Some school principals are calling for more and consistent support when students are excluded.

They say the way students are dealt with after being suspended will leave already at-risk students worse off.

The Education Act is being reviewed, and despite discussions about the need for better support, as it stands school principals will have just 10 days to find another school for suspended students, before the case gets passed on to the Secretary for Education.

Secondary Principals Association president Deidre Shea said that was worrying principals.

“Exclusions don’t happen often. But when they do happen, you want to ensure that the best support is available quickly to return that young person to a learning situation with appropriate support.

“We see this as an area where change behind the act is really important.”

She said an exclusion often affected the student and the family, so a 10-day timeframe created challenges to reach potentially good outcomes for that child.

“One of the suggestions come to us is to ensure that there is an intermediate step before it’s referred to the secretary to enable a good conversation with the young person and the family to ensure they continue their learning in an appropriate setting.”

She told Morning Report a third party or an agency could be brought in to help – “where it’s not the principal or the school”, but it’s that agency’s job “to work with that family and with that student to find an appropriate outcome”.

In recent years, she said there had been a better understanding to provide students with options at different stages of their schooling and life.

“Some areas in New Zealand already do have creative solutions that are supported by the Ministry [of Education] and by other bodies – these are working really well. What we’d like to see is that to be more consistent and certainly more universally available.”



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