School exclusions hit Maori, Pasifika boys hardest

Last updated 05:00 22/07/2012

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Maori and Pasifika boys in lower decile schools are being lost to the education system - struck off the roll for bad behaviour.

A Ministry of Education report on expulsion and suspension rates shows the group is the worst affected, despite student-removal numbers being the lowest in 12 years.

The report found schools across the country expelled more Pasifika students than any other group, stood down more Maori students than any other group, and suspended a total 3748 students last year.

It found the most prevalent reasons for expulsion and exclusion were drugs, continual disobedience, and physical assault on other students.

There was a clear link between the socio-economic mixes of schools and the removal rates. "Students from the lowest quintile schools are five times more likely to be excluded than students in the highest group," the report said.

Secondary Principals Association of New Zealand president Patrick Walsh said it was good to see stand-down and suspension rates decrease, but boys and Maori leading the statistics was a concern.

Walsh said the Ministry of Education's Tomorrow's Schools regime had isolated schools and created "2500 school islands".

It had impacted on the way schools could address issues like expulsion and stand-downs, and prevented them from collaborating on solutions together, he said.

‘I'm aware there is best practice in schools in relation to using alternatives for Maori boys, but Tomorrow's Schools makes it hard to share those best practices because we tend to work in isolation."

Walsh said he would like to see a solution to bridge the gap.

"I hope the ministry does something, one of its goals is to engage more with Maori to encourage them to get qualified. We know there are answers out there. It's the ministry's job to find them."

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