$1.5m paid to control kids


$1.5m paid to control kids

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Tuesday, 18 November 2008

A fund to help schools with troublesome pupils has dished out more than 1300 payments – mostly for dealing with violence and aggressive or threatening behaviour.

The Interim Response Fund was set up to help schools keep difficult pupils in class. In most cases the money is spent employing one-on-one teacher aides to work with difficult or dangerous pupils.

The fund, introduced last year, is part of a strategy to tackle “severe behaviour” after a sharp rise in incidents.

“It might be some sort of unprovoked assault,” Secondary Principals Association president Peter Gall said.

“That’s the worst sort of violence. That’s unfortunately the situation schools are faced with on an increasing basis these days.”

An Education Ministry report issued to The Dominion Post shows the fund has paid out more than $1.5 million on 1387 successful applications to support 1240 pupils.

Almost every crisis involved boys, most of whom were still at primary school. Injury had been caused in 41 per cent of cases.

A further 20 per cent involved other violent incidents, and 11 per cent involved aggressive or threatening behaviour.

After 10 weeks, nearly one in three schools said the situation was still unstable.

Asked how widespread violence problems were in schools, Special Education deputy secretary Nicholas Pole said the level of violence committed by youth offenders was growing – though the ministry did not “collect data on it in any systematic way”.

Some schools have started using a new confidential pupil survey to gauge whether pupils feel safe, how often they play truant and whether they get bored in class.

The ministry hopes the surveys will provide important information, but has ruled out making the use of them compulsory.

Council for Educational Research manager Charles Darr helped develop the Me and My School survey. He said it was being used by about 100 schools.

It asked pupils how engaged they felt at school, including their safety, truancy patterns, teacher relationships and how interesting they found classes.

“Schools are using it to get some sort of student voice on how well students feel they are involved in student life,” Mr Darr said.

“If you’re looking at the health of your school, you need to be looking at something like this as much as you do achievement information.”