A RECORD number of suspensions have been handed out to violent and unruly Prep[Pre-schooler] students as principals warn that boys who aren't ready for school should be held back. More than 580 suspensions were issued to state school Preps last year — up from 406 in 2011.
The four- to six-year-olds were suspended for behaviours including kicking, punching, biting, scratching, throwing objects, swearing, leaving supervised areas and disobedience. Violent behaviour was behind 440 of the suspensions and 95 involved weapons or "objects". Most — 504 of the 582 suspensions — were issued to boys. Early Childhood Teachers Association president Kim Walters said she believed there was a link between the suspension jump and the introduction of the Australian Curriculum, which had resulted in less play-based and more focused learning in state schools.
She said boys who had not been to kindergarten struggled.
"A lot of the focused learning is full group, which assumes everyone is on the same page at the same level of understanding and they are not," Ms Walters said. "So the children that aren't, are sitting there bored because they don't understand what is going on. We are putting the children into a situation which leads them to have higher anxiety levels, higher disconnection, higher stress levels. Therefore, the ones that aren't coping with that are acting out in the only way they can — in a violent way."
Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said she thought there was a correlation between rising Prep suspensions and higher curriculum expectations. But she said there were other issues including ADHD and family dynamics, which could play a part.
"I think it relates very much to readiness for learning and readiness for group engagement," Mrs Backus said.
She said in NSW, younger boys born in April, May or June were often held back because they were not ready.
Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said children experienced fatigue in Prep, which could lead to bad behaviour.
"Students are coming into their school and ... are having difficulty adjusting on a full-time basis because, of course, in preschool days they would be there for half days or they would only be there a couple of days a week," Mr Bates said.
Department of Education, Training and Employment assistant director-general Marg Pethiyagoda said the suspension increase could not be contributed to any single factor and there was no evidence the Australian Curriculum had played a part. She said the 582 suspensions were issued to 317 students — 270 boys and 47 girls.
"Education Queensland allows parents to delay their child's entry to Prep if it's in the best educational interests of the child, so long as they commence schooling by the age of 6 and a half years," she said. "When starting school, children need to be able to cope with a range of social and emotional situations,"
"Although there is no data held by the Department to provide insight into why there has been an increase in the incidents of suspension of Prep students, regional staff work with individual school principals to address any significant increase in the school's suspension data."