Rasmussen State School principal Claudine Moncur-White in a classroom fitted out for 'Flexible Seating for Differentiated Learning'. Picture: Evan Morgan
Rasmussen State School principal Claudine Moncur-White in a classroom fitted out for 'Flexible Seating for Differentiated Learning'. Picture: Evan Morgan

The biggest issue facing kids at school

A NORTH Queensland principal believes up to half of all school students experience ongoing trauma which impacts their education and behaviour.

Rasmussen State School principal Claudine Moncur-White said students experiencing trauma ranged from those living in domestic violence settings and being exposed to drug abuse right through to children of career orientated parents who often were not at home.

A workshop specifically designed to help teachers deal with trauma-affected children is being held today for Townsville primary and secondary school teachers and other educators.

Staff from more than 20 schools will partake in the professional development being provided by the Berry Street Education Model which is designed to provide schools with the training and strategies to engage even the most challenging students.

"Trauma could be domestic violence, drugs or neglect but is not limited to children exposed to things like crime," Mrs Moncur-White said.

"A child that has a stable home life could have trauma because parents are never home, sometimes it is mum and dad are never at home and always working, that can be as traumatic and children can behave in the same way as the ones that are confronted with domestic violence.

"Trauma is everywhere and it is scary.

"I could say honestly, close to 50 per cent of every classroom just about, experiences trauma."

Mrs Moncur-White said the February floods had left many students experiencing trauma after being displaced or affected by the natural disaster.

The principal said children exposed to trauma might take longer to process information because their minds were still dealing with what might have occurred at home.

"For a lot of kids it's difficult to sit down and focus on maths or English when there are dramatic events occurring in their personal lives," Mrs Moncur-White said.

Mrs Moncur-White said educators had to notice children who were struggling because students would rarely speak out about their issues.

She said by implementing emotional case management and "checking in" on students in need at the start of the day, it could ready a child for learning and have positive outcomes on their education.

"In a nutshell this workshop is about skills for managing engagement and behaviour, adding towards what is already in the classrooms," Mrs Moncur-White said.

"It's an education model that is relatively new to Queensland but is based on 25 years of wellbeing and is designed by teachers."

Acting Inspector Matt Lyons, co-ordinator of the Townsville Stronger Communities Action Group said there was a clear link between disengagement from schooling and youth crime.

"A large percentage of children in the youth justice system have experienced multiple traumas, which they often display through their behaviours," he said.

"Research shows that if we can keep these children in school, it improves their life prospects and reduces their chances of delinquency.

"We welcome anything that will help increase the capacity of these children to learn and stay in school."

Townsville MP Scott Stewart, himself a former principal applauded schools for getting involved in the professional development and said understanding a child's context was essential to their education.

"When we talk about educating kids it's about the whole student it's about understanding where they are coming from," he said.

"It's also about that old adage that it takes a village to raise a child.

"Things like sporting clubs… I know a number of them that are going above and beyond for their kids and peer support is another one.

"Training kids to have good listening skills and good friendship skills so they are able to identify when a mate is having a bad day and refer them on to a guidance counsellor or teacher."