School's out for pupils with poor behaviour

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 02/01/2013

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Standdown, suspension and exclusion figures at Christchurch schools are starting to creep up but are still a long way from pre-earthquake levels.

Figures released under the Official Information Act show 21.4 per 1000 pupils were stood down from Christchurch schools between January and October 31 last year.

This figure is up from 19.6 in 2011, but down from 30.4 in 2010. It is slightly higher than the national average of 20 per 1000 pupils.

The number of pupils suspended in Christchurch has increased from 2.7 per 1000 pupils in 2011 to 3.7 last year, but it is down on numbers recorded from 2007 to 2010, when the figures ranged from 4.8 to 4.6. The national average is 4.1.

Pupil exclusion from Christchurch schools up to October 31 last year was 1.7 per 1000 pupils, up from 1.3 the previous year. There were 0.7 expulsions per 1000 pupils last year, compared with 0.2 the previous year. The national average is 1.3.

Mairehau High School recorded the largest number of standdowns and exclusions at schools in Christchurch, while Shirley Boys' High School had the highest number of suspensions.

Mairehau High principal Harry Romana said the school's figures were higher than usual last year because the school had taken pupils who had already been expelled or excluded from other schools.

He said part of the school's job was to try to engage as many pupils as it could, but the school had to look after the rights of all pupils.

"Our board and our parents are really clear about the sorts of reasonable expectations we have of every student at the school."

Exclusion or expulsion was the last resort, Romana said.

Ministry of Education senior manager Jim Greening said standdowns, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions were not measures of pupil behaviour but a measure of a school's reaction to such behaviour: "What one school may choose to suspend for, another may not."

He said the ministry recognised that schools needed support to manage challenging behaviour and it was investing $60 million in the Positive Behaviour for Learning programme to assist schools.

Canterbury-Westland Secondary Principals' Association chairman Neil Wilkinson said schools were working hard to keep pupils in school, and in some cases pupils were showing more respect for their schools. Site-sharing with other schools in 2011 had made pupils realise they were "quite well off previously", he said.

He hoped the figures would not return to pre-quake levels and said initiatives like the ministry's positive behaviour programme were helping to keep the figures down.

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"There are always going to be kids that push the boundaries and schools that draw the line," he said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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