Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic), the state’s peak body for young people, welcomes the release of the Ombudsman’s Investigation into Victorian Government School Expulsions.
“Education is one of the most important forces for good in a young person’s life,” said YACVic CEO, Leo Fieldgrass. “But too many young Victorians drop out of education after getting the message that their school does not want them around.”
In 2016, 278 students were expelled from Victorian state schools, although the Ombudsman suggests the numbers who are informally excluded are much higher. While the data is patchy, there seems to have been a steep rise in expulsions in recent years – between 2014-2015 expulsions of students from state schools increased by 25%.
Sadly, it’s no surprise that students who get expelled are disproportionately likely to come from families which are already struggling with disadvantage and discrimination. Students with disabilities, students in out-of-home care, and Aboriginal students are far more likely than their peers to be ordered to leave their schools.
“Many of these students are living with issues like trauma, mental health problems, family violence, or lack of disability support,” said Mr Fieldgrass. “This can lead to behaviours that are really challenging for teachers and other students. But when the right measures are in place to help these students and keep them in school, it can make all the difference to their future lives.”
The youth peak body welcomed the Victorian Government's decision to support all the Ombudsman's recommendations. The government has announced a new $5.9 million program to help schools manage students’ behavioural problems, prevent expulsion and assist students to stay engaged. New interventions will include more expert guidance for schools and stronger departmental oversight in cases of expulsion.
“This positive new investment has the potential to make a real difference to marginalised and vulnerable young people,” Mr Fieldgrass said. “Many teachers are struggling to support students whose behaviour is disruptive, disengaged, or even dangerous. Some schools do a great job at addressing the students' problems and keeping them engaged. But it's clear some schools need more help.”
“As the Ombudsman comments in her report, these are not ‘bad kids’ – these are kids whom bad things have happened to.”
For further comment contact Leo Fieldgrass, CEO Youth Affairs Council Victoria, 0439 254 667