Board sacked to protect pupils

By EMILY WATT – The Dominion Post | Friday, 30 January 2009

The Government has sacked a second school board in a fortnight after revelations its teachers were hitting, swearing at and denigrating pupils.

Education Minister Anne Tolley dissolved the board of South Auckland’s Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate yesterday and replaced it with a commissioner to safeguard pupils.

The move followed a damning Education Review Office report which raised “serious concerns about student safety and about the quality of teaching” at the school. The 1280-pupil co-ed state school is decile one, meaning it teaches pupils from the poorest and most deprived communities and homes. It is one of 10 South Auckland secondary schools that had police officers posted on the grounds as part of a pilot scheme last year to fight crime, and gather intelligence about youth gangs and drug dealing.

Mrs Tolley dissolved the board of trustees at Auckland’s Selwyn College on Tuesday last week after the office criticised differences between board members and the community which had resulted in falling enrolments.

In the latest sacking, ERO said the board had failed to provide a safe environment.

“The physical and emotional abuse of students by a few teachers is a long-standing issue that has been brought to the board’s attention in the past. This abuse by some teachers includes hitting, swearing at and denigrating students,” the report says.

Mrs Tolley said the abuse was concerning. “That is totally unacceptable. Student safety is paramount.”

Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate is effectively three schools – junior, middle and senior. ERO found a climate of mistrust among the school’s three principals and said the board’s inadequacy hindered the school’s ability to provide quality education.

Given the report’s allegations, Mrs Tolley said she had no hesitation appointing a commissioner to replace the board.

The former executive principal of Diocesan School, Gail Thomson, would take over today.

Former pupil Charles Makakea, who graduated last year, said he was surprised to hear the board was under fire.

“It was a good school,” he said.

He had heard reports of teachers hitting students, “but I didn’t know for sure”.

A former teacher said it was a low-decile school and there were a lot of tensions for teachers.

“I understand it’s also a hard-to-staff school.”

But though it was a difficult environment, there were no excuses for the behaviour described in the report.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Kate Gainsford said it was appalling that concerns had reached such serious levels without effective support for the board being put in place earlier.

“Maintaining discipline and managing safety in challenging circumstances can be difficult for trained professionals who are working full time. For volunteers devoting their spare time to shoulder such heavy responsibilities, [it] is a tall order.”

ERO will return to the school within 12 months.

Minister orders action on truants

Minister orders action on truants

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Education Minister Anne Tolley says she is hugely frustrated by a decision to scrap the biennial school truancy survey last year, leaving data three years out of date.

The Government is demanding urgent action on truancy amid revelations that officials have little or no idea how many thousands of children cut class each day.

Education Minister Anne Tolley is instructing staff in her ministry to survey schools immediately to gauge national truancy rates and brief her on the fight against non-attendance.

Officials admit the latest national truancy figures up to 30,000 children each week are nearly three years old.

They could only guess how many children were absent on any given day, and had not delivered on reduced truancy targets, one said.

A biennial week-long survey of schools to collect crucial truancy figures, to have been held last year, was ditched while a new electronic attendance tracking system was implemented in some schools.

The last survey, in 2006, showed up to 30,000 children 4.1 per cent of the 750,000 primary and high school pupils were truant each week. It brought claims that the government was fighting a losing battle against a “truancy tidal wave”.

A further “lost tribe” of 2500 long-term truants are not even enrolled. They are thought to represent a hardcore of young offenders before the youth justice system.

The electronic tracking system will provide more accurate data, but problems have delayed its implementation. Only about 250 of the 2700 schools are believed to use it. Just a handful of schools took part in a trial of the new system late last year and the data was of little use, officials say.

“If that information had come out, we would have known what the attendance and non-attendance picture was,” a ministry official said. “So we share the disappointment. We feel it.”

The ditched survey was “the only information we have nationally on attendance. We have nothing else”.

Mrs Tolley said she was surprised and disappointed that Labour had not demanded last year’s truancy survey, which would have provided up-to-date non-attendance figures.

“This means the last solid data we have is from 2006. That is unacceptable and I will be directing officials to undertake a survey as soon as possible so we can understand the true size of the truancy problem and work with schools and communities to ensure that more children are regularly engaged in school.”

Getting more children back in class was a priority, especially when an estimated 150,000 pupils were failing.

Results from this year’s survey would not be available till 2010.

Labour education spokesman Chris Carter said “snapshot” surveys did not provide accurate truancy information as figures were easily skewed by one-off events.

He had not been responsible as minister for ditching the survey. “At no point was I asked about it. I assume it was advice from officials.”

The electronic system would eventually provide a much clearer picture. “We know there is a truancy problem. No one’s disputing that. But telling us how many kids are away isn’t solving the problem.”

Ministry senior manager Tina Cornelius said the electronic tracking system, which is not compulsory, was likely to replace the biennial survey, depending on schools’ uptake.

Hardcore truants by the thousand

Hardcore truants by the thousand

By LANE NICHOLS – The Dominion Post | Saturday, 20 December 2008

Thousands of the most at-risk children are still missing from classrooms, forcing education officials to act as detectives hunting long-term truants.

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft said the “unexploded time bombs” who were mainly male represented the hardcore youth offenders. It was unacceptable that so many had fallen out of the schooling system.

“They’re our toughest kids with a constellation of problems. As Youth Court judges, we’re terribly concerned by the lack of engagement in education of these top-end offenders.”

A year after The Dominion Post revealed a “lost tribe” of nearly 7000 children not enrolled at any school, the Education Ministry admits more than 2500 are still missing “on any given day”.

About 450 have not been to school in more than six months 148 of them in more than a year. Most are junior high school pupils.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has ordered an urgent briefing from officials and warned yesterday that parents who failed to enrol their children were jeopardising their futures and committing a serious offence.

Ministry senior manager Jim Greening said numbers had dropped significantly in the past year but the situation remained unsatisfactory. Pupils who dropped out of the school system were at risk of spiralling into trouble later in life, he said, potentially costing society millions of dollars through crime and their drain on health and social services.

“We’ve got people across the country working very hard on this issue. We want to give all these kids every chance we can.”

All the missing kids are aged under 16 so are legally required to attend class but have been absent for at least 20 days.

Mr Greening said the hardcore truants were revealed by a computer enrolment tracking system in all schools since August last year. More than 30 staff were employed nationally to find the truants.

Of the nearly 7000 cases identified last year, many of the most-difficult pupils had been hunted down and re-enrolled.

An information-sharing agreement with the Immigration Service showed thousands of others had left the country, or were on the list only because of processing errors. But many hundreds more were missing.

“Often they don’t have any address,” Mr Greening said. “[Officials] go to the place where the family was. If they’re not there, they’ll ask neighbours. It becomes a detective thing, I guess.”

The missing children often came from dysfunctional families with complex problems. Ministry officials sometimes alerted other agencies such as police and Child, Youth and Family. “The really long-term hard ones, our people might locate. But we know in three months’ time our people are going to be looking for them again because they won’t be in class.”

Judge Becroft said Youth Court judges had always suspected a group of up to 3000 pupils had fallen out of the education system, but the ministry had only now been able to quantify it.

Children’s Commissioner Cindy Kiro said non-enrolled children were being denied their right to an education.

Failing students a costly burden

Extra funding will NOT solve these problems. Get your children out and home educate them:

Failing students a costly burden

By JOHN HARTEVELT – The Press | Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Troublesome students cost the education system 10 times as much as others, a government report on the state of New Zealand’s schools reveals.

The annual report into the compulsory schools sector in New Zealand, tabled by Education Minister Chris Carter in Parliament yesterday, highlights marginal students as a leading concern.

“One of the most pressing issues our education system faces is supporting students considered to be at risk of educational and societal failure,” the report said.

“Many of these students exhibit behaviour difficulties.”

The report said intervention and support for children with the most severe behavioural problems was critical.

“These behaviours are persistent, outside the age-expected norm and expressed across social settings,” it said.

The public cost of services for children with severe conduct problems was about 10 times that for children of the same age without conduct problems.

“Although most New Zealand students are actively engaged in education, educators face a number of challenges, especially around disciplinary issues, including student safety, school environment and managing difficult behaviours,” the report said.

An earlier report by the Ministry of Social Development found up to 5 per cent of primary and intermediate schoolchildren have a conduct disorder or severe anti-social behaviour.

The report was released hours after a New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) survey was circulated by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA).

The survey of teachers in the greater Wellington area found just over half said the severe behaviour of students limited the activities they would try with their classes.

“From the survey, it is clear that the impact on all of the other students of that disruption is really severe,” PPTA Hutt Valley regional executive member Martin Henry said.

Henry will present a paper on school discipline at next week’s PPTA conference which recommends funding be attached to students identified as a problem.

“These kids are in every classroom and every school and we think they need a funding formula that is attached directly to them,” Henry said.

The NZCER survey found an estimated 9% of students exhibited severely disruptive behaviour.

It also found:

41% of teachers were anxious about the severe behaviour of students.

28% said it made their general health poorer.

32% said that it undermined their confidence.

9% said they were frightened of students with severe behaviour.


32% of students who started NCEA in 2005 came out in 2007 with three qualifications an increase from the 26% of the 2002 cohort.

Just over one-fifth (21%) of students of the 2005 cohort came out with no NCEA qualifications down from 25% in 2006.

The number of students leaving school with no qualification of any kind was 18% in 2007, down from 25% in 2006 and 27% in 2005.

In 2007, 81% of 16-year-olds, 61% of 17-year-olds and 13% of 18-year-olds stayed on at school.

Female students achieved at higher rates than males, with 45% attaining at least a university entrance qualification, compared with 33% of male students.

Total government per-student funding of schools increased by 22.2% between 2003 and 2007, compared with an inflation rate of 11.6% over the same period.

During 2007, the Ministry of Education made 53 statutory interventions on school boards, compared with 51 in 2006 and 55 in 2005.

Government Schools in New Zealand


Government Schools are Revolting!



Government Schools are Revolting!

Libertarianz spokesman Phil Howison is completely unsurprised that 15 Auckland principals are “deeply concerned about the future of New Zealand’s schools” due to the ill-conceived and unworkable ‘Schools Plus’ initiative.

“Which is worse, Education Minister Chris Carter’s oppressive new policy, or the principals’ incessant and insatiable demands for taxpayer funding?” Education Spokesman Phil Howison wonders.

“Detaining students for a further 2 years against their will is a violation of the rights of young New Zealanders, to say nothing of a waste of tax-payer money. It is essentially an admission of defeat for state education – if eleven years in state schools has left over 500,000 New Zealanders functionally illiterate, what difference could adding two years make?” Howison asks.

“Even Chris Carter has admitted that we are spending too much public money on education, and receiving far too little in return. The constant cry from schools for more money reveals the inability of most educators to think of innovative approaches.”

“Our transitional education policy would distribute schools to the community through shares, empowering parents to become involved with their child’s education. The separation of school and state would allow new methods, subjects and ideas to evolve in a free market system.”

“It’s enough to make you vote Libertarianz!”