OPEN LETTER TO MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, HON MR CHRISTOPHER PYNE
Attention: Minister for Education, Mr Christopher Pyne
CC: Shadow Minster and all other Ministers
In a recent interview to 2UE on 15th July Kevin Donnelly, Director of the Education Standards Institute, stated:
“If the school community is in favour of it [corporal punishment] then I have not got a problem if it’s done properly”
There is no doubt, given this interview, that Kevin Donnelly has no objection to the use of corporal punishment in schools.
This statement is a reckless and inappropriate endorsement of archaic attitudes and practices in relation to the discipline of children both in schools and society.
In a community where neglect and violence against children has been on the increase every year for the past 12 years, corporal punishment must be seen as a totally inappropriate and ineffective behaviour management strategy for the school environment.
A National Summit, Behaviour in Australian Schools: Current trends and possibilities, was held in South Australia this week with the clear aim of raising the profile of children and their rights as students in schools.
The Summit brought together significant research on the complexity of behaviour in schools.
This research provides new insights into the ways schools can engage students in their learning and schooling while respecting their dignity, treating them fairly, and allowing and encouraging them to continue their education. It critiqued punitive responses to misbehaviour and offered alternatives.
It is upon this kind of evidence-based research that a senior educational advisor to the government should base his comments.
Harking back to community standards of more than 30 years ago has no relevance to the realities of today or 21st century community expectations.
The educational researchers and other participants involved in the Summit were disconcerted by the comments made by Kevin Donnelly, especially as he is a senior educational advisor to the Federal Education Minister. In this role, the Australian public has a right to expect informed commentary and advice based on sound research.
We call on the government to remove Mr Donnelly from his position as advisor on any matters related to the education of children in Australia.
We call on the government to amend legislation to ensure that the children of Australia are protected from all forms of corporal punishment in schools.
Dr Anna Sullivan, Senior lecturer, School of Education, University of South Australia
Professor Bruce Johnson, Adjunct Research Professor, School of Education, University of South Australia
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