Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions from school

What We Have Found

Student attendance and engagement are critical factors relating to student achievement. The levels of stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions help provide indications of where engagement in productive learning may be absent and behavioural issues may be present.

In 2014 age-standardised stand-down rates fell for the eighth consecutive year, and age-standardised stand-down, suspension, exclusion and expulsions rates are at their lowest in 15 years of recorded data.

Schools continue to stand-down, suspend, and exclude more Māori students than any other ethnic group. Male students are more than twice as likely to receive a stand-down, suspension or exclusion, and over four times more likely to be expelled than females.

Date Updated: June 2015

Indicator Description

This indicator uses age-standardised rates. These are expressed as the number of stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions per 1,000 students enrolled. Most stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions occur at ages 13-15, and age-standardisation allows a fair comparison between different cohorts. In any given year the schooling population will have a different age distribution. By standardising for age we can compare across years.

Expulsions occur only for 16 year-olds and above, therefore the expulsion rate refers to the number of expulsions per 1,000 standardised for students aged 16 or over. Likewise, exclusions only occur for students aged 15 and under, therefore the exclusion rate refers to number of exclusions per 1,000 standardised for students aged 15 or under. All mention of schools in this indicator refers to state and state integrated schools only.

Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions are not measures of student behaviour, but measures of a schools' reactions to such behaviours. What one school may choose to suspend for, another may not.

Why This Data is Important

A state or state integrated school principal may consider the formal removal of a student through a stand-down from school for a period of up to 5 school days. A stand-down, for any student, can total no more than 5 school days in a term, or 10 days in a school year. Students return automatically to school following a stand-down.

While stand-downs impact on actual opportunity to learn they are also a response to a wide range of concerning behaviours including drug and alcohol abuse and violence that could disrupt the learning of the individuals concerned, and could be disruptive and unsafe for peers and adults in the school community. Stand-downs can offer an opportunity to reduce tension and reflect on the action which led to the stand-down. As such, if used in appropriate circumstances, a stand-down can be a positive mechanism for preventing escalation. However, its use should be part of a proactive approach and should be kept to a minimum due to the disruption to student's learning which is inherent in the mechanism.

A suspension is a formal removal of a student from a school until a school Board of Trustees decides the outcome at a suspension meeting. Following a suspension, the Board of Trustees decides how to address the student's misbehaviour. The Board can either lift the suspension (with or without conditions), extend the suspension (with conditions), or terminate the student's enrolment at the school.

Exclusions and expulsions are subsets of suspension where an enrolment is terminated. If the student is aged under 16, the Board may decide to exclude the student from the school, with the requirement that the student enrols elsewhere. This decision should be arrived at in only the most serious cases. If the student is aged 16 or over, the board may decide to expel him or her from the school, and the student may or may not enrol at another school. Again, this decision should be arrived at only in the most serious cases. Excluded or expelled students may face difficulties in enrolling in other schools. This may result in students:

  • accessing correspondence schooling through Te Aho o te Kura Pounamu,
  • entering Alternative Education provision (for excluded students),
  • dropping out of the education system,
  • entering tertiary study or employment.


In 2014, Boards of Trustees decided to lift 45% of all suspensions. Around 9 out of 10 of these were lifted with conditions placed on the student. The decision to extend the suspension, exclude or expel was made in 17%, 33% and 4% of cases respectively.

Research emphasises the importance of proactive partnerships with parents and a strategy focused on both achievement and behaviour. Approaches that are focused only on disciplinary or pastoral responses have been found to be ineffective for positive outcomes. Positive Behaviour for Learning, launched in 2009, is a major shift in the management of disruptive behaviour in the education system. It provides proactive support for parents, teachers and schools that benefits everyone. The result is better learning environments for all learners and staff, improved teacher ability to support children's behaviour and emotional needs, improved engagement in learning, a lift in achievement for learners and an increase in teacher confidence and satisfaction.

To boost skills and employment, the Government has set a target that 85% of 18-year-olds will have achieved NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification by 2017. Student engagement is an important contributing factor in reaching this target. If students are being more actively engaged in their schooling, they should have a better chance of achieving to the levels required to meet the target. If student disengagement continues to drop, we expect to see a continued rise in achievement.

The education system has been underperforming for Māori and Pasifika. As a result, students from these groups have been over-represented in disengagement measures. Ka Hikitia - Accelerating Success 2013–2017 is the Ministry's strategy to rapidly change how the education system performs so that all Māori students gain the skills, qualifications and knowledge they need to enjoy and achieve education success as Māori.

The Pasifika Education Plan - 2013-2017 (PEP) is aimed at raising Pasifika learners' participation, engagement and achievement from early learning through to tertiary education. The PEP's vision is to see 'five out of five Pasifika learners participating, engaging and achieving in education, secure in their identities, languages and cultures and contributing fully to Aotearoa New Zealand's social, cultural and economic wellbeing'.

Special education students are also a priority group for the Ministry. Success for All - Every School, Every Child, is the Government's vision and work programme to achieve a fully inclusive education system. It builds on the views of more than 2,000 people from across New Zealand who made submissions to the Government's Review of Special Education 2010.

How We Are Going

A state or state integrated school principal may consider the formal removal of a student through a stand-down from school for a period of up to 5 school days. A stand-down, for any student, can total no more than 5 school days in a term, or 10 days in a school year. Students return automatically to school following a stand-down.

While stand-downs impact on actual opportunity to learn they are also a response to a wide range of concerning behaviours including drug and alcohol abuse and violence that could disrupt the learning of the individuals concerned, and could be disruptive and unsafe for peers and adults in the school community. Stand-downs can offer an opportunity to reduce tension and reflect on the action which led to the stand-down. As such, if used in appropriate circumstances, a stand-down can be a positive mechanism for preventing escalation. However, its use should be part of a proactive approach and should be kept to a minimum due to its inherent disruption.

How We Are Going

Age-standardised stand-down rates continued the decreasing trend in 2014. The age-standardised stand-down rate increased from 25.1 stand-downs per 1,000 in 2000 to 30.4 stand-downs per 1,000 in 2006, but has subsequently decreased to 20.0 stand-downs per 1,000 in 2014.

There were 14,437 stand-down cases in 2014, which were received by 11,169 different students. This equates to 1.5% of the student population in state and state integrated schools receiving stand-downs. Of those students stood-down, 78.8% were stood-down only once during 2014.

In 2014, 66.7% of stand-downs took place in secondary schools. Only 6.7% of secondary schools did not use stand-downs compared to 57.3% of primary schools.

Figure 1: Age-standardised stand-down rates (2000 to 2014)

Ethnic Group

Schools are standing-down more Māori students than any other ethnic group.

In 2014, the age-standardised stand-down rate for Māori (36.4 stand-downs per 1,000) was 1.5 times higher than Pasifika (24.7 stand-downs per 1,000), and 2.5 times as high as European/Pākehā (14.8 stand-downs per 1,000). The stand-down rate for Asian students was the lowest of all ethnic groups (4.7 per 1,000).

Asian and European/Pākehā had the biggest drops in stand-down rates between 2013 and 2014. The Asian age-standardised rate dropped 11.3%, and the European/Pākehā rate dropped 8.5%. The Māori rate decreased 6.2% from 2013 and the Pasifika rate dropped 6.6%.

Figure 2: Age-standardised stand-down rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2014)

Decile

There is a clear correlation between schools socio-economic mix and age-standardised stand-down rates. Schools in the lowest quintile (deciles 1 and 2) draw their students from communities with the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage. Students from these schools are over five times more likely to be stood-down than students in the highest quintile (deciles 9 and 10).

Proportionally more Māori and Pasifika students attend schools in the lower quintiles than schools in the higher quintiles.

Age-standardised stand-down rates are highest for Māori except in quintile 1 where European/Pākehā students had the highest rate. Māori had the second highest rate in this quintile.

Figure 3: Age-standardised stand-down rates by ethnic group and school quintile (2014)

Gender

Over time, male students have consistently received stand-downs far more frequently than female students. In 2014, the age-standardised stand-down rate for males (29.4 per 1,000) was 2.9 times higher than the female rate (10.1 per 1,000). A clear gender disparity can be seen across all ethnic groups.

Figure 4: Age-standardised stand-down rates, by gender and ethnic group (2014)

Behavioural Reasons

In 2014, physical assault on other students was the main reason for stand-downs, accounting for 24.8% of occurrences with an age-standardised rate of 5.0 per 1,000 students. Continual disobedience was the second most prevalent reason, accounting for 23.0% of stand-downs with an age-standardised rate of 4.6 per 1,000 students. Along with verbal assault on staff (12.7%), these three behaviours made up almost two-thirds of all stand-downs. All three were at their lowest age-standardised rate in 14 years of recorded data. "Other" behaviours included sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, weapons and other harmful and dangerous behaviours.

Figure 5: Age-standardised rates per 1,000 of stand-downs, by behaviour (2000-2014)

Age

The majority of stand-downs occurred for students aged 13 to 15, accounting for 56.3% of all stand-downs. The rate was the highest for age 14 (57.4 stand-downs per 1,000 students). This substantial variation is why cohort analysis is undertaken using age-standardised rates for the majority of the indicator. Year to year the spread of ages in the school system can shift, and age-standardising makes the data more comparable.

Figure 6: Stand-down rates, by age (2014)

A suspension is the formal removal of a student from a school until a school Board of Trustees decides the outcome at a suspension meeting. Following a suspension, the Board of Trustees decides how to address the student's misbehaviour. The Board can either lift the suspension (with or without conditions), extend the suspension (with conditions), or terminate the student's enrolment at the school. In 2014, Boards of Trustees decided to lift 45% of all suspensions. Around 9 out of 10 of these were lifted with conditions placed on the student. The decision to extend the suspension, exclude or expel was made in 17%, 33% and 4% of cases respectively.

How We Are Going

The incidence of suspensions has decreased by 51.3% over the last 15 years, from an age-standardised rate of 7.7 suspensions per 1,000 students in 2000, to 3.7 suspensions per 1,000 in 2014. This is the lowest age-standardised suspension rate in the 15 years of recorded data.

There were 2,692 suspension cases in 2014 which were received by 2,461 different students. This equates to 0.3% of the total student population receiving suspensions. Of those students suspended during 2014, 91.2% were suspended only once.

In 2014, 19.9% of all secondary schools did not use suspensions as a part of a behaviour management programme, compared to 85.5% of all primary schools.

Figure 7: Age-standardised suspension rates (2000 to 2014)

Ethnic Group

Schools are suspending more Māori students than any other ethnic group. In 2014, the age-standardised suspension rate for Māori students (7.8 suspensions per 1,000) was twice as high as for Pasifika students (3.9 suspensions per 1,000) and over three times as high as for European/Pākehā (2.6 suspensions per 1,000). However, the suspension rates for Māori are decreasing (from 18.6 per 1000 in 2000, to 7.8 in 2014). The age-standardised suspension rate for Asian students remains the lowest in New Zealand (0.4 per 1,000).

Figure 8: Age-standardised suspension rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2014)

Decile

There is a clear correlation between schools socio-economic mix and age-standardised suspension rates. Students from schools in the lowest quintile (deciles 1 and 2) are 5.1 times more likely to be suspended from school than students in the highest quintile (deciles 9 and 10).

When considering age-standardised suspension rates by quintile and ethnic group, they are highest for Māori across all quintiles. Pasifika have the second highest rates in quintiles 2, 4 and 5, but in quintile 1 and 3 schools the European/Pākehā rate is higher than that of the Pasifika rate.

Proportionally more Māori and Pasifika students attend schools in the lower quintiles than schools in the higher quintiles.

Figure 9: Age-standardised suspension rates by ethnic group and school quintile (2014)

Gender

Males receive suspensions more frequently than females. In 2014, the male age-standardised suspension rate (5.7 per 1,000) was 3.4 times that of females (1.7 per 1,000). This is similar to the relationship seen for stand-downs. A clear gender disparity can be seen across all ethnic groups.

Figure 10: Age-standardised suspension rates, by gender and ethnic group (2014)

Behavioural Reasons

In 2014 continual disobedience was the main reason for suspensions (25.9%), with an age-standardised rate of 1.0 per 1000 students. The second most common reason, with an age-standardised rate of 0.9 per 1000 students, was drugs (including substance abuse) (23.7% of total suspension cases). Along with physical assault on other students (0.6 per 1,000 students or 15.2%), these three behaviours made up over two-thirds of all suspensions. "Other" behaviours included sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, weapons and other harmful and dangerous behaviours.

Figure 11: Age-standardised rate per 1,000 students of suspensions, by behaviour (2000 to 2014)

Age

The majority of suspensions occurred for students aged 13 to 15, accounting for 63.5% of all suspensions. The rate was the highest for students aged 14 years (12.0 suspensions per 1,000 in 2014). This substantial variation is why cohort analysis is undertaken using age-standardised data for the majority of this indicator. Year to year the spread of ages in the school system can shift, and age-standardising makes the data more comparable.

Figure 12: Suspension rates by Age (2014)

Exclusions and expulsions are subsets of suspension where an enrolment is terminated. If the student is aged under 16, the Board may decide to exclude the student from the school, with the requirement that the student enrols elsewhere. This decision should be arrived at only in the most serious cases. If the student is aged 16 or over, the board may decide to expel him or her from the school, and the student may or may not enrol at another school. Again, this decision should be arrived at only in the most serious cases. Excluded or expelled students may face difficulties in enrolling at other schools

How We Are Going

The age-standardised exclusion rates have remained relatively constant over the last 15 years but 2014 did see the lowest exclusion rate in those years. The age-standardised exclusion rate was 1.4 exclusions per 1,000 students. This is the third consecutive year that the age-standardised rate has been below 2 per 1,000 students. Age-standardisation for exclusions only standardises against those in the population who can be excluded i.e. students aged 15 and under.

There were 900 exclusion cases in 2014 which were received by 888 different students. This equates to 0.1% of the total student population under 16 years old receiving exclusions. Of those students excluded during 2014, 98.6% were excluded only once.

Figure 13: Age-standardised exclusion rates (2000 to 2014)

Ethnic Group

Schools are excluding Māori students more than any other ethnic group. In 2014 the age-standardised exclusion rate for Māori (3.0 exclusions per 1,000) was 1.9 times higher than for Pasifika (1.6 exclusions per 1,000), and 3.2 times as high as for European/Pākehā (0.9 exclusions per 1,000). The age-standardised exclusion rate for Asian students is the lowest of all ethnic groups (0.1 per 1,000).

Figure 14: Age-standardised exclusion rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2014)

Decile

There is a clear correlation between school socio-economic mix and age-standardised exclusion rates. Students from the lowest quintile schools (deciles 1 and 2) are 5.8 times more likely to be excluded than students in the highest quintile (deciles 9 and 10).

When considering age-standardised exclusion rates by quintile, rates were highest for Māori in each quintile. Rates were second highest for European/Pākehā in quintile 1 and second highest for Pasifika in all other quintiles, consistent with the pattern seen for suspensions in general.

Proportionally more Māori and Pasifika students attend schools in the lower quintiles than schools in the higher quintiles.

Figure 15: Age-standardised exclusion rates by ethnic group and school quintile (2014)

Gender

Schools exclude more male students than female students. In 2014, the age-standardised exclusion rate was 4.1 times higher for males (2.3 per 1,000) than for females (0.6 per 1,000). A clear gender disparity can be seen across all ethnic groups.

Figure 16: Age-standardised exclusion rates, by gender and ethnic group (2014)

Behavioural Reasons

In 2014 continual disobedience was the main reason for exclusions, accounting for 36.6% of all exclusions with an age-standardised rate of 0.5 per 1,000 students. Drugs, including substance abuse, (16.0%) were the second most prevalent reason, with an age-standardised rate of 0.2 per 1,000 students excluded. The third most prevalent reason was physical assault on other students with an age-standardised rate of 0.2 per 1,000 students (15.4% of total exclusions).

Figure 17: Age-standardised rate per 1,000 students of exclusions, by behaviour (2000 to 2014)

Exclusions and expulsions are subsets of suspension where an enrolment is terminated. If the student is aged under 16, the Board may decide to exclude the student from the school, with the requirement that the student enrols elsewhere. This decision should be arrived at only in the most serious cases. If the student is aged 16 or over, the board may decide to expel him or her from the school, and the student may or may not enrol at another school. Again, this decision should be arrived at only in the most serious cases. Excluded or expelled students may face difficulties in enrolling in other schools.

How We Are Going

There were 116 expulsion cases in 2014, received by 115 students. This equates to 0.1% of students aged 16 and over. Expulsions can only be received by learners aged 16 and over.

Once a student turns 16, there is no requirement that they stay in the schooling system. Age-standardisation for expulsions only standardises against those in the population who can be expelled i.e. students aged 16 and over. The overall age-standardised rate of expulsions was 1.2 per 1,000 in 2014.

Figure 18: Age-standardised expulsion rates (2000 to 2014)

Ethnic Group

Māori returned to being the group with the highest expulsion rate in 2014. The age-standardised expulsion rate for Pasifika (1.8 expulsions per 1,000) was just slightly lower than the Māori rate (2.4 expulsions per 1,000), while the European/Pākehā rate was 0.6 expulsions per 1,000, similarly Asians had an expulsion rate of 0.6 per 1,000.

Because of the small numbers that are expelled in some of the ethnic groups, small variations in the number of cases from year to year can cause quite large changes in the age-standardised rates.

Figure 19: Age-standardised expulsion rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2014)

Gender

Schools expel more male students than female students. In 2014, the age-standardised expulsion rate was 5.4 times higher for males (2.0 per 1,000) than females (0.4 per 1,000). A clear gender disparity can be seen across all ethnic groups.

Figure 20: Age-standardised expulsion rates, by gender and ethnic group (2014)

Decile

There is a clear correlation between school socio-economic mix and age-standardised expulsion rates. Schools in the lowest quintile (deciles 1 and 2) draw their students from communities with the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage. Students from quintile 1 (deciles 1 and 2) schools were 5.3 times more likely to be expelled from school than students in the highest quintile schools (deciles 9 and 10).

Age-standardised expulsion rates can be subject to great fluctuation when broken down by quintile and ethnic group because the raw numbers involved are small. Because of this reason, the quintile by ethnic group analysis carried out in the stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions sections has been excluded from this section.

Behavioural Reasons

Drugs (including substance abuse) were the main reason for expulsions in 2014, accounting for 26.7% of expulsions. The second most prevalent reason for expulsion was continual disobedience (20.7%). The third most prevalent reason was physical assault on other students (15.5%). These reasons had age-standardised rates of 0.3, 0.2 and 0.2 per 1,000 students respectively.


Figure 21: Age-standardised rate per 1,000 students of expulsions, by behaviour (2000 to 2014)

References

Evidence about what works for this indicator can be found in:

  • Bishop, R and Berryman M (2007). Culture speaks: cultural relationships and classroom learning
  • Christenson, S., Reschly, A. L., & Wylie, C. (2012). Handbook of research on student engagement. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Hattie, J. (2003). Teachers Make a Difference: What is the research evidence? Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research Annual Conference on Building Teacher Quality.
  • Klem, A. M. & Connell, J. P. (2004). Relationships matter: Linking teacher support to student engagement and achievement. Journal of School Health, 74, (7), 262-273.
  • Ministry of Education (2009). Guidelines for principals and boards of trustees on stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions. Part 1: Legal options and duties. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  • Ministry of Education (2009). Good practice guidelines for principals and boards of trustees for managing behaviour that may or may not lead to stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions. Part 2: Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  • Ministry of Education (2013). Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success: 2013-2017. Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  • Ministry of Education (2013). The Pasifika Education Plan – 2013 – 2017 (PEP). Wellington: Ministry of Education.
  • Ministry of Education (2010). Success for All – Every School, Every Child. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Education has established an Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme to systematically identify, evaluate, analyse, synthesise and make accessible, relevant evidence linked to a range of learner outcomes. Evidence about what works for this indicator can be found on the Education Counts website. The following Best Evidence Syntheses are relevant to this indicator:

Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) helps schools, teachers and parents across New Zealand promote positive behaviour. For information visit: Positive Behaviour for Learning on the TKI website.