OPINION: The high stand-down rate in Southland schools doesn't mean things are going to hell in a hat.
We can scoldingly and unhelpfully attest that a low stand-down rate would be better, particularly as numbers are tracking down nationwide.
But let's not get too anxious about that. The wider local perspective is a tad more encouraging.
Though we've 34, compared with the average 25, stand-downs per 1000 pupils, we should remind ourselves that such measures, while not trivial, are the least severe of the quartet of punitive options open to schools when pupils are on a miserable path of intolerable conduct.
After stand-downs comes suspension, from which a return requires the consent of the school's board and is liable to come with conditions.
Then exclusions - the pupil is no longer accepted at that particular school and must find another.
Lastly, if the pupil is aged 16 or older, expulsion. They can be shown the gate without necessarily having enrolled at another school.
That's bottom-of-the-cliff stuff and, at that level, Southland has some of the lowest rates.
Suggesting, perhaps, that though we have more than our share of kids who are putting more than just a foot wrong, there's evidence most aren't falling too far before they get a foothold and a hand back up.
Unless, of course, behaviour that should result in exclusions and expulsions is simply being tolerated. In that context it is reassuring to find evidence of pro-activity.
We should welcome the news that the Invercargill Student Support Network has received sufficient community and licensing trust funding to stay active.
Activity doesn't always equate to achievement, it's true. However, there's evidence that this network does good work.
Set up in 2006, it kicks in from the stage where there's a risk of the pupil being suspended.
It represents an instance of the city's secondary schools getting their act together and connecting with other agencies in a single education-led, multi-disciplinary service, the likes of which are still not that common nationally.
It brings into single focus the district truancy service, a couple of re-connective programmes at the 10 Deveron St headquarters, as well as the Invercargill Activities Centre, and alternative education.
Collectively, these develop an individualised plan, focus on each pupil's strengths, and ensure a case manager provides family support and helps access other community help as needed.
Oftentimes, it will be needed, given how often complications like alcohol and drug problems, or wider family difficulties are entangled in the behaviour.
The agenda for the support network has little to do with turning out more docile kids and a lot to do with more energised and happier ones.
The rewards from having this support network operating well go far beyond the benefits to the pupils themselves - though that would be reason enough.
Nor is it just a case of how well educated the kids wind up being.
It's about how well socialised, law-abiding, and healthy they are shaped-up to be.
All of which impacts on our community.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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