‘…becouse suspension dosent teatch you anything’
UnitingCare Children, Young People and Families’ (UnitingCare CYPF) has released in-depth research on school suspensions, which finds suspension isn’t the solution to engaging students with challenging behaviours and urgently needs review.
The research includes analysis of NSW Department of Education and Communities’ annual data over the past six years, including recently released 2011 data, as well as a policy paper and small scale study on the suspension experiences of 12-14 year olds.
The data shows between 2006 and 2011, the total number of long suspensions (5-20 days) across all grades had increased by 36%. In 2011, more than a quarter (27.5 %) of students who received a long suspension were suspended again during the same year.
“The figures are concerning,” said Karen Bevan, Director Social Justice for UnitingCare CYPF.
“Despite the higher frequency of suspensions, all evidence suggests that school suspension simply does not work. It is not effective in changing students’ behaviour because it doesn’t address the underlying issues that lead to the behaviours which result in suspension in the first place.”
Ms Bevan said some of our most disadvantaged students, including children and young people who have experienced out-of-home care, Aboriginal children and young people, and children with disabilities, are represented in disproportionately high numbers in school suspension rates. In 2011 for example, almost a quarter (23%) of the students suspended for more than 4 days were from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
The young people who participated in UnitingCare CYPF’s study showed a great deal on insight into their situation, suggesting in-school suspension may be a more appropriate and effective response to students’ challenging behaviours.
This is consistent with research evidence, which indicates in-school suspensions that have a learning component attached are an effective alternative to out-of-school suspension, particularly when combined with increased support such as counselling.
“The information we received through our services across NSW and working with the most vulnerable continues to be that these children and young people are not receiving structured responses to their needs and that suspension is not an effective response to the issues that lead to challenging behaviours,” Ms Bevan said.
“Ultimately there are better ways to ensure disadvantaged children and young people do not disengage from education. Early intervention, which could prevent them from being alienated or excluded from school is essential, and a government review of suspension policy is urgently required.”