Safety in schools

Providing additional resources, including professional learning, to help teachers deal with extreme student behavioural problems, violence and mental health
issues that have been exacerbated by the pressures of COVID-19.

Safety in schools 

The SSTUWA acknowledges the state government and Department of Education in supporting and developing resources to make schools safer workplaces for staff with the Let’s Take a Stand Together – 10 Point Plan.

The 2013 “Keeping Our Workplaces Safe” agreement between the Department of Education, the Police Department and the SSTUWA builds on previous examples of collaborative approaches to dealing with challenging student behaviour.

In 2008, the Behaviour Management and Development (BMAD) funding and clauses in the Schools General Agreement provided funding for specialised support staff and reduced class sizes in recognition of the increased supports needed to deal with challenging behaviour.

The need for systemic resources and infrastructure to support students who exhibit extreme or defiant behaviour is on-going and a learning program or resource cannot simply be created and expected to meet the needs of future students challenging behaviour.

The 2019 KPMG report into Alternative Learning Settings (KPMG 2019), has highlighted the need for specialised support programs for students exhibiting extreme and violent behaviour.

Initial Alternative Learning Settings (ALS) pilot sites in North Metropolitan, South Metropolitan and Southwest education regions were established from Term 1 2019, with specialised teaching staff receiving training prior to term commencement. A fourth site is due to open in the Kimberley – Broome during Term 4 2020.

The SSTUWA also recommends resourced strategies to support management of a range of challenging student behaviour. Student defiance, refusal and other at risk behaviours are not conducive to that student or others’ learning. Programs and support services need to be available to students and staff to tailor programs and support to those students.

Prior to the 2013 budget cuts across education and many community organisations, schools and parents/carers had access to a range of community services to support child and adolescent mental health and well-being.

The SSTUWA believes that it is particularly important that support services within the school and those community services available for the school and parents/careers to access are able to be accessed and supported through government funding to ensure the mental health and well-being of our students.

It is not clear what ongoing impact the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the mental health and well-being of students, particularly if they experience trauma and/or domestic violence as a result of their families’ loss of employment or income, family health and deaths.

Recent media reports have highlighted varying defiant and violent behaviour of students as they have returned to school throughout this pandemic. The social isolation and family pressures have and will continue to create a pressure point that will manifest in negative student behaviour, without adequate and ongoing support structures in place.

The SSTUWA seeks an increase in mental health and well-being support services for staff – within the school environment and externally.

The SSTUWA seeks practical strategies and additional resources to enact points nine and 10 of the Let’s Take a Stand Together – 10 Point Plan, and recognition of the importance of the provision of access to a range of community services to support child and adolescent mental health and well-being.

The SSTUWA seeks an investment to support system needs for professional learning specifically to deal with extreme student behaviour issues such as violence, refusals, defiance and other at risk behaviours.

The SSTUWA calls for an expansion of programs designed to address student behavioural issues and at-risk students. This includes additional specialist teaching staff.

The SSTUWA calls for an expansion of Alternative Learning Settings, including at least one ALS in each education region.

The SSTUWA calls for a Complex Response Team to be developed and properly resourced to support all schools across WA.

The SSTUWA calls for a reduction in class sizes where students with known complex and developmental trauma issues are present.

The SSTUWA calls for a renewed commitment to the Minister’s Let’s Take A Stand Together – 10 Point Plan to address violence in schools. In particular, additional funding and support is required to address these points:

  1. Principals to suspend students who attack other students or start fights.
  2. Principals to automatically move to exclude any student who physically attacks school staff.
  3. New alternative learning settings for the most violent students.
  4. Clear advice for principals, teachers and education assistants on authority and responsibility to take action.
  5. Provide training and support for school staff.
  6. New ‘good standing’ requirements to be added to school behaviour policies.
  7. Free parenting program for parents of young children.
  8. Review critical incident reporting and monitoring.
  9. Spark a community conversation about violence in schools – with community leaders and others.
  10. Premier’s Youth Forum to give young people a voice and let them identify actions they believe could address violence in the community.