He Whakaaro: What do we know about discrimination in schools?

Publication Details

This report presents a summary of current knowledge regarding discrimination of students in New Zealand schools. It combines previously published research with new analysis undertaken using data from the Youth2000 series of surveys of secondary school students. We find evidence that students are discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, migrant status, religion, sexual or gender identity, disability or health status, and weight. We quantify the extent to which these different groups are subject to negative experiences on the basis of their identity, from both other students and from adults.

Author(s): Andrew Webber and Alexandra McGregor, Education Data and Knowledge, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: September 2019

Key findings


The report finds:

  • Māori, Samoan and other Pacific students are far more likely to report discrimination on the basis of their ethnicity from adults than from their peers, with unfair teacher behaviour the most frequently reported issue.
  • Indian, Chinese and other Asian students report low rates of bullying overall, but are far more likely than other ethnicities to report bullying motivated by ethnicity.
  • The most common discrimination faced by migrants and religious students is related to their ethnicity.
  • About half of all LGBTQIA+ students report having ever been bullied, and about one in five transgender students report being bullied on a weekly basis.
  • LGBTQIA+ students are less likely to agree that teachers are fair to students most of the time – two-thirds of transgender students report that teachers are ‘hardly ever’ or only ‘sometimes’ fair.
  • Disabled students and students with health conditions make up more than a quarter of all students, and experience substantially worse bullying outcomes than their peers (for a range of discriminatory reasons).
  • Both under- and overweight students report being targeted for bullying because of their weight, although neither group reports higher rates of bullying than other students overall.
  • Both data collection and policy are more likely to be effective if they recognise that bullying and discrimination are related but distinct concepts; discrimination often occurs through adult, rather than peer, behaviour; and different student groups experience discrimination in different ways.

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