Making a difference

A case study in relationships education

At Adelaide West Special Education Centre, Positive Behaviour Support and Child Protection focused teaching are at the centre of relationships education.

Teacher, Lesley Coy has adapted the South Australian Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum (KS:CPC) to meet the needs of children and staff at the school.

The R:12 school specialises in the education of students with physical and associated disabilities and complex communication needs. There are nine classes comprising approximately 64 children in all.

Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum

The KS:CPC is mandated at all South Australian Department for Education sites for children and young people from age 3 to year 12. It’s a requirement that the approved child protection curriculum will be taught by staff who have received training in its use. Teachers must complete the full day training course before delivering the KS:CPC to children and young people.

Key elements

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that mainstream education programs about respectful sexual relationships are often inaccessible to students with disability making it more difficult for some to identify and speak up about abuse. In South Australia, the needs of this cohort were identified within the Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum with the publication of Support materials: disability and additional needs.

This document emphasises that “Students with high support needs will need more explicit and systematic teaching of skills and associated understandings which include:

  • Skills for appropriate behaviour (pro-social and interacting skills)
  • Decision-making skills (skills about making choices)
  • Understandings about the right to safety, privacy and dignity in all relationships
  • Skills in discriminating between appropriate times for compliance and times for asserting personal choices
  • Skills for recognising abusive situations
  • Communication skills to facilitate rejecting (saying NO), protesting and reporting abuse.'

Adelaide West Special Education Centre

The curriculum at Adelaide West has been adapted to address students' individual needs.

The program is delivered around the four topics in relationships curriculum that drive learning and teaching. These are:

  • The right to be safe
  • Relationships
  • Recognising and reporting abuse
  • Protective strategies

The Adelaide West Way

A key consideration in facilitating content within the KS:CPC topics is that students have widely differing needs. For example, some students may need additional support in building relationships, recognising boundaries, emotional self-regulation or recognising situational cues.

Delivery of the program at the school is contingent on the following KS:CPC elements:

  • Parent/caregiver involvement in the program
  • The language of safety (respectful)
  • Closing the session (allow for discussion and end each session in a positive way)
  • Multimedia use
  • Use of guest speakers on appropriate topics
  • Developing and reviewing networks (Circles of support)
  • Expectation of persistence
  • Learning self-protection

A typical lesson

Lesley teaches KS:CPC once a week with a lesson typically lasting about 45 minutes.


  • In order to engage students with disabilities – some with short attention spans, who struggle to sit, to listen, to participate and be ready for learning - lessons need to follow predictable patterns.
  • Some students may learn over a term and quickly settle into lessons, others may need a breakdown of activities in the form of a visual schedule with tick boxes.


The structure for a typical KS:CPC lesson is often summarised as a checklist for students to provide predictability and a sense of student agency as they check off the activities during the class.

  • Warm-up song
  • PowerPoint
  • Story
  • Cut and paste
  • Relaxation


Each unit of work is put on presentation slides – this includes the topic with individual weekly lessons – that are all connected to the sub-topics. This provides students with a visual purpose and staff members with a sense of shared direction.

"The purpose of the lesson is always stated: I use WALT. Eg We Are Learning To understand different feelings (Years R – 2 FA1 The right to be safe) or We Are Learning To define what public and private is (Years 6-9 FA3 Recognising and reporting abuse)."

Lesley incorporates stories, games, role plays, worksheets and media clips. One example of a game that is used is Spaghetti Head – the students and adults need to trust the others to poke (uncooked) spaghetti in their hair without poking them in the ears or eyes.

"We take photos and put them into their books – students love looking at themselves and the activities they have done in KS:CPC and the photos can be used for writing and reflection activities. We always finish on a positive note with guided meditation."

Pedagogy and recommended learning strategies

The KS:CPC program was reviewed and refined in 2013 and further updated in 2017 to strengthen the child safety concepts and structure.

The most effective pedagogy for delivery of this type of curriculum (for all students) includes a strong focus on collaborative learning. This is because students develop better skills if they can practise communication activities with their peers in a safe and responsive environment with teachers supporting them.

Some of the learning strategies which Lesley and her colleagues use include:

  • Pair swaps
  • Knee-to-knee activity (or side-by-side)
  • Role play
  • Y chart, T chart, X chart
  • Concept or mind mapping
  • Lotus diagram
  • Modified jigsaw diagram
  • Values walk or vales continuum (with ‘Thumbs up’ options)
  • Placemat activity
  • Brainstorming
  • Relaxation
  • Problem solving
  • Teachable moments
  • Using songs and stories
  • Critical literacy in using electronic and print media’
  • Drawing and scribing
  • Persona dolls
  • Relationship circles

For some further ideas about strategies that might be effectively used in relationships education, see the Teaching and Learning Strategies Overview provided by the Western Australian website Growing and Developing Healthy Relationships, where some of the strategies mentioned on this page are described in detail. You will need to decide what is most appropriate for use in your own context.



Adelaide West is a school specialising in the education of students with complex communication needs.

Students use a range of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems including; PODD books, Proloquo2Go and Eye Gaze systems. This diversity necessitates a lot of adaptation of teaching activities. Lesley has described the Communication Assessment Reporting that she uses at the school:

  1. Know your students and make adjustments. This might include diversification and differentiation of actual activities with some students completing a posting or glueing activity, or using an App, one or two sitting apart from the group or alone in a quiet place. Others may sit in a group setting, to watch media clips, sing songs, listen to stories and complete written reflections.
  2. How will my students communicate their responses? Teachers use the PODD a lot to provide vocabulary, and check that they and the students are on the same page.
  3. Teachers compile their reports based on each child’s learning plan. Resources and activities used within the KS:CPC are linked to some of the intended outcomes in each students’ learning plan.

Associated school programs

Positive Behaviour Intervention and Support (PBIS) is a program which Adelaide West Special Education Centre has committed to.

There are three main expectations of all people at centre:

  • "I am safe"
  • "I am friendly"
  • "I am respectful"

Explicit examples of what behaviour looks like for each of these expectations are used to model preferred behaviour – creating a focus on desirable behaviours at school. The positive language associated with these expectations is also embedded within the communication modes such as the AAC used at the centre.

The whole school focuses on one statement each week and reminds students of what this may look like in class lessons daily. This is reinforced by all school staff. For example, when the weekly statement was “I am safe”, “I am OK” the whole school practised the series of statements: “I am OK”, “I can calm down”, “I can take deep breaths” during the end of the day assembly every day.

The PBIS program is having an appreciable impact on the incidences of inappropriate behaviours in the school and links well with some of the content areas of the KS:CPC.

‘We’ve had a significant increase in use of positive language, talking to students and about students. We’ve had a decrease in behavioural incident reports.’ (Lorna Fenech, Adelaide West Special Education Centre Principal)
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Lesley's resources

Lesley has compiled the following lists of resources that she uses in her program at Adelaide West. You might also find it useful to search music streaming platforms for guided meditation tracks for children.


  • Choose one song that you will use for the year to start your teaching in this area.
  • Give your class about 5 minutes notice that the safety lesson will be starting.
  • When the 5 minutes are up, start your song. Some students will automatically move to the whole group desk area while others will need guiding or a visual prompt to sit with the group.

Provides for the learner

  • Routines for stability and order
  • Repetition for learning (strengthens connections within the brain)
  • Predictability – provides safety for the learner

Note: These videos are suggestions only. Always review videos first to determine suitability for your students.

Reception – Lower primary

Body parts song for kids - This is me! by ELF Kids videos

This teaches the body parts and also number counting.

The Parts of You and Me

This teaches parts of the body and the active verbs associated with each part. For example, “seeing” is associated with the eyes.

How are you?

This teaches different emotions. You can use visuals on sticks or puppets of emotions in the song for students to hold up at the appropriate time in the song.

Upper primary

The feelings song

This teaches that there are a variety of emotions and that they all have a place.

Body parts



  • Felix and Alexander by Terry Denton
  • Franklin is lost by Paulette Bourgeois & Brenda Clark
  • I Don’t Want to Go to School by Nancy Panda
  • Hattie and the Fox  by Mem Fox
  • I’m Not Going Out There by Paul Bright
  • Fearless  by Colin Thompson
  • Mr Jelly by Roger Hargreaves
  • Jellylegs  by Colion Varney
  • Little Red Riding Hood  by Mara Alperin and Loretta Schauer
  • Bear & Chook by Lisa Shanahan and Emma Quay
  • Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen


  • One Duck Stuck  by Phillis Root

  • Home at Last – The Adventures of Joey Grey by Kerry Kitzelman and Steve Parish

  • Sebastian lives in a Hat by Thelma Catterwell

  • Mutt Dog! by Stephen Michael King

  • My Mouth is a Volcano  by Julia Cook

  • The Sneetches by Dr Seuss

  • The Juice Box Bully by Bob Samson and Maria Dismondy

  • Alexander and the wind-up mouse by Leo Lionni

  • Clean Your Room, Harvey Moon! by Pat Cummings

  • Home, Sweet Home (on Twinkl)


  • Personal Space Camp by Julia Cook

  • Mutt dog! by Stephen Michael King

  • The Recess Queen  by Alexis O'Neill and Laura Huliska-Beith

  • I feel scared when Mum and Dad fight by Tess Rowley and Rhiannon McLay


  • The Lighthouse Keepers Catastrophe by Ronda and David Armitage

  • Jasmine’s Butterflies by Justine O’Malley