Hawke's Bay secondary school principals say their options are limited when it comes to removing violent pupils.
Flaxmere College principal Nigel Hanson said the region had a strong alternative education programme but it was almost impossible to get pupils into it.
"There are funded places for 75 pupils but when there are 100 needing places, where do the other 25 go when we run out of the ability to cope with them?"
Mr Hanson said he did not support yesterday's call by the president of the Secondary Principals' Association, Graham Young, to set up separate schools for problem pupils to avoid schools becoming "social welfare agencies".
"I personally don't believe putting all kids the one place is the answer but we need to fund a range of other alternatives, like activity, or adventure-based learning."
He said most schools were able to cope with difficult pupils but school boards would eventually have to exclude them "because it's the only power they have".
Tamatea High School principal Chris Neilsen said violence in schools had not increased but "levels of defiance and unwillingness" had.
Alternative education courses were full and there were just 40 places available for problem pupils at the Napier Community Education Centre. At the moment, violent pupils were stood down and families brought in to discuss the problem but some schools were getting to an "end point".
"If behaviour is such that schools can't tolerate it any more, what happens to the students?" Mr Neilsen asked. Hawke's Bay alternative education co-ordinator Barry Lucas said the Ministry of Education funded places for 75 children with providers in Hastings, Flaxmere and Havelock North.
But by manipulating available funding, he had about 81 pupils between the ages of 13 and 16 on his books. Mr Lucas was aware of demand but said until ministry funding increased, places were limited. Funding to the Hawke's Bay programme had remained the same since it began nine years ago.
He said many co-ordinators were concerned by the number of children with anger-management issues being referred to them.
"Young people are becoming more violent.
"It is totally unacceptable behaviour and it should be a concern to the community as a whole."
Nearly half of the secondary school teachers surveyed at the Post Primary Teachers' Association annual conference in Wellington yesterday said pupil behaviour had deteriorated in the past year to such an extent it was a health and safety issue for teachers.
The union urged the Government to put more resources into dealing with difficult children.
National Party education spokesman Bill English said the philosophy of including every child in mainstream schooling did not work when behaviour became extremely disruptive. "Our society can't, and shouldn't, expect teachers to deal with threatening knife-wielding students.
"The schools aren't responsible for it, they're there to teach. School just doesn't work for some people, and we should stop pretending it does."
He said there were alternative education programmes and charitable groups available which could be used more. PPTA president Debbie Te Whaiti told the conference the pupils should not be alienated or isolated from schools, but extra help and money were needed to deal with them.
The ministry gives support for children with extra needs. This includes special education grants and teachers who specialise in children with learning and behavioural problems. It spends $70 million a year on specialist resource teachers, and $22 million a year on children with severe behaviour problems.
* Editorial - page 6
WEBSITE OF THE YEAR
APP OF THE YEAR