Schools show more tolerance to troubled pupils

19:14, Aug 10 2012

Schools are "bending over backwards" to keep pupils in education, despite increased stress, anxiety and aggression, principals say.

Fewer Christchurch pupils are being stood down than before the 2011 earthquakes, Education Ministry trends show.

However, primary teachers have seen a rise in aggressive behaviour in the playground, a Canterbury Primary Principals' Association (CPPA) survey showed in April.

Ministry special education regional manager Adele Peart-Baille said the rate of standdowns in the first two terms of this year was "slightly down on pre-earthquake levels".

Ministry figures show Christchurch standdowns fell from 29 per 1000 pupils in 2009 to 19 per 1000 pupils last year.

The ministry believes greater tolerance to stress and increased community support accounts for this.

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"The ministry is, however, aware stress continues to be an issue for both staff and students and has noted reports of increasing fatigue and anxiety within the community," a spokesman said.

"This is not entirely unexpected, given international evidence around responses to traumatic events."

Canterbury West Coast Secondary Principals' Association chairman Neil Wilkinson said schools were better supported, although they were sometimes "bending over backwards to try to accommodate children who they previously may have lost patience with a little earlier".

"The ministry has made it clear it wants to keep children in school and help schools to find constructive solutions," he said. "Schools recognise that in these difficult times the best place for children to be is in school."

Police Senior Sergeant John Robinson said he had noticed schools were more tolerant since the quakes and parents more involved with their children.

"We have come through this big bloody nightmare and people are just more accepting of the stresses that affect us in different ways. There is better work among different agencies and I think schools may feel more supported in what they are doing."

Christchurch Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling chairman Lee Walker said families had become more connected to schools.

His school, Linwood Intermediate, was selected to participate in a ministry pilot programme in 2009 to assist pupils whose behaviour would normally see them stood down. He said it had significant positive effects and reduced the number of suspensions.

CPPA president John Bangma said the decrease in standdowns could also be because teachers were now looking at the cause of bad behaviour. "We know that sometimes a behaviour is reflective of stress going on at home because of concerns about jobs or about the house - all sorts of things."

The Press