Student safety and well-being in school boarding accommodation Publications
The report details the results of a study of New Zealand boarding schools. The purpose of the study was to obtain information that would inform decisions about what government regulations may be necessary in respect of the safety and well-being of students in school boarding accommodation. Several key groups in each school were surveyed for their views: principals; boarding house managers; and staff; school counsellors; parents and senior students.
Author(s): Shelley Kennedy, Fred Bishop, Ngaire Bennie, Research, Ministry of Education.
Date Published: November 2002
Overview of the Study
In New Zealand there are 108 schools with student boarding facilities, catering for some 10,000 boarders. Most of the schools are secondary schools. While school boarding houses are subject to general legislation and regulations regarding safety aspects such as fire prevention procedures and building codes, there are no existing regulations that focus specifically on the welfare of students in these establishments. However, the Government has now included an enabling provision in the Education Standards Act (passed in November 2001) that allows for regulations to be made relating to the `safety and well-being' of students in school boarding houses. This step was taken in response to concerns about the (emotional) safety of students in school boarding establishments generally, prompted by a small number of high profile cases in recent years involving bullying and abuse.
In view of the new enabling legislation, and as one component in what is to be an ongoing consultation process with the sector, the Research Division was contracted by the Ministry's Education Management Policy group to carry out a survey of all school boarding establishments. The purpose of the survey was to obtain information which would assist in decisions about what regulations may be necessary in respect of the safety and well-being of students. To achieve this, the survey sought the views of those with responsibility, in a variety of capacities, for the care of boarding students - that is, principals, overall managers of the boarding establishments, and a sample of boarding house staff members. In addition, school counsellors (or those in an equivalent role), and randomly selected groups of parents and senior boarding students, were also surveyed for their views. Very briefly, views were sought about aspects of `life in a boarding house', whether standards needed to be improved across boarding establishments in general, and whether government regulations are necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of boarding students.
Responses from some or all of the six groups of participants referred to above were received from each of 88 schools, 81.5 percent of the total of 108 schools with boarding establishments.
Several main themes were evident in responses from all groups surveyed. These are as follows.
- There was a high level of very favourable comment about boarding establishments.
- The school boarding sector is complex, many respondents emphasising the `special character' or uniqueness of the particular boarding establishment with which they were associated.
- There were some concerns raised about aspects of boarding establishments, which has implications, to a greater or lesser extent, for the ongoing safety and wellbeing of students.
- Considerable unease was expressed by all groups of respondents, but particularly parents, about the idea of government regulations.
- Alternatives to `government regulations', at least on a preliminary basis, were suggested, for example, the introduction of some sort of `minimum standards' across boarding establishments generally.
- Close consultation with the sector - with those who `know what it's like' in boarding houses - was seen to be essential in order to establish `the best way forward'.
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