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Low sign-up for Safe Schools anti-bullying program in Victoria

Apr 21, 2017, 09:47:09
By Herald Sun

ONE in four public high schools have not yet signed up to Safe Schools before the controversial program becomes mandatory.

Just 295 Victorian schools, including primary and special schools, had pledged to “build an environment that is safer and more inclusive” by March this year.

Almost 70 public secondary schools were yet to join the program, which becomes compulsory at the end of 2018.

The Andrews government has had to repeatedly defend the anti-bullying initiative, which was scrapped in NSW and defunded in Tasmania.

SAFE SCHOOLS PROGRAM TO BE DUMPED BY NSW GOVERNMENT

Dr Kevin Donnelly, senior research fellow at the Australian Catholic University, said schools risked losing their autonomy under the plan to make Safe Schools compulsory.

“The fact that all schools are not involved demonstrates that there is a community concern about the program,” he said.

“There is no secret that Victoria and Australia are going back in international tests ... so it is wasteful and wrong that we are focusing on ideological programs like Safe Schools.”

Just 17 per cent of independent secondary, primary and combined schools run the program, according to the March member list. Only two Catholic schools had signed up.

The State government took control of the revised program in March after cutting ties with its founder, Marxist Roz Ward.

An Education Department spokesman said all students had the right to feel safe at school. But the opposition has vowed to dump the program.

Opposition education spokesman Nick Wakeling said Safe Schools would be replaced with a program that addresses “all forms” of bullying.

“It’s no wonder education standards are slipping when Daniel Andrews is so preoccupied with these social engineering projects,” he said.

Education Minister James Merlino conceded some schools were reluctant to join the program — but told parents not to be sucked in by a campaign of “lies and myths”.

“Let me make one point: kids who do not feel safe at school don’t learn ... and the record also shows that same sex-attracted young people are more likely to be bullied,” he said.

Judy Crowe, of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said some schools may not have signed up because they ran other anti-bullying programs.