Fewer behave badly at school

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 31/07/2014

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Manawatu schools are cracking down on badly behaved students, with the rate of pupils punished among the highest in the country.

According to new Ministry of Education statistics, the Manawatu-Whanganui region's percentage of students sent out of school for misbehaving last year, whether it be for disobedience, drugs or alcohol offences and assaults, was in the top three in the country.

The 10-year trend showed the number of pupils stood down, suspended, excluded or expelled nationally has been declining, but Manawatu had maintained its higher rates of disciplining students.

Manawatu principals say expectations regarding behaviour are clearly communicated to families.

The region had the country's third-highest standdown rate at 28.9 per 1000 pupils, behind Northland and Southland. The suspension rate was 6.2, behind Northland and Waikato; the exclusion rate was 2.9, equal with Tasman and behind Northland; and the expulsion rate was 2.4, behind Northland and Hawke's Bay.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said work teachers, principals, parents and communities were putting into good behaviour in schools in was working.

She pointed to the Positive Behaviour for Learning initiative (PB4L), which, it is hoped, would be in about 800 schools by 2017. Queen Elizabeth College, which is in its second year of PB4L, had embraced the programme and noticed the difference, principal Michael Houghton said. There were more options for dealing with wayward students through systems like PB4L and restorative justice, he said.

"We have clear expectations for our students and, at times, standdowns and other more serious discipline methods are appropriate for certain misdemeanours."

Palmerston North Girls' High School principal Melba Scott said standdowns and suspensions were provisions used to support schools and ensure students were safe from themselves and others. Girls' High regularly reviewed its procedures because the challenges students faced were constantly changing.

"Over the last 10 years, the issues have moved away from drugs and alcohol and are now more often focused on relationships, usually exposed through electronic communications," she said.

Awatapu College principal Gary Yeatman said methods aimed at engaging students, such as trades academies and vocational pathways, helped improved attitudes, but certain behaviour was expected. "There are certain lines in the sand that if students cross there will be consequences, and that won't change regardless of the number it ends up being."

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Freyberg High School principal Peter Brooks said growing retention rates meant schools were catering for a larger cohort of students.

"Schools are actually doing a lot better than what it would appear. A lot of the students that are getting suspended now, years ago wouldn't have even been at school."

- Manawatu Standard

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