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Community & Business

19 March, 2022

Teacher’s union calls for rethink

A new student behaviour policy and procedure to be introduced in NSW public schools from term two has caused backlash from teachers.

The new ‘Student Behaviour Strategy’ has been contentious since July last year when the department of education first proposed changes to suspension and expulsion policies.

Teachers Federation deputy president Henry Rajendra said at the time, “federation, along with our principal colleagues and parents have called on the department to cease any further developments and announcements regarding the student behaviour policy and the suspension procedures until a negotiated outcome has been achieved.”

The federation said the policy failed to protect the rights of students and teachers to engage in classroom environments free of persistent and sustained disruption. Of key concern is the reduction in suspension time length and new rules preventing students from being sent home more than three times a year.

“Behaviour management in our schools is one of the most important aspects of providing quality education and we need to get it right,” said minister for education Sarah Mitchell.

“We know that what is currently happening is not working as too many students, particularly those with learning difficulties or from low socio-economic backgrounds, are suspended and do not receive the support they need.”

However, teachers are not convinced, with Gilgandra Teacher’s Federation representative Bree Patten saying the policy undermines schools’ abilities to keep their schools safe. In a statement to The Gilgandra Weekly Ms Patten said the policy is another attack on the public school system as teachers face lack of staffing and funding concerns.

“The new policy is about data suppression, shifting the blame and putting blame on individual schools, and not the government’s long standing neglect and failure.”

Ms Patten said suspensions are only used by schools once available resources have been utilised and that they provide time for schools to put new supports in place to ensure students can return to classrooms safely. Also of concern to Ms Patten was the removal of language outlining student rights, which can be found in previous policies.

“The clause all students have the right to be treated fairly and with dignity in an environment free from disruption, intimidation, harassment and discrimination is missing in the proposed policy, suggesting we no longer have these rights.

“The government is failing to meet the learning, health, and social needs of all students.”

The department of education’s website says the changes will bring improvements for students and staff in NSW public schools. The policy is part of the inclusive, engaging, and respectful schools iniative.

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