Save Our Schools (SOS) today called on the Federal Government to provide $500 million to put an additional counsellor in each government school to deal with bullying and other behaviour problems.
Spokesman for the public education advocacy group, Trevor Cobbold, said it was time that the Howard Government matched its rhetoric on bullying and school violence with resources on the ground.
“The basic issue is the lack of resources in government schools to effectively curb bullying and other behaviour problems. At present, the ratio of students to counsellors in government schools across Australia is over 1000 and up to 2000 in some states. Many more counsellors are needed to deliver programs that better support and mentor students.
“SOS calls on the Federal Government to fund an additional counsellor in each government school, but allocated to schools according to need, and training for teachers. An additional 7000 counsellors in the government school system would make a huge difference to the incidence and impact of bullying and other problem behaviour.
“SOS estimates this would cost about $500 million. Clearly, the Federal Government can afford this with an $11 billion surplus in its 2007-08 Budget.”
Mr. Cobbold said that despite its rhetoric on bullying and school violence, the Howard Government has failed to provide concrete measures.
“The Prime Minister has failed to provide schools with any substantial resources to deal with the issue. It gets only 4 paragraphs in his 12-page speech last night and no concrete proposals to make a difference. His only solution is more reporting by state governments and greater powers for principals.
“The Howard Government has a lamentable record on bullying and violence in schools. It has talked about it for the last ten years, but has consistently failed to deliver the funds to deal with it.
“Dr. Kemp as Federal Education Minister started talking about stamping out bullying in 1998. When pressed by the Australian Council of State School Organisations in January 2000 to provide funding for more school counsellors all he delivered was a brochure for parents to help them identify the symptoms of bullying and some guidelines for schools.
“Prior to the 2004 election, the then Education Minister, Dr. Nelson, and the Prime Minister stated that bullying is unacceptable in schools. They promised a miserly $4.3 million to be spread across 9 600 government and private schools, or about $450 per school. Much of this was spent on display posters about safe schools.”
Mr. Cobbold said that bullying and harassment is a serious concern for every parent.
“Bullying and harassment of students is a major problem in both government and private schools. Many students are the victims of bullying. Bullying can make life for children desperately unhappy in the short-term. The long-term effects of bullying can be disastrous, ranging from major psychological problems to suicide.
“It deserves a better response from the Prime Minister than just more talk and rhetoric because it is election time again. If the Prime Minister will not take action, then the Leader of the Opposition should take the lead.”