A PhD student at the University of Canterbury says children in residential schools with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties will face increased bullying in mainstream schools.
Eva Brown Hajdukova's studies revealed that difficult students were more likely to be bullied at mainstream schools than at special residential schools, which cater to intellectually disabled students.
Education Minister Hekia Parata announced a proposal on Monday to close two of four residential schools in New Zealand.
Ms Brown Hajdukova said the boys she interviewed believed the anti-bullying system in the residential school worked well, as the issues were often positively resolved.
"Most of the boys believed they were victims of bullying in mainstream schools, and to a lesser extent at the residential school, and they described their negative responses to this and their desire for revenge and protection," she said. "They often found the schoolwork too difficult and thus experienced frustration and anger that often led to negative behaviours and school disaffection.
"In contrast, they believed that they were provided with better support and help with their difficulties in the residential school and thus were able to improve their behavioural and educational outcomes," she said.
Ms Brown Hajdukova's research will produce recommendations on effective practices for working with students who have social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, and will allow them to experience a greater level of success and acceptance in mainstream schools.
CCS Disability Action welcomes the Minister of Education's decision to expand wrap-around services for children with special needs who have been in residential schools.
The organisation's chief executive, David Matthews, said the Education Ministry had made a difficult decision.
"It has created a win-win situation by retaining half of the residential special schools and introducing a wrap-around service option."
Mr Matthews said he sympathised with the staff of the two residential schools that the ministry proposed to close but added: "The bottom line is that more students will receive support ... where they need it the most, in their local community and at their local school."