Legal: Just who exactly needs a blue card?
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 7, 2 October 2020, page no.27
In the last Journal, we looked at some aspects of the blue card regime changes that came into force on 31 August. This time, we will set out who needs a card or exemption under the new rules as they relate to schools and education centres across Queensland.
The nature of this system means there will always be individual cases that sit in a “grey area” or which can’t be easily categorised.
In those instances, the old faithful piece of advice “when in doubt…” kicks in, and principals and their delegates are encouraged to seek advice from Blue Card Services and to make sure they get a written record of the advice they receive.
It’s tempting to answer the question of who needs a blue card with “everyone”. Of course, that is not quite true, but the categories that do far outnumber those that don’t.
All departmental employees who work with children and young people must hold a blue card (or an exemption card for registered teachers).
The act says they need the card if they are likely to work more than seven days in a calendar year, but the department has (quite sensibly in our view) decided that all school-based employees will likely meet this threshold.
This means that all paid employees, such as teacher-aides, cleaners, admin staff, contracted music instructors, community teachers and even a registered health professional working in a different role, will require a blue card.
Those who generally don’t need cards are registered teachers who have a current registration with the Queensland College of Teachers and any health practitioner who has current registration with the AHPRA who works with children as part of their professional duties1.
All volunteers aged 18 and older (unless they are a parent of a student) must hold a blue card before they can start work. A volunteer under 18 does not require a blue card (unless they are a trainee student doing a practical placement).
Section 390 of the act defines a parent as mother, father or someone else having parental responsibility (on a permanent basis) for the child. Parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are people who under either tradition are regarded as a parent of the child.
Parents volunteering in sporting or recreational activities with their own child’s school do not require a blue card. As mentioned earlier, when in doubt, contact Blue Card Services.
A school crossing supervisor (lollipop person to you and me) is in regulated employment under the act and will need a blue card2.
Generally, external contractors are not required to have a blue card, but if their work at the school requires them to work with children they will most likely be required to have one.
NDIS funded service providers delivering support at school during school hours, at the request of the parent and with the agreement of the school principal, require a blue card.
If regional or corporate office staff are likely to work with children more than seven days in a calendar year, they also must have a blue card before they commence working with children.
Some P&C members do need a card. This depends on factors such as their membership type and the services for which they are responsible, in particular whether the P&C is responsible for the provision of outside school hours care (OSHC)3.
All kindergarten services delivered by the state (SDK) are subject to blue card regulations and requirements under this category.
Importantly, when the kindergarten is physically located inside a broader school there are several ways the blue card regulations will apply. If a kindergarten program is delivered in a composite class setting, it’s likely that every teacher who works at the school while kindergarten children are there must have an exemption card. All other staff will need a blue card.
If the kindergarten is fenced off from the school and physically separate, teachers who work in the broader school only will not be required to hold an exemption card.
Finally, non-teaching employees whose usual work is in a boarding facility at a school will require a blue card, and anyone providing a child accommodation service (including homestay) requires a card.
Partner, Holding Redlich
- QCoT and AHPRA, rather than Blue Card Services, remain responsible for screening and monitoring registered teachers and health practitioners
- Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR). TMR are responsible for the blue card compliance of school crossing supervisors.
- P&Cs are responsible for the blue card requirements of their members.