AS schools struggle to meet student demand for more counsellors, parents, teachers and principals have come together to voice their strong objection to the Department of Education’s mishandling of changes to the suspension and expulsion policy.
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A joint statement opposing the changes has been issued by the Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, the NSW Primary Principals’ Association and the NSW Teachers Federation.
Teachers Federation President Angelo Gavrielatos said the Department of Education developed its Student Behaviour Strategy without prior consultation with the Federation and well before public consultation began in August 2020.
“The policy rewrite intends to shift departmental responsibility to schools without the necessary additional support, funding and staffing,” Mr Gavrielatos said.
“Our schools need early intervention programs, the provision of additional qualified specialist teachers, including more school counsellors and support for parents and carers.”
“The Department of Education’s refusal to provide the necessary funding, staffing and infrastructure to manage student behaviour well before suspension, remains a significant barrier to meeting the social, learning, health and behaviour needs of our most vulnerable students.”
Mr Gavrielatos said the so-called public consultation was no more than cover for an already predetermined outcome.
New research highlights the urgent need for more school counsellors in NSW with 98 percent of teachers and 99 percent of principals saying the number of students with mental health issues has increased in the last three years.
The study also revealed a quarter of students are waiting more than four weeks for counsellor support.
The results are contained in a poll of over 5,300 teachers and principals conducted by the NSW Teachers Federation between September 24 and October 1.
On average, over one quarter of students wait more than four weeks to see a school counsellor. The figure rises to 48 per cent for students in need of support in primary schools.
Bushfires, drought and COVID-19 are significant contributing factors. Ninety-one per cent of respondents said the pandemic has led to an increase in children with mental health concerns at their school.
Mr Gavrielatos said the results were deeply concerning and the NSW Government needed to act.
By Sandra MOON