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Department of Education Policy on Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse; Primary School Student-Teachers’ Knowledge and Confidence

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The introduction of a new departmental educational policy, such as the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse by teachers, has wide-ranging implications for both the lives of children and for the role of teachers. Some Departments also mandate that teachers know about the Policy itself, as is required in the state of Queensland, Australia. However, little is known, and little literature has been found, that measures what student-teachers know about their Department of Education’s Policy on child sexual abuse, and its mandatory reporting by teachers. The aim of this study is to examine student-teachers’ knowledge, and their confidence in the knowledge, of the Department of Education’s Policy on child sexual abuse and mandatory reporting. A graduating cohort of 52 Bachelor of Education (Primary School) studentteachers at a Queensland University volunteered Likert-scale quantitative, and open-ended qualitative, anonymous responses to a five-page questionnaire containing direct and inferred statements from the Policy. The results suggest that this group of student-teachers appear able to identify most of the items listed as part of the Policy. However, they appear uncertain about the limits of this Policy as it relates to general behaviour and to the behaviour of school employees. Further, the 27% who also provided open-ended responses were not reassuring about the extent to which they felt prepared by teacher-training for their role as mandatory reporters of sexual abuse. In the light of legal and departmental requirements that these student-teachers will be expected to report sexual abuse once employed in teaching positions in Primary Schools, the study’s outcomes support and confirm an international body of research concluding that much greater attention needs to be paid to delivering substantive and comprehensive pre-service preparatory courses to student-teachers, to enhance their knowledge, confidence and effectiveness in this new role.
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Keywords: child abuse; departmental policy; educational policy; mandatory reporting; schools; student-teachers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus 2: Griffith University, Mount Gravatt Campus

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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