Skip to content

Labor must take urgent action on classroom disruption to raise school standards

Shadow Minister for Education, Sarah Henderson, has called on the Albanese Government to urgently address escalating classroom disruption in Australian schools which is contributing to declining school standards and a teacher shortage crisis.

Senator Henderson has welcomed a senate inquiry report into a serious decline in classroom behaviour which sees Australia ranked 69th worst of 76 participating countries in the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (2018 PISA).

The deterioration of discipline in Australian classrooms has resulted in a spike in violent incidents and is a leading cause of teachers leaving the profession.

A survey by Monash University (Australian Teachers’ Perceptions of their Work in 2022) showed 24.5 per cent of teachers were feeling unsafe at work, up from 18.9 per cent in 2019. This was primarily attributed to threatening, abusive and aggressive behaviour from students.

It is estimated teachers spend 15 per cent of lesson time dealing with poor behaviour, with inadequate teacher training hampering the ability of many teachers to manage disruption.  As the report confirms, there is a strong correlation between increasing classroom disruption and declining standards in Australian schools.

“With one in three Australian students failing NAPLAN, this report confirms urgent action is required by the Albanese government to combat classroom disruption,” Senator Henderson said.

“Students cannot learn in a disruptive environment and hardworking teachers must have the training and resources to adequately manage poor classroom behaviour.

“Education Minister Jason Clare is failing to prioritise the critical need to raise school standards which is the number one issue in Australian schools.

“Australia has some of the most disorderly classrooms in the world and our parents, teachers and students deserve better.  Young Australians who don’t reach their best potential at school are being set up to fail.

“As I saw first-hand when the senate committee visited Marsden Road Public School in Liverpool, Sydney, it is possible to manage classroom behaviour in challenging circumstances, and deliver highly effective learning, when teachers receive the best training and support.”

The senate inquiry into the issue of increasing school disruption in Australian school classrooms was conducted by the Education and Employment References Committee, chaired by Liberal senator for Western Australia, Matt O’Sullivan.  See the report here.

The committee recommendations include:

  • • fast tracking the delivery of core curriculum in every university teaching course including comprehensive behaviour management training;
  • • a national behaviour survey of Australian schools to support evidence-based measures to combat classroom disruption;
  • • more “on-the-job” experience for student teachers;
  • • a “behaviour curriculum” which incorporates into the Australian Curriculum the explicit instruction of expected behaviours at school;
  • • the adoption of evidence-based teaching methods in every Australian school to support optimal student engagement and learning;
  • • the abolition of open classrooms which makes behaviour management more difficult; and
  • • greater integration of school-based specialists such as psychologists, social workers and behavioural experts to support students in need including those with a disability.

The inquiry conducted five public hearings and a number of school visits around Australia to draw on the valuable experience of principals, teachers, and education stakeholders.

“I congratulate Senator O’Sullivan and the committee which has presented a compelling case for reform.  The Albanese government needs to urgently address the dire state of our classrooms which is fuelling declining school standards.”

“Whether it’s the failure to adopt proven teaching methods, an overcrowded curriculum, poor teacher training or disruption in classrooms, Mr Clare has no immediate solutions to raise school standards.

“It is time the Albanese government better supported teachers to excel in the classroom so that every student can reach his or her best potential.

“Together with state and territory education ministers, the next National School Reform Agreement presents an important opportunity for the government to address the dire level of disruption in Australian classrooms.”

Editor’s note:

  • • Next week, the OECD will release the 2022 PISA results which will provide a vital update into how Australian students are performing compared with other OECD nations.
  • • Twenty years ago, Australia ranked 4th internationally in reading, 8th in science and 11th in maths.  In the 2018 PISA results, Australia fell to 16th in reading, 17th in science and 29th in maths.
  • • As PISA shows, Australia has lost the equivalent of one year’s worth of learning over the past two decades. We were once on par with top performing nations such as Singapore. Now the average 15-year-old Singaporean is three years ahead of their Australian counterparts.

Share this