Framework in place to ensure well-being of students: MOE

Practices adopted by schools include the careful selection of coaches and instructors, letting them know the expected dos and don'ts at the start of the school year and getting teachers to oversee training sessions.
Practices adopted by schools include the careful selection of coaches and instructors, letting them know the expected dos and don'ts at the start of the school year and getting teachers to oversee training sessions. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The Ministry of Education (MOE) said it has in place practices to ensure that students' physical and emotional well-being are taken care of while they take part in co-curricular and enrichment activities.

These include the careful selection of coaches and instructors, letting them know the expected dos and don'ts at the start of the school year and getting teachers to oversee training sessions, a spokesman said.

The reassurance that schools have such ongoing efforts comes in the wake of a handful of reported cases of sexual offences by external coaches against students in recent years.

In the most recently reported case on Nov 21, a 59-year-old rope-skipping coach was accused of various offences from 2008 to 2010, including statutory rape and sexual penetration of a minor. He got to know the alleged victim in 2006 when she was 11 years old, when he was appointed to coach her primary school's rope-skipping team.

In another case, in 2013, a secondary school basketball coach allegedly sodomised and performed oral sex on a 13-year-old in his condominium. The verdict for the case will be delivered on Friday.

A spokesman for MOE said that instructors and coaches play a role in the students' holistic development.

CLEAR BOUNDARIES

Teachers are always present during CCA training sessions. Coaches are also reminded that all communication with students should go through the teachers and not directly with individual students.

BEATTY SECONDARY SCHOOL PRINCIPAL LING KHOON CHOW, on how the school ensures its students are looked after during co-curricular activities.

Principals said their schools have stringent processes in hiring external coaches.

Madam Rasidah Rahim, principal of Queenstown Secondary School, said her school conducts background checks on all coaches before hiring them.

The head of department for co-curricular activities (CCAs) also shares the school's expectations with coaches and instructors at the beginning of the year, she said, adding that the head of department also checks in on CCA sessions during regular walkabouts.

"In addition, we expect teachers to be present during all CCA sessions, and the teachers also assist us in monitoring the coaches during CCA sessions," she said.

Beatty Secondary School principal Ling Khoon Chow said he meets all coaches at the start of the year to let them know the school's directions and its emphasis on developing values through CCAs.

"At the same time, the coaches are briefed and reminded on the expected standards of conduct and dos and don'ts when dealing with students," he said.

"Teachers are always present during CCA training sessions. Coaches are also reminded that all communication with students should go through the teachers and not directly with individual students."

MOE has also been more stringent with the qualifications and quality of external instructors in recent years.

Since January 2015, instructors offering CCAs and enrichment programmes to schools have had to register with MOE. The activities can range from sports to arts CCAs to other events such as overseas trips and camps.

From January next year, all MOE-registered physical sports CCA coaches in schools will also need to obtain at least a provisional membership with the National Registry of Coaches, a database of coaches who have been fully certified under the Singapore Coach Excellence Programme.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on December 03, 2017, with the headline 'Framework in place to ensure well-being of students: MOE'. Print Edition | Subscribe