Suspension rates across Queensland have soared since the Newman Government changed laws in 2014.
Suspension rates across Queensland have soared since the Newman Government changed laws in 2014.

Principals abuse powers to make schools look good

SUSPENSIONS in Queensland schools are being misused, with difficult students sent home during assessment periods or school inspections, or to appease parents and unionised teachers, according to new research.

QUT education expert Linda Graham will on Tuesday release a paper exposing a significant spike in suspension rates since the Newman government changed legislation in 2014 to give principals more discretion to suspend students.

The study found the percentage of students being suspended had risen by more than double the rate of enrolment growth, with the biggest increases in Prep and Year 7 students.

Professor Graham warns that the escalating suspension rate is widening the "school to prison pipeline", with vulnerable students - including those with a disability, indigenous kids and those in out-of-home care - overrepresented in the statistics.

 

Principals are often in an invidious position — under pressure from angry teachers, parents and the union.
Principals are often in an invidious position — under pressure from angry teachers, parents and the union.

The research indicates that as a consequence of the new powers given to principals, who can also suspend students for longer, more children are being sent home for days or weeks for trivial reasons.

"Exclusions (suspensions) can be used by principals looking to improve their assessment data … or to remove non-compliant students during inspections," the paper says.

"Principals may also use exclusions as a warning to other students and to reassure parents and school staff that the school is firm on behaviour."

Professor Graham said suspensions were also being used to mollify teachers, who "have the power of union representation and the protection of occupational health and safety legislation".

But she said principals were often "in an invidious position: they are under pressure at times by angry teachers, by other children's parents, and … the union".



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