A NEW Student Behaviour Policy will be implemented across NSW public schools at the beginning of the 2024 school year, listing vaping and cyber bullying as grounds for suspension.
Around 500 teachers from 280 schools across the Hunter and Central Coast gathered at the NEX in Newcastle West on Monday, November 20 as part of a Student Behaviour Policy Roadshow to learn how to deliver the strategy from Term 1.
NSW Department of Education Deputy Secretary School Performance Cathy Brennan said the policy would bring clarity to how schools can best support students when dealing with behavioural challenges and the workshop was to demonstrate how.
"It's a combination of information - what has changed from the current policy to the policy they will implement from next year and bringing clarity to procedures around suspension and expulsion," she said.
The current policy allows for up to 20 days for an individual suspension, while the new policy outlines up to five days for Kindergarten to Year 2 and up to 10 days for Year 3 to 12.
"We know that any time away from school impacts a student's engagement and their sense of success as a learner, so even when a student is suspended we provide them with learning to ensure continuity," she said.
Coal Point Public School principal Melissa Trigg said a large break in learning wasn't beneficial for students and was pleased to see a reduction in suspension days.
"We do need that little bit of time to make arrangements to support our students, so lessening the days I think is really good because it reduces the amount of lost learning time," she said.
Mrs Brennan said an emerging concern for schools was underage vaping, which was being disciplined through smoking consequences, covered by the current policy.
"In the new procedures we have called out clearly that vaping, like smoking cigarettes is not acceptable because of the health risk and it's not legal for under 18 year-olds," she said.
"Principals have still been treating it as a similar concern to smoking but it's [new policy] that clarity when making decisions when looking at plans for an individual student."
She said it was important for principals and teachers to consider the individual student and school context when it comes to exercising discipline.
"When we're looking at particular behaviours that might be causing concern, the teachers will be working with that student, with their family, and then there'll be times where they need an extra system of support.
"We're also providing clarity about what that system support looks like in helping our students to be successful at school," she said.
"The important thing for us with this policy is that we have agreement with all of our partners in education that this is the way forward to best support our students."
The professional learning roadshows for public school staff have been developed in partnership with the NSW Teachers' Federation, NSW Primary Principals' Association, NSW Secondary Principals' Council and the Special Education Principals' & Leaders' Association.
These partner organisations collaborated with the Department of Education to review the Student Behaviour Policy after widespread feedback from teachers that it did not provide schools with authority to adequately manage disruptive student behaviour.
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