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ACT Government finally responds to school cage incident

By Marcus Paul 8 September 2015 67

stock-school-entrance

It’s been 165 days since the ACT Government discovered a cage was built in one of its schools for a 10-year-old student with autism.

We found out today that the school’s principal has been sacked, and will no longer be able to work at any ACT Government school. The inquiry, overseen at arm’s length from Minister Joy Burch’s office, found the principal was solely responsible for the incident.

Minister Burch told my radio program she felt physically ill after learning of the “cage-like structure”. She says the decision to erect such a thing was made without input, consultation or approval from the school or the directorate.

She also says the structure was commissioned by the school, under the instruction of the principal, and constructed by an external builder. Although reluctant to name it as a cage, the ACT Government has today confirmed it was constructed of pool fencing and had a roof.

It’s understood the structure was designed as a space for a student to calm down. It was also used when the student needed a quiet space.

So why was such a structure constructed in the first place? Well, according to the minister, the child was believed to have been physically abusive towards his teacher and other students. Was the cage was constructed for his explicit use? Unfortunately, yes.

This will not be the end of the issue, with another inquiry into the broader issue of special needs teaching in the ACT still underway.

Many parents with autistic children have contacted me. They are dismayed and angered by the current system, which they claim does not place enough emphasis on support services for children with special needs.

It is hoped this further inquiry will address the many concerns which remain outstanding. The ACT Human Rights Commission will no doubt strongly monitor the situation.

What is clear however, is that the ACT Education Directorate must now also go on notice. 165 days is simply too long to wait for today’s outcome. We were told by the minister that the initial inquiry would be handed down within weeks – and it seemed to take media pressure to finally end up with a result.

Whilst I appreciate that Education Director-General Diane Joseph needed some time to work through the issue, this has taken far too long. Too long and too much distress for the child’s family, and too long for the parents of other children here in Canberra with special needs.

Marcus Paul is the host of Canberra Live 3pm weekdays on 2CC.

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ACT Government finally responds to school cage incident
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ungruntled 10:11 am 09 Oct 15

I did find this whole situation very concerning, as do many people, but it is also necessary to remember and consider, how this came about.

It started quite a while ago, when people with special needs were moved out of special institutions and into the community. This was, in itself, a good thing. However, the money that had been in the institutions did not follow the people into the community.

That was a political slight of hand. The funds went in to general coffers.

Now, teachers who may not have the skills & training and do not have the time and other resources to manage these children’s behaviour & to teach them according to their needs, get blamed for the resaults of what was surely a forseeable situation, when that much funding is removed from these people.
This mainstreaming without adequate resourcing & training affects the learning outcomes of everyone in the classroom (those with specific learing or behavioural difficulties and every other child) and everyone’s general stress levels – staff, students & parents.

Not only has this affected the area of education, but massively affected the provision of mental health services & general health services as seen in the number of very ill people, who need specialised care, presenting in our A&E’s.

We really need to go back to basics to deal with this situation and not focus on the Minister and the poor benighted principal, who are desperately trying to deal with the symptoms of a problem that is not of their making, and over which they have very little if any control.

VYBerlinaV8_is_back 7:21 pm 16 Sep 15

aussie2 said :

Great article Marcus-it just shows the sort of spin Minister Burch and her cronies are capable of. That they could sack that Principal is out of control. It is not the Principal’s problem. So many workplaces have to do workarounds because the money is not there to do what is required. I lay this TOTALLY in the Barr Government’s lap. Start reallocating your public funds so that these kids get a decent education. Hang the bleeding tram! Our kids future is at stake here. C’mon Canberra-WAKE UP!

It’s hard to see how spending the best part of a billion dollars to do a subset of something the buses already do is value when we have underresourced schools and issues in basic service delivery (e.g. health).

bigred 6:26 pm 16 Sep 15

Big_Ed said :

In the latest addition to this saga, Ms Burch said “Clearly the principal alone made the decision and there were others within that school – and this remains a very sad point for me – that did not respond accordingly. That is a failure of their behaviour and they will be dealt with.”

Well, Joy Burch knows very well the answer to this – if a teacher reports on a principal then they can kiss their career goodbye. And those Directorate officials who “failed to stop the the construction” are of the same breed who mob good honest teachers and ram them out of the system on behalf of the far too numerous low-functioning school executives in the Directorate. People with passions for their careers and egos and not Teaching.

I’m glad that those teachers who have suffered at the hands of these in the past can now pick up a CT and enjoy their coffee and a hearty slice of validation.

You raise good points. I will suggest to anyone who knows more about this and cares about transparency should have a read of the public interest disclosure laws and then write to the auditor-general, not the Education directorate. This is because the auditor-general has published some good process and is also at arms length.

And if you do not care, just bleat here!

Big_Ed 9:06 pm 15 Sep 15

In the latest addition to this saga, Ms Burch said “Clearly the principal alone made the decision and there were others within that school – and this remains a very sad point for me – that did not respond accordingly. That is a failure of their behaviour and they will be dealt with.”

Well, Joy Burch knows very well the answer to this – if a teacher reports on a principal then they can kiss their career goodbye. And those Directorate officials who “failed to stop the the construction” are of the same breed who mob good honest teachers and ram them out of the system on behalf of the far too numerous low-functioning school executives in the Directorate. People with passions for their careers and egos and not Teaching.

I’m glad that those teachers who have suffered at the hands of these in the past can now pick up a CT and enjoy their coffee and a hearty slice of validation.

aussie2 3:40 pm 12 Sep 15

Great article Marcus-it just shows the sort of spin Minister Burch and her cronies are capable of. That they could sack that Principal is out of control. It is not the Principal’s problem. So many workplaces have to do workarounds because the money is not there to do what is required. I lay this TOTALLY in the Barr Government’s lap. Start reallocating your public funds so that these kids get a decent education. Hang the bleeding tram! Our kids future is at stake here. C’mon Canberra-WAKE UP!

london 2:43 pm 12 Sep 15

No one suggests that the parents are failures if they have a child with autism but they have to accept responsibility for finding a way of helping the child instead of expecting others to do this. A teacher goes to school to educate and children go to learn. Neither should be placed in danger while they are there. Very often parents can’t control their child yet they expect a teacher to do so with twenty odd other students to manage. This incident should not have happened but unfortunately it did. I wonder how much assistance was offered this school? I’m sure Ghettosmurf87 would not like to be abused and assaulted in his workplace.

london 11:07 am 12 Sep 15

No one is suggesting it is failure of parents if child is autistic Ghettosmurf87 but it is their responsibility to find the help their child needs not expect everyone else to do it. If the child had help all day I’m sure it would not have happened but this is not available in mainstream schools. No teacher or child should have to be afraid of the extreme behaviour of others. I’m sure if you went to work and was physically assaulted or constantly waiting for it to occur you wouldn’t hang around. Teachers go to school to educate and children go to learn . It should be a happy and pleasant experience, free from bullies and fear. Unfortunately this is not the case.

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