While the number of pupils being stood down, suspended or
excluded from Otago schools has reached some of the lowest
levels in more than a decade, concerns have been raised about
the increasing number of younger pupils displaying violent
behaviour in the classroom.
Ministry of Education figures released yesterday show
suspensions in Otago dropped to 2.9 pupils per 1000 pupils in
2013, the lowest rate in 14 years, and the number of
exclusions dropped to 1.4 pupils per 1000 over the same time
frame, the second lowest in 14 years.
Stand-downs also dropped, to 20.1 pupils per 1000 pupils in
Otago, which is the lowest rate since 2008.
Otago Secondary Principals' Association secretary Gordon
Wilson said the statistics matched exclusion figures
collected by the association which showed the number of
exclusions at Dunedin schools was at a 14-year low.
Because exclusions were well down, he believed stand-downs
and suspensions would also be well down in Dunedin.
Mr Wilson said exclusions were inevitable but, on a positive
note, those excluded from Dunedin schools in 2013 were
quickly re-engaged in education.
Although principals were delighted with the figures, he said
they were also concerned about the growing number of younger
pupils exhibiting ''quite severe'' behaviour, such as
physical and verbal assaults on pupils and staff.
''There are fewer of them, but they are getting younger.''
Otago Primary Principals' Association chairwoman Stephanie
Madden said it was encouraging to see the decline, but
statistics did not always give an accurate picture of
''Anecdotally, we know many schools are working with
extremely challenging behavioural situations on a day-to-day
''Stand-downs and exclusions are a last resort for schools.
We work very hard to engage with families and support
agencies so that we can bring about meaningful change without
standing children down.
''However, there is still limited resourcing for children
with severe behavioural difficulties.
''Supporting these children can place significant strain on
school personnel and finances.''
Otago's figures reflect the national trend which shows pupils
being stood down, suspended and excluded nationwide has
reached a 14-year low.
Expulsion figures were also very low, with just 137 pupils
prohibited from returning to their school.
Education Minister Hekia Parata was delighted far fewer
pupils were being removed from school because it meant they
were staying in class and continuing to learn.
''This all shows how hard teachers, principals, parents and
communities are working to encourage positive behaviour in
Ms Parata said Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L)
initiatives were operating in more than 500 schools across
the country, and the number was expected to increase to about
800 by 2017.
''There is also the Bullying Prevention Guide for schools
released this year, and behaviour contracts which will be
introduced for schools and students.''
Ms Parata said in the past, too many pupils saw little point
in being at school and many became bored and disruptive.
''Now, they have more choice through trades academies and
''These improvements are changing how many students see
education and their attitude is improving as a result.''
Ms Parata said there was still more work to do to reduce the
rate of stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions -
particularly among Maori, Pasifika and male pupils.