Student Engagement 2007

Publication Details

This is the eighth annual report on student engagement, provides information on how New Zealand students are engaged in their learning using the key indicators of stand-downs, suspensions, expulsions, exclusions and early leaving exemptions that identify the levels of disengagement occurring in our schools.

Author(s): Ralph Lane, National Operations, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: July 2008

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This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box).  For links to related publications/ information that may be of interest please refer to the 'Where to Find Out More' inset box.


Schools are required to report to the Ministry of Education on any disciplinary action taken that as a consequence, denies a student access to school.  The statistics in this report are from that data reported by state or state-integrated schools during the 2007 calendar year.

Schools provide a wide range of responses to breaches of school rules and only those that result in a student being denied access to school are reported here.  This report therefore is on school actions and not on the prevalence of any form of student behaviour.
Stand-downs are a form of timeout actively managed by the principal to ensure behavioural issues are addressed with minimum disruption to a student's learning.  It is preferable that schools use stand-downs instead of suspensions to manage challenging behaviour by students.

Suspension, which is managed by the board, is for the most serious of issues, and has a broader range of consequences.  A suspension can have significant impact on a student's learning and should be avoided if at all possible.

Stand-downs and suspensions are reported separately and are not combined for reporting purposes as they are separate processes with significantly different consequences.

Schools should use the information in this report as a basis for reviewing their own levels of student engagement.

The report is focussed on the number of stand-down and suspension events, rather than the number of students involved.

The report uses 'rate per 1,000 students' to present or discuss changes over time.  The rate per 1,000 is calculated by dividing the number of events by the total number of students enrolled and then multiplying by 1,000.  Rate per 1,000 provides a consistent measure and allows for comparisons over time.

For stand-down and suspensions figures, NZAID students (foreign students sponsored by the New Zealand Agency for International Development - a branch of MFAT), foreign fee-paying students, correspondence school students, adult students (age>19), and private students are excluded.

Early Leaving Exemptions also exclude NZAID students and foreign fee paying students, but include correspondence school students and private school students.  Only students who are 15 years of age are included in the Early Leaving Exemption rate. 

For both measures, ethnicity is prioritised in the order of Maori, Pasifika, Asian, other groups except European/Pākehā. European/Pākehā refers to people who affiliate as New Zealand European, Other European or European (not further defined).  For example, this includes and is not limited to people who consider themselves as Australian (excluding Australian Aborigines), British and Irish, American, Spanish, and Ukrainian.  Note that 'Other' ethnic group is not shown on graphs in this report that break down by ethnicity due to the small number of students involved. However, students of 'Other' ethnicity are included in all totals.

Suspension and stand-down rates are also age standardised. As shown in Figure 2 and Figure 6 in this report, the rates of stand-downs and suspensions are highest for ages 13 to 15.  Stand-down or suspension rates will therefore vary from group to group depending on the distribution of the ages of their students, i.e. the more 14 year-olds a particular group has, the higher their stand-down or suspension rate is likely to be. Age standardisation allows for more accurate comparisons between groups with varying age distributions by modifying the rates of groups to reflect what the rates would be if the age distribution of the groups matched the national age distribution.

Engagement and the student population

In 2007 there were 729,168 students enrolled in New Zealand state and state-integrated schools with a further 30,738 students at private schools.  The total number of students at school peaked in 2004.  The number of 14 year olds (the age at which students are most commonly suspended or stood down) peaked in 2005. During the period 2000-2007 the number of Maori, Pasifika, Asian and Other ethnicity students increased by 12%, 24%, 47% and 87% respectively, while the number of  European/Pākehā students decreased by 8%.  

Figure 1: Percentage of students at state and state integrated schools by ethnicity, as at 1st July 2007 
2007 Quick Facts
  • Both the number and the rate of stand-down cases have decreased compared to 2006.
  • This decrease was seen in Maori, European/Pākehā, Asian and Pasifika students.
  • 48% of schools did not use stand-downs.
  • There were 20,910 stand-down cases in 2007.  This is about three stand-downs for every hundred students.
  • The most common reasons for a stand-down were continual disobedience, physical assault of other students, or verbal abuse of teachers.
  • For most students who were stood-down, this was a once-only event for the year.
  • Stand-downs were most likely to occur in secondary schools.
  • Over twice as many male students were stood-down than female students. 
  • The proportion of Maori students stood-down was higher than the proportion of students of any other ethnicity.
  • Overall, suspension numbers and rates have fallen and are the lowest they have ever been in the last eight years.
  • The suspension rate for Pasifika students fell the most dramatically – 17% over the last year.
  • About 72% of all schools did not use suspensions.
  • There were 4,679 suspension cases in 2007.  This is a rate of less than one suspension for every hundred students.
  • Suspensions related to drug abuse have fallen 39% since 2000.
  • For vast majority of students who were suspended, this was a once-only event during the year.
  • Suspensions were most likely to occur in secondary schools.
  • Over twice as many male students were suspended than female students.
  • The proportion of Maori students suspended was higher than the proportion of students of any other ethnicity.

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