Sunday 12 March 2023

2022: A year in review

Insights into the 2022 Health, Safety, and Welfare review

The SchoolDocs review process brings together feedback from schools, extensive team research, and expert consultation to ensure content keeps pace with the changing educational environment. School feedback in particular is a key part of the review process. The collective input of our nearly-1800 schools allows us to get a detailed picture of how schools across the country operate, and what schools need from their policies and procedures.

We faced quite the challenge in 2022, reviewing every policy in the Health, Safety, and Welfare section within the year. This is only one of six main policy areas, but it makes up approximately 40% of all topics on a SchoolDocs site. The whole-year review allowed for cohesive changes to reflect changes to legislation and best practice, including the introduction of the National Education and Learning Priorities.

The SchoolDocs team has just released the final round of upcoming changes for the health and safety topics. These policies and procedures extend to the wider school environment and provide a framework for safety on and off school grounds. We finished the year with a review of the main, board-level Health, Safety, and Welfare Policy. Now that we’ve worked through the entire section, we’d like to share some insights into the process. 

What was the review feedback from schools? 

Feedback across the year showed that schools were looking for clear, accessible health and safety procedures to guide them through challenging circumstances. Much of the feedback received aligned with updates to legislation and best practice, which focus on student and staff wellbeing and recognise our shared community responsibility for health and safety.

Helpful feedback 

When we analyse feedback sent in from schools, we’re looking for reviewers to send us suggestions that they think will improve content for all schools. Here are some examples of helpful feedback we received, and how we responded in our updated content:

  • It would be useful to clarify the health and safety roles and responsibilities of the board.

    This was addressed in updates to the Health and Safety Management section of SchoolDocs, which outlines the legislative responsibilities of the board and provides a framework for other policies and procedures. We’ve included an overview of duty holders under the Health and Safety at Work Act in the board-level policy and linked back to this overview where responsibilities are mentioned. 
  • We’re looking for more information and resources around wellbeing, both for students and staff. It would be good to see a clear outline of the steps we should take.

    We made significant changes to Student Wellbeing and Safety and Staff Wellbeing and Safety, as well as their respective subtopics. These sections now provide clear, step-by-step instructions for what to do when faced with safety or wellbeing concerns. We’ve made sure these topics include the protective steps that schools should take to support school-wide wellbeing. Updates also clarify processes to support all members of the school community when incidents arise.

Not-so-helpful feedback 

While we appreciate the effort to submit feedback during the review process, we’d like to provide some examples of feedback that isn’t quite so helpful for the team. 

  • It’s important not to send school-specific corrections through the review tool. The SchoolDocs team is not able to monitor or reply to requests through the review tool. We don’t check feedback until later in the term, at which point we’re looking for trends of what needs to change in our wording for all schools.
  • Schools should check review feedback from their own communities in case reviewers have spotted something that needs to be fixed. School feedback can be checked through the Dashboard using the “View my review feedback” button at any stage of the review process. Any fixes needed should be emailed to us.
  • During the review process, we’re not looking for schools to rewrite topics and send us an updated version. The format of SchoolDocs topics allows us to update core content for all schools at the same time, so rearranging the format or reworking core wording for your own site means your topic will not stay up to date. We’ll take care of the wordsmithing for you.

Turning review feedback into changes on your site

The SchoolDocs team analyses feedback at the mid-point of the review, and again at the end of the term. This allows us to look for trends in school responses, and incorporate these into research and drafting. We consider school feedback alongside our own research, and consultation with subject matter experts where necessary, to create an updated version of the topic. 

We publish new versions of reviewed content on the Demo site to let schools view and consider the new content before it is rolled out to their own SchoolDocs sites. We send email advisories to let them know when updates are available to view, and ask schools to view the changes and respond to any actions for the new content. Schools email us their answers to these actions, which we incorporate once the updated topics go live for all schools. We recommend minuting scheduled review changes at school board meetings. 

How to keep track of changes

  • Updates to topics that haven’t yet been published to school sites are in the Upcoming Changes section of the Demo site. A note at the top of these topics will tell you when the changes will be rolled out to school sites.
  • Recent changes that have been published to school sites are in the Recent Changes section of the Demo site. 
  • You’ll also find a summary of when content was last updated and what changes were made at the end of each topic on your SchoolDocs site. The Release history date can be clicked to find out what was changed in that update.

Using the review tool going forward

We’re excited to be using our new review tool in 2023. The upgrade means it’s now easier for you to view feedback through the Dashboard, including printing and/or exporting it into a spreadsheet for reporting purposes. The new review tool means we are not able to store pre-2023 feedback on the Dashboard, but schools can contact us if they’d like to see feedback from previous reviews.

Changes to the review tool mean it’s more user-friendly for all members of the school community. Note that we used to specify who should review each topic. We now invite participation from any member of the school community, no matter the topic. Each school is responsible for sharing reviews with their own school community, and we encourage school leaders to promote the review process widely.

Our aim is to provide an up-to-date, accessible, and comprehensive set of policies and procedures with input from as many of our communities as possible. Working with schools through the review process allows us to stay in touch with both the strengths and challenges of school operations, and we’ll continue to support schools in all stages of the cycle.

Monday 5 September 2022

Health, Safety, and Welfare (Term 2)

Term 2 2022 Review Summary

We’re now halfway through our review of the hefty Health, Safety, and Welfare section of SchoolDocs. Building on last term’s improvements, we’ve continued to strengthen the legislative framework of this section. In particular, we reference the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and Education and Training Act 2020 as these underpin a lot of the policy. We aim to reflect this legislation in a way that is accessible to the whole school community. We’ve combined your feedback with our own deep dive into the research to develop the upcoming changes for the term.

In term 2 the focus was on Healthcare and Behaviour Management. These sections contain a lot of information specific to each school. The process of reviewing the actions in Upcoming Changes is a great opportunity to get your policies up to date and ensure your school-specific information is current and accurate.


Over 30 topics made up our review of the Healthcare section. Within this section are smaller topic groups that we’ve updated as a set to improve their overall clarity. This section covers first aid, medicines, injuries and illnesses, health conditions, and infectious diseases. These updates clarify and specify the preventative measures, immediate actions, and follow-up processes that schools are responsible for.

We’ve updated the Reporting and Recording Accidents and Incidents topic and added a new topic for Communicating about Injuries and Illness to clarify reporting and notification protocols for health matters.

The Health Conditions section covers the main health issues that arise for schools. Schools engaged enthusiastically with the Allergies, Asthma, Diabetes, Head Lice, and Infectious Diseases topics, and showed a strong commitment to supporting individuals and the wider school community. As a result, we’ve strengthened preventative and response measures in these topics. References in this section have been updated to link to the most recent guidance from health authorities.

Feedback on Infectious Diseases included substantial comment about COVID-19 and the challenges schools and their communities have been facing. We appreciate hearing how schools have honed their processes to keep pace with the changing health environment. While our COVID-19 Information and Procedures topic provides information specific to COVID-19, the Infectious Diseases topics are designed to cover a range of scenarios and provide guidance for protecting both individuals and schools as a whole.

Behaviour Management

This section covers how schools approach behaviour management, including values, expectations, and consequences. Unsurprisingly, we received plenty of feedback for these topics. Updates we’ve made allow schools to include school-specific information while also reinforcing the broad conduct requirements for students, staff, and the school community.

Our updates to the main Behaviour Management topic reflect feedback from schools that focused on strategies to recognise and manage challenging behaviour. We’ve now included wording about de-escalation and provided space for schools to describe the strategies they use.

The Surrender and Retention section has been made easier to read and puts greater focus on the rights of both the school and the student. Following your feedback, we've strengthened the wording for Personal Digital Devices to address the challenges presented by technology in a school setting.

For Physical Restraint, we’ve updated this topic in line with the new rules and guidelines currently being drafted by the Ministry of Education but we may need to make further tweaks when the guidelines are released.

The final topic in the Behaviour Management section covers Stand-down, Suspension, and Exclusion. We've made extensive changes to this policy to clarify the rights and responsibilities of everyone involved.

Thank you

We’d like to thank you for your contributions to the term 2 review. We hope that you share our excitement at being able to make thorough updates to our content that better reflect the needs of schools.

Wednesday 29 June 2022

Health, Safety, and Welfare (Term 1)

Term 1 2022 Review Summary  

Here at SchoolDocs, 2022 has been a year of significant growth and change so far. Our aim is to help schools have confidence in their policies, and this year we introduced a spruced-up review schedule to support that goal. The updated schedule groups related topics and encourages feedback from the whole school community. 

As we near working with two-thirds of all schools in Aotearoa, we’ve also welcomed five new team members who are proving invaluable in supporting the implementation of an even more robust review system. You might also notice a few changes to our look – we’re working on keeping SchoolDocs an engaging space for all users. 

Our updated review cycle starts with an in-depth review of health, safety, and welfare. As content that concerns the whole school community, we were pleased to receive a wide range of responses in term 1. Review topics were divided into the sections of Health and Safety Management, and Emergency, Disaster, and Crisis Management. Insights from schools into both of these areas showed how committed schools are to creating a safe space for students, and supporting the health and wellbeing of all school personnel. We’d like to thank all those that have engaged with the review process and provided feedback on both the content and our new schedule.

Commentary across both sections showed that schools were looking for greater clarity in their health and safety procedures. We’ve addressed the need to make information clearer by working on format and readability throughout these topics. Making sure we’re up to date with all relevant resources has been central to this review, and we’ve tried to consider the section as a whole when reflecting updated guidance. 

Health and Safety Management

For the health and safety management topics, a significant change has been to align our wording with the Health and Safety at Work Act. Previous versions of these topics used “teacher” or “staff member”, but we’ve changed this to “worker” where applicable. This change recognises that the policies refer to a range of workers on school sites, and health and safety is a shared responsibility among all parties. 

We’ve made changes to allow schools to include greater detail in their risk management and hazard register procedures. Documents in this section have also received an updated look from our design team, and will be available for use when we roll out the topics to all schools.   

Emergency, Disaster, and Crisis Management

We’ve strengthened policies in this section to support schools in extreme and challenging scenarios. While we hope that emergency, disaster, and crisis procedures are infrequently called into use, it’s important to have a reliable framework in these circumstances. The changes throughout this section are interlinked, and updates to specific information are reinforced by corresponding changes in related sections of the document set.

In our updates to this section, we’ve tried to balance the need for clear guidelines that apply to all schools, while creating more space for school-specific information. We’ve reinforced information that is most relevant to the school community, recognising that greater detail can be provided through school emergency plans. If you haven't already, add emergency preparedness as a standing agenda item to board and staff meetings, along with general health and safety reports.

To help schools have confidence tackling emergency situations, we’ve strengthened content that applies to a range of scenarios, such as evacuation procedures, communication during an emergency, and what happens after an event. Our new After an Emergency, Disaster, or Crisis topic brings together recommendations from a number of sources to help schools navigate the challenging time that may follow an unexpected event. We’ve researched and revised this content to provide what we hope will be a valuable resource for schools.

What next?

We encourage you (if you haven’t already) to compare our proposed changes across these sections with content on your own site. We realise there's a significant amount of information to absorb. On the Demo site, we recommend looking out for the Action column and checking where we might need input from you. Thanks again from the team for working with us through our transformation phase. We’re here to find what works best for schools, and we’re committed to making those changes.