Some members of the community can consider aspects of PDHPE, such as respectful relationships, child protection, sexuality and sexual health and drug education sensitive or controversial.

Controversial Issues in Schools Policy

The Department’s Controversial Issues in School Policy and Implementation Procedures (PDF 330KB) provide direction for the management of controversial issues in schools.

All schools in NSW are required to teach courses of study in accordance with the outcomes of syllabuses developed by NSW Education Standards Authority.

Some aspects of PDHPE may be viewed as sensitive or controversial, such as learning about abuse, child protection, drugs, respectful relationships, sexual health, sexuality, and violence.

Principals are responsible for the delivery of curriculum, school programs and activities, inclusive of the study of controversial issues. This includes the approval of content and supervision of activities delivered by external providers.

It is essential that principals maintain communication with parents and carers on teaching and learning programs, visiting speakers, external providers and other school activities, including student organised activities, in which controversial issues may be addressed.

Parents and carers need to be advised of the specific details of school activities, programs or events addressing controversial issues and the relevance to the curriculum and school programs and activities. Where advice is appropriate, it must be given prior to the occasion so parents and carers can provide consent or withdraw their child from a particular session(s) on controversial issues. The parental right to withdraw their child must be respected.

Source: Controversial Issues in Schools Policy Implementation Procedures (PDF 330KB)

Access and modify the sample PDHPE information letters to communicate with your school community about your teaching and learning programs.

Evaluation of school programs indicates that, where parents and carers have an understanding of the program, students’ learning is improved.

Where parents and carers indicate they wish to withdraw their child from a program it is useful to negotiate which parts of the program they are concerned about. Schools should implement a consultative process to ensure parents and carers have the opportunity to participate in discussions on both curriculum content and teaching and learning materials where appropriate to ascertain whether parts of the program need to be modified.

There are many misconceptions about what students learn about and how students learn in child protection education. Communication with parents and carers assists the community to better understand the content and aims of the programs.

Establishing how parents will be informed about programs and involved in consultation is a school-based decision.

Alternative learning must be provided to students withdrawn from a session involving controversial issues. Principals decide to use opt-out or opt-in forms to obtain parental permission. Factors to consider when using opt-out permission forms include

  • the link to the curriculum (NSW syllabus outcomes and content)
  • link to school programs, learning objectives and student needs
  • the number of students participating.

If a parent or carer calls the school to provide or deny consent to the particular activity, a written record of the call (including, date, time, caller, recipient and consent) must be kept accordance with section 6 of the procedures.

Teachers continually use their professional judgement to decide on the best strategies, resources and teaching and learning methods for any given situation.

Code of conduct

In making these judgements, teachers must take into account the age, maturity, health and other characteristics of children and young people. They must also be aware that their own conduct at all times, must be keeping with that specified in the department’s Code of Conduct and of their role and responsibilities pursuant to it.

Resilience research confirms that the presence of a caring adult in aspects of their lives is important in assisting students to overcome adversity and achieve at school.

Effective teaching in PDHPE relies on positive relationships that are developed in a professional manner. The teacher is, by the nature of their role, in a position of trust, authority and influence. Modelling respectful interactions is an important part of teacher and student interactions.

Establishing a trusting relationship between student and teacher supports effective teaching and learning. This relationship should focus on the needs of the student.

All staff have a responsibility to recognise and respond to safety, welfare or wellbeing concerns for children and young people and inform their principal or workplace manager.

Child protection and wellbeing

The Child Protection Policy: Responding to and reporting students at risk of harm sets out the roles and responsibilities of staff in relation to child protection including training, reporting on safety, and supporting children and young people, as well as monitoring, evaluation and reporting requirements.

All staff have a responsibility to recognise and respond to safety, welfare or wellbeing concerns for children and young people and inform their principal or workplace manager. The Mandatory Reporter Guide (MRG) can assist in making an informed decision regarding child protection concerns. It is the responsibility of principals and workplace managers to report suspected risk of significant harm concerns to the Family and Community Services (FACS) Child Protection Helpline.

More information is available on the Child Protection web pages.

Audiovisual materials (for example, videos, media clips) and interactive web-based content ( games, quizzes and websites) provide stimulus for class discussion or demonstrate curriculum content in a range of contexts.

Audiovisual material in schools – procedures for use

All audiovisual materials must be previewed prior to use with students. The reviewer should give particular consideration to the suitability of the material in the educational context and the age and maturity of the intended audience. Be sensitive to cultural protocols that may be relevant to certain members of intended audiences when previewing materials.

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Enforcement Act 1995 and associated amendment acts are the NSW legislation that complements the National Classification Scheme under which audiovisual materials are classified as G, PG, M and MA 15+.

The Department’s Audiovisual material in schools – procedures for use provides advice for schools with regard to the use of audiovisual material including films, videos, DVDs and computer games classified by the Classification Board and Classification Review Board.

The use of classified films, programs and computer games in schools requires the approval of the Principal. The Principal may delegate the approval of the use of C, P, G, and PG material to an executive member of staff but must not delegate approval relating to use of M and MA 15+ material.

This advice should also be applied to any approved school excursions or when external providers use audiovisual material as part of their programs.

Clips from web channels and platforms such as TedEd and YouTube can enhance teaching and learning. Be aware that YouTube is technically only for teens 13 and up, and what the site considers age-appropriate may not match classification standards or educational values.

Apply the advice from the Department’s Audiovisual material in schools – procedures for use before making decisions about the suitability of material for student use.

Sample questions used to review audiovisual and digital media materials may include:

  • What syllabus outcomes or content will be addressed, explored or complemented through use of this material?
  • In what ways is this material age-appropriate and inclusive?
  • What are the reasons you would use this material in a lesson or as part of a program? Could you deliver the lesson or content in another way?
  • Does the material value add to the lesson?
  • What key messages would you want students to take away from the material? Are these messages inclusive and in line with the NSW curriculum?
  • How might this material be viewed by your school community and should the community be informed before using the material?
  • How would you use this material to ensure quality teaching and learning?
Return to top of page Back to top