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