Work with schools to include students, not exclude them: this was the key message of a new research paper released today by the Youth Affairs Council Victoria, the state peak body for young people and youth services.

"We’re concerned about what happens to students who are excluded from their schools, via suspension, expulsion, reduced attendance, or being urged to leave,’ said YACVic CEO Georgie Ferrari. ‘Excluding a student may make things easier for the rest of the school community in the short term. But it rarely fixes serious behavioural problems or disengagement, and it places some very vulnerable young people at risk."

In their paper Out of Sight, Out of Mind?, YACVic points out that some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged young people – including young people in out-of-home care, young people with disabilities, and Aboriginal young people – are at high risk of being excluded. Many excluded students struggle to re-engage with other schools, and can find themselves facing unemployment, social isolation and even criminal activity. 

"Schools are under heavy pressure,’ said Ms Ferrari. ‘They’re expected to meet high standards of academic achievement, while also supporting students with complex needs. It’s unfair to expect schools to do more with less – but at the same time, we know that a purely disciplinary approach just doesn’t work when you’re dealing with a student who has trauma, mental illness or a poorly supported disability, or who has caring responsibilities or is living with family violence." 

YACVic outlines positive new initiatives like the Victorian Government’s Navigator and LOOKOUT programs. It also calls for stronger expert support for schools to work with traumatised students, funding for quality flexible learning programs, and resources to ensure all excluded students get the right help to re-connect with education.

Further comment: 
Leo Fieldgrass – CEO Youth Affairs Council Victoria – 0439 254 667 or lfieldgrass@yacvic.org.au.