Tuesday, July 1, 2003


SCHOOL teachers will be given back the right to discipline students without fear of serious child abuse allegations being used against them because they have guidelines.

The State Government has ordered a review of proposed changes to the child protection code after it was revealed children complaining of verbal or physical abuse should be able to report their teachers to child protection officers.

The modifications to the code will be completed within weeks.

Signalling a return to common sense, teachers also will be able to comfort distressed children in the playground and help them when they are hurt.

The guidelines covering one million students across NSW allow for allegations of non-physical "abuse" in the classroom.

Under provisions of the code, teachers can be investigated for "targeted and sustained criticism" of a student and for "belittling, teasing and making unreasonable demands". They are also prevented from "socially isolating" children who are disruptive or naughty in the classroom.

The changes revealed last month have incensed parents, teachers and school principals who believe the new rules seriously undermine class discipline and potentially jeopardise students' safety.

But is discipline another form of punishment and does punishment work?

In direct contravention of the rule of law and social justice punishment doesn't work. In terms of the current literature, where it has been stated that punishment and discipline are known to be offensive, and do not offer any form of result in long term, of child behavioural changes.

It is stated for instance in Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordan PHD in relation to having and obligation by the child to change his/her offending behaviour. It is better to invite the child in the decision making process, so that the child makes their own decision to change their offending behaviour, and also has an 'obligation' to do so because it was 'their' decision.

Why would the child want to change because it was disciplined or smacked? According to Chief Judge Justice Alistair Nicholson of the Family Court of Australia "Smacking a child ought to be seen as assault." He said.

The cycle of violence.

But smacking a child comes in many forms under the heading punishment. Locking a child in their room, taking away privileges and discipline are all forms of punishment.

Behind it all is the fact that if you raise your voice one-decibel then the only defence a child has to it is fear. When you have an obligation to discipline or punish children, they will be judged by you, the teacher, then right or wrong you're giving some form of master and slave ideology to them.

Result being that they hate you. Is that what you want? Or would it be better not to use power against them so that when they get out of school they are your friends.

Not just that, but they don't learn to punish, threaten or discipline anyone else, thinking they can get a result, by that sort of offensive behaviour.

It is understood the review ordered by Education Minister Andrew Refshauge will ensure that teachers can do their job without fear of recrimination.

"The code will remain but it will enable teachers to maintain discipline and not undermine them," a senior government source said yesterday.

"It will make clear that teachers can comfort a child in the playground [touching them if necessary] and help when they are hurt."

Public Schools Principals' Forum president Cheryl McBride said yesterday change was needed so those teachers could carry out their duty of care to students. "They need to be able to stop a child running across the road and also implement normal disciplinary measures," she said.

"That means being able to raise their voice without it being called child abuse or putting a child in the chair at the back of the room without it being emotional abuse."

Concerned parents have claimed the code undermines classroom discipline and potentially places children at risk of harm because of teachers' uncertainty.

Christine Wright, who has three children at Robert Townson Public School at Raby in Sydney's southwest, welcomed the Government's change of heart. "It [the code] has to be changed it just isn't right at the moment," she said.

School principal Brian Chudleigh said the policy change was a win for teachers. "It removes the fear that teachers have to act normally," Mr Chudleigh, who is also deputy chair of the Public Schools Principals Association, said.

"They will be able to safeguard the welfare of the children and it will also allow them to use fair and reasonable discipline."

Teachers across the state have expressed concern at being subjected to unfair or long investigations over trivial and/or malicious allegations.

GKCNN has learned, however, that in future minor allegations will not be pursued by child protection investigators and will be sent back to the school for resolution.

The Teachers' Federation, campaigning for changes to the code, has threatened a ban on excursions and other activities if its demands are not met.

Federation spokeswoman Jennifer Leete said yesterday teachers' concerns had been acknowledged but no changes had been delivered yet.

"Some issues cannot be addressed without legislative change such as the definition of child abuse in the Ombudsman's Act," Ms Leete said.

The Independent Education Union also has called for changes to the "unfair child protection laws" claiming they had placed the teaching profession at risk.

By PINK FLOYED 2 July 03 Education Reporter

THE STUDENT: Perhaps teachers and parents could go back to school and learn life skills, social skills or parent effectiveness training. Do our teachers lack these skills, because they never received them? Were they raised with mostly academic skills? If so, how can they create social justice in the classroom, if they don't have these skills to pass on to their students either.


School Curriculum needs balance? Life Skills and Academic Skills go hand in hand man Colin you need to be the students friends not their judge. Only when you can invite the students into the decision making process will you get an obligation by them to change their behaviour, because you Colin could lead by example and not by power.

NSW education professor warns further commitment needed
The author of a report on the New South Wales education system has urged the major political parties to do more for education in the election campaign.

Fiona Stanley, the children's crusader
It is all about prevention. As Fiona Stanley sees it, with one in five Australian teenagers experiencing significant mental health problems, there are just not enough treatment services to cope with the demand.

Parents call for feedback on social skills
Parents are calling for the same level of feedback on their children's social development as on their academic progress, according to a national survey.

The Seed
Respect, you only get out what you have put in. What about Life Skills, Communication and Conflict Resolution. Evolution, perhaps some children and adults miss the whole or part of the course. I did, and so how surprised do you think I was when I realised my parents missed the course as well. Things like Compromise, Win Win, Empathy, and Love. Invisible energy and other skills like public speaking, how to Relate, Assuming, Blaming, Forgiveness, Freedom and Discrimination. This is how I learned respect. If you don't know what it is then how do you relate?

The punishment: Is the 'crime'
The punishment is the crime according to retired chief Justice of the Family Court of Australia Justice Alistair Nicholson. "Smacking a child ought to be seen as assault".

Australian prisons are fast becoming the new asylums of the third millennium. The prison industry is booming, while Australia spends far less on mental health services than similar countries.