Suspension list stigmatises public schools

The NT News has published data showing the number of students suspended in NT public schools. The AEU NT published the following in response:

The AEU NT disagrees with the decision by the NT News to publish suspension statistics individually naming – and effectively shaming – NT public schools.

Private schools have not been required to make their suspension data available, despite receiving in many cases very substantial amounts of public funding.

The effect of this is to needlessly stigmatise our public education system and the dedicated teachers, support staff and departmental officers who enable our public system to achieve great successes in difficult circumstances.

Use of suspension

Staff in public schools in the NT take great pride in the fact that our public system accepts and works with children of all backgrounds, from the most disadvantaged to those from affluent communities.

Suspension is a last resort for dealing with critical behaviour issues in all schools, public and private. Policy and practices around suspension always involve the safety and wellbeing of the student, other students and staff, and always include consultation and communication with students’ families.

The NT has a disproportionately large number of students who come from homes where they experience trauma and dysfunction, often with a direct causal link to socialising and behaviour problems at school.

School suspensions act as a form of ‘time out’, allowing the school, the student and their families to go through processes that can advantage the student upon return to the classroom. 

The actual objective is to reduce poor behaviour and improve engagement in classes; suspension is only one tool in achieving that.

A resourcing issue

There is clearly a need for greater investment of resources to assist in better managing the behaviour of the small minority of students who cause significant disruption in schools. 

The sweeping cuts to public education by the previous CLP government led directly to the cutting of hundreds of teaching and support positions, as well as numerous positive behaviour and re-engagement programs. While the Gunner Government has restored some of the funding, our public schools are resourced at a far lower level than they were in 2012.

Our union will continue to advocate for increased spending on education as central to reducing student misbehaviour.