Students to face weekend detention under new plan
PRINCIPALS will have the power to hand out Saturday detentions to unruly students under a government plan to deal with a "behaviour problem" in the state's public schools.
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the sweeping changes, which drew immediate criticism from the state's teachers, would remove "unnecessary red tape" that was stopping public school principals from dealing with problem students.
Under the reforms to be considered by State Parliament, principals could also order students to perform community service.
"This may include working with local councils, volunteer organisations and other non-government agencies to improve students' skills, and enhance respect for themselves and others through hard effort, commitment and teamwork," Mr Langbroek said of the plan, which is the first of 15 strategies to be developed under the Great Teachers = Great Results initiative.
An existing time restriction on detentions would also be lifted under the reforms, which are expected to be in place by next year.
Other changes being considered include the introduction of behaviour contracts with students and families, expanding the number of alternative learning centres for students with complex behaviour needs and school discipline audits, which could begin this year.
Mr Langbroek said there was nothing radical about introducing Saturday detentions, arguing it was a method already employed by non-state schools.
He was confident most of teachers would be willing to "step up" to staff the Saturday detentions, for which they would be paid.
The move would not create a "Breakfast Club" situation, Mr Langbroek said in reference to the quintessential '80s movie about a group of misfits consigned to weekend detention.
"We know that discipline works when there are clear expectations for standards of behaviour and meaningful consequences when students do not comply with these standards," Mr Langbroek said.
"This is about reducing the number of exclusions by giving principals more tools to nip poor behaviour in the bud before it escalates."
Mr Langbroek said student exclusions, which could be fast-tracked under the changes, were considered to be a last resort.
The process of excluding a child can currently take up to a month.
But the plan was given an "F" by the Queensland Teachers' Union, which predicted the changes would be almost impossible to implement and did nothing to address the causes of poor behaviour.
QTU president Kevin Bates said the scheme raised more questions than answers, particularly in relation to the expansion of detention times.
He questioned how this would work in regional areas, where students often lived long distances from their schools and relied on bus travel.
Mr Bates also raised concerns about school detentions encroaching on family time.
"The scheme is apparently voluntary, but it is difficult to see how any Queensland state school could fund such a program from their existing budgets," Mr Bates said.
"The Education Minister will no doubt be disappointed that the QTU questions his latest announcement, but that reaction is inevitable while government policies continue to be announced with no consultation with our members - the 44,000 teachers and principals who actually operate our schools."
Mr Bates said broad curriculum offerings, more literacy and numeracy specialist support for struggling students, smaller class sizes and more funding for specialist staff would be more effective in addressing disruptive behaviour.
He said the one positive to come from the announcement was the commitment by the Queensland Government to provide more positive learning centres.