Editor: the lack of professional/qualified behaviour support for students with autism/ASD in ACT schools in not an "isolated incident", it's a well established long term policy of this Education and Disability Minister.
JOY Burch and Director-General of the Education and Training Directorate Diane Joseph have released the key findings from an independent investigation into the construction of an “inappropriate structure” at an ACT Public School.
“Through all of this, my key concern has been the welfare of the child and the family involved,” Joy said.
“I am very disappointed by the things found through this investigation.
“It is completely unacceptable that a decision was taken to build this type of structure to respond to the behaviour of a student. This decision was wrong, and the officer responsible will no longer be a school principal or be working within a school. School principals must be held responsible for their actions.
“Parents need to know they can trust the judgment of those staff that care for their children.”
Among the outcomes, the investigation has determined:
- The decision to erect the structure was that of one individual. The decision was made without input, consultation or approval from within the school or the Directorate.
- The officer is no longer a school principal and won’t be returning to a school.
- The structure stood for 14 school days, and was used on one occasion.
- No structures of this kind have been found in any other ACT Public School.
The investigation also found delays within the central office of the Directorate when notice of this structure was made.
“This is not good enough, and the Director-General is dealing with these officers,” Joy said.
She also said the length of time taken for this investigation had been extremely frustrating.
“The length of time this has taken did not meet community expectations or my expectations as Minister.
“I thank the school community for their patience while this matter was investigated.”
The Expert Panel into Students with Complex Needs and Challenging Behaviours is continuing its work and will report to the Minister in October 2015. The Minister will respond to the Expert Panel’s report by the end of 2015.
Joy’s office has released a summary of the investigation:
In April this year, an independent HR investigation and an Expert Panel review were called to respond to an inappropriate structure constructed in a Canberra school.
An investigation, independent of the Directorate, has been undertaken into the circumstances that led to the establishment of the structure and the Education and Training Directorate’s response. The Directorate’s statement on the investigation is below.
The Directorate’s Primary concern has always been for the welfare of the child and their family, the staff involved and the broader school community. Information about the school and the child will not be released. Given the nature of the classroom, the Directorate will not be disclosing information about the school as this will lead to the identification of the child.
Parents and carers are encouraged to contact their school principal if they have any issues or concerns, or contact the Directorate on telephone 6205 5429 or email DET.Consultation@act.gov.au. Information about this investigation will be uploaded to the Education and Training Directorate website – www.det.act.gov.au
The investigation has concluded and in the independent delegate has made a decision.
Summary of the investigation outcomes:
- The decision to erect the structure was that of one individual.
- The decision was made without input, consultation or approval from within the school or the Directorate.
- The officer is no longer a school principal and won’t be going back to a school.
- There are high expectations on all teachers, principals and officers of the Directorate.
- Some officers within the school and the Directorate did not meet these expectations.
- The conduct and decisions of every officer who was part of the Directorate’s response is being examined and the Directorate is dealing with each of those officers.
Summary of facts and outcomes:
- The construction of this structure was an isolated incident.
- The decision to construct this structure was the decision of one individual.
- This structure was built on 10 March 2015. The structure was constructed with blue powder coated metal and measured 2m x 2m x 2m and had a self-closing door and latch.
- The structure cost $5,195 and school funds were used to pay for the construction. It was in place for 14 school days (including the day of construction and dismantling).
- The structure was commissioned by the principal, and constructed by an external builder.
- The structure was designed as a space for a student to calm down and when the student needed a quiet space.
- There was one occasion where the student was put in the structure by staff to calm down.
- An audit of withdrawal spaces in Government Schools has found no evidence of any other structure comparable to the one built at this school.
- The directorate has specialist expertise that principals can call on for support, advice and case management. Specialist expertise is available to all Canberra Public Schools including in: behaviour management, disability education, school psychologists and counsellors.
- Specialists in behaviour support engage with principals, staff, students and their families to develop comprehensive strategies to assist students to participate in learning. Critically, these strategies must be updated when the circumstances of individual students change.
- The specialised behavioural support team routinely provides support to the school. They were not involved in the decision making regarding the structure.
- The principal is no longer at the school and will not be returning to a school. Recruitment of a new principal for the school is underway.
- The investigation also revealed that:
- The principal did not escalate a request for assistance
- officers within the Directorate may not have provided adequate support to
- the first officers to be notified of the structure did not act on this advice and
- officers within the Directorate did not meet Directorate or public expectations by acting with sufficient urgency or alarm when provided with information about the structure.
- The conduct and decisions of every officer who was part of the Directorate’s response has been examined and the Directorate is dealing with each of those officers.
- The Directorate will be appointing a Director for Families and Students who will have responsibility solely focused on the safety and wellbeing of our students, particularly the most vulnerable.
- This executive will be the key contact for parents, students and the community to raise concerns when they feel a school response in meeting the needs of individual students has been inadequate.
- They will act as an advocate for families, students and staff.
- They will respond to any issue about how schools are meeting the needs of students in a timely and coordinated way.
- They will lead a multi-disciplinary team to provide expertise and targeted support where and when it is needed.
- They will review, develop and implement new and existing policies and procedures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students including the use of withdrawal spaces in Canberra public schools.
- The Directorate will also be appointing a Director of Regulation and Compliance to make sure that Canberra Public Schools meet their obligations and importantly meet community expectations.
- The Directorate will be improving its standard of regulation and compliance in ACT education and care settings.
- This matter has also highlighted that the Directorate could do better in receiving and responding to complaints. These changes will ensure everyone understands how complaints can readily be raised, both at a school level and the Directorate level, and how to expect feedback and follow up.
- The scope of the investigation was to:
- investigate the construction and use of the structure
- enquire into the circumstances, events, conditions, policies and practices (locally and more broadly in the Directorate) surrounding the construction and use of the structure
- investigate the actions taken (or not taken) and advice provided by Directorate officers when they were notified of the structure.
The Minister for Education and Training has appointed an independent Expert Panel to review policy and practice for supporting and teaching students with complex needs and challenging behaviour in all ACT public, independent and Catholic schools.
The Directorate's report can be downloded (MS Word and PDF) below.