Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

School absences 'can affect students for life'

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A delay in getting at-risk youth back into education can have life-long consequences, education experts say.

The Herald yesterday revealed nearly 30 young people have been off school for more than 100 school days after being excluded for bad behaviour. One teenager has been in limbo for 305 school days.

Professor Liz McKinley, of the University of Auckland's Starpath project, said a long time out of school was likely to result in a stigma - and resulting low expectations - being attached to the child.

"If the child gets accepted back into a school, most likely via an activity centre, and stays there, their learning is likely to be behind that of their peers for the rest of their time at school. The longer the exclusion, the worse it is."

As at August 9, the Ministry of Education was helping 244 students back into education after exclusion from school. Reasons for exclusions included continual disobedience, drugs and assaults.

If a school is unable to get an excluded student enrolled elsewhere, the ministry is called in to help.

AUT School of Education associate professor Nesta Devine has studied the exclusion process at West Auckland high schools and believed when schools worked together, students were often folded back into the education system.

But in some regions and cases a lack of schools or a child's reluctance to participate made the process difficult, she said. "If they have been out for 300 days there has been some reason why the normal processes aren't working.

"They may have spent 300 days fishing or they may have been feeling terribly rejected. Either way, a person responsible has been unsuccessful in finding them a place, and that's serious."

Katrina Casey of the Ministry of Education said delays were caused by complex cases, often linked with other agencies, transience and mental health.


• A suspension is the formal removal of a student from a state or state-integrated school until the board of trustees decides to lift the suspension, extend it, or make the student leave school (known as an exclusion for children under 16 and an expulsion for older students).

• If a school is unable to get an excluded student enrolled elsewhere, the Ministry of Education takes over.

• One teenager was left in limbo for 305 school days after an exclusion.Nicholas Jones education

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