Wednesday 21 May 2014

Surrender and Retention of Items, and Searches

New guidelines have been issued under section 139AAI of the Education Act 1989. They provide advice about the new legislation relating to searches and confiscation (now known as surrender and retention) of property in schools. They explain the legislation (Sections 139AAA – 139AAI of the Education Act 1989) and the associated Rules.

“I’m a writer, not a teacher,” Michael Jackson once famously emoted to Paul McCartney. Oh okay, it might’ve been lover and fighter but let’s not quibble, the fact is that it’s a good thing I’m a writer, not a teacher.

I couldn’t give up the menacing and powerful word CONFISCATION for the limper Retention.

“Megan! Put that away NOW or it will be CONFISCATED!”  So terrifying; the unknown – what does it mean? Will I get it back in time to return it to my older brother’s room from whence it came in a “borrowed without permission” sort of arrangement? Will I ever get it back?

“Megan! Put that away or I might have to retain it.” Snigger. The mental imagery would be too much for my overactive and immature imagination. Although, on the other hand, SURRENDER really appeals.

“Put that away or I will require you to surrender it.” My heart would swell in zealotic fervour. “Never! You can put me on the second step, threaten me with a phone call to my mother, make me pick up litter, but I shall never surrender!”

But seriously, terminology aside, the issue of surrender and retention of items, and searches, is a complicated one. Schools need to become familiar with the legislation and guidelines, and their school’s procedures for dealing with serious infringements and for conducting searches. 

As with any behaviour management issues, students need to know what is acceptable, and what the consequences are for the unacceptable… Teachers use their judgement and their experience to manage behaviour and have the back up of a formal behaviour management plan, and the surrender and retention of items and search policy to use as necessary.

The board must authorise any non teaching staff to request surrender and retention, and if appropriate, to conduct searches. Teachers are automatically authorised, but we encourage boards to minute board agreement to authorise all teachers, also to authorise (and minute) all support staff. All staff must be briefed on the updated guidelines.

Authorisation must be given in writing, and acknowledged in writing. We have put a sample authorisation letter on the Demo site that we encourage boards to adapt and use.

For details, read the SchoolDocs topics and the Ministry guidelines (there’s a link to them in the SchoolDocs topic. Handy.)

And seriously, if you have to relieve a student of their prohibited bottle of soft drink, will it be fluid retention? If a student has to take an item home and never bring it to school again, will that be home retention? If you have to swing out the behaviour management plan after a surrender event, will that be a retention detention? If a teacher invokes the procedure too frequently, will they be on a surrender bender? I could go on, but I’m not allowed. I will employ some retention prevention and get off the blog now.

Sunday 2 March 2014

EOTC is My Favourite Thing

Trips to museums and bus rides to beaches
Fun for the students means work for the teachers
Dealing with all of the work that it brings
EOTC is my favourite thing…

Planning and talking and dreaming logistics
Using my time tested and new heuristics
Asking for favours and pulling some strings
EOTC is my favourite thing…

Booking the bus and the day and the venue
Sorting the gear and the forms and the menu
Checking that everyone knows what to bring
EOTC is my favourite thing…

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
The camp’s nearly over
And then I don’t feel so bad

When the bus comes there is scrabbling for seats
Covert ingestion of forbidden sweets
Two kids that vomit, another that clings
EOTC is my favourite thing…

Then later on when they’re meant to be sleeping
One group is talking, another is weeping
One group is fighting, another group sings
EOTC is my favourite thing…

Then back at school, every child, every one
Ends their report with the words “IT WAS FUN”
Counting up all of the good things it brings
EOTC is my favourite thing…

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember
The camp’s nearly over
And then I don’t feel so bad.

Summary of the EOTC Review

As usual, this review attracted a lot of feedback and we can be assured that it has been very thoroughly reviewed. It is extremely important for each school to read and address, as appropriate, the implementation feedback submitted by their school community.

The review feedback generally confirmed that people greatly value the trips and experiences EOTC provides. Most were happy that their schools provided a range of activities that were diverse enough to cover various interests, cultural considerations, and socioeconomic situations. A few people feel that there are too many trips and that these are at the expense of academic education, but most people value the contribution EOTC makes to students’ development.

Getting EOTC right is a challenge for every school. There is a lot to consider and many variables from one school to another, even from one event to another.

We have endeavoured to provide schools with a streamlined approach for teachers wishing to organise EOTC activities so that they, and everyone involved, are clear about the process and can easily find the necessary forms and resources. We have provided EOTC forms as templates that schools can customise to the specific requirements of the class or event. This customisation is a very important step, particularly any risk management considerations. 

Many reviewers raised the issue of the law regarding booster seats for children up to seven years old. When the law changed we altered our generic Private Car Volunteer form,  replacing the words “seatbelts” to “appropriate restraints”.  Some schools want to be more specific and we are more than happy to upload school-specific forms if they are emailed to us. We’ve added notes to the sample form to assist schools to develop a school-specific form. We’ve also added a reference to the Parent Volunteer form. (See our earlier blogs about Private Car Transport and Car Seats for Seven Year Olds.)

We created the new Parent Volunteer form in response to feedback from several reviewers who felt that the school’s expectations of parent volunteers were not clear, for example, that parents helping on camps sometimes were unaware of the school’s Smokefree status or that it applies to camps as well. The forms can be used as a “register” of volunteers, and also to set out and expectations and responsibilities. Schools can use our sample form, or can supply us with their school-specific version. As with all the EOTC forms, the Parent Volunteer form can be used as a template and altered for specific events.

The proposed alterations to EOTC topics, the guidelines for the Private Car Volunteer form, and the new Parent Volunteer form, are on the Demo site under Upcoming Changes. We will roll out the changes by the end of this first term.

Monday 13 January 2014

Perfect SunSmart School

It is half past eight at Perfect SunSmart School. See the students arriving for the day. They are sunscreened already (SPF 30+) and wearing sunsmart clothing. They have not forgotten their hats and their wraparound sunglasses are ready in the top pocket of their long sleeved closely woven UV protecting shirts.

“Hello” they chirrup to their teachers as they walk along the covered walkway to the cloakroom where they hang up their backpacks and the swimming bags containing their sunprotective lip balm and their rash tops.

At their outdoor events, early in the day before the UV levels rise too high, their hats never blow off or fly out behind them strangling them with the elastic.

Before lunch, the children reapply their sunscreen taking care to apply the right amount and cover all exposed skin. At lunch, they eat their midday meal in a pleasant shady area before playing on the field with their hats on, or staying in the shade, or spending time in an indoor area such as the library or designated classroom. The duty teachers watch the children from under the wide brims of their own sunhats.

Now it is home time. “Bye” the children chirrup to their teachers as they walk off sunhatted to the gate. See the parents in their sunhats. Smell the sunscreen.

Wave goodbye.

The feedback from our recent review of Sun Protection suggests that this happy scene is not repeated every day at every school, although overall reviewers were happy with the policy itself, and mostly happy with the school’s implementation of it.

Everyone agrees that sun protection is important, but it seems we have different levels of commitment to it. The policy, which is based on the SunSmart criteria for accreditation as a SunSmart school, is implemented to different degrees by individual schools, by individual teachers, and by parents.

Most schools do a great job of protecting their community from sun damage through practical strategies and education, but here are the common themes of dissatisfaction:

Not enough shade: children forced to sit in the full sun to eat lunch and at sports events, etc. Children coming home from school or EOTC activities with sunburn.

School uniform or dress code: a lightweight shirt with a collar is a better option than a T-shirt, especially if made of a UV shielding material. Should school uniforms be moving towards longer shorts/skirts /sleeves and better fabrics? Schools without uniforms generally have a dress code that doesn’t permit singlets, spaghetti -strap tops etc, but should it go further?

Sunhats: the wide brimmed hats recommended by SunSmart and part of most schools’ school uniforms are great protection for the face, neck, ears, and the eyes. Caps, on the other hand, offer less protection and where schools allow caps for senior students, younger students want them too and perceive their wide brimmed hats as “uncool”. Legionnaire hats or wide brimmed hats should be the uniform sunhat. Adults need to be good role models with hats and we’re not. While most schools expect teachers to wear sunhats at school, many of us parents pay little attention to our everyday sunhat modelling.

Access to sunscreen: There seems to be a hit and miss approach to the provision of sunscreen at schools. Some do, some don’t, some classrooms do, some don’t. Many parents commented that their children used sunscreen before school but were not encouraged to reapply it before lunch even when sunscreen was available in the classroom.

Engagement: It’s my observation that many people still don’t understand that it’s the level of ultraviolet radiation in the environment that is the danger, not the temperature or the cloud cover. There are great resources on the SunSmart website that can be used at school, or in newsletters, school websites, etc.  UVI (UltraViolet Index) information is updated every day on a number of websites, such as These graphs can help show that sun protection is needed all through the summer not just on the hot sunny days.

It’s important that principals and boards look at the implementation review feedback from this review and address the issues raised at their schools. There are many points for robust discussion and reporting back to the community.