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Duty of care at school or daycare - Who is responsible?

What duty of care do teachers and carers have towards your children?

Every parent hopes that child’s time at daycare and school will be an adventure filled with learning, play and new experiences. Children can’t (and shouldn’t!) be shielded from every bump and bruise but ultimately, carers and teachers must do what they can to protect them from serious injury. This significant responsibility is not only a moral imperative, it’s a matter of law.

Who is responsible for your children?

While on duty, carers and teachers have a 'duty of care' for the children they are entrusted with. Although it will ordinarily be the employer who will be legally liable for mistakes, teachers and carers will face consequences for serious breaches.

The question of whether a duty of care is owed towards children on school grounds before or after school is more complicated. The answer will usually be yes, if the school knew and allowed this to happen.

What is the duty of care owed?

Owing a duty of care doesn’t automatically mean schools or daycares are liable for any and all harm which occurs on their watch. Accidents are a fact of life, especially where large groups of playful children are involved, and some injuries are no one’s fault. Applying the ordinary principles of negligence, the injury or harm must have been both reasonably foreseeable and caused by a failure to observe a reasonable standard of care. Teachers and carers aren’t expected to be supermen and women, but they are expected to take sufficient steps to protect their charges against reasonably foreseeable risks. In some states and territories, the government has introduced legislation which raises this bar even higher.

In practical terms, schools and daycares have a duty to provide safe and adequately supervised school grounds, take reasonable safety precautions during activities like sport and, to a certain extent, protect children from their own immaturity and the behaviour of other children.

What are your rights?

If your child has been seriously injured at school or daycare because of their teacher or carer’s negligence, you may be able to claim compensation for their suffering and medical expenses. Shine Lawyers’ team of friendly, approachable lawyers can walk you through you your options with a No Win No Fee basis.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: January 15, 2021.

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