Importantly, the Duty of Care notion relies on relationships between people. Newnham (2000) highlights that within an education context, responsibility is imposed on teachers and/or government departments to ensure appropriate precautions have been applied to avoid harm being suffered. (WA DoE, 2012) At an individual level, a teacher must consciously maintain duty of care at all times, as demonstrated by Crouch (1996) where a teacher-pupil relationship exists as they “have to control not only their own conduct but also the conduct of the student and others as well”. (Crouch, 1996, p.26). Nevertheless, as outlined by Newnham (2000) a teacher’s duty is not absolute and does not require that harm will never occur; as the role of foreseeability is required to determine negligence. Crouch (1996, p.27) highlights that the High Court decision (Commonwealth v Introvigne, 1982) concluded that foreseeable risk was achieved “so long as it is not far-fetched or fanciful, notwithstanding that it is more probable than not that it will not occur”. It is an expectation, therefore, that teachers will take reasonable steps to ensure provision of suitable and safe premises and adequate supervision of an activity. That is, the precautions a teacher could reasonably be expected to have taken to avoid injury.
In an increasingly litigious society, it is imperative that teachers are aware of the law of negligence, how it is implemented and what is deemed as acceptable practice within their profession. (Newnham, 2000) For action in negligence to be bought against a teacher or government department, it must be established that a student was harmed as a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the activity; that is, a duty of care was not upheld. (Newnham, 2000) Additionally, it is imperative that schools and government departments can demonstrate comprehensive response strategies to common areas of concern and perceived risk including, but not limited to, bullying, suspicion of abuse or neglect, administering medical assistance and adequate supervision of students. The policy document must be proactively honoured by teaching professionals and schools, as merely having a Duty of Care document will not protect from litigation in the event of harm occurring. (Tronc, 2004, p.24) As indicated by Tronc (2004, p.24) it is, therefore, essential that the written policy not only be effective in managing the risk but be implemented and demonstrated in real terms in the school environment.
When discharging their duty of care responsibilities, teachers and schools