Safe Schools program gutted: Resources to become part of govt-controlled Safe Schools hub
Education minister Senator Simon Birmingham has released the government’s response to the Safe Schools review and says the government has first and foremost considered the needs of children in making its decision on the program.
The review into the controversial LGBTI anti-bullying program was triggered by Senator Cory Bernardi presenting the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a petition with over 9000 signatures calling for the funding to the program to be axed.
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Birmingham said the paramount purpose of the review was to protect the children.
"Children have every right to feel safe in our schools to be safe from bullying and homophobia. They also have every right to be safe from inappropriate material – because of their age or the nature of the material,” said Birmingham.
“It’s because of those needs to balance all of those rights that the government has had a review undertaken by professor Bill Louden into the Safe Schools program.”
Birmingham said the first objective of the review was to prevent homophobia and transphobia in schools to ensure the school environs are inclusive envirnments and secondly to support LGBTIQ students.
“It’s critical that we consider the resources are designed for school children and that they must be age appropriate in alignment with curriculum.”
He said the review had found some lessons are not necessarily appropriate for all children. He also stressed that some concerns had been raised regarding content contained on linkages supplied.
“E-safety is critical,” Birmingham said.
“We want to make sure our children are as safe as possible,” he said.
Birmingham said a number of actions would need to be undertaken to ensure the Safe Schools material was safe.
“We will be requiring lesson areas where there is content not suitable to children that the content is removed,” Birmingham said.
“Program resources need to be fit for delivery in secondary school environment only. Branding and links to other websites will be removed unless they are to a Commonwealth or state-funded health service.”
Birmingham said the materials will now be removed from the Safe Schools Coalition website and be moved to the Safe Schools Hub – and mainstreamed alongside other anti-bullying programs.
“This will give people the confidence resources will be housed in a safe environment and no other materials can be accessed,” he said.
Birmingham said he also expected that a standard resource – “a fact sheet - if you like, will be developed so they can understand what is in the safe schools program so they can make a decision as to whether their child should access the program.
“In the end our teachers and schools will be able to use their judgment on how they use these resources.”
The government will seek to address these findings and reasonable concerns via a number of immediate actions.
Queensland Federal MP and Labor's Child Safety spokesperson Terri Butler said Malcolm Turnbull had "caved in to the right wing extreme of the Liberal National Coalition".
“The report by Professor Bill Louden found that the Safe Schools resources are 'consistent with the aims of the programme and the Australian Curriculum, suitable, educationally sound and age-appropriate'," Butler said.
“Yet Malcolm Turnbull is allowing people like George Christensen and Cory Bernardi, instead of experts, teachers and parents, to decide what’s best for students.
“I am concerned that this could see the Safe Schools anti-bullying program banned in some schools. That would be a great shame, particularly given suicide rates amongst LGBTI kids."
Safe Schools Coalition Australia said in a statement:
"Safe Schools Coalition Australia (SSCA) welcomed the review and the opportunity to demonstrate the value of the national program.
"The review by Emeritus Professor William Louden has found that the official resources are consistent with the intent and objectives of the program and are appropriate for use in schools. We acknowledge Professor Louden for his expertise in the delivery of this review.
"Senator Birmingham has announced the Federal Government’s recommendations following the review and we welcome the government’s support for the continued delivery of the program. We will work through the proposed changes with the Department and the Minister.
"SSCA is a national coalition of expert and highly qualified partners delivering training, resources and support for teachers and schools across the country to ensure students can access education in safe and inclusive learning environments.
"SSCA is committed to ensuring the continued positive impact of this work for same sex attracted, intersex and gender diverse students, school staff, and families.
"We thank the Australian community for their support."
Actions the government intends to take in regards to Safe Schools material include:
- Fix the content of the programme resources by amending Minus 18's All Of Us resources that are unsuitable for some students
- Remove unsuitable and age inapppropriate material
- Align content with the curriculum and supply amended resources for peer review
- Address concerns about third party links, advocacy and materials in resources
- Restrict the use and distribution of the OMG I'm Queer, OMG My Friend's Queer and Stand Out resources, which were not developed as classroom resources, to one-on-one discussions between students and key qualified staff.
Birmingham suggested once the FYA's contract ran out funding for the program was unlikely to continue.
“There was never an intention the program be funded beyond the current contract period,” he said. “The intention was what the program has done and is doing, developing resources for schools and teachers to use in accordance with their policies and following consultation with their parents and those resources will of course live on, on the Safe School hub website.”