Main Article Content
Excluding students from school via out-of-school suspensions and expulsions is a controversial practice in Australia and internationally, yet forms a key component of school welfare and discipline policies. There is growing concern that increasing exclusion at earlier grades and an over-representation of particular groups of disadvantaged students may intensify inequalities in educational, justice, health and welfare outcomes for excluded students relative to their non-excluded peers. Previous studies have focused predominantly on secondary school exclusions and on sociodemographic predictors.
Objectives and Approach
This study aimed to identify early life predictors of primary school suspensions using multi-agency data from the New South Wales (NSW) Child Development Study. Participants were 34,855 NSW children and their parents with linked records from education, health, child protection, and criminal justice spanning birth to the 6 th - grade (~12 years). Multinormal logistic regression examined the associations of sociodemographic, pre/perinatal, early developmental vulnerability, and parent factors with any later suspension during the 3 rd - to 6 th -grades.
In a multivariable model, many factors had significant independent associations with any suspension. The largest effects (odds ratios ≥4.0) were observed for male gender and child maltreatment reports, with moderate effects (odds ratios 1.5 to <4.0) for Indigenous ethnicity, socio-economic disadvantage, exposure to smoking in utero, any parental criminal offending, aggressive behaviour, school-based responsibility and respect, and sub-threshold notifications to child protection services. Small effects (odds ratios >1.0 to <1.5) were revealed for young maternal age at birth (<26 years), any parental mental illness, language and cognitive skills, any emotional or behavioural problem, hyperactivity-inattention, and any emergency department presentation for physical injury.
Conclusion / Implications
By facilitating the identification of students at risk of early (primary school) exclusion using multi-sector information available at the time of entry to school, these findings may assist educators to deliver targeted preventative interventions for at-risk students
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