Children as young as 15 allowed to smoke on lunch break at Australian school

Many of the school’s pupils are reportedly from broken homes, with parents either in jail or struggling with drug addiction

Fiona Keating
Sunday 23 July 2017 13:12
A Sydney school is allowing its students to smoke during breaks
A Sydney school is allowing its students to smoke during breaks

A school in Australia is permitting students as young as 15 to have a smoking break at lunch and other recess periods.

Carolyn Blanden, principal at The Warakirri College in Sydney, said she believed that relaxed rules would encourage the children to keep attending school.

“At my school you can come with bright blue hair and metal in your face,” Ms Blanden told Australia's Daily Telegraph.

“And if you need to have a smoke, that's OK too.”

One student from Warakirri’s Blacktown campus told News Corp that the previous smoking ban was one of the reasons she did not attend school.

Ms Blanden defended her decision, saying she would rather her students smoke cigarettes, with all the health risks it involved, rather than have them “floating around the streets or in detention”.

The principal has previously worked at expensive fee-paying private schools but says her current job is the “most rewarding work I think I’ve ever done.”

Many of the school’s students are from broken homes, with many parents either in jail or battling drug addiction. Under their curriculum, Warakirri’s students can study three subjects per year rather than six for two years.

The school is similar to an adult learning environment, with no fees or uniforms. There is a gym and students are allowed to leave the campus grounds when not in class.

Many of the children who graduated Year 10 (age 14-16) in 2016 were the first in their families to achieve a Record of School Achievement (RoSA).

Warakirri College is an initiative of MTC Australia, a registered charity that supports the school so students do not pay fees. The name means “to stand or grow” in an Aboriginal Australian language.

It caters to students aged between 15-22 and there are a small number of refugee students who have missed out on formal education for several years.

Nathan Collins, 15, who had dropped out of school because of being bullied, has returned to education thanks to Warakirri’s encouragement. “You’ve got a lot of freedom,” he told the Blacktown Sun. “You’re not always trapped in a box.

“The teachers are all really laid back and nice to you. There’s more one-on-one time. The other kids are not distracting you and mucking up.”

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