Page 4576 - Week 12 - Thursday, 15 October 2009

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These people represent principals, parents and teachers, and all of them support what the government was trying to do to help counter unsafe practices in schools. It is disappointing that the opposition did not even bother to consult with them. They did not seek their views. And why was this the case? Mr Doszpot indicated on radio that he needed my permission to talk with those organisations. I am prepared to give Mr Doszpot the benefit of the doubt that it was ignorance rather than a wilful misleading of Ross Solly. He does not need my permission to consult with an association representing a group of professionals. There are guidelines for members visiting schools. That is entirely different from seeking a meeting with an association, with the P&C, with the Catholic Education Office. That is available for Mr Doszpot. (Time expired.)

MR SPEAKER: Before we proceed with further supplementary questions, Mr Barr, I remind you of standing order 52 and reflection upon votes. Ms Hunter, a supplementary question?

MS HUNTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Barr, what assistance is given to schools to ensure that there can be a whole range of activities to alleviate or to counter effects of bullying in school, that is around building culture and other programs that could be run?

MR BARR: I thank Ms Hunter for the question. There are indeed a range of support mechanisms in place. Each government high school has a pastoral care coordinator who works with a youth support worker, and in some instances even a chaplain is located within ACT government schools. There is a student behaviour management unit that sits behind those teams within each school that is supported within the education department, and in addition to that there are a range of professional development programs and opportunities available for school leaders—principals, deputy principals, faculty heads—and then programs of support available for individual teachers.

The ACT has a comprehensive suite of programs in place to assist teachers, school leaders and youth support workers to deal with difficult and challenging behaviours in our school environment. What principals and others were seeking through the amendments that the government brought forward that were part of a detailed consideration of how to progress these matters in a legal sense and also in a practical sense on the ground was greater flexibility. It is disappointing, as I have indicated, that we were not able to reach agreement on this matter. But I do advise the Assembly that at the earliest possible opportunity the government seeks to reintroduce this matter to the Assembly and I believe there might be the prospect, if other parties are prepared to adjust their position somewhat and negotiate, that we can see an agreed outcome.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Doszpot, a supplementary question?

MR DOSZPOT: Minister, what measures are there currently in place to require that students suspended for bullying undergo counselling prior to returning?

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