“While I can safely say that bullying is not widespread in all our schools there are some schools where bullying has taken over and that is what is causing most of the problems,” Garcia said during Senate Question Time in reply to a query from Opposition Senator Wade Mark. The minister also outlined his ministry’s policy when it comes to errant students.
“The Ministry of Education has taken a number of immediate steps to protect the nation’s children given the increased frequency of violence and gang activity among schoolchildren,” Garcia said in reply to a question from Opposition Senator Wayne Sturge. “The Ministry of Education has adopted a zero-tolerance approach to violence and indiscipline in schools.
Errant students will not be allowed to continue to disrupt schools.
The ministry intends to remove these students and provide options for placement in alternative programmes along with the necessary guidance and the counselling support.
Principals have been asked to develop critical incident profiles for their schools, especially in high-risk areas.” The minister said other measures being implemented included: Reviewing and strengthening the security compliment at high-risk schools and the mandatory use of scanners at school entrances; establishment and maintenance of appropriate and secure perimeter fencing; installation of CCTV and other electronic monitoring and detection devices to provide enhanced security capability; implementation of a system of supervision of all classes along with random searches (“no student should be left unsupervised”) and introduction of policy guidelines for access to schools, supervision reporting incidents, and suspensions.
Further, Garcia said, “The Ministry of Education has engaged and received a commitment from the Teaching Service Commission that all vacancies for the position of principals, vice principals and deans will be filled in the shortest possible time.” He said greater student engagement was another strategy being used to address the increased frequency of violence and gang activity among schoolchildren.
“In this regard, the Ministry of Education is working with schools to strengthen student involvement in student councils, cadets, scouts, girl guides and other important extracurricular activities,” Garcia said. “This will be supported by training in conflict management and anger resolution.” In relation to bullying, the minister said research done by the Student Support Services Division in the ministry found that the most prevalent forms of bullying in schools – in order of significance – were: fighting when angry, ignoring other students on purpose, being cruel to others when in a state of anger, cursing others, name-calling, and teasing.
The ministry, Garcia said, has implemented a number of strategies to address the issue. These include individual, whole-school activities and inter-ministerial measures. He said a total of 327 workshops, involving 26,180 parents, have been conducted. At the inter-ministerial level, the Ministry of Education has partnered with the Ministry of National Security and the Community Police to closely monitor high-risk students and assist in addressing school violence in students who display highrisk behaviours.
Police youth clubs are also supporting through the engagement of high-risk students. There is also a focus on extracurricula activity and partnership with the Defence Force and the Ministry of Social Development’s Family Services Division.