed at all CESA sites to assist the injured worker with all aspects of lodging their claim. The CESA RTW Coordinator follows up with the injured worker as soon as possible to ensure they are taken care of at the worksite and medical restrictions are followed.  CCI processes all CESA RTW claims and engages external rehabilitation consultants where required, to support the injured worker in accessing appropriate medical experts and support to aid in their recovery and return to work journey.

CESA promotes the importance of an injured worker remaining connected to their workplace after an injury, to improve recovery, help avoid mental health concerns and to promote an overall sense of wellbeing.