TEACHERS say efforts to raise literacy and numeracy standards in the state's schools are futile until a glaring issue is dealt with — bad behaviour in the classroom.
One high school teacher from the state's southwest has spoken out, attracting strong support from across the teaching spectrum.
Speaking in his role as a Queensland Teachers Union representative, high school teacher Paul Cavanagh said politicians and parents needed to know the degree of the learning problem affecting well-behaved pupils.
The QTU, Queensland Association of State School Principals and the Queensland Secondary Principals Association all agreed behaviour was a critical and daily issue confronting staff and called for more support, especially from parents. Concerns have been raised about increasingly aggressive parents and a rising number of children with behavioural and mental health disorders. In a recent letter to federal Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne, Mr Cavanagh warned:
"Having students disrupting the learning environment is the No. 1 factor that is holding public schools back, in my opinion."
Mr Cavanagh, 30, who is on leave this term, told The Courier-Mail that while violent attacks on teachers often made headlines, smaller daily behavioural problems were critical.
"It is the major contributing factor behind student performance at the moment — how does anyone concentrate or learn well with the constant disruption that is happening and nothing is being done?" he said. "You get these lovely, quiet wonderful kids who are interested, who want to learn, and as a teacher it is heartbreaking to think that I can't spend more time helping those kids get from good to better because I am trying to get these uncontrollable kids to learn a bit of discipline. If I had a child of my own I would be so upset, not with the school or the teachers, but with other children to think that so much time was taken away from why my kids are there."
He said most parents really cared about their children's education and it was politicians he wanted to understand what was really happening in class-rooms, given the current focus on education.
Queensland Association of State School Principals president Hilary Backus said behaviour was "getting worse and it is getting more and more critical that schools and homes work together". Last year her organisation called for a co-ordinator at every primary school to deal with mental health, behaviour and social issues.
Queensland Secondary Principals Association president Norm Fuller said there was
"no doubt" behaviour was an issue, and there had been an increase in parents wanting to argue with staff and "take some matters into their own hands".
QTU president Kevin Bates said there had been an increase in more violent behaviour among children, but this was a reflection of the community, not schools, with some parents actively working against teachers on the issue.
He said Mr Cavanagh's frustrations were shared by many teachers, and called for more positive learning centres for pupils with behavioural issues.
Queensland Council of Parents and Citizens' Associations president Margaret Leary said schools needed to be responsible for teaching, and parents for social issues.
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said poor behaviour in school should not be tolerated, and urged parents to
"take responsibility for the behaviour of their children to help ensure that all Queensland students have the best education experience possible".
Education Queensland assistant director-general Sharon Mullins said the department had measures in place to help teachers manage challenging behaviour, including support staff, suspensions and exclusions. "Education Queensland expects parents to work in partnership with the school," she said.