Expulsions just the ‘tip of the iceberg’

Henry Grossek is calling for more resources for students with behavioural issues. 120714_03 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A Berwick school principal has spoken out on the insufficient resources for students with problem-behaviours.
Henry Grossek, principal of Berwick Lodge Primary School, said the issue was the “bigger picture” after a public outcry has recently raged over the overturning of students’ expulsions for “dramatically bad behaviour”.
Mr Grossek has never recommended a student for expulsion in his 29 years at Berwick Lodge. “I’ve just never got to that stage.”
He said expulsions were generally a short term solution to a large problem that needed a holistic approach.
“We are just shifting kids and families around to different schools.”
But he said principals were especially upset that they had a limited voice in the expulsions appeal process.
They had expressed they felt unsupported, with reports of some principals resigning as a result in some recently-publicised cases.
Those cases were just the “tip of the iceberg”. Under the water was the issue that mainstream schools weren’t the best environment for some students, Mr Grossek argues.
“There are the special developmental schools, autistic schools and the private Cheshire school – but in many cases the demand outpaces the places for these schools or the cost is prohibitive.
“You could argue we don’t have enough places available for these students.”
Mr Grossek said mainstream schools applied for funding for aides to help students with special needs, disabilities and behavioural problems. But the funding was “hard to get”, he said.
“Many principals would say that the funding for children with several behavioural problems in schools is inadequate compared to the need – and I would agree.
“Behaviour is probably our biggest issue.
“There can be a ripple effect across the entire school community where a child, for whatever reason, is behaving in a way that is disruptive to their education, the education of other children and to staff.”
Family violence – with more than 4500 reported incidents a year in Casey – was a worrying indicator that affected students locally. There was a need for more services to support stressed families, he said.
“It has a ripple effect on kids.
“It’s not just a school problem, it’s a societal problem.”
Principals have described a “tightening” against expulsions since a damning Ombudsman’s report in August found too many students were expelled.
In some cases, principals were found to have not followed due process, according to the report.
In response to a recent outrage about an overturned expulsion, Education Minister James Merlino this month announced principals would have more power in the appeals process.
Last month he announced a $8.9 million Protective Schools Package and declared a zero tolerance approach for violence and aggression in schools.
“But simply moving the child on doesn’t fix the problem.
“This is providing support to intervene earlier and stop aggressive behaviour occurring in the future.”

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