Group fears Saturday detentions may disadvantage rural kids

NEW powers to enforce school detention on Saturdays could disadvantage children and families in regional and remote areas, one Queensland advocacy group fears.

Queensland Law society president Annette Bradfield said current legislation ensured students were not detained for more than 20 minutes during lunch or one hour after school.

But she said those parameters were omitted in the Education (Strengthening Discipline in State Schools) Amendment Bill 2013 set for discussion in public hearings on Friday.

If the bill is adopted, principals will have more power to discipline students through Saturday detention and community service and suspend students on serious criminal charges before a court has convicted them.

The laws also will enable principals to discipline students damaging the school's reputation outside school hours.

Mr Bradfield, in a submission to the hearing, said regional and remote could have difficulty meeting Saturday detentions, especially if they relied on school buses only operating on school days.

She also questioned the punishment if a child missed Saturday detention through no fault of their own and asked the committee to ensure the safety of the child if they must be disciplined outside normal school hours.

"We submit that it is not reasonable to expect that parents should drive children a substantial distance to school on Saturday," she said.

Gympie West State School principal Bob Cole said he was concerned the bill only dealt with what happened after students grossly breaching school disciplinary boundaries.

He said it was much more important to prevent such breaches from occurring in the first place.

Mr Cole said he had one teacher dedicated to behaviour management instead of expecting everyone to tackle such issues on top of their already stressful workloads.

"You get what you pay for - if we keep trying to tackle this issue with pieces of paper because it is the cheapest solution, our schools will pay a much higher price in the long run," he said.

"The best solution is to supply staff to schools, not regions, for behaviour management purposes and let the schools decide how best to use them,"

An unnamed teacher at "a complex high school in a rural town" said it was important principals had considerable autonomy in making decisions to exclude certain students to benefit the mostly behaving kids.

But he conceded exclusion did not address the "real needs of some students", including a vicious cycle of school absences making it harder for them to participate meaningfully.

The educator said he was aware some places had alternative education centres with small teacher to student ratios and tailored programs, with timetables adjusted to suit the student.

"Extending such centres to many more towns in regional Queensland is a necessary adjunct to ensuring that schools are a place of true learning for other students enrolled at the school," he said.

"Without education, the problems of juvenile petty crime will increase, and the costs to the state will subsequently be borne by the juvenile detention centres and jails in the future."

The University of Queensland's School of Education submission suggested imposing community service as a school discipline measure could contravene the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.



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