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Boarding Ratios and Risk Management: Part One

It was Friday afternoon and students were streaming back into Devon house from school. Judith held the door as students rushed in out of the rain. Some had dodged the showers, and some were soaking wet. With the last of the stragglers coming up the lane Judith knew they had their full complement of 68 girls. Students were showering, changing, getting afternoon tea, watching TV and sitting in the foyer lounges texting and talking on phones. Other students were signing out on the Reach iPads and getting ready to leave, some for the weekend and some just for the afternoon. Judith could see Dana and Liz exchanging sharp words near the pool table and on the stairs sat young Anna, with her head down and eyes covered. Judith was torn between checking the girls who were leaving, separating Dana and Liz who were now yelling, and going to Anna. She looked around for help but Head of House, Mrs Skipton, was in front of her computer and on the phone. Andrea was also on duty, but she was taking Ruby to a medical appointment. Judith was feeling a sense of panic. She wondered, not for the first time, what was an adequate number of staff to supervise almost 70 girls.

The Standard Requires
The Boarding Standard for Australian schools and residences, under section 3.6 Care and Supervision of Boarders, has the following standard for staff to boarder ratios.
“Requirements relating to boarder care and supervision shall include: (3.6 b) Risk management processes used to determine ratios of trained staff to boarders for all circumstances.”

What Does this Mean?
To care for someone is to protect the person from harm and provide for needs. Supervision is the “act or function of overseeing someone”. In a boarding context ‘boarder care and supervision” is an active role where the staff member is a physically presence with the students and acting to provide care and supervision. it is unlikely that senior boarding staff engaged in administrative tasks would be considered supervising or involved in the act of overseeing someone. Likewise, boarding staff who are away from the boarding residence on an errand can hardly be considered as supervising the students.

The Standard notes ‘ratios of trained staff’ but does not specify the training required to be “trained staff”. In other parts of the Standard, training is described as “regularly trained in and regularly monitored in regard to their duty of care obligations” and “professional learning relevant to the role and context.”
The Standard infers that staff who are not trained are not considered in the ratio of staff to boarders.

The Standard also states “ratios of trained staff to boarders for all circumstances”. This is recognition that different circumstances will require different ratios.

The Standard details the requirements for the care and supervision of boarders, and is the minimum condition to ensure boarders are safe from harm and cared for. However most boarding schools and residences in Australia aspire to have sufficient staff, with the skills and training, to enable the holistic development of boarders and provide an optimal boarding experience. This will necessitate more staff than the number to provide basic care and supervision.

Factors to take into Account
In considering the ratio of staff to boarders the following issues must be considered:
1. Experience, qualifications and skills of staff (including First Aid qualifications),
2. Extra duties required of the staff in addition to supervision and program provision (e.g. sport or swimming supervision, meal preparation, transport to external sport, or health care, homework supervision, cleaning or laundry etc),
3. Age, maturity and gender (mixed or not) of students in Residence,
4. Number of students with high needs e.g. physical or behavioural disabilities,
5. The ability of boarders to self-manage,
6. Support staff available eg counsellor, nurse, admin support, bus driver, security staff, fulltime Head of Boarding/Residence Manager,
7. Physical structure and security of the Residence e.g. lockdown with fire release doors, on-duty security at nights, style and spread of buildings, hidden areas, open sight lines,
8. Residential environment e.g. remote, city, access to medical services, etc
9. The time of day and how this relates to student needs. When students are sleeping or when engaged in a well-structured routine, the same ratio may not be needed as on the weekend or when students return from school, through homework/prep time to lights out. Some times of the day require a lower staff to boarder ratio than others.

Doing the Risk Management
The standard states that the “requirements relating to boarder care and supervision shall include risk management processes used to determine ratios of trained staff to boarders. There is another Standard (ISO31000) that provides standards for risk management. This standard recommends that risk management be based on three core elements;
• A set of principles,
• A risk management framework, and
• A risk management process.
The risk management process can be used to determine ratios of trained staff to boarders. The risk management process contains seven steps – see the table below.

Note: This topic will be continued in the next Eflyer

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