On the weekend, the Fairfax media carried an article entitled, How schools fail to curb bad behaviour.

The article reported on research by Uniting Care that showed the amount of long-term suspensions in NSW had increased by 36% between 2006 & 2011.

Suspension is a topic of hot debate in education.

What good does kicking a kid out of school actually do?

The answer is, it makes classes easier to teach in the short term.

For the child who has been suspended, they fall further behind in work they have little interest in anyway, so when they do return to class they present a bigger problem than when they were suspended.

This is most evident in Years 11 and 12, where the amount of students being suspended has increased by 82%.

Compare this with a REDUCTION of 13% in Years K-6 and an increase of only 16% in Years 7-10.

I’m convinced this stark increase in Years 11 & 12 is due to the Governments decision to raise the minimum leaving age to 17.

This meant keeping kids who would otherwise have left in a place they have no desire to be in.

And now we see suspensions rising? Quelle surprise!

The rationale of keeping kids in education longer is a good one. Studies show that a better education leads to better life outcomes.

But school isn’t necessarily the best place for these kids.

Let’s face it, (controversial statement coming up!) the HSC is not much more than a sorting system for university.

These kids don’t need the HSC, they need vocational training. They need community mentors and they need to see relevance in what they are doing on a day-to-day basis.

The NSW Government has cut $1.9 billion from education at a time when those that know are saying we need more cash.

This doesn’t give me hope that any such approach is on the cards.

Until then, it will be left to a handful of schools and secondary colleges to do the best they can for those kids for whom, school just doesn’t fit.


Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, writer and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at @danhaesler