Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is concerned that the Liberal-National Opposition’s new policy on school exclusions risks more students being disadvantaged or coming into contact with the youth justice system, rather than being supported to remain engaged with their education.

While we acknowledge the policy’s intent to reduce school bullying, research by YACVic, and the Victorian Ombudsman’s investigation into Victorian government school expulsions, has clearly shown:

  • the link between school exclusion and entry into the youth justice system,
  • that children’s behaviour leading to expulsion most often stems from trauma and disadvantage in their lives,
  • that in a high pressure environment, many schools have struggled to keep all their students engaged, with exclusions being too common.

In response, the Department of Education and Training (DET) has rightly reformed the expulsions system. 

The Opposition’s proposal to prevent the Department from overturning decisions by principals to expel students appears to be contrary to the recommendation made by the Ombudsman, to ensure that “a principal cannot expel a student… from any government school without the approval of the [DET] Secretary or her delegate”.

Rather than increasing the number of children expelled from schools, YACVic would like to see better supports for all schools to engage all students meaningfully in their own education and work appropriately with students experiencing trauma and mental illness, plus expert support for all students facing expulsion to help them re-engage with education, training and employment. For example, initiatives like the LOOKOUT support centres for students in out-of-home care have shown success in reducing expulsions through expert, positive engagement with schools and students.

We also continue to support the Stronger Schools campaign for a more inclusive education system in Victoria. 

YACVic welcomes the Opposition’s concern for bullying and agree that all students should feel safe and respected at school. However, we remain concerned about the proposed new policy’s impact on current programs, particularly the successful Victorian scheme supporting schools to be inclusive and welcoming for all students, no matter their background or identity. We also remind all political parties that they can counter bullying by modelling respect for others, particularly in their public comments about children and young people.

Further comment: 
Leo Fieldgrass – CEO Youth Affairs Council Victoria – 0439 254 667 or [email protected].