2020-02-19 20:30:00

Looking beyond excursions when it comes to consents

Compliance
By Sam Sapuppo
Schools Advisor Sam is a committed educationalist who believes in the transformative power of community. Through his 30-year involvement in the leadership team of a prominent educational institution in Melbourne, Sam uses his extensive knowledge to help school workflows and processes run smarter.

Excursions require informed consent or permission, but so do so many other activities across your school community. And you need to know your platform can handle them all.

As well as places of learning, schools are also large administrative bodies, tasked with carrying out a range of functions that are essential components of your risk management and statutory obligation commitments.

From enrolments, to communicating student grades and results, and everything in-between, schools come into contact with a range of people for whom the administrative functions of the institution are vital – staff, students, parents, school councils, parent associations and external suppliers, to name only a few.

Permission and consent forms are a vital administrative function within any school. The area of informed consent, though, is much wider than you might appreciate.

If you see consents within your school as simply legal permission for students to attend excursions and off-site school-related activities, you may be doing yourself and your institution a disservice.

With this in mind, you need to be asking if your school’s systems and processes are equipped to deal with compliance in ways that reflect the world your students and their parents, guardians and caregivers inhabit beyond the school grounds.

Activities and excursions are the most common events that people think of when talking consent forms. In a holistic sense, the basic function of these forms is to meet liability and compliance obligations. Permission and consent forms need to clearly spell out the activities in which students will be participating so parents, guardians and caregivers are fully informed about the potential risks and dangers students might be exposed to in the course of the learning experience.

Playing in park together

While a number of edtech platforms are intended to make life simpler and more efficient when it comes to excursion consents, the school organisation system you choose for you school needs to accommodate the many other applications for which consents may be sought. The technology should contain the kind of functionality that recognises these permission forms are not only consents for excursions but they are also consents for just about everything that takes place in the modern-day learning institution.

Consider this...

Excursions and activities account for only around 25 percent of the total number of forms that go out across the school’s community seeking informed consent.

In today’s data-driven world, how are you managing your compliance obligations for the other 75 percent of activities requiring consent?

Equipment and resource use – audio-visual equipment, sport equipment, art supplies and so on – is an area within a school’s day-to-day operations that require paperwork and user consent.

Likewise, in many schools, technology is used for a range of administrative functions by staff and faculty members. This includes applications for leave, EFT instructions for salary payments, professional development course enrolment and accreditation, and entering personal information the school needs to have on file about next-of-kin, residential address and so forth. In many of these functions, an acknowledgement of consent is required.

One of the most important areas relating to consent involves acknowledgement of school policies.

As well as students, teachers and staff, there is a range of stakeholders from which schools need to collect informed consent in matters of significant importance – such as behavioural standards, use of the school’s information and computer technology (email, Internet and video streaming, etc.), use of photo/media imagery of students under the age of 18, the school’s emergency procedures; the collection and use of personal data and information; and access to medical records and other sensitive information.

Far from being limited to staff, students and employees, acknowledgement of – and consent to abide by ­– school policies includes parents, school council and parent association members and office holders, as well as external suppliers in many cases.

The enrolment process is also heavily reliant on consents.

At the pre-enrolment stage and the collection of enrolment enquiries, it’s imperative that a school has a record of consent from people to store information collected about them from a prospectus, to contact them about upcoming events like open days events, and for the school to store their contact information such as phone numbers and email addresses.

In the enrolment process itself, the importance of consent cannot be understated. It’s the first place that the essential information regarding students is obtained; it’s the main touchpoint for communicating the school’s policies, expectations and information like fee payments and so on.

Realising that only 25 percent of a school’s paperwork is about excursion permission slips, an efficient edtech school organisation system will go beyond simply sending out and collecting permission slips for excursions and events when it comes to consent. It will realise that consents are not just parents giving permission for students to attend something; it's also about staff and stakeholders giving a school permission to have a range of information and use it, and do things with it to make the life of the school community simpler and more efficient.

A simpler and more efficient system in the school allows for everyone to focus on their core responsibilities, providing the kind of education and learning experience that engages students, and enables them to realise their full academic potential.

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