Crackdown targets violent Preps
OUT-OF-CONTROL four and five-year-olds are being suspended from Prep classes in a crackdown on school violence. Education authorities say they have been forced to suspend the pint-sized problem pupils to protect teachers, who have been kicked, bitten and hit. The students also have thrown objects and assaulted classmates.
But experts are divided on whether suspension is the best way to stem violent Prep behaviour. Most agree that parents and society also are to blame.
Minutes obtained by The Courier-Mail show "increasing concern with violence in Prep year" was raised by a Department of Education committee last year when discussing a State wide Behaviour Action Plan which had been handed to State Cabinet. The committee — the Reference Group for Behaviour Support Initiatives — called for the "physical abuse of teachers by Prep year students" to be addressed.
Education Department assistant director-general of student services Patrea Walton confirmed this week there had been an increase in Prep violence, with suspensions being used as a last resort in a small number of cases.
"We need to make sure that our students, our children and staff are safe, so yes, there does need to be measures in place to ensure that," she said.
She said suspensions weren't recommended under the former preschool program but increasing student numbers had led to rising violence and teachers needed support.
"Principals make those decisions based on the evidence before them at the time and, if the behaviour is considered to be unacceptable, the principal makes the decision to suspend the child," she said. "Putting teachers and other children, putting their safety at risk, is totally unacceptable."
Queensland Teachers Union president Steve Ryan agreed the suspensions were necessary. He said parents also needed to be responsible for their children as Prep teachers had to deal with incidents such as students throwing furniture and disrupting other students' learning.
Professor Ross Homel, a director of early intervention Pathways to Prevention program, said he too had dealt with out-of-control four-year-olds failing even remedial behaviour programs, many of whom came from financially stressed homes where parents didn't have the time, or sometimes knowledge, to properly discipline children.
But he said suspending a child was only letting them down after they had already been failed, often by parents and society.
There has been a rise in suspensions across the school sector since 2005. More than 55,000 were handed out in state schools between July 2007 and June 2008 alone.
The Education Department was unable to provide exact figures for the number of Prep students suspended. None have been expelled.