A new report has revealed distressing and violent behaviour by students at Northland primary and intermediate schools as teachers details the horrors faced in classrooms.
Those include a child trying to drive her head through a window, others who attempted to inflict injuries on themselves and those who physically attacked their teachers.
Whangārei principal Pat Newman says child mental health services need to work closer with schools.
"How many times do we have to go and say there is problem?"
The report has come from the Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association and paints a picture of schools assailed by extreme behaviour in and out of the classroom.
It compiles the results of two short surveys sent to all principals in the region. One regarding severe problem behaviour which 83 principals responded to, the other regarding information about the child which 44 completed.
Self harm, students attacking and/or threatening to attack teachers or other students, students threatening or attacking property, students swearing at one another and students leaving school without permission are just some of the behaviours principals have said they experience in their schools.
Newman, principal of Hora Hora Primary School and president of the Te Tai Tokerau Principals' Association, said this has been happening for "donkey's years".
"Nothing has changed so we're still here and are we still going to be here in another 10 years?"
When asked for examples of the types of severe behaviour he had seen his school, Newman said there had been a child who had tried to drive their head through a glass window, children who had tried to self-harm, and children who had thrown property around classrooms.
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So when he saw the report he was not surprised. He was however shocked to find some of the comments principals made about Te Roopu Kimiora, Northland DHB's child and adolescent mental health service.
In the survey principals were asked to rate the services that provide support for children with severe problem behaviours.
Te Roopu Kimiora achieved a favourable rating from 14 principals and a negative rating from 32.
"The bureaucratic requirements for referrals, followed by under-resourced, unresponsive and untimely services accompanied by poor communication informed these negative perceptions," the report said.
Ian McKenzie, Northland DHB general manager of Mental Health and Addictions, said Te Roopu Kimiora was mandated to provide care to those with "moderate to high level" mental health issues. This equated to 3 per cent of the our population aged under 19 years, he said.
"While we are fully resourced - currently one psychologist vacancy - our specialist team are seeing 70 per cent more than what is our mandated specialist service. We are already working well beyond our original scope," he said.
For the period between November 2018 to October 2019 the service received 1043 new referrals, 896 new referrals were accepted for specialist care and the average wait time for these clients was 10 days. The total number of cases during that period was 1567.
"It is important to note that not all issues related to behavioural or conduct issues in the classroom requires a mental health service referral," he said.
But Newman said these children often have a behavioural problem caused by trauma and abuse.
"The very outfit that's set up to deal with the mental health needs of children is the one that is failing us greatly," he said.
"They need to be resourced so they have adequate personnel, they need to be seen as the number one priority for health up here and they need to work much closer with schools instead of thinking that they know it all."
Hora Hora Primary School teacher Tracey Alison sees the impact of severe behaviour in her own classroom.
She said there was one instance where a child was playing nicely until something caused him to start throwing objects around - including a table and chair.
"At the core of it all they just want to be seen. They just want to know they matter and that they have some control over their lives at some point.
"They can't even tell you what was the trigger or what started it. They want to make amends but they don't really know what they're making amends for."
Alison said some of the children have so much insight into an adult life, they often miss out on being a child.
She said it was difficult for teachers. "You're just emotionally overflowing. There's no way to reconcile some of the things that you have to deal with in the day."