Monday, 4 April 2016

Expulsions on the rise

From the ABC

The number of Victorian primary school students being expelled has increased in the past year, raising concerns schools are ill-equipped to deal with acute behavioural issues.

Last year, 26 students were expelled from primary school and 172 from high school.

Both figures were the highest for the past three years, up from 13 primary school expulsions in 2014 and 144 secondary school expulsions.

The figures have alarmed representatives of Parents Victoria and the principal of The Pavilion school for students disengaged from mainstream education, Josie Howie.

Ms Howie said schools like The Pavilion only had to exist because the mainstream system was not resourced to support children with behavioural issues — who are often the most vulnerable students as well.

"From the two examples I can think of where students were expelled from primary school, one has died in a police pursuit and the other is incarcerated," Ms Howie said.

"It's pretty grim."

She said expulsion disproportionately affected the most vulnerable students in the school community.

"It absolutely disrupts the student's education ... then they're plonked into another school and they go there with a big target on their head saying, 'problem kid'," she said.

Ms Howie said she would like to see Australia adopt an education policy similar to Finland, where expulsion is not an option for primary school students.

"In countries like Finland they wouldn't consider giving up on a child," she said.

Victoria's Education Department considers expulsion a last resort and has mandated an opportunity for the student to be heard by the principal before a final decision is made.

The department's expulsion guidelines state that "a student's behaviour must also be of such magnitude that expulsion is the only available mechanism".

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said an inclusive education policy would support students with behavioural issues with the same dedication towards students with a disability.

She said a student's expulsion was often connected with traumatic experiences for the student, teachers and families involved.

"The cost impacts on the health and wellbeing on children, families and educators is a real issue for the Government," Ms McHardy said.

"The reality is some students are non-compliant and so how do schools manage that best?"

She said schools needed to focus on the causes for non-compliance in primary school students and provide greater access to psychologists and support services.

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