Alternative school suspension program launches

Monday, 17 April, 2023

Alternative school suspension program launches

School students who are suspended become more likely to engage in antisocial or violent behaviour.

The Y NSW is launching a new alternative suspension program for youth aged 12–18 who have been or are at risk of being suspended from school due to problematic behaviour.

The program aims to reduce future suspensions and disciplinary sanctions by offering participants an opportunity to turn their time away from school into a positive experience that fosters personal growth and autonomy.

Considered an Australian first, this program is launching in Youth Week from 20–30 April 2023, with rollout in Western Sydney and on the Central Coast of NSW.

“Our Alternative Suspension program is the first to be piloted anywhere in Australia after being successfully delivered for more than 20 years in Canada and Europe,” said Susannah Le Bron, Y NSW CEO.

“This program has a long history of success, after being created in 1999, and has now been delivered to more than 30 communities across Canada and Europe.”

The Alternative Suspension program encourages youth to make the most of their suspended time, rather than just have it be a missed opportunity and some time out of the classroom.

“School suspensions and other disciplinary measures can be early indicators of a student’s potential to disengage from school. Our Alternative Suspension Program is a positive prevention program designed to counter these risk factors,” Le Bron said.

“The program focuses on building connections and keeping the students accountable during their school absence. Students get one-on-one support and counselling from a youth worker, join group workshops and are encouraged to complete assigned school work.”

Dropping out of school has significant costs for both the student and our community in general — costs that could be avoided by helping students in crisis reconnect to school and get back on track to graduating or finding meaningful employment.

Participating schools on the Central Coast and in the Parramatta Local Government Area can refer students to the program for anywhere between three and 20 days. Referrals from outside these areas will be supported to participate or be referred to an alternative program.

The program’s core components centre around three key steps — cooling down, reflection and commitment.

“As part of our planning for this launch, we expect 300 referrals to the program and 50 weeks of school-term programming. This will equate to 900 hours of classroom-supported sessions that will re-engage 200 students overall in the first year of rollout,” Le Bron said.

Youth workers in Western Sydney and on the Central Coast will support participants in small group sizes and work with parents and teachers to develop case plans for a smooth transition back into mainstream education or alternative training pathways.

The Western Sydney Alternative Suspension program will be based at the Y NSW head office in Parramatta, while the Central Coast program will operate out of a Lake Haven youth site.

Photo caption: Y NSW Youth Worker Mim Wasley, showcasing the program.

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