Discipline numbers for pupils improve

MICHAEL DALY
Last updated 06:51 30/07/2014

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The rate at which pupils are being sent out of school for bad behaviour continues to decline, although levels for Maori and Pacific Island students remain above those for other groups.

Figures from the Ministry of Education show age-standardised rates for standdowns, suspensions and exclusions in 2013 were the lowest level this century.

The expulsion rate was the same as in 2012 and lower than any other year this century. Boys are more than twice as likely to receive a standdown, suspension or exclusion, and more than three times more likely to be expelled than girls.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the figures showed how hard teachers, principals, parents and communities were working to encourage positive behaviour in schools.

She pointed to the Positive Behaviour for Learning - referred to as PB4L - initiatives introduced to more than 500 schools and intended to be in about 800 schools by 2017.

Other programmes were a bullying prevention guide released this year, and behaviour contracts that were to be introduced.

Vocational pathways and trades academies were also providing choice for students, changing their view of education and improving attitudes, Parata said.

While rates for Maori and Pacific Islanders were higher than for other groups, they were down from 2008.

Principals' Federation president Phil Harding said the PB4L initiatives and other important innovations were quite possibly having an impact.

"There's also been a bit of a national conversation about student retention . . . and an acknowledgement we have to be the village that solves the problem for students under our care."

He suggested the decline might be because the process had become too complicated, but said he tended to think more positively.

Schools that had embraced PB4L were enthusiastic about the results. It required considerable staff development, discussion and agreement across the whole campus, Harding said.

A big challenge remained in helping students who were disengaging. "There's no silver bullet. It's hard, unrelenting work."

Providing a school climate that worked for Maori and Pacific Island students was also a challenge.

Under a standdown, students can be removed from school for five days in a term, or a total of 10 days in a year.

From 25.3 standdowns per 1000 students in 2000, the rate rose to 30.5 in 2006, before falling to 21.6 in 2013.

A suspension is the removal of a student until a decision by a school board of trustees.

The board can lift the suspension, extend it, or terminate the student's enrolment.

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An exclusion is the form of termination for students under 16, while expulsions are for those 16 and over.

The suspension rate was 7.7 per 1000 students in 2000, falling to 4.3 last year.

Exclusion rates had been relatively constant above 2 per 1000 but slipped to 1.7 last year. In the past two years the expulsion rate was 1.4 per 1000 students. Fairfax NZ

- The Dominion Post

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