Page 2646 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 28 June 2011

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minister, what is occurring in these two schools to account for a suspension rate that is considerably higher than any other schools in the ACT?

MR BARR: In the first instance I need, I think, to correct a misinterpretation from Mr Doszpot. That figure related to suspension days, not number of students suspended. A student suspended for five days would count for five of those days, not five students. So I think that distinction does need to be drawn. I think the initial premise of the question needs to be drawn into some relief.

As I have indicated publicly in relation to this information, there are two important points: one, this Assembly agreed to strengthen the capacity for principals to suspend students who are not behaving appropriately in the school environment. We have seen some stern action to instil discipline in these schools, and it is across all ACT schools.

The second point is that suspensions and numbers of days of suspensions have decreased since this action was taken. We have seen from the beginning of the implementation of the new powers to the most recent data a significant drop in the number of suspensions and the number of days of suspensions. So it would appear, Mr Doszpot, that our bipartisan agreement to find an answer here has been effective.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary, Mr Doszpot?

MR DOSZPOT: Minister, why will it take until next term for a specialist worker skilled in dealing with troubled children to be appointed to Wanniassa?

MR BARR: That would probably relate to a recruitment matter and the availability of such staff. Of course each ACT government high school has a student welfare coordinator and pastoral care support teams that I think I have gone into in some detail in this place. They are of course augmented by a variety of other supports within the education system, some provided by the federal government. That has been a little topical in recent times in relation to the school chaplaincy program. Also, there are supports provided through partnerships with community and youth organisations and with ACT Policing in relation to a number of schools.

It is a locally based decision in terms of how those resources are deployed. But resources have been provided for pastoral care coordinators for every ACT public high school. Matters of recruitment are dealt with at a school level, largely, although there is a degree of system level recruitment as well.

But we believe that the changes that we are proposing through our reforms to increase autonomy for schools will reduce the amount of time that positions are vacant, because schools will be able to move more quickly themselves to fill vacancies.

MS HUNTER: A supplementary.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Hunter.

MS HUNTER: Minister, will the suspension support team model be extended to schools where there are a large number of students suspended?

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