Governance and management: various

What are the principal’s responsibilities in relation to the provision of guidance and counselling?

The school’s principal is required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that students get good guidance and counselling.

Education Act, section 77 – Legistaltion website

Where a principal becomes aware of matters that are in the principal’s opinion, preventing or slowing a student’s educational progress or harming a student’s relationships with teachers or other students, the principal is required to inform parents of these matters.

This is a complex area because of the potential clash of obligations between privacy and pastoral care. 

Student privacy needs to be carefully considered particularly if information is disclosed during counselling.

Key points are:

  • School counsellors are generally required, under the Health Information Privacy Code, to protect the privacy of information disclosed.
  • The Privacy Commissioner recommends that both the school’s counsellor and privacy officer attend training on the code.
  • The counsellor may also have professional obligations of confidentiality.
  • There are occasions when disclosure of personal information is permitted. The main reasons are when the student has given consent for the information to be disclosed or when failure to disclose would lead to an imminent and serious threat to the life or health of the student or any other person.
  • Where information has been gathered from some other source, for example a teacher’s report to the principal, the principal must inform the student’s parent(s) if the matter is slowing the student’s progress through school or harming the student’s relationships with teachers or other students.

See the website of the Privacy Commissioner for:

Health Information Privacy Code 1994

Privacy in Schools: A guide to the Privacy Act for principals, teachers, and boards of trustees 

Health privacy toolkit

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