Friday 25 November 2022
While the majority of Queensland school children are coming to the end of another school year, a significant number of students have been denied access to this most basic of human rights.
Earlier this year, Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion (QAI) and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Ltd (ATSILS) wrote to the Queensland Human Rights Commissioner to call for an inquiry into the use of school disciplinary absences in Queensland state schools.
QAI and ATSILS wrote a report that detailed longstanding concern that students with disability and First Nations students are being suspended and excluded from school more frequently than their peers. The report included statistics from a Right to Information request that showed suspensions and exclusions were being given disproportionately to certain groups of students.
Since then, the call for an inquiry has gained momentum. The issue has received regular media coverage and other organisations have joined the campaign, including PeakCare, Youth Advocacy Centre (YAC) and the Centre for Inclusive Education (C4IE) at Queensland University of Technology.
The evidence base underlying the need for an inquiry has also strengthened. Data from a second Right to Information request shows that students with disability, First Nations students and students living in out of home care accounted for just over one quarter of school enrolments in 2020 (28%) but received almost two-thirds of short-term suspensions (62%). And more than half of short-term suspensions in 2020 were repeat suspensions for students in one of these priority equity groups. These results are displayed in the infographic.
The Inclusion NOW! rally held outside Parliament House on Wednesday 26th October 2022 further demonstrates the need for systemic change. Students, families, and their supporters gathered alongside the Queensland Collective for Inclusive Education (QCIE). They spoke of the failures of the Department’s inclusive education policy implementation and called on the Education Minister to commit to genuine reform of the system.
Collectively, QAI, ATSILS, PeakCare, YAC and C4IE are now calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the use of school disciplinary absences in Queensland state schools. We need to understand why vulnerable students are being disproportionately excluded from schools and realise the broader implications of this.
When students receive unnecessary suspensions and exclusions, they are denied essential learning opportunities, go on to experience poorer mental health and are at an increased risk of becoming involved in the criminal justice system.
We know that when suspensions and exclusions are used sparingly, and students are supported rather than punished, there are better outcomes for students, families, and teachers. We need alternative, evidenced-based solutions to discipline that will successfully reduce behaviours of concern, whilst keeping students safe and engaged at school.
We have written to Education Minister Grace Grace with our concerns and have invited the Minister to meet with us to discuss this critical issue further.
What can you do?
If you would like to join the call for a parliamentary inquiry into this issue, you can also write to Minister Grace Grace. Either write your own letter or use this letter template we have created, and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Media contact: Matilda Alexander on 07 3844 4200
Image Description for Infographic:
Infographic with title “Queensland’s use of suspensions in state schools – a long way from either equity or excellence”.
First graphic is a bar chart for Overrepresentation with description “Students in priority equity groups accounted for just over one quarter of enrolments in 2020 but received almost two-thirds of short suspensions”, chart on right shows Enrolments at 28% and Suspensions at 62%.
Second graphic is a Venn diagram for Intersectionality with 3 circles titled Disability (NCCD), Out of home care (OOHC) and Indigenous, with description on the right “These priority equity groups are not distinct and it is possible for a student to be in all three of these groups”.
Third graphic is a bar chart for Increased risk with description “Students who fall into any combination of these three groups are at an increased risk of short suspension. For example, Indigenous students with a disability living in OOHC faced 8.34 times the risk of short suspension in 2020 compared to students not in any of these groups”. Bar chart below shows the following in descending order: Indigenous, NCCD, and OOHC at 8.34, OOHC and NCCD at 6.78, NCCD and Indigenous at 5.23, OOHC and Indigenous at 3.66, OOHC only at 3.54, NCCD only at 3.11 and Indigenous only at 2.64.
Fourth graphic is a donut chart titled “Again and again…” with description “More than half of short suspensions in 2020 were repeat incidents for students in priority equity groups”, chart on left shows Singles at 48% and Repeats at 52%.
Text at bottom says, “We call for an inquiry into the use of suspensions in QLD State Schools”. Footnote at bottom says, “Data source: Department of Education Queensland Freedom of Information Request 2022” and below are the logos for Queensland Advocacy for Inclusion, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, Queensland University of Technology’s Centre for Inclusive Education, Peak Care and Youth Advocacy Centre.