As we continue to delve deeper into the issues at Armidale Secondary College, numbers released by the Department of Education reveal that the number of incidents have sharply increased and are now at a shocking rate of at least one critical incident per school day.
Critical incidents must be reported to the NSW Department of Education under the Incident Notification and Response Policy. There are two categories of incident:
- Priority 1 incidents involve emergency services attending the school and must be reported to the department hotline within the first hour. reflect a significant incident or an injury which impacts the operation of the school or workplace. They can include a range of issues such as an accident involving a physical injury, substance abuse, or violence.
- Priority 2 incidents are described as incidents where there is no immediate risk of harm, but the school has a legal responsibility to notify various authorities.
The Incident Report and Support Hotline is staffed by NSW Police Officers who provide advice to employees about school-related offences. A report to the Incident Report and Support Hotline brings an incident to the attention of police, in line with requirements under the Crimes Act to report child abuse offences.
A procedures guideline specifies the kinds of things that need to be reported. The non-exhaustive list includes:
- abduction/attempted abduction, a child missing, children being taken without permission or induced to do something against their will;
- suicide, attempted suicide, or self-harm;
- drug use;
- problematic and harmful sexualised behaviour, indecent exposure, consensual sex involving a child under 16, or sexting;
- assaults and injuries (minor student injuries that arise from normal play incidents do not need to be reported);
- stealing and fraud;
- anti-social and extremist behaviour;
- cyber incidents including hacking and cyber bullying;
- weapons at school.
The list also includes a number of issues that have little to do with students or school operations but impact the school, such as a nearby bushfire, a police operation near the school, or a power blackout.
Rate of critical incidents at Armidale Secondary College
* year to date
The 2023 figures are only for the first three terms: the current figures of 171 incidents for this year equals 5.7 incidents per school week so far in 2023. If the incidents still occur at the same rate in term 4, the projected Priority 1 figures for 2023 would be approximately 50, and the Priority 2 incidents would be up to about 165, for a total of approximately 215. Any figure above 200 means there is a critical incident happening, on average, once a day during the 40 weeks of the school year.
These numbers track with the anecdotal claims of parents and students that the issues at the school have been increasing since Bree Harvey-Bice took over as Principal, initially in a relieving capacity in July of 2021 and formally appointed to the job in October of 2022, and are vastly up on the incidents at the old Duval and Armidale High sites.
The Department of Education claims that the Priority 1 incidents more than doubled from 2021 to 2022 because they were reporting every time a teacher had Covid-19, meaning that the violence and other incidents are significantly up in the last year since they stopped reporting Covid-19 cases. They also claim that there has been a ‘tangible reduction’ in incidents in Term 3, did not answer what would be a normal rate, and say the data from previous years is not comparable as the way they recorded critical incidents changed in 2020.
“We acknowledge the school had some challenges in late 2022 and early 2023 with anti-social behaviour and the reports reflect this,” a spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education said.
“The school staff continue to manage student behaviour and to work with educational support units in the department on student engagement, early intervention, support for both staff and students, in addition to risk management.”
“In the past quarter there has been a tangible reduction in significant incidents. The school will also benefit from the introduction of the updated department Student Behaviour Policy at the start of 2024.”
The media team of the Department of Education also claim that Department of Education Secretary Murat Dizdar was briefed on these numbers before he went on ABC New England North West and claimed there was just a small number of incidents at Armidale Secondary College.
This story is part of a series the New England Times is working on about Armidale Secondary College. Reports of violence, bullying, and other issues within the school are not dying down. We want to hear your stories – the good and the bad – whether you’re a student, parent, teacher, or other interested member of the community.
Some of the content in these stories is distressing. If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
- Headspace on 1800 650 890