This column was published in the NT Suns Newspapers on June 25 2019 under the title ‘Program plan a smart move’.
This was my final column for the Sun as it will no longer be printed. It has departed from the Northern Territory News stable.
I will continue to publish on my blog.
The NT Government’s reinstatement of the school based policing program is one of its smartest decisions. This is proof positive that governments are sometimes prepared to accept that not all decisions made, generate the best outcomes.
The School Based Policing program, introduced in the 1980’s, was a ‘top drawer’ initiative. Attached to high schools, each School Based Constable (SBC) had a number of feeder primary schools he or she attended. Constables would visit their schools to conduct Drug and Alcohol Education classes with children. They extended their role to include ‘stranger danger’ awareness and issues such as bullying.
The axing of the school based policing program from Territory schools was one of the worst decisions ever made. Judith Aisthorpe was absolutely right in reporting that when introduced to NT Schools in the 1980’s, “the program was heralded a success and adopted worldwide … the program in its original state was beneficial as it stopped crime and anti-social behaviour before it happened”. (Back to school for cops, NT News, 28/5/2018).
The dismantling of the School Based Policing program with the substitution of police station based ‘Youth Engagement Officers’, was tokenistic. As was forecast to happen, school programs lapsed, along with the contribution SBC’s made to the sharing of children’s learning and the development of positive attitudes. The absence of School Based Constables left a big hole in school support programs.
Fast forward twelve months, and Ms Aisthorpe has been able to write about the program in a far happier context. “The (reinstated) school based police program has been largely hailed as a success … schools, police officers and students (want) to see the program continue …” (School police praised but role ‘needs clarity’ NT News 15 June 2019).
Dripstone Middle School Principal Robyn Thorpe encapsulated positives of the program. “Being on site means (constables) can build positive relationships with students … staff and … community … that puts police in a positive frame rather than police being called in for negative reasons.” (Op cit). Senior Constable Dan Bull upheld the program for helping “… students deal with issues and problem solve hurdles they may have in the future.” (Op cit).
There is a need to train police to work with students. However, that may simply require the police training unit to dust off and reinstate the carefully designed training programs that were in place before the program was discontinued. There is no need to reinvent but simply revisit what was a part of the training regime. It is to be hoped the program regrows to include all NT schools.
Thank you to those many people who have read my column and offered me feedback during the past six years. Sharing contemporary educational issues with you has been my pleasure. You are always welcome to access my blog ‘Education a life force’ at henrygrayblog.wordpress.com