1 November 2022

Fewer 'incidents', suspensions handed out at Calwell High School

| Lottie Twyford
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Calwell High School

Year 7 and 8 students at Calwell High School were barred from attending school in term one after WorkSafe ACT found an “untenable”, violent and unsafe situation. Photo: Calwell High School.

The number of “incidents” reported and suspensions issued at Calwell High School has fallen in recent months after problems relating to violence came to light earlier this year.

In May, the Territory’s work safety watchdog barred students from attending campus after its inspectors found critical issues relating to violence, bullying and staff shortages.

The regulator attended campus after a request for assistance from the teachers’ union.

After students were able to return to campus, the ACT Education Directorate confirmed additional supports had been put in place at the school.

This included extra teachers and a focus on more frequent communication with parents.

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In annual report hearings on Monday (31 October), executive group manager for school improvement Mark Huxley said the situation at Calwell High was improving.

“Our priority at Calwell High School is to make sure it’s a safe, productive and enjoyable work environment for all members of the community and we take that responsibility seriously,” Mr Huxley said.

“We’ve seen some good early positive trends … [including] a decrease in the number of suspensions and number of incidents during Term Two and Three and we hope that continues.”

An independent special purpose review of the school was ordered in the wake of the Prohibition Notice being lifted. The recommendations made in that review were in the process of being implemented, Mr Huxley said.

Schools are normally reviewed in the Territory every five years, but this one was specifically ordered.

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Extra resources had been directed to Calwell High School, including an additional permanent youth support worker and three more executive teachers, one of whom is in charge of leading a positive behaviour program at the school.

Mr Huxley confirmed communication with parents and the broader school community had increased and they now had an “open-door” policy so parents could come in and seek further information about what was happening.

Parents had previously noted a discrepancy between the official information they had been told by the school and that which later emerged via media reporting of documents revealed under Freedom of Information laws and the initial WorkSafe ACT report.

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Freedom of Information documents released to the Canberra Liberals in July showed violence at the school was so extensive it was either partially or fully locked down 10 times in one term.

On some occasions, students were throwing bricks, abusing and threatening staff and other students.

Some parents were also found to have become violent with teachers after being called in to pick up a student who had also been violent.

Johnathan Davis

Member for Brindabella Johnathan Davis pressed officials for updates on what was happening at Calwell High School. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

ACT Greens Member for Brindabella Johnathan Davis had initially questioned officials and Education Minister Yvette Berry about Calwell High School in annual reports hearings.

Mr Davis said he was loathed to continue the discussion publicly as he did not want to stigmatise the school community further, but he had been contacted by constituents who wanted answers about what was happening.

Both Mr Davis and Ms Berry have stated that every public school is a safe school.

Further work is underway across the system to improve school safety, officials told the hearing, including work to develop a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ACT Policing.

A million-dollar task force to investigate safety at schools was announced in July. That was expected to begin with a number of reviews across the system.

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Yes this is Great news. Let’s hope the school, students, teachers and parents continue to get the additional support they need to keep on improving.

It should never have got to such a bad point where Worksafe had to shut down the school. The years of underperformance should also have seen extra resources for Calwell years ago. I know some teachers had been complaining about a lack of support and resourcing for many years. These improved results show what proper funding can achieve in improving the situation for struggling schools. Let’s see more of the same.

Damien Plenty2:59 pm 14 Nov 22

hey BJ, thank you for your thoughts. Is your last name ‘ACT?’ or am I Trippin ?

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