Page 3625 - Week 10 - Tuesday, 26 August 2008

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In 2006, the standing committee released an interim report setting out 10 recommendations. On 16 November 2006, the committee advised the Assembly that the scope of the inquiry would be extended to consider the management of bullying, harassment and violence in ACT government and non-government schools and invited new submissions and/or additional comments to previous submissions. The final report of the inquiry, containing 23 recommendations, was tabled in the Assembly on 10 April this year.

The government is agreeing with eight of the recommendations, agreeing in principle to three, agreeing in part to two and noting 10. Action to support some of the recommendations is already underway. For example, recommendation 1 seeks ACT government agreement to support the development and implementation of behaviour management programs for all ACT schools that are consistent with restorative practice principles. The Department of Education and Training has implemented up-to-date training for teachers in behaviour management strategies that include restorative practices. The department is currently investigating a data collection tool which will support schools in the collection of data about student management issues. The development of such a tool could further enhance the support provided to schools in the implementation of restorative practices.

Recommendation 6 seeks agreement to host an annual restorative practice forum, with a view to sharing knowledge, facilitating collaboration and developing high quality restorative practice approaches within education settings. The department has facilitated two annual conferences in 2006 and 2007 on this issue and will fund a further conference in 2008.

Recommendations 12 and 13 have a focus on the establishment and publication of interagency protocols and partnerships. The ACT safe schools task force will consider establishing interagency protocols to build upon partnerships and agreed processes that have been developed with agencies such as the Australian Federal Police and other government departments. The public is made aware of interagency partnerships through ongoing communication strategies.

The committee recommended that a classroom-based skills development program, consistent with restorative practice principles, be funded. The Department of Education and Training has sought quality evidence-based programs, and it currently provides training in programs and practices such as the friendly schools and families program, which encourages tolerance, responsibility and improves interpersonal skills and relationships.

Schools will continue to use a range of evidence-based strategies to address issues of bullying and harassment. However, the use of restorative practices, in which students are encouraged to accept responsibility for their actions and be held accountable, is certainly increasing. The department will continue to provide support and sustain a level of mentoring capacity amongst staff to maintain the effectiveness of this practice. Further discussions on pre-service training for teachers will be held with teacher training organisations.

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