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While the number of disciplinary measures handed out to
wayward pupils continues to fall in Otago schools, the number
of primary school pupils displaying violent behaviour is
School disciplinary measures peaked in 2009, with 788
stand-downs, 177 suspensions, 57 exclusions and seven
expulsions, but 2012 statistics released by the Ministry of
Education under the Official Information Act show the number
of stand-downs declined to 677, suspensions 101, exclusions
43 and there were fewer than five expulsions.
However, Green Island School principal Steve Hayward said a
more concerning trend was the increasing number of children
as young as 5 displaying more extreme behaviour.
''Assaults on staff and other children, violence and
continual disobedience are the main issues.
''Going back a decade, this would have been extremely rare to
see in children under 10 years old.
''These days, we [schools] receive several requests per term
to take 5- to 10-year-old children who have been excluded
from other schools.
''I've even heard of schools having to take children who have
been kicked out of kindergarten.''
Mr Hayward said there were a lot of children with ''sad
stories'' out there who had had difficult childhoods.
''You feel sorry for some of these kids - they've had a hard
''But there are 29 other kids in the class that just want to
get on with their learning.''
A stand-down is the removal of a learner for up to five days,
and can offer a positive opportunity to reduce tensions and
reflect on behaviour.
When matters are not resolved, schools may opt to suspend a
pupil and could escalate proceedings to exclusion for pupils
under 16, or expulsion for pupils 16 or over.
Ministry of Education regional operations deputy secretary
Katrina Casey said the disciplinary actions were not measures
of learner behaviour, but measures of a school's reaction to
''What one school may choose to suspend for, another may not.
''The number of these events should not be used as a proxy
measure for total student behaviour.''
Ms Casey said the ministry recognised challenging behaviour
could hinder learning and disrupt school life, so it is
investing $75 million into the Positive Behaviour for
Learning programme (PB4L) to support schools in managing
''The ministry believes that student attendance, along with
effective teaching, has the greatest influence on student
engagement and achievement.
''All students must be present at school so they can
participate and engage in learning.
''For this reason, returning excluded students to school is a
priority for the ministry.''
Mr Hayward said the Government had closed specialised
residential centres that provided alternative education to
excluded pupils, and questioned where these pupils would go
He said only six Otago primary schools had received PB4L
funding from the ministry in the past three years and called
on the Government to share the funding more widely around
primary schools as well as secondary schools.
''A disruptive pupil can destroy a small school.
''A dollar spent now is going to save how much in the
Otago Primary Principals' Association president Whetu Cormick
said schools worked hard to support children presenting
challenging behaviour, and also called on the Government to
provide more resource funding which could be used to provide
''I think the Government would be well advised to look at
their funding so that we can keep them engaged in school.''