Recommendations from inquiry into school cage scandal still behind schedule
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Recommendations from inquiry into school cage scandal still behind schedule

Reforms recommended by a 2015 review into Canberra's school system are months behind schedule while others deemed met fail to meet the expectations set in the review.

The Schools for All program was introduced by the ACT government in 2015 in the wake of national outrage at a 10-year-old boy with autism being locked in a cage at a Canberra school.

The cage in a Canberra school which led to the independent review.

The cage in a Canberra school which led to the independent review.

The program was to implement changes recommended by the review after the ACT government agreed to all 50, allowing better oversight of schools in the ACT as well as better resources for schools, parents and children with complex needs or behavioural problems.

Part of a three-year rollout expected to be completed by 2018, the fourth-quarter report showed some of the recommendations sit nine months behind schedule on self-imposed and revised deadlines.

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ACT Education minister Yvette Berry said the report had given unprecedented insight into the needs of students, and the oversight group in charge of the program had suggested revising the dates because of the extensive consultation required.

"We anticipate most recommendations will be closed between June and December 2017," Ms Berry said.

A report issued in June last year showed the ACT Education Directorate had been overwhelmed by the task and were struggling to meet deadlines.

Of the 50 reforms, 24 have yet to be met by the ACT Education Directorate, Catholic schools or independent schools, with nine behind schedule.

One recommendation was to introduce legislation to require all Catholic schools to report data on student suspensions or expulsions which would include the proportion of students with disabilities and those in out of home care.

However, the program said this had been met because Catholic schools had assured them their own internal self-governance was sufficient.

"It was considered, on balance, that existing practices ensured that the non-government school sectors were sufficiently transparent and accountable to their school boards," Ms Berry said.

Other recommendations, including providing resources and policy for Canberra schools on students with behavioral problems in time for the first school term of 2017, but they have yet to be met.

One included introducing scholarships and allowing teachers to take a sabbatical to learn about teaching students with complex needs or challenging behaviour.

While the education directorate has stepped up funding for related scholarships, no time has been given for the study tours.

"Teachers and education staff do undertake learning opportunities and study trips supported through study leave conditions," Ms Berry said.

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"Giving every child a chance at a great education and the life chances which flow from it is a fundamental priority of the ACT Government."

with Emily Baker

Finbar O'Mallon is a reporter for The Canberra Times

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