2633 students suspended

STATE schools dished out suspensions to an average of 13 students a day across last year’s four terms.

While suspension figures in the state have declined in the past six years, Victoria University education Professor Roger Slee criticised the overuse of suspensions.

The method has been described by some academics as a violation of a child’s human rights.

Professor Slee will speak at today’s national summit in South Australia that will look at the management of student behaviours and will be overseen by National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell.

Professor Slee said the 2633 students suspended in 2013 _ representing 4.8 per cent of Tasmanian students _ was high.

“Suspension tells us not so much about student behaviour but more about the organisational climate and policies of schools,” Professor Slee said.

“If you want to affect student behaviour, the more you work on improving the quality of teaching, learning and engaging with the curriculum, and have decent surroundings for young people to be working in, there will be a much better effect than using punitive disciplinary sanctions.”

Students have previously been suspended mostly for physical abuse of students and teachers, followed by disobedience, verbal abuse, drug use, and sex or weapon-related issues.

Education Department secretary Colin Pettit said safety was a high priority in all schools, with suspension being a method to combat inappropriate behaviours.

“It is an unfortunate fact of life that serious inappropriate behaviour can occur in all parts of society, including our schools,” Mr Pettit said.

“We have in place a number of strategies to help combat unacceptable behaviour, of which suspension and exclusion are last resorts,” Mr Pettit said.

Last year, acting Children’s Commissioner Elizabeth Daly reviewed student suspensions and found they were ineffective because they failed to address underlying issues in children.

Her report states a majority of suspensions were given to males, of low socio-economic status, aged 14 to 15, and that the method increased anti-social behaviours and lowered academic achievements and retention rates.

National Summit organiser Dr Anna Sullivan said suspension could be viewed as a breach of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Dr Sullivan said the aim of the summit was to re-examine what happens in schools to see what can be done differently.

“If you respond with interventions like time-out, exclusions or suspensions, it isn’t going to help fix that problem and if you continually remove kids from their learning we are wondering if that breaches their right to an education,” Dr Sullivan said.

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