Pupil, 6, youngest stood down

By Sam Hurley

A 6-year-old student stood down for assaulting a teacher in 2012 is the youngest to be stood down or suspended for such an offence in Hawke's Bay.

Information obtained from the Ministry of Education under the Official Information Act showed the youngest student in the region to be stood down for physical or verbal assault on staff was 6 years old. The youngest to be suspended for physical or verbal assault on staff in Hawke's Bay schools was 12 years old.

The youngest nationally to be stood down for assault was 5, while the youngest to be suspended was also 5.

The ministry did not collect information relating to the injuries sustained in the assaults and suppressed the names of the students and schools to protect their privacy.

Regional operations deputy secretary Katrina Casey said: "A stand-down is the removal of a student for a period of up to five school days, where the decision is made by the principal. A suspension is the formal removal of a student from a State or State-integrated school until the school board of trustees decides the outcome at a meeting."

The board can either lift the suspension, extend the suspension, or terminate the student's enrolment at the school, known as exclusion for students under 16 and an expulsion for students over 16 years old.

The ministry recorded a total of 148 stand-downs and less than 12 suspensions for assaults on staff for Years 1-13 Hawke's Bay students in 2012.

The figures reported 97 students had been stood down from school for assault from Years 9-13, and 51 from Years 1-8. Seven had been suspended from Years 9-13 for assault and less than five from Years 1-8.

Recorded numbers under five were suppressed by the ministry to protect the privacy of individual students.

Hawke's Bay Primary Principals' Association president and Mahora School principal Rohan Pearse said incidents involving staff and students were rising in the region.

"The level of difficult children has increased over the years and this was evident in research our association completed in the last couple of years."

He said teachers should not be worried about violent situations with students provided they stuck to the procedures laid out to deal with problematic students.

"Schools have systems and supports in place to manage student behaviour. The key is ensuring the school, the parents and the child are involved in repairing the situation."

He said the situation of such an incident would dictate what happened between the student and the staff member. However, support was provided by the school for those involved.

The ministry said stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions were not the measures of student behaviour but measures of a school's reaction to such behaviours.

"What one school may choose to suspend for, another may not," said Ms Casey.

The ministry said challenging behaviour could hinder learning and disrupt school life and recognised that schools needed support to manage challenging behaviour.

It is investing $75million in a Positive Behaviour for Learning programme.

The report obtained under the Official Information Act said student attendance, along with effective teaching, had the greatest influence on student engagement and achievement.

Returning excluded students to school is stated as a priority for the ministry.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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