Rates of children in out-of-home care skipping school had gone up 50%.
Rates of children in out-of-home care skipping school had gone up 50%. Renee Pilcher

Bad news for kids not living at home

THE rate of bullying, truancy, suspensions and exclusions for children not living in the family home in Queensland is on the rise.

Ipswich has the second highest rate of suspension and exclusion for these children in the state.

The district also has the second highest rate of kids living out of home skipping school at 10%, followed closely by the Sunshine Coast at 7.8%.

Ipswich was only usurped by Logan with 21.5% for school bans and 14.5% for truancy, according to figures from Community Visitors data extracted from 4311 child reports.

The Child Protection Inquiry also heard only half the state's children in out-of-home care were meeting the national education benchmark set through the NAPLAN test.

Craig Capper, acting for the Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian, said the fact school principals were four times more likely to remove these children from the school and not allow them access to education during those periods was concerning.

He said data also showed bullying rates had risen to 12.6%, up from 10.3% in 2010.

Mr Capper said kids in out-of-home care skipping school had gone up 50%, from 6.2% from 4.3%, in the same period.

He said suspensions or exclusions had gone up to 13.6% this year compared to 10.3% for 2009-10.

"These numbers are just continuing to get worse," he said.

Education Department deputy director-general Lynnette McKenzie said school principals had to make judgment calls about "whether or not the child or young person is potentially at risk of harming others in the school".

She said truancy rates in primary schools were on par with all students but the figure was 3% higher in secondary school for students in out-of-home care.

Ms McKenzie said bullying data had to be assessed knowing there were more students coming forward because of better education programs on the topic and the definition of bullying had broadened.

"I'm not saying everything is fantastic, it is an issue for children in out-of-home care," she said. "We know the data on children in out-of-home care is not as good as those for all students."

Ms McKenzie said the department was now building expectations and targets aimed at closing the gap for students in out-of-home care into metropolitan and regional operational plans.

She said it would not happen by Christmas but the department believed change would occur in coming years.

But Commissioner Tim Carmody - who is overseeing a broad-ranging probe into Queensland's child protection system - interjected, arguing "that's been the plan for the past 20 years".

"It's a problem that's existed forever and problem we've been grappling with forever," he said. "Why would we think it would improve over the next five to 10 years?

"What are you going to do differently to make a difference?"

Ms McKenzie said extra funding to close the gap between indigenous children's educational outcomes against all students in Queensland had shown results at the primary school level.

She said she expected more funding, to enable more adults "on the ground" to provide "on-on-one" support to students in out of home care, would achieve better results.

 "We know that educationally those students from low socio-economic families and areas have high-risk factors in terms of reaching educational achievements," she said.

But Mr Carmody said 2008 figures showed only 66% of these children were meeting national benchmarks and after a funding injection that number decreased to 52%.

"You wouldn't want to invest in a business with that result would you?" he asked.

The inquiry will continue in Brisbane next week before taking a regional tour from September to October.

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