Why nearly 1200 preppies have been suspended

 

MORE than 1000 unruly preppies are suspended from Queensland state schools each year as experts warn the curriculum is setting them up to fail.

Alarming figures show 1197 Prep students were suspended in 2018, compared with 871 in 2014.

The increase of almost 30 per cent has reignited debate over whether children are too young to be starting school at four years old.

Department of Education data reveals there were 1588 days of absence recorded this year for preppies for "disciplinary reasons".

For the past five years, "physical misconduct" has been the reason for the most suspensions, either involving students or adults.

In Queensland, 2.5 per cent of all preppies in 2018 were suspended - almost three times that of NSW preppies (0.86 per cent) that year.

This month The Courier-Mail revealed that, across all year levels, Queensland children ­attacked other students or teachers on state school grounds more than 31,000 times last year.

QUT education expert Dr Linda Graham said the number of preppies suspended was "truly shocking" and warned that, when young children were suspended, their disengagement "gets worse and worse".

She called for a fundamental rethink of the Prep curriculum - back to a play-based approach.

"Four and five-year-olds can't even understand what a suspension is and it has such a negative long-term impact that it is never a good option," she said.

"The fact that a child that young can be suspended or excluded - if we don't intervene, if we reject that child and no one intervenes and teaches them how to behave, then they'll just end up in prison, honestly."

Experts say Prep kids are being set up to fail. (File picture)
Experts say Prep kids are being set up to fail. (File picture)

USC associate professor in child development and learning Dr Michael Nagel said the system was to blame for the explosion in suspensions since the advent of Prep in 2007.

"Sitting at a desk, copying letters, writing things, things they're not supposed to do and that should never happen," he said.

"Ask any parent what happens when their four-year-old child gets frustrated, it's not a pretty sight, put them in a room with other four-year-olds and it can lead to disastrous consequences."

Queensland Association of State School Principals president Leslie Single said principals used suspensions and exclusions as a last resort for "extreme behaviour".

"Kids can be naughty, that's certainly true, but children who are suspended are not just naughty, not just kids getting up to mischief - some of those behaviours are extreme," she said.

"We're talking about violence, or violence being displayed - it's not just a school issue, it's a community issue."

Queensland Teachers' Union president Kevin Bates said expectations, curriculum and class sizes were issues that could lead to children not being able to cope.

"One of the major issues we had when the national curriculum was introduced (in 2014) was that going away from a play-based developmentally appropriate curriculum for those four-year-olds was going to bring with it these issues," he said.

A Department of Education spokesman said a suite of new procedures would be released in early 2020 after a review of school discipline this year.

"This is a responsibility that all principals take very seriously, relying on the use of these strategies as a last resort when other alternatives have proven ineffective or inadequate to address the problem behaviour," he said.



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