Classroom disruption

16 NOVEMBER 2023

PDF Version [1.33MB]

Dr Shannon Clark, Marilyn Harrington and Dr Emma Vines
Social Policy

Executive summary

  • Classroom disruption and disruptive student behaviour is a complex and multifaceted issue. Disruptive behaviour in schools encompasses a wide range of behaviours, ranging from chatting in class to physical violence.[1] Problematic student behaviour is intertwined with numerous aspects of schooling including student engagement, classroom management practices, school learning environments and disciplinary practices.
  • Classroom disruption can impact negatively on students and teachers. Disruptive classroom environments are associated with poorer student performance, which can in turn have long-term impacts on students’ lives. Disruptive student behaviour can impact on teachers’ job satisfaction and contribute to teachers wanting to leave the profession.[2]
  • Managing disruptive behaviour can be difficult. Classroom management is one of the most challenging aspects of teachers’ roles, particularly for early career teachers.[3] Furthermore, strict disciplinary practices used to manage problematic student behaviour such as suspension or expulsion can themselves have negative impacts on students.[4] In Australia, exclusionary practices disproportionately affect boys, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disability, and those living in out-of-home care.[5]

Executive summary
What constitutes disruptive behaviour in schools?
The extent of classroom disruption in Australia
Australia’s results in an international context
Impacts on teachers and students
Addressing classroom disruption


This paper explores issues related to classroom disruption, including what it is, its impact on students and teachers, and approaches to managing it. Based on students’ reports in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018, the disciplinary climate in schools in Australia is among the worst in OECD countries.[6] Classroom disruption can impede student learning, contributing to lost teaching time and making it difficult for students to concentrate. It can also take a toll on teachers, contributing to a loss of job satisfaction, stress and burnout.

In Australia, there are 2 broad school sectors: government (also referred to as public or state schools) and non-government (also referred to as private or non-state) schools.[7] State and territory governments administer and operate government schools and regulate government and non-government schools in their jurisdiction. Non-government schools can be further distinguished as Catholic and independent schools. Many non-government schools have a religious affiliation or promote a particular educational philosophy. Non-government schools may be administered as part of a system, or operate as single entities.

Schools and school authorities have policies and procedures to guide responses to disruptive student behaviour. In response to persistent or serious student misbehaviour, schools may employ exclusionary disciplinary approaches such as suspensions or expulsions. However, research has found that such punitive approaches are disproportionately applied towards students who are disadvantaged and male students, and can themselves have negative impacts on students.[8] In Australia, better data is needed on suspensions and expulsions. There is no nationally consistent data on suspensions and expulsions in government schools and no publicly available data for non-government schools.

In this paper, we consider what constitutes disruptive behaviour in schools and how it can be measured. We discuss examples of data that can provide insight into the extent of classroom disruption in Australia and overseas, as well as discussing how Australia compares to other countries on international measures of disciplinary climate. We then examine the impact of disruptive behaviour on students, including on student performance as well as the impact of exclusionary discipline; and on teachers, such as teacher safety, work satisfaction and staff retention. In the final section, we discuss factors that contribute to students’ (mis)behaviour and strategies that may be employed to manage and minimise classroom disruption, and present  examples of resources and approaches from Australia and selected overseas countries.

What constitutes disruptive behaviour in schools?

There is no single definition of classroom disruption. Disruptive behaviours can vary from low-level disruptions to more challenging behaviours. Low-level disruptions can include students:

  • talking unnecessarily or chatting
  • calling out without permission
  • being slow to start work or follow instructions
  • showing a lack of respect for each other and staff
  • not bringing the right equipment
  • using mobile devices inappropriately.[9]

More challenging behaviours can include:

  • physical and verbal aggression
  • unsafe and dangerous behaviours.[10]

PISA uses a pragmatic definition of disciplinary climate (discussed further below), measuring it ‘by the extent to which students miss learning opportunities due to disruptive behaviour in the classroom’.[11]

While challenging behaviours, particularly violence and aggression, tend to gain media attention,[12] most classroom disruption is low-level disruption, such as talking out of turn, and/or student disengagement.[13]

More serious or persistent disruptive behaviour may be punishable through exclusionary practices, such as suspension or expulsion. States and territories set out grounds for suspension and/or expulsion in government schools in legislation and policies.[14] However, just as there is a wide range of behaviour that can be considered disruptive, there is considerable variation across Australia in how the grounds for suspension and/or expulsion are specified. For example, while South Australian legislation includes ‘persistent and wilful indifference to school work’ as well as violence and acting illegally,[15] Western Australian legislation broadly states that a student may be suspended for ‘a breach of school discipline’, which is ‘any act or omission that impairs the good order and proper management of the school’.[16] Table 1, reproduced from a study of exclusionary practices in Australia, compares the grounds on which students in government schools may be suspended in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia.

Table 1     Grounds on which students may be suspended in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia


Source: Jamie Manolev, Anna Sullivan, Neil Tippett and Bruce Johnson, School Exclusionary Practices in Australia, School Exclusions Study Key Issues Paper No. 1 (Adelaide: University of South Australia, 2020), 2.

The extent of classroom disruption in Australia

Because classroom disruption can take many forms, there are also multiple ways that disruptions can be measured. In Australia, this includes data collected as part of PISA, as well the OECD’s Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS); data about the number of school exclusions, such as suspensions and/or expulsions; and surveys of school communities’ opinions.

PISA and TALIS – Australian results on disciplinary climate

PISA 2018

PISA is an international assessment of 15-year-olds which measures students’ ability to apply their knowledge in reading, mathematics, and science.[17] PISA is a sample assessment. Participating countries select a representative sample of schools to take part, and within those schools a representative sample of students is selected for testing.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) published reports of Australia’s results in PISA 2018. In 2018, 14,273 students from 740 schools participated in PISA. Of these, 56% of students were from government schools, 24% were from Catholic schools, and 20% were from independent schools.[18] Chapter 9 of PISA 2018: Reporting Australia’s Results. Volume II Student and School Characteristics discussed the disciplinary climate in English classes.[19] Students were asked how frequently the following occurred in their English classes on a 4-point scale (every class, most classes, some classes, never or hardly ever):

  • ‘students don’t listen to what the teacher says’
  • ‘there is noise and disorder’
  • ‘the teacher has to wait a long time for students to quieten down’
  • ‘students cannot work well’
  • ‘students don’t start working for a long time after the lesson begins’.

Key findings of the report included the following for Australian students in English classes:

  • Approximately one-fifth (21%) of students reported that in most or every class students cannot work well, one-quarter (26%) reported that students don’t start working for a long time after the lesson begins, approximately one-third reported that the teacher has to wait a long time for students to quieten down (32%) and that students don’t listen to what the teacher says (37%).
  • Almost half (43%) of students reported that there is noise and disorder in most or every class.
  • The disciplinary climate deteriorated between PISA 2009 and 2018, for example, there was a 5 percentage point increase in students reporting that students don’t listen to what the teacher says in most or every class.
  • Students in non-government schools reported a more favourable disciplinary climate than students in government schools.
  • Students in classrooms with the most favourable disciplinary climate (the highest quartile of the disciplinary climate index) performed higher in reading literacy than students in classrooms with the least favourable disciplinary climate (lowest quartile of the disciplinary climate index), scoring 55 points higher on average – the equivalent of around one and two-thirds of a year of schooling.[20]

As part of PISA 2018, school principals were asked about the extent to which they perceived student behaviour hindered learning. Key findings discussed in Chapter 10 of ACER’s report included that, on average, 50% of principals of Australian students reported student learning was hindered to some extent or a lot by students not being attentive, with lower percentages reported for the perceived hinderance on learning of:

  • student truancy (33%)
  • students lacking respect for teachers (30%)
  • students skipping classes (24%)
  • students intimidating or bullying other students (23%)
  • student use of alcohol or drugs (11%).[21]

TALIS 2018

TALIS collects information about the learning environment and working conditions of teachers and principals across the world.[22] It asks teachers to identify a particular class chosen at random from their teaching schedule (the ‘target class’) and asks teachers questions about the class and how they teach it.[23] Like PISA, TALIS also looks at the classroom disciplinary environment. It asks teachers about their level of agreement (strongly disagree; disagree; agree; strongly agree) with statements about the disciplinary climate in the classroom:

  • ‘I lose quite a bit of time because of students interrupting the lesson’
  • ‘I have to wait quite a long time when the lessons begin for students to quieten down’
  • ‘there is much disruptive noise in the classroom’
  • ‘students in this class take care to create a pleasant learning atmosphere’.[24]

The Australian report for TALIS 2018 reported that, despite Australian schools often being characterised as noisy and disruptive, there were no differences in these areas between Australia and the OECD average (discussed further below).[25]

Another aspect of school and classroom climate considered by TALIS is school safety. Principals were asked about the frequency of safety-related incidents occurring in their schools (never; less than monthly; monthly; weekly; or daily). Australian principals reported a higher frequency of incidents than on average across the OECD. For example:

  • 37% reported that intimidation and bullying among students occurs at least weekly in their schools, compared with 14% of schools across the OECD
  • 12% reported that intimidation and verbal abuse of teachers and staff by students occurs at least weekly, compared with 3% of principals across the OECD.[26]

Australian surveys of school staff

Surveys of school staff can also provide insights into the extent of disruptive student behaviour in schools. Findings from recent surveys are summarised below.

Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey: This annual survey is conducted by the Australian Catholic University. It includes principals, assistant principals, and deputy principals from every school type, sector, state, and territory. The 2022 survey results reported an increasing trend in threatening behaviour from students compared with 2021:

  • 37.6% of school leaders reported being exposed to threats of violence (up 4.3 percentage points from 2021)[27]
  • 41.6% reported being subjected to physical violence (up 4.5 percentage points from 2021)[28]

Australian Teachers’ Perceptions of their Work in 2022: This Monash University survey had 5,497 respondents, a majority of whom were primary (41.8%) or secondary (31.5%) teachers. The majority of respondents were from the public or state school sector (65.7%) followed by private and independent schools (14.8%) and faith-based schools (12.8%). The 2022 report showed that when comparing the results from the 2019 survey, there were more teachers who felt unsafe at work in 2022, with 24.5% feeling unsafe, an increase of 5.6 percentage points since 2019.[29] Of those who indicated that they did not feel safe at work, participants were asked to comment on reasons why. Student behaviour and violence were key reasons with almost two-thirds of comments provided relating to students, suggesting that some students were ‘abusive’, ‘aggressive’, violent’ and ‘threatening’. Other reasons included abuse from parents and negative relationships with staff.

Teachers cited particular challenges in relation to student behaviour, including perceived lack of parent discipline at home, and ‘the rise of new and difficult student behaviours that we don’t yet know how to deal with’. Solutions canvassed included increased resourcing to reduce workloads and reduce class sizes, as well as extra funding for teaching aides, social workers, counsellors and qualified professionals to provide extra psychosocial support for students and to support teachers, particularly in low socioeconomic and remote schools.[30]

State of Our Schools: This is an annual survey of Victorian government school staff (principals, teachers, education support and casual relief teachers) conducted by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Education Union. The 2021 survey results, based on 10,831 responses, showed:

  • 41.1% of teachers who reported increased work-related stress attributed the increase to student behaviour[31]
  • of those who saw themselves leaving public school education in 10 years or less, 40.1% blamed student behaviour[32]
  • 68.5% of respondents considered that improved resources and processes to support student management issues would most help to retain teachers in the profession.[33]

State and territory data

Australian state and territory data on exclusionary discipline (such as suspensions and expulsions) and school surveys of students’ and/or parents’ opinions can also provide insights into classroom behaviour and schools’ disciplinary climate.

Table 2 below provides links and a brief description of the available data by state and territory in relation to school exclusion and school surveys.

State and territory government school suspension and expulsion data

There is no nationally comparable data on government school suspensions and expulsions. As such, the terminology, length and grounds for suspensions and expulsions and the public availability and extent of the data provided vary considerably between jurisdictions. Also, policy changes in relation to discipline, suspensions and expulsions and the effects of the COVID pandemic, with its lockdowns and remote learning, has affected consistency and comparability of trend data within jurisdictions. There is also no readily available data for non-government school suspensions and expulsions.

One of the aims of the University of South Australia’s School Exclusions Study is to create a National Data Profile which will include a comparative national analysis of the incidence of exclusions recorded over a 5-year period in government schools; the reasons for exclusions; and a characteristics profile of which groups of students are excluded.

Although jurisdictions publicly report school suspensions and expulsions in different ways, with significant variation in the detail provided, it is apparent from the available data that school suspensions and expulsions are most prevalent in the middle years of secondary school (Years 8 and 9), and more prevalent for boys and students facing disadvantage and/or marginalisation.[34]

School suspension and expulsion data does not measure other classroom disruptions which do not result in these exclusions. Some other indicators of classroom behaviour are provided by survey data.

School surveys

Schools have access to the School Survey, a data collection tool launched in 2013 after being developed by Education Services Australia and approved by the then ministerial Standing Council on School Education and Early Childhood (SCSEEC; now Education Ministers Meeting). The SCSEEC approved the use of agreed student and parent survey items to gather and analyse school opinion information. The results of school opinion surveys are then made available to schools and their communities, but aggregated data are not always reported publicly.

Table 2     Availability of state and territory government school exclusion and school survey data

State/ Territory

School exclusion data[35]

School surveys


Suspension data is provided by school level (primary, secondary and college) and includes the number of suspension incidents, rate per 100 students, number of suspension days, number of students suspended and suspension rate as a percentage of enrolments.

  • In 2021, the suspension rate was 1.3% for primary schools, 5.7% for high schools, and 0.8% for colleges (Years 11 and 12).

Parents and caregivers, students in Years 4 to 12 and school staff provide feedback through the annual School Satisfaction and Climate Survey. Only brief results for the ACT are published. School principals decide about distribution of school level results.


Suspensions and expulsions data is disaggregated by suspension type (short and long), school level (primary and secondary), aggregated years (K–2, 3–6, 7–10, 11–12) and gender. Data is also provided for Indigenous students, students with disability and students by geolocation. Total exclusions over time are presented graphically.

  • In 2021 (full year data), 1.5% of primary students and 8.5% of secondary students received suspensions (of any length); 12.6% of Aboriginal students received suspensions, and 10.3% of students identified as receiving adjustments due to disability received a suspension.[36]

The Tell Them From Me surveys of students (Years 4 to 12), teachers and parents aim to measure student engagement and wellbeing. Aggregated data do not appear to be publicly released.


Routinely published school suspensions data is minimal, only providing the number of students suspended by region. However, detailed data are provided in the recent report, Occupational Violence and Aggression in Northern Territory Government Schools (October 2022).

  • In 2021 the suspension rate per 1,000 students was 6.8 for non-Aboriginal students and 14.4 for Aboriginal students (see pp. 26–29 for more detailed data).

The annual Northern Territory Government School Survey collects the opinions of staff, students (Years 5 to 12), and parents and carers about school performance, culture and services. It appears survey results are shared at the school level, but results are not readily publicly available.


Data is provided by region and student demographics, including number of suspensions (short and long), exclusions and cancellations of enrolment by year level, reasons for action and Indigenous status.

  • In 2022, most school disciplinary absences (SDAs) were imposed on students in Year 8, with 14,618 SDAs.
  • Across all years, Indigenous students received 18,829 SDAs in total (24.1% of total SDAs), while non-Indigenous students received 59,169 SDAs (75.8% of total SDAs).[37]

The annual School Opinion Surveys obtain the views of parents/caregivers in all families, students in Years 5, 6, 8 and 11, and school staff.

  • The 2022 survey results found that 82% of parents and caregivers, 67% of students and 76% of staff agreed that student behaviour was well-managed at their school.


Data for suspensions, exclusions and expulsions are provided by year level.

  • In 2022, the highest number of suspension incidents was for Year 8 students, with 918 suspension incidents; students in Year 9 had the highest number of exclusion incidents at 49 incidents. No expulsions are recorded.[38]

The wellbeing and engagement collection surveys students in Years 4 to 12 about non-academic factors relevant to learning and participation, including school climate and experience of bullying.

  • In 2023, 24% of students reported low wellbeing in relation to school climate and 13% of students reported low wellbeing in relation to verbal bullying.


Student engagement and participation data outlines the proportion of total students suspended by year level. A breakdown of the proportions of student suspensions by reason is also provided.

  • In 2022, the proportion of students suspended in government schools was 6.3%.
  • Year 8 had the highest proportion of students suspended at 17.7%.

Students in Years 4 to 12 undertake the Student Wellbeing and Engagement Survey annually.

  • The statewide report for the survey in 2023 reported that 31% of students reported low wellbeing in relation to school climate and 17% of students experienced low wellbeing in relation to feeling safe at school.


Data on expulsions is provided by level of education (primary and secondary), year level, gender, and student background (Indigenous status, students with disability, students in out-of-home care, students from migrant, refugee or asylum seeker background), and outcomes for expelled students.

  • In 2021, there were 125 expulsion incidents for primary and secondary aged students. Of these, 97 expulsions (77.6%) were for male students; 9 (7.2%) were for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and 26 (20.8%) were for students receiving Program for Students with Disabilities funding.[39]

Students, parents and caregivers and staff participate in the annual Attitudes to School Survey. The results do not appear to be publicly available but are provided at the school level.


The Department of Education’s Annual Report 2022–23 provides the number and percentage of students suspended, and number of students excluded (see p. 36).

  • In 2022, 19,289 students (5.8% of total enrolments) were suspended, up from 18,068 in 2021 (5.5%).
  • The annual report also noted that suspensions and exclusions had increased following the launch of Let’s take a stand together, the WA Government’s plan to address violence in schools.

We have not located information about a school survey in WA schools.


Australia’s results in an international context

International comparisons can be made using results from the 2018 PISA and TALIS surveys. Although Australian students’ reports of classroom disruption in PISA 2018 were among the worst internationally and below the OECD average, based on teachers’ reports in TALIS 2018, the disciplinary climate in Australian classrooms was not vastly different from the OECD average.

Index of Disciplinary Climate (PISA 2018)

According to the OECD’s 2018 index of disciplinary climate (shown in Figure 1 below) from PISA, Australia ranked among the lowest at 70th out of 77 participating countries, with higher values in the index indicating a more positive disciplinary climate.

The index is based on student responses to statements about classroom disciplinary environments. The OECD reported:

  • On average across OECD countries, almost one in three students reported that, in every or most lessons, students do not listen to the teacher or there is noise and disorder.
  • Student reports of disciplinary climate generally improved between 2009 and 2018, especially in Albania, Korea and the United Arab Emirates.[40]
  • In all countries and economies, students with higher reading scores tended to report a more positive disciplinary climate, after accounting for socio-economic status. Even occasional disciplinary problems were negatively associated with reading performance.
  • Student reports of disciplinary climate were more positive in schools where more than 60 % of students were girls and in gender-balanced schools than in schools where more than 60 % of students were boys, on average across OECD countries.
  • On average across OECD countries, the positive relationship between disciplinary climate and reading performance was relatively stable across students’ gender, socio-economic status and immigrant background.[41]


Figure 1    Index of disciplinary climate, by school characteristics based on students’ reports


Source: OECD, ‘Chapter 3. Disciplinary Climate’, PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Lives, (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2019).

Disciplinary climate (TALIS 2018)

According to teachers’ reports in TALIS, Australian classes are not as disruptive as students report through PISA and are not vastly different from other countries’ classrooms (see Table 3).[42]

One reason posited for the difference between teachers’ reports and students’ reports is that PISA focuses on Year 9 students, while TALIS reports on lower secondary school (Years 7–10), ‘so it may be that the differences reported are less about student perception versus teacher perception and more about the differences between Year 9 classes and Year 7–10 classes more broadly’.[43]


Table 3     Teachers’ reports of disciplinary climate internationally and for Australia


Source: Sue Thomson and Kylie Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian Report (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, (Melbourne: ACER, 2019), 60.

Note: SE is Standard Error.

Impacts on teachers and students

Impacts on teachers

Problematic student behaviour can affect teachers’ job satisfaction, particularly for early-career teachers. Challenging behaviours can also contribute to teachers feeling unsafe at work and impact on their psychological wellbeing, which in turn, can hinder long-term staff retention.

Teacher safety, work satisfaction and workforce retention

Classroom management is one of teachers’ greatest challenges and can contribute to burnout, job dissatisfaction and early exit from the profession.[44] For example, as noted above, results from the 2021 survey of Victorian government school staff showed that, of the teachers who reported increased work-related stress, 41.1% attributed the increase to student behaviour.[45] Of teachers who saw themselves leaving the Victorian government school system in 10 years or less, student behaviour was the second highest reported reason (40.1%), behind excessive workloads (87.0%).[46]

Results from the 2022 Australian Teachers’ Perceptions of their Work survey were released by Monash University in October 2022. According to teachers, the complexity of the learning, behaviour and social needs of students placed additional pressures on them in terms of workload and their perceptions of respect. Of the 5,497 teachers who responded to the survey, most reported feeling that the public did not respect the role of teachers (70.8%) and that the profession was unappreciated (69.2%).[47] A quarter of teachers (24.5%) reported feeling unsafe in the workplace, with reasons identified including student behaviour and violence and parent abuse.[48] Additional support and time for teachers to engage productively with students was identified as a potential way to alleviate disruptive and disrespectful behaviour in schools, and therefore contribute to improving teachers’ feelings of safety and wellbeing.

Loss of instructional time because of disorder and distraction

TALIS asks teachers to report on the proportion of time they spend on 3 types of activities: actual teaching and learning; administrative tasks; and keeping order in the classroom.

According to TALIS 2018, Australian teachers reported spending 78% of classroom time on teaching and learning, which was similar to teachers in other OECD countries.[49] On average, teachers reported spending 15% of class time keeping order in the classroom.

Time spent on actual teaching and learning was positively related to teacher age and experience, with teachers with more than 5 years teaching experience spending more time on actual teaching and learning than teachers with 5 years or less teaching experience. This was the case for Australia and all high-performing PISA countries.[50]

However, Australia performed worst in terms of time spent teaching by equity cohorts. The TALIS 2018 report stated:

Importantly, in terms of equity, Australian teachers in schools with a higher proportion of disadvantaged students spent less time teaching and learning than their colleagues in more advantaged schools. The difference in Australia (of 9.8 percentage points) is the highest in the OECD, and equates to about 6 minutes per hour. Over 1,000 hours of face-to-face time at school, this is substantial. Of the high-performing PISA countries, only in Alberta (Canada) was there a similar difference (of 7.2 percentage points).[51]

This is further exacerbated in Australia as disadvantaged students tend to be concentrated in disadvantaged schools.[52] Australian schools are among the most socio-economically segregated in the world, with more than half of all disadvantaged students attending disadvantaged schools.[53] In 2021, students with a low socio-educational advantage status comprised 31.3% of enrolled students at government schools and 12.8% of students at non-government schools.[54]

Impacts on students

Classroom disruption can negatively impact students’ performance and achievement at school, which in turn can have long-term impacts on education and employment. However, strict disciplinary approaches to student behaviour, such as exclusionary practices, disproportionately affect particular groups of students and can also have negative impacts on students in later life.

Student achievement

Research findings have highlighted the association between orderly learning environments and student achievement.[55] Results from PISA 2018 showed that students who reported a better disciplinary climate performed better in reading, after accounting for the socio-economic profile of schools and students.[56] On average across the OECD, a unit increase in the index of disciplinary climate – where higher values indicate a more positive disciplinary climate – was associated with an increase of 11 points in reading performance.[57]

Australian students’ performance in PISA assessments has been declining since the international standardised assessment began in 2000. While the reasons for the decline are complex, numerous facets of the education system, including classroom disruption, have been posited as contributing factors.[58] The PISA 2018 results show Australia’s PISA scores have been steadily declining in all 3 assessment domains (reading, mathematics and science), as set out in Figure 2.[59]

Figure 2    Australian achievement in PISA since 2000, measured from the first cycle in which a subject was the major focus domain


Source: ACER, ‘PISA 2018: Australian students’ performance’, ACER Discover, 3 December 2019.

As depicted in Table 4, the Australian results also show:

  • the proportion of low performers has increased and the proportion of high performers has decreased in each domain
  • the proportion of students who attained the National Proficient Standard has declined in all domains.[60]

Table 4     Changes in performance over time for Australia


Source: Sue Thomson et al., PISA in Brief 1: Student Performance, (Melbourne: ACER), 7.

The results of PISA 2022 are expected to be released at the end of 2023.

Impacts of exclusionary discipline

As noted above, exclusionary discipline, such as suspensions, exclusions and/or expulsion, is sometimes used in response to student behaviour. Research has found that Australian schools’ exclusion practices disproportionately impact boys, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disability, students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and those living in out-of-home care.[61] For example, data from 2019 showed the following:

Indigenous students

  • In Queensland, Indigenous students received a quarter of all fixed-term and permanent exclusions (25.3% and 25.4% respectively), despite making up just over 10% of all Queensland’s full-time state school enrolments.
  • In NSW, of all short and long suspensions approximately 25% were for Aboriginal students, even though this group represents just 8% of all student enrolments.
  • In Victoria, 6.5% of all expulsions were for Indigenous students, however, this group represents only 2.3% of the student population.

Students with disability

  • In Victoria, students with disability funding received 14% of all permanent exclusions yet constituted only 4.5% of all government school enrolments.

Male students

  • In South Australia, over three quarters of all suspensions were given to male students (77%), a ratio of over 3:1 compared to females.
  • In Victoria, males received over 80% of the permanent exclusions, a ratio of 4:1 compared to females.
  • In NSW, around three quarters of all short and long suspensions in 2019 were for males (75.3% and 73.9% respectively).[62]

The risk of suspension increases with greater intersectionality; that is, for students falling into multiple equity groups, such as students who are Indigenous and have disability and live in out-of-home care.[63]

Strict discipline policies and exclusionary practices can have negative impacts for excluded students. School suspension can compound behavioural problems and increase the likelihood of leaving school early, which in turn can have lifelong impacts.[64] Dr Daniel Quin from the Australian Catholic University explained:

If we consider that they were probably already struggling academically, and that this may have been a contributing factor to their behavioural issues, suspension of even a day can have a major impact on the rest of their schooling.

We know that children who have been suspended are more likely to skip school, participate in anti-social behaviour and leave school early. In turn, early school departure is associated with greater unemployment, diminished happiness in home life, diminished health, higher mortality rates, and an increased association with the criminal justice system.[65]

Dr Quin’s research into the effectiveness of school suspensions found that suspension is likely to be applied to students who lack the ability to self-regulate their behaviours and emotions in the classroom. Pre-existing behavioural problems may be exacerbated by excluding students through reducing school protective factors (such as supportive teacher relationships, belonging and acceptance) and increasing exposure to known risk factors (such as interaction with antisocial peers).[66]

In the 1980s and 90s, ‘zero tolerance’ discipline policies emerged in the United States, whereby students who broke certain school rules faced mandatory penalties including suspension and referral to law enforcement. However, research on the impact of such policies has found that they can stigmatise students and contribute to the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’.

Analysis by the US National Bureau of Economic Research examined the impact of school discipline on student achievement, educational attainment and adult criminal activity. It found that higher suspension rates in schools have substantial negative long-run impacts on students’ lives. Students assigned to a school with a suspension rate one standard deviation higher were 15–20% more likely to be arrested and incarcerated as adults. The study also found negative impacts on educational attainment. Male students and students from minority groups had the largest impacts from attending a high suspension school.[67]

Similarly, results from the International Youth Development Study, which studied adolescent development in Victoria (Australia) and Washington State (US), found that school suspensions were associated with increased likelihood of students engaging in problem behaviours, including violent and antisocial behaviours and tobacco use.[68]

A complicating aspect of exclusionary discipline is that strategies to reduce suspensions and expulsions and their negative impacts and disproportionate application on vulnerable cohorts may be viewed as increasing risks to teacher safety and reducing the options available to teachers to manage student behaviour. For example, in September 2022, the NSW Government updated its policy on ‘Student discipline in government schools’, changing it to ‘Student behaviour’. The new policy emphasised positive behaviour practices and changed procedures for managing student behaviour, including in relation to suspensions – reducing the maximum length for a suspension from 20 days to 10 days. The changes were designed to reduce the number of suspensions and provide better support for students, particularly Indigenous students, students with learning difficulties and students from low SES backgrounds.[69] However, the changes were met with mixed reactions. While parents supported the policy, the NSW Teachers Federation argued that it posed ‘“a significant risk” to the health and safety of principals, teachers, support staff and students’, and constrained teachers’ ability to manage disruptive and dangerous behaviour.[70]

Following a change in the NSW Government, the school behaviour policy will again be updated:

An updated NSW public school behaviour policy will replace a controversial strategy introduced under the former Coalition government that capped the length and number of suspensions schools could issue, as well as the grounds for which a student could be sent home.

NSW Education Minister Prue Car said a review of the former policy, which was rolled out in term 4 last year, found it undermined teachers’ ability to protect the safety of staff and students.[71]

The new policy will be released for training and familiarisation in Term 4, 2023, and come into effect in Term 1, 2024.[72]

Similarly, in response to increased misbehaviour in schools in the US, a number of states are moving to make it easier for teachers and principals to exclude misbehaving students.[73] Such changes reverse policy reforms which were less punitive, and which were introduced to replace the strict, ‘zero tolerance’ discipline policies. The to-and-fro of policy reforms highlight the delicate balance that policymakers face in managing student discipline, reducing inequitable treatment and supporting positive behaviour, while also ensuring teachers feel safe in their workplace and have options to effectively manage student behaviour.

Addressing classroom disruption

Numerous factors can contribute to students’ (mis)behaviour in class, including:

  • their learning, social, and behavioural needs
  • neglect, abuse and/or trauma
  • their physiological state, for example, being hungry or tired
  • medical and psychological conditions (diagnosed or undiagnosed)
  • emotional factors including emotional regulation, boredom, lack of confidence, attention seeking
  • parenting and home life
  • relationships with teachers and other students
  • factors relating to the curriculum, teaching and/or the classroom environment.[74]

Mobile phones and digital devices can be a source of disruption, distraction, and cyberbullying in schools.[75] Students’ behaviour may differ at different ages and stages of development, and may be influenced by school composition, peer behaviour, and social expectations.[76] Understanding the factors that contribute to a student’s misbehaviour may point to ways to alleviate and address disruptive behaviour.

Professor Linda Graham (Queensland University of Technology) and colleagues state that:

Research has shown severely disruptive behaviour is affected by a process of “cumulative continuity”, where children’s early characteristics (self-regulation, temperament, academic and verbal ability) interact with their school/classroom environment, resulting in a “snowball effect”. Difficulties adjusting to the demands of school can result in poorer quality teacher-child interactions and mutually reinforcing negative relationships, which in turn compound learning and behavioural difficulties.[77]

Professor Graham notes that a common perception is that children’s behaviour affects their learning. While acknowledging that this may be true for some children, she cautions that ‘it is equally possible that underlying learning difficulties are manifesting behaviourally’.[78]

Equipping teachers to maintain order in the classroom

Effective classroom management is key to providing a positive learning environment and enabling student learning.[79] Proactive practices which reinforce expected behaviours have been found to be more effective than reactive approaches which respond to behavioural issues after they occur. Citing Evertson and Weinstein 2015, the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) defines classroom management as:

The actions teachers take to create an environment that supports and facilitates both academic and social-emotional learning. In other words, classroom management has two distinct purposes: It not only seeks to establish and sustain an orderly environment so students can engage in meaningful academic learning, it also aims to enhance students’ social and moral growth.

Results from TALIS 2018 shed light on teachers’ self-efficacy – their belief in their ability to effectively perform the tasks needed to achieve a goal – in terms of classroom management, instruction and student engagement.

In terms of teachers’ beliefs about their ability to establish an orderly learning environment and effectively manage disruptive student behaviour, TALIS found:

  • Around 90% of teachers in Australia and across the OECD reported high levels of self-efficacy in terms of making their expectations about behaviour clear and getting students to follow rules.[80]
  • More than 80% of Australian teachers reported high self-efficacy in controlling disruptive behaviour in the classroom or calming a student who was disruptive or noisy. This was lower than the average across the OECD and had declined by more than 4 percentage points since TALIS 2013.[81]
    • Fewer (74%) Australian novice teachers (those with 5 years of experience or less) reported being confident of their capacity to calm a student who was disruptive or noisy, compared to more experienced teachers (84%).[82]
  • Novice teachers in Australia were less sure of their capacity to control disruptive behaviour in the classroom relative to the OECD average.
    • Novice Australian teachers (74%) and novice teachers across the OECD (78%) reported lower levels of confidence in their ability to control disruptive behaviour, compared to 85% and 87% respectively for more experienced teachers.
  • Teachers felt least confident in motivating students who show little interest in schoolwork, with only 68% of teachers reporting feeling confident of their abilities in this area in Australia and across the OECD.[83]
    • There were also gaps between novice and more experienced teachers in terms of their confidence to motive students with low levels of interest, with 59% of novice teachers and 71% of more experienced teachers feeling confident in this area.[84]

Teaching standards and initial teacher education standards

National initiatives to support teachers and ensure they are adequately prepared to maintain positive learning environments include teaching standards and accreditation standards for initial teacher education (ITE), as well as evidence-based resources provided by AITSL and the Australian Education Research Organisation (AERO).

Creating and maintaining supportive and safe learning environments is one of the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers (APST) that teachers must demonstrate they meet as a requirement for registration as a teacher. ITE programs are accredited to ensure graduates can meet professional standards.

Managing challenging student behaviour is one of the focus areas under Standard 4: Create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments (Focus Area 4.3). The Graduate standard requires graduate teachers to ‘Demonstrate knowledge of practical approaches to manage challenging behaviour’. To meet the Proficient standard, teachers must demonstrate their ability to:

Manage challenging behaviour by establishing and negotiating clear expectations with students and address discipline issues promptly, fairly and respectfully.[85]

National resources to support classroom management

In addition to the APST and ITE standards developed by AITSL, national coordination and support for teachers is provided by AITSL and AERO. For example, AITSL provides resources to support teachers and school leaders, including on:

AERO was established in 2021, following agreement of education ministers in 2019 to create an education evidence institute to improve learning outcomes. AERO provides resources on classroom management, based on a set of standards of evidence. Resources include:

  • a focused classrooms practice guide, which identifies key practices for teachers:
    • establish a system of rules and routines from day one
    • explicitly teach and model appropriate behaviour
    • hold all students to high standards
    • actively engage students in their learning
  • an annotated reference list, which provides an overview of research evidence cited through the classroom management resources
  • advice on using the practice in relation to implementing effective classroom management, including:
    • planning for maximum student engagement
    • high expectations for focused classrooms
  • snapshots of practice – examples of classroom management in a variety of classrooms and settings, including links to AITSL’s classroom management illustrations of practice (above)
  • implementation tools, including:

State and territory resources

State and territory governments also provide resources, support staff and professional development to support teachers to manage student behaviour. For example, in September 2022, the NSW Government announced the creation of a NSW Chief Behaviour Advisor to lift behaviour standards in schools, work with schools using evidence-based practices, and advise parents and carers on ways to support their children and reinforce behavioural approaches through schools.[86] Then Minister for Education and Early Learning Sarah Mitchell also confirmed plans to increase the number of Behaviour Specialists for NSW government schools from 70 to 200, to support the management of complex student behaviour. The additional resources accompanied changes to the management of school discipline (discussed above). Emeritus Professor Donna Cross was appointed as the first Chief Behaviour Advisor in March 2023.[87]

The Victorian Government Department of Education and Training provides advice, guidance and resources for managing challenging behaviour in schools. This includes professional development courses (requires departmental log-in).

The WA Government Department of Education’s Annual Report 2022–23 stated that its new Student Behaviour in Public Schools Policy had been implemented in schools from Semester 2, 2023.[88] Changes to the policy emphasised ‘the importance of creating safe, orderly, inclusive, supportive and culturally responsive environments’.[89] The report also outlined training undertaken by school staff to address concerning student behaviour, stating that more than 2,750 school staff completed training in de-escalation and positive handling and 5,255 participants attended Classroom Management Strategies and Positive Behaviour Support training programs in 2022.[90]

International examples of classroom management strategies

This section provides examples of classroom management strategies in the United Kingdom (UK) (England), the US and Japan. These 3 countries all ranked above the OECD average in the PISA 2018 index of disciplinary climate.

It is important to note that countries’ education systems are complex and operate in the context of each country’s social, economic, and cultural history and current environment. Features of some education systems may not work in other countries’ contexts. It can also be difficult to isolate attributes of a country’s education system which contribute to students’ academic performance. Associations between attributes of education systems and student performance may not be causative.

United Kingdom (England)

Education in the UK is devolved, with the governments in the nations of the UK having their own education departments. The UK Government Department for Education is responsible for education in England.

The following are initiatives targeting student behaviour in English classrooms:

United States

In the US, education is primarily the responsibility of states and local districts. States and communities establish schools and colleges, develop curricula and determine enrolment and graduation requirements.[93] The US Department of Education aims to promote student achievement, foster educational excellence, and ensure equal access.[94] It plays a leadership role in education, collects data and disseminates research, and focuses national attention on key educational issues.[95]

Institutes and centres funded by the US Department of Education which are relevant to behaviour, discipline and school environment include the following:


Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) is responsible for the education system from early childhood to higher education at the national level. MEXT allocates funding to prefectural and municipal authorities for schools.[98]

In order to address problem behaviour and non-attendance at school, MEXT states that it is:

(1) enhancing emotional education and achieving easy-to-understand lessons and enjoyable schools, (2) improving the quality of teachers, and (3) enhancing the education counselling system.

An article explaining the educational mental health support system in Japanese schools states:

In general, Japanese schools have a Yogo teacher (a school nurse) who works full time, as well as three types of mental health specialists who work part time: school counselors, advisors, and social workers. The regularity of visits from the three types of specialists depends on schools and regions.[99]

The OECD’s Education Policy in Japan: Building Bridges towards 2030 (July 2018) suggests that Japan’s relatively positive disciplinary climate may not be attributable to a single program, but rather to a broader culture of engagement with schooling. The OECD report states that Japanese parents have a strong commitment to students’ self-discipline and belief in students’ ability to learn, and that they regularly engage with teachers about student progress and behaviour.[100] Japanese schools report low rates of truancy and lateness, and higher than average engagement of schools and teachers with students.[101]


Classroom disruption is a complex problem that incorporates aspects of school discipline, student learning, classroom management, equity, and student and teacher wellbeing and safety. Strict disciplinary approaches, including exclusionary practices, are often employed to manage more serious and persistent student misbehaviours; however, such approaches can themselves have negative impacts and have been found to disproportionately affect already marginalised students and boys. However, less punitive strategies that aim to minimise suspensions and expulsions may be viewed by teachers and principals as limiting their authority and constraining options for managing challenging behaviours and maintaining school safety. Research suggests that proactive approaches to teaching and reinforcing expected behaviours are more effective than reactive approaches. To achieve this, the research indicates the importance of ensuring that teachers are adequately prepared, and that schools are appropriately resourced to support students with complex learning, behavioural and psycho-social needs.

[1].    Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), Below the Radar: Low-level Disruption in the Country’s Classrooms, Report No. 140157 (Manchester: Ofsted, 2014), 4.

[2].    Australian Education Union (AEU) – Victorian Branch, State of our School Survey Results, (Melbourne: AEU – Victorian Branch, 2021).

[3].    Anna Sullivan, Bruce Johnson, Larry Owens and Robert Conway, ‘Punish Them or Engage Them? Teachers’ Views of Unproductive Student Behaviours in the Classroom’, Australian Journal of Teacher Education 39, no. 6 (June 2014).

[4].    Linda Graham, Callula Killingly, Kristin Laurens and Naomi Sweller, ‘Suspensions and Expulsions Could Set our Most Vulnerable Kids on a Path to School Drop-out, Drug Use and Crime’, The Conversation, 15 September 2021.

[5].    Anna Sullivan, Neil Tippett, Bruce Johnson and Jamie Manolev, ‘Schools Are Unfairly Targeting Vulnerable Children with their Exclusionary Policies’, EduResearch Matters (blog), 2 November 2020.

[6].    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Education Policy Outlook in Australia, OECD Policy Perspectives (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2023), 23.

[7].    Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), National Report on Schooling in Australia 2021, (Sydney: ACARA, 2023), 132–3.

[8].    Sullivan et al., ‘Schools are Unfairly Targeting Vulnerable Children with their Exclusionary Policies’.

[9].    Ofsted, Below the Radar: Low-level Disruption in the Country’s Classrooms, 4.

[10]. Kay Ayre and Govind Krishnamoorthy, Trauma Informed Behaviour Support: A Practical Guide to Developing Resilient Learners, (Toowoomba: University of Southern Queensland, 2020), 42.

[11]. OECD, ‘Chapter 3: Disciplinary Climate’, PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Lives, (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2019), 66.

[12]. For example, Rebekah Cavanagh, ‘Schools Lawless Jungles: Injury Claims over Out-of-control Students’, Herald Sun, 4 January 2023.

[13]. Linda Graham et al., ‘The Hit and Miss of Dealing with Disruptive Behaviour in Schools’, EduResearch Matters (blog), 9 June 2015.

[14]. Provisions relating to discipline and/or suspension and expulsion in most state and territory legislation only apply to government schools; the ACT’s Education Act 2004 includes provisions for suspension and expulsion for government and non-government schools.

[15]. Education and Children’s Services Act 2019 (SA), paragraph 76(1)(f).

[16]. School Education Act 1999 (WA), subsection 90(1); section 89.

[17]. PISA is usually held every 3 years; however, the planned assessments in 2021 and 2024 were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PISA was conducted in 2022 with results expected to be released towards the end of 2023. PISA will next be conducted in 2025.

[18]. Sue Thomson, Lisa De Bortoli, Catherine Underwood and Marina Schmid, PISA in Brief I: Student Performance, (Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), 2019), 2.

[19]. PISA 2018 asked about the disciplinary climate in students’ language-of-instruction lessons. In Australia, this is English classes.

[20]. Sue Thomson, Lisa De Bortoli, Catherine Underwood, Marina Schmid, PISA 2018: Reporting Australia’s Results. Volume II Student and School Characteristics, (Melbourne: ACER, 2020), 88–100.

[21]. Thomson et al., PISA 2018: Reporting Australia’s Results, 101–4.

[22]. TALIS 2018 was the 3rd cycle of the survey, with previous surveys conducted in 2008 and 2013. The 4th cycle will be undertaken in 2024.

[23]. Sue Thomson and Kylie Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian Report (Volume I): Teachers and School Leaders as Lifelong Learners, (Melbourne: ACER, 2019), 8.

[24]. Thomson and Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian report (Volume I), 59.

[25]. Thomson and Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian report (Volume I), 59–60.

[26]. Thomson and Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian report (Volume I), 33, 56.

[27]. Sioau-Mai See, Paul Kidson, Herb Marsh, Theresa Dicke, The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2022 Data, (Sydney: Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Australian Catholic University, 2023), 28; Sioau-Mai See, Paul Kidson, Herb Marsh, Theresa Dicke, The Australian Principal Occupational Health, Safety and Wellbeing Survey 2021 Data, (Sydney: Institute for Positive Psychology and Education, Australian Catholic University, 2022), 52.

[28]. See et al., Australian Principal OHSW Survey 2022 Data, 28; See et al., Australian Principal OHSW Survey 2021 Data, 53.

[29]. Fiona Longmuir, Beatriz Gallo Cordoba, Michael Phillips, Kelly-Ann Allen, Mehdi Moharami, Australian Teachers’ Perceptions of their Work in 2022, (Melbourne: Monash University, 2022), 35.

[30]. Longmuir et al., Australian Teachers’ Perceptions of their Work in 2022, 38–9.

[31]. AEU – Victorian Branch, State of our School Survey Results, 2.

[32]. AEU – Victorian Branch, 3.

[33]. AEU – Victorian Branch, 4.

[34]. Anna Sullivan, Neil Tippett, Bruce Johnson and Jamie Manolev, Understanding Disproportionality and School Exclusions, School Exclusions Study Key Issues Paper No. 4 (Adelaide: University of South Australia, 2020).

[35]. This table uses the most recently available data for each state and territory.

[36]. The data for students identified as receiving adjustments due to disability is taken from the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability (NCCD), an annual collection of data about students with disability. The NSW suspensions data includes students identified as requiring supplementary, substantial or extensive levels of adjustment. Students who require quality differentiated teaching practices are not included.

[37]. Parliamentary Library calculation of percentages.

[38]. The SA Department for Education’s ‘Suspension, Exclusion and Expulsion of Students Procedure’ states that expulsion ‘must be reserved for the most serious behaviours that jeopardise the safety of the school community’ (p. 18). Under the Education and Children’s Services Act 2019 (SA), a student can only be expelled if they are above the compulsory school age (see sections 78 and 79); that is, 16 years and above.

[39]. Parliamentary Library calculation of percentages.

[40]. However, analysis of the results published in a Sydney Morning Herald article, ‘Australian students “among the worst in the world” for class discipline’, reported Australia was one of a minority of countries where it had deteriorated.

[41]. OECD, ‘Chapter 3. Disciplinary Climate’, PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life Means for Students’ Lives, (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2019).

[42]. Thomson and Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian report (Volume I), 59–60.

[43]. Thomson and Hillman, 60.

[44]. Sullivan et al., ‘Punish Them or Engage Them? Teachers’ Views of Unproductive Student Behaviours in the Classroom’, 43.

[45]. AEU – Victorian Branch, State of our School Survey Results, 2.

[46]. AEU – Victorian Branch, 3

[47]. Longmuir et al., Australian Teachers’ Perceptions of their Work in 2022, 10, 12

[48]. Longmuir et al., 35–6.

[49]. Thomson and Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian Report (Volume I), 14.

[50]. Thomson and Hillman, 14.

[51]. Thomson and Hillman, TALIS 2018: Australian Report (Volume I), 14.

[52]. Chris Bonnor, Paul Kidson, Adrian Piccoli, Pasi Sahlberg, and Rachel Wilson, Structural Failure: Why Australia Keeps Falling Short of its Educational Goals (Sydney: UNSW Gonski Institute, 2021). The OECD defines disadvantaged schools as ‘those whose average intake of students falls in the bottom quarter of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status within the relevant country/economy’,OECD, PISA 2018 Results (Volume II): Where All Students Can Succeed, (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2019), 105.

[53]. OECD, Equity in Education: Breaking down Barriers to Social Mobility, (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2018), 121.

[54]. Productivity Commission, ‘4. School Education’, Report on Government Services 2023, (Canberra: Productivity Commission, 2023), Table 4A.6).

[55]. Sullivan et al., ‘Punish Them or Engage Them? Teachers’ Views of Unproductive Student Behaviours in the Classroom’, 43.

[56]. OECD, ‘Chapter 3. Disciplinary Climate’, in PISA 2018 Results (Volume III): What School Life means for Students’ Lives, (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2019), 69.

[57]. OECD, 69.

[58]. Wade Zaglas, ‘Poor PISA Results Indicate a Lack of ‘Respect’ in Australian Classrooms’, Education Review, 9 December 2019.

[59]. The ability to establish and maintain trends over time is one of PISA’s goals: see ‘PISA 2018 Technical Report’, OECD website. For discussion of other countries’ trends over time in PISA, see Andreas Schleicher, PISA 2018: Insights and Interpretations, (Paris: OECD, 2019), 11.

[60]. Thomson et al., PISA in Brief 1, 7. The Measurement Framework for Schooling in Australia identifies Level 3 on the PISA scales as the national proficiency standard for 15-year old students as it represents a ‘challenging but reasonable’ expectation of student achievement a year level.

[61]. Linda Graham, ‘What Does Exclusionary Discipline Do and Why Should it Only Ever Be Used as a Last Resort?’, QUT Centre for Inclusive Education blog, 15 October 2020; Linda Graham, Callula Killingly, Matilda Alexander and Sophie Wiggans, ‘Suspensions in QLD State schools, 2016–2020: Overrepresentation, Intersectionality and Disproportionate Risk’, The Australian Educational Researcher (2023); Linda Graham, Callula Killingly, Kristin Laurens and Naomi Sweller, ‘Overrepresentation of Indigenous Students in School Suspension, Exclusion, and Enrolment Cancellation in Queensland: Is There a Case for Systemic Inclusive School Reform?’, The Australian Educational Researcher (2022); Linda Graham et al. ‘Suspensions and Expulsions Could Set our most Vulnerable Kids on a Path to School Drop-out, Drug Use and Crime’; State of New South Wales, Answers to Questions on Notice, Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, Hearing on 7 May 2021, NSW.999.0037.0001, 5; Sullivan et al., ‘Schools are Unfairly Targeting Vulnerable Children with their Exclusionary Policies’.

[62]. Sullivan et al., ‘Schools are Unfairly Targeting Vulnerable Children with their Exclusionary Policies’.

[63]. Graham et al., ‘Suspensions in QLD State Schools, 2016–2020’.

[64]. Jennifer Chandler, ‘Suspending Suspension’, Impact, ACU blog, n.d.; Graham et al., ‘Suspensions and Expulsions Could Set our Most Vulnerable Kids on a Path to School Drop-out, Drug Use and Crime’.

[65]. Chandler, ‘Suspending Suspension’.

[66]. Daniel Quin, ‘Levels of Problem Behaviours and Risk and Protective Factors in Suspended and Non-suspended Students’, Educational and Developmental Psychologist 36 (no. 1), (July 2019): 8–15.

[67]. Andrew Bacher-Hicks, Stephen Billings and David Deming, The School to Prison Pipeline: Long-run Impacts of School Suspensions on Adult Crime, Working Paper 26257, (Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2019).

[68]. Sheryl Hemphill, David Broderick and Jessica Heerde, ‘Positive Associations between School Suspension and Student Problem Behaviour: Recent Australian Findings’, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, no. 531, (Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 2017).

[69]. Jordan Baker, ‘New School Rules Aim to Reduce Suspensions’, Sydney Morning Herald, 19 February 2022.

[70]. Brett Henebery, ‘Will the Government’s New Student Behaviour Strategy Work?’, The Educator Online, 1 March 2023; see also Baker, ‘New School Rules Aim to Reduce Suspensions’.

[71]. Lucy Carroll, ‘Principals Given New Powers’, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 August 2023.

[72]. Prue Car (NSW Minister for Education and Early Learning), New Student Behaviour Policy to Address Disruptive Classrooms Available from Next Term, media release, 24 August 2023.

[73]. Rachel Perera and Melissa Kay Diliberti, ‘What Does the Research Say about How to Reduce Student Misbehavior in Schools’, Brookings Institution research blog, 21 September 2023.

[74]. For example, see Andrea Banks, ‘Why Do Children Misbehave? Finding the Root Causes of Classroom Misbehaviour’, Insights to Behavior (blog), 22 April 2020; Linda Graham et al., ‘The Hit and Miss of Dealing with Disruptive Behaviour in Schools’, EduResearch Matters (blog), 9 June 2015; Nancy Rappaport and Jessica Minahan, ‘Breaking the Behavior Code’, Child Mind Institute, 8 February 2023; SA Department for Education, ‘Suspension and Exclusion Information for Parents and Carers’, fact sheet.

[75]. Kate Griffiths and Maddy Williams, Impact of Mobile Digital Devices in Schools: Literature Review, (Sydney: Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation, 2018).

[76]. Bonnor et al., Structural Failure, 10; Jonathon Sargeant, ‘Are Australian Classrooms Really the Most Disruptive in the World? Not if You Look at the Whole Picture’, The Conversation, 16 January 2019; Jonathon Sargeant, ‘Prioritising Student Voice: ‘Tween’ Children’s Perspectives on School Success’, Education 3–13 42, no. 2, (2014): 190–200.

[77]. Linda Graham et al., ‘The Hit and Miss of Dealing with Disruptive Behaviour in Schools’.

[78]. Linda Graham et al.

[79]. Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL), Classroom Management: Standards-aligned Evidence-based Approaches, Research Spotlight, (Melbourne: AITSL, 2021).

[80]. Thomson and Hillman, TALIS 2018, 17.

[81]. Thomson and Hillman, 17–8.

[82]. Thomson and Hillman, 18.

[83]. Thomson and Hillman, 18.

[84]. Thomson and Hillman, 18.

[85]. AITSL, Australian Professional Standards for Teachers, (Melbourne: AITSL, 2011, revised 2018), 16.

[86]. Paige Cockburn, ‘NSW Government to Appoint Chief Behaviour Advisor to Boost Respect in Schools’, ABC News, 26 September 2022.

[87]. Lucy Carroll, ‘State Hires Behaviour Advisor to Tackle Student Conduct’, Sydney Morning Herald, 2 March 2023.

[88]. WA Department of Education, Annual Report 2022–23, (Perth: WA Department of Education, 2023), 37.

[89]. WA Department of Education, Annual Report 2022–23, 37.

[90]. WA Department of Education, 37.

[91]. Tom Bennett, Creating a Culture: How School Leaders can Optimise Behaviour, Independent review of behaviour in schools, (London: Department for Education, 2017); Justine Greening (Secretary of State), Letter to T Bennett – Government Response to Creating a Culture, Department for Education, 24 March 2017; Amy Skipp and Vicky Hopwood, Case Studies of Behaviour Management Practices in Schools Rated Outstanding, Department for Education, 2017.

[92]. Edward Timpson, Timpson Review of School Exclusion, (London: Department for Education, 2019), 5; see also Department for Education, The Timpson Review of School Exclusion: Government Response, (London: Department for Education, 2019); Aaron Kulakiewicz, Robert Long and Nerys Roberts, The Implementation of the Recommendations of the Timpson Review of School Exclusion, Research briefing, House of Commons, 2021; Department for Education, ‘School Discipline and Exclusions’, website.

[93]. US Department of Education, ‘The Federal Role in Education’, US Department of Education website.

[94]. US Department of Education, ‘The Federal Role in Education’.

[95]. US Department of Education, ‘About ED’, US Department of Education website.

[96]. National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE), ‘About’, NCSSLE website.

[97]. See ‘What is PBIS?’, PBIS website; ‘Getting Started’, PBIS website, ‘Examples’, PBIS website.

[98]. National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), ‘Top Performing Countries: Japan’, NCEE website.

[99]. Akihiro Nishio, Machi Kakimoto, Ryo Horita and Mayumi Yamamoto, ‘Compulsory Educational Mental Health Support System in Japan’, Pediatrics International 62, no. 5 (May 2020): 529–534.

[100].          OECD, Education Policy in Japan: Building Bridges towards 2030, (Paris: OECD Publishing, 2018), 35, 54.

[101].          OECD, Education Policy in Japan: Building Bridges towards 2030, 59, 80.


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