Flexibility for principals, fairer suspension rules and more support for students and teachers are the major focus of a draft NSW schools behaviour strategy released by the NSW Nationals in the state government.
NSW Nationals Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the strategy will support teachers to manage complex behaviour and improve the long term educational outcomes for some of our most disadvantaged students.
“We need a behaviour system in our schools that considers a student’s circumstances to help them stay engaged in school and their education,” Ms Mitchell said.
“We will be empowering schools to increase proactive early intervention and prevention, balanced with strong and appropriate discipline using evidence based best practice to support students inside and outside of the school gate.
“Student behaviour has sat in the too hard basket for too long and the best tool for success we can give these students is a world class education.”
Ms Mitchell said she wanted to see suspension for K-2 students limited to instances of physical violence and the maximum length of long suspensions halved from 20 to 10 days to break the cycle of suspension.
“This strategy gives principals more power to make the right decisions based on the student’s situation,” Ms Mitchell said.
“We know that suspension disproportionately affects vulnerable students, particularly those with disability, leaving them even further behind in their education than they were at the beginning of the suspension.”
Schools will be asked to provide work for suspended students to learn from home and check in with students daily and provide more opportunity for in-school suspension.
“Managing behaviours in the classroom is a complex task which is why this strategy is now out for extensive workshopping and in-school testing to make sure we get this right and give our schools the support they need,” Ms Mitchell added.
The Advocate for Children and Young People, Ms Zoë Robinson, welcomed the reform to school suspensions and increased support through new positions and training.
“This reform is a positive step in responding to and meeting the needs of children and young people in NSW,” Ms Robinson said.
“We have heard feedback from more than 32,000 children and young people in NSW and time and time again they have told us that long suspension periods have a detrimental effect on them.
“Children and young people have asked that their individual circumstances are taken into consideration and this reform supports that.”
The consultation period runs to the end of Term 3 with the final strategy to be revised and implemented for Term 1, 2021.