Lowering the white flag when it comes to suspensions

I’ve been looking at some data recently on suspension rates and there’s no prize for guessing which year group often has the highest (the answer is at the bottom of this blog post). What is alarming is there are students being suspended across all year cohorts. This raises a critical question for policy makers, which is ‘how does this help develop the necessary skills these children need to meet adult expectations?’

Suspension and expulsion policies are an artefact of an industrial mode. For me, it’s a white flag that signals: not prepared to teach you. It seems contradictory that we invest so much time and energy improving literacy and numeracy skills but lagging skills in behaviour are treated differently. We need to view a student’s difficulties through the same lens, which should not be focussed on motivating but up-skilling. Today’s learning communities should be about offering pathways that lead students from being stuck to being successful. We end up raising the white flag when schools fail to see the red flags early enough.

Equity in schools is the realization that every child will struggle at some point in their learning journey. The way to address it is not by being reactive but proactive. I believe it starts with every teacher taking responsibility for every child, then finding collaborative approaches that are not punitive. The purpose of all schools in today’s world is to promote and enhance skills. When we can do that, we strengthen relationships, improve communication and lower the white flags. I know that teaching is demanding and that many students disengage act out and interrupt other students. however, the suspension is a blunt instrument at times with long term consequences. The way schools are organised around one teacher to a set number of students means that the immediate need is to exclude the misbehaving student.


If we can find new ways of organizing students in groups with a team of teachers, we may find new answers

** Yr 9


4 thoughts on “Lowering the white flag when it comes to suspensions

  1. Simple solutions may include; reducing class sizes, so staff can engage with students on a deeper level for longer periods of time. Additionally reducing workloads of what may be considered unnecessary work that seems to have no purpose and be of no use and no one ever checks or refers to. For example; excessive, oversized, unusable information , often repeating/ pasting of material from NESA documents into PROGRAMS that are too long, however apparently make a difference to the teaching process (please!!). Meetings that often go nowhere and very little is resolved. Documentation on every little moment that occurs in a students learning. Surveys that are worded so that very little negative elements to modern education can be raised and therefore discussed on a deeper level. Among many other things. Maybe then staff could develop these relationships that used to exist in schools, as teachers had time for extra curricular activities and /or time to sit and talk to students about any issues they may have in some sort of mentoring role. I understand these are issues that are out of many peoples hands however these are some of the issues that teachers and students are facing in modern schooling. We are failing these kids in many ways through a school day/week/year that is too FULL for both staff and students.

    1. The things that you point out, I think, are a result of the way we standardise learning and teaching. I think we need to go deeper on the way we organise learning and teaching. We need to move from controlling to liberating learning, and this needs some new thinking.

  2. Hi Greg, there are certain standards that students must meet to function in our society. It is the responsibility of parents to educate their kids on what behaviours are acceptable and not acceptable. Similar to a job, if there is misconduct in a workplace environment, they are suspended or fired. This is the outcome of misconduct and to continually allow students to get away with certain behaviours doesn’t prepare these students for the real world. Schools have a process to deal with individual situations but what happens if the student and his family continue not to respond and no improvement is shown?

    There has to be a limit and teachers must not become punching bags who have to accept everything thrown at them.

    1. I’m not saying we ignore poor and unacceptable behaviour. What I’m raising is that the current structures maybe most of the cause in the way we structure schooling leaves it as an individual teacher responsibility. Suspension, in most cases, only turns the heat down. It doesn’t get to the root cause.

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