Assaults in NSW schools on the rise, government takes action

Assaults in NSW schools on the rise, government takes action

Assaults in schools across New South Wales have increased by 50% in the past decade, with an average of 10 incidents of violence being reported to the police each school day. The seriousness of the situation has led to the police being called on 1,992 occasions last year, up from 1,297 in 2013, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data.

In light of these statistics, NSW Education Minister Prue Car has announced a review of a controversial discipline policy that was introduced in 2022. The policy had restricted the length and number of suspensions that schools could issue, which some within the education sector had criticized as undermining teacher authority.

The Secondary Principals’ Council Deputy President Denise Lofts commented that while there has been a rise in serious assaults, there has also been an increase in poor student behavior in classrooms that is not reflected in any official statistics.

“It is the low-level classroom disruption which is very challenging,” she said, "If you think about behavior, it is disengagement, not being interested, it comes back to children being behind. They can mask how behind they are by behaving badly."

Ms. Lofts believes that low-level classroom disruption is very challenging and that it can be related to disengagement or students falling behind in their studies.

To help improve increasingly difficult student behavior, the previous government appointed Emeritus Professor Donna Cross as the state’s first chief behavior adviser in March. However, according to the Department of Education’s incident report log, dozens of violent incidents were filmed in 2021, the latest year for which information is available.

A federal inquiry has also begun hearings this month to examine the issue of increasing disruption in Australian school classrooms. It comes as an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development study from 2018 identified that Australia had some of the most unruly classrooms in the world, ranking 69 out of 76 jurisdictions worldwide.

The Australian Professional Teachers Association has taken aim at behavior policies like the one adopted in NSW last year, saying teachers were not given sufficient empowerment to maintain order in the classroom.

The inquiry's terms of reference also include a study by the University of NSW Professor Rebecca Collie that showed students with disruptive behavior in their first year of school had significantly lower scores in years 3 and 5 NAPLAN tests.