This piece was published in the NT Sun on March 20 2018.




A recent Judith Aisthorpe article in the Northern Territory News (Schools battling bad eggs, March 4 2018) pointed out that the number of student suspensions from some schools has grown substantially in the last year or two. The same article also confirmed that 95% of all NT students meet school behavioural standards.

If this is the case then a small number of students are magnifying suspension statistics because of recidivist behaviour.

The behaviour of this minority has a significant impact on both classroom and school management. Disruptive behaviour has to be managed for the sake of pupils and to enable teachers to effectively do their job.

The staffing formula of schools supposedly take into account issues of children with special needs. Additional staff are factored into school staffing budgets to support students requiring extra assistance. Anecdotally, the amount available under budgeting arrangements for staffing allocation to schools does not satisfy all requests from schools needing this support.

The formula under which students are recognised for special needs provision have changed over time. The degree of challenge confronted by children now has to be more acute than was the case in years past. This places a responsibility on teachers and school principals to accomodate greater levels of special need within normal classroom contexts with a reduced number of support staff.

Into this mix has to be added the problems of managing aberrant student behaviour. Some misbehaviour is unavoidable and may be part of an inherent medical or social condition.

However, the issue of deliberate misbehaviour and gross disobedience can also be contrived by students. It is behaviour of this nature that has to be managed and quelled. Constant disruption has a significant impact on the learning opportunities of children. For the sake of the greater good, it can be necessary to suspend students who are not prepared to meet reasonable behavioural expectations.

When it comes to behaviour management, suspension is the last recourse and not the first option employed by schools. All schools have behaviour management policies with these being drawn to the attention of students and parents.

School principals who suspend students sincerely hope that they will learn from their mistakes and correct their behaviours. Every possible support, including engagement with parents, is offered. Suspension has to be an available disciplining option because it takes into account the needs of staff and other students.

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