Spotlight on school suspensions: Punishment no longer effective

ORANGE residents overwhelmingly agree with a study released by Uniting Care that suggests out of school suspensions do not work to curb children’s behaviour. 

The study showed school suspensions rose by more than a third over the past six years.

In Orange on average more than three children per week were given long term suspensions from public schools last year. 

Figures from the Department of Education and Communities show Orange schools handed out 173 suspensions of between four and 20 days.

Orange residents lashed out at the practice with suggestions students saw suspensions as an excuse for a holiday. 

The Uniting Care study said the results show there was no evidence that suspensions improved behaviour. The study showed disadvantaged students in particular fall behind with some losing up to five weeks of school.

One Orange school initiated a plan to combat the problem.

James Sheahan Catholic High School principal Mark Paushmann said the school devised a way in which a student could be removed from the school community but would not loose a second of learning time.

“Each day a student is suspended they are required to make up that time with either a couple of afternoons or come in on a Saturday or a pupil free day,” Mr Paushmann said.

“They might think oh well I get a day off but they don’t because they have to miss out in the future and it has anecdotally reduced the number given out.”

Mr Paushmann said the school did not keep a cumulative record of suspensions but the incidents would be recorded on the students file. 

He said he preferred to hand down in- school suspensions. The student would be taken out of the classroom and would take breaks outside of the normal recess and lunch time.

 During the time of suspension the students would be counselled by the school counsellor or their year coordinator. 

A Department of Education and Communities (DEC) spokesperson said the DEC operated a return to school program through a suspension centre in Orange.

“It records an 85 per cent success rate with students participating in the program not receiving another long suspension,” the spokesperson said.

“In the majority of cases [suspension] is used as a final resort and after other strategies are employed.”

Orange Anglican Grammar, Kinross Wolaroi School, Orange Christian School and Catherine McAuley Catholic Primary School declined to comment. 

nicole.kuter@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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