Probe into ‘preposterous’ policy at Queensland school

THE Department of Education is investigating a Gold Coast school's controversial policy to exclude children from co-curricular activities due to non-payment of a voluntary resource fee or attendance records.

The policy has angered many families whose young children at Ashmore State School have been prevented from attending events such as a puppet show on cyber-safety, a pirate show, an upcoming Year 4 camp and the before-school running club.

Parents have also told the Bulletin the school breached privacy by sending an open group email to at least 20 families whose children did not meet Ashmore's "enrichment experiences" policy. Each family could see who else had received the email because addresses were not hidden.

The school has since apologised for the breach.

A number of families have complained about the controversial exclusion policy at Ashmore State School. Picture: Tim Marsden
A number of families have complained about the controversial exclusion policy at Ashmore State School. Picture: Tim Marsden

It is understood a number of families contacted the Queensland Department of Education to complain about the enrichment policy introduced by the school's new principal, Karen Brown, at the start of the year.

One complainant said their child's "health and well-being (mental, emotional, and spiritual) is being disregarded" by the school policy and the "use of exclusion due to its criteria".

"This enrichment experiences denies not only the Queensland Government inclusive education policy that states: 'Inclusion is embedded in ALL aspects of school life, and is supported by culture, policies and everyday practices'," the parent wrote.

"It also ignores the 'every student succeeding - state schools strategy of inclusive opportunities for ALL students to reach their potential as successful people' by denying and excluding them if they do not meet criteria that is out of the child's control."

The complaint said the "preposterous" policy left affected children are feeling "ostracised, disengaged, and unwelcome."

Another parent said the policy is "ripping apart our whole school community."

Parents have previously told the Bulletin they had kept children home from school for "days at a time" so they were not "left out and humiliated" as a result of the policy.

One parent said the policy leaves children feeling “ostracised”.
One parent said the policy leaves children feeling “ostracised”.

The department confirmed it was looking into the complaints.

"Those students who do not meet behavioural standards, who do not meet the minimum attendance standards without reasonable excuse, or whose families have not paid or organised payment plans for the school's $110 yearly resource scheme may not be permitted to take part," the statement said.

"These criteria have been, and continue to be fully supported and endorsed by the school's P&C committee. The Department of Education is looking into a complaint made by one parent regarding the enrichment experience program.

"More than 600 families send their children to Ashmore State School. The school received one complaint from a parent about their children being unable to attend Wednesday's (July 24, 2019) enrichment experience program."