Page 725 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 8 March 2005

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it more acceptable but, as teachers, you see the same patterns recurring over and over again.

I appreciate what Mr Hargreaves said about the policies of this education department. I believe they are very well thought out and that, in many cases, they are working extremely well in schools, and they should be acknowledged. I am also aware that schools vary from place to place, that the student demographic changes and that under different leadership regimes a school that is dealing well with bullying one year may have real difficulties in another year. The different years can have a totally different character and flavour. When teachers talk about this, it could be, “This year’s Year 10 is great.” But with next year’s Year 10 it could be, “Oh, there are lots of behaviour problems in there.” These are the kinds of generalisations that get spoken about.

Ideally, if we were able to do it, we would have smaller classes, which would help make these issues easier to deal with, especially with children with identified behaviour problems. They would get counselling, and sometimes there might be particular issues that require more than just behaviour management. That is often the case. Ideally, as a teacher of at risk children, you would appreciate having more than one adult in the room. That is why I suggested we should go to the schools.

Behaviour management programs need to have the co-operation of parents. They need to be open processes: parents need to know how schools are dealing with these sorts of issues. An innovative approach might be to bring the parents of bullied and bullying students together, because we all have a natural tendency to want to see our child as blameless. I am not saying that “our” child is blameless but we need to see the child—if we are talking about the bullying situation between two children—in the right context. We need to work with the parents of the other child, if we can, because that is the way to break down things.

We must remember that children model themselves on the society in which they live, and their immediate family. I make the strong plea that we recognise that, often, a bullying child is an indication of a family in trouble, of some kind. Having been one, I think of sole parents who often are entirely responsible for the behaviour of their child and who often struggle without a break through all their child’s growth stages, some of which are not as pleasant as others, as I am sure we have all experienced. Therefore, a supportive society is important.

I also believe the socialisation of children is really important. I know most children have access to playgroups because that is when it starts. It starts with parents getting together, as they bring up their babies and their small children, talking about their problems, realising they are not alone, and sharing solutions. It requires that preschools work for parents and not just for the convenience of the department. I might have a bit of an issue there, which we will talk about later on, with the proposed changes to the way in which preschools in the ACT operate. The other thing of course, and it is something parents are finding very difficult to get at the moment—is accessible and good childcare. There just is not enough of it.

These processes are all part of placing the parent in the broader community and giving them the support they need through all the different life stages of their child. After-school care is important. I think it is a great shame that after-school care ends with

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