New behaviour adviser to work across all schools as student conduct worsens

The NSW government will undergo a global recruitment search to find a chief behaviour adviser as state, independent and Catholic schools battle worsening student conduct.

In a first for the state, the government will appoint a specialist adviser to help all schools navigate increasingly difficult student behaviour, which has been magnified since pandemic lockdowns forced students to learn from home.

Premier Dominic Perrottet in Willoughby on Sunday with Education Minister Sarah Mitchell.Credit:Dean Sewell

The adviser will work with schools across all sectors using the latest evidence-based practices and will also advise parents and carers on the most effective ways to support their children and reinforce behavioural approaches taken at school.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the radical move was needed to address a common problem affecting schools across the state.

“We want our students to succeed by providing them with the best education from the best teachers, but that simply can’t happen if students don’t also strive to put their best foot forward when it comes to behaviour at school,” Perrottet said.

“Teachers across school sectors have told us they want greater support for dealing with disruptive students and that’s why we’re introducing the role of NSW chief behaviour adviser to lead on best practice for improving and maintaining respectful student behaviour.”

Premier Dominic Perrottet announces the new position with Sarah Mitchell, minister for education (right) and Robyn Evans, president of the NSW primary principals association. Credit:Dean Sewell

Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell said behavioural pressures on schools were complex and that a cross-sector approach would help all schools tackle challenges such as social media.

Mitchell also confirmed plans to more than double the number of behaviour specialists supporting NSW public schools to manage complex student behaviour from 70 to 200.

Association of Independent Schools of NSW chief executive Geoff Newcombe.

“The boost to the number of behaviour specialists will mean more schools will benefit from these experts who can provide advice to teachers, coordinate resources and build the capacity of schools to manage challenging and complex student behaviour,” Mitchell said.

“Our overall approach will help embed our recent inclusive, engaging and respectful schools reforms in public schools, and share best practice across systems so that all schools can adopt strategies that have been proven to work well.”

The government will also launch the state’s first cross-sector school respect awards, to recognise students who have shown high standards of respectful behaviour, inclusiveness and community mindedness.

Each school in NSW will present a Premier’s Respect Award to a student who exemplifies respectful behaviour, then an expert panel will select the top 10 who will be presented with their awards by the premier at an annual respect award showcase.

Dallas McInerney, chief executive of Catholic Schools NSW, said the introduction of the awards hit the appropriate balance.

“There are great things happening in our schools every day and these awards will give respectful behaviour the same high regard and prestige as academic achievement,” McInerney said.

Geoff Newcombe, head of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, welcomed a collaborative approach to addressing behaviour in schools.

“To tackle these issues head on, we need a strong, cross-sector approach which supports schools to hold students to a high standard,” Newcombe said.

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