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Catholic schools unsure on pupil contact

With new child protection laws before State Parliament, the Catholic Church in NSW is yet to reach consensus with the Carr Government on the extent to which teachers are permitted to touch their students.

"We haven't arrived at sense yet . . . it does not address all of our concerns," spokesman for the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations, Michael McDonald said.

While a spokeswoman for Education Minister Andrew Refshauge said yesterday the legislation gave "certainty" to teachers in class, the Daily Telegraph reports that teacher groups say the legislation aimed at increasing teachers' authority and bolstering classroom discipline is unclear on physical contact.

Disagreement surrounds the definition of child abuse and whether it extends to teachers taking hold of a child's wrist or restraining a student during a playground fight.

While it appears teachers will be allowed to raise their voice to students without fear of it being labelled abuse, other incidents require clarification. Under changes to the Ombudsman Act and the Commission for Children and Young People Act, the term "child abuse" has been replaced with "reportable conduct" for behaviour requiring investigation.

As the Government's legislation faces amendment in the Upper House, today's Daily Telegraph says Catholic bishops have written to Mr Carr stating that interactions between teachers and students that do not cause risk or harm to a child should not have to be reported.

Teachers unsure on pupil contact (Daily Telegraph)

Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (NSW) | Child Protection
Catholic Education Commission, NSW

31 Oct 2003