Bendigo Education Plan consultation hears calls for safety as city prepares for different-looking future

Students have raised the issue of personal safety, and teachers have asked for tools to deal with “challenging” students, as Bendigonians are asked how schooling should look in 10 years’ time. 

Early childhood and primary school sector representatives this week attended community consultations inside the regional office of the Victorian education department, telling Bendigo Education Plan 2018-2028 facilitators their schools needed to attract and retain highly-skilled staff capable of managing student behaviour.

“Many find it challenging to manage behaviours they don’t understand,” one kindergarten leader said, believing training was required for those staff.  

Primary school heads said students with behavioural difficulties who had aides during pre-school arrived into their first year of primary school without funding for the same supports. 

School students were also involved in the education plan discussions, with grade 6 classmates from Strathfieldsaye primary school believing all schools should become places free from the scourge of bullying. 

Students should also be prepared for the advent of social media harassment, they suggested.

Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace, whose organisation is contributing to the Bendigo plan, said it was imperative all staff and students felt safe in their schools.

“Federal and state governments have an obligation to ensure sufficient funding and resources are provided to both schools and their staff to reduce any risks that may arise, and to provide healthy and safe workplaces,” Ms Peace said. 

“Violence is never acceptable, and the safety of Bendigo’s students and staff must be a priority for the education department.”

Fears for the wellbeing of Victorian principals were last month acknowledged when the education department announced regular health check-ups for school leaders. 

The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey found almost 30 per cent of Victorian principals were physically assaulted. 

More than two in every five were threatened with physical violence.

Staff retention was also floated as a concern in need of addressing, as was educators’ rates of pay.