State to replace Safe Schools program

Pulling the pin: NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes will replace Safe Schools with a new anti-bullying program. Picture:  Brook Mitchell
Pulling the pin: NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes will replace Safe Schools with a new anti-bullying program. Picture: Brook Mitchell

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes will dump the Safe Schools program and replace it with a new anti-bullying strategy when federal funding for the controversial program runs out later this year.

Safe Schools offers resources for same-sex-attracted, intersex and gender-diverse students in about 18 schools. Federal funding will stop on June 30 but the new NSW program will receive funding in the state budget.

Mr Stokes is consulting the education sector, including Catholic and independent schools and principal groups.

"Bullying will never be accepted in NSW public schools whether it be because someone is overweight, gay, based on the colour of their skin or for any other reason," Mr Stokes said. "Students and parents should expect that schools are a place where they feel safe. Schools remain one of the most secure and trusted public institutions in our community."

Mr Stokes said the new program would be ready for implementation in the second half of the year.

"The Australian government, who fund and oversee the Safe Schools program, have advised that they will no longer be providing funding for the program by midyear," Mr Stokes said.

"The NSW Department of Education is currently developing an updated anti-bullying strategy that will be a new resource available for teachers from the beginning of term three.

"Students who are struggling in our schools, for whatever reason, need support and will continue to receive it in NSW public schools."

The program has been criticised by many conservative MPs.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott praised Mr Stokes on Sunday for axing the program. "Good that NSW is scrapping so-called Safe Schools, a social engineering programme dressed up as anti-bullying," he wrote on Twitter.

But Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said SafeSchools had been "made a political football by conservative critics".

This article first appeared on the Sydney Morning Herald