Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions from school

Why This Is Important

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.

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 a total of 10 days in a school year. Students return automatically to school following a stand-down.

While stand-downs impact on a student’s 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 individual concerned and could be disruptive or unsafe for peers and adults in the school community. Stand-downs 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 to address behaviour issues 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 consequences of a suspension where an enrolment is terminated following a suspension meeting. 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 them 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.

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 benefit 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.

Indicator

Stand-downs from school

The age-standardised stand-down rate is one where all subgroups, for all years, being compared are artificially given the same age distribution. In this indicator, the age distributions of students in each subgroup and year have been standardised to (or weighted by) the set of 2019 age-specific stand-down rates for all New Zealand.

As stand-downs are highest for ages 13 to 15, standardising for age will remove any differences due to one group having a younger or older population than other groups, or if the overall age distribution has changed from year to year. As such, the standardised rate is an artificial measure, but it does provide an estimate of how groups, or overall rates by year, might more fairly compare if they had the same age distribution.

The numerator and denominator for each age-specific stand-down rate is calculated as follows:

Numerator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: Stand-downs and Suspensions Database)
Total number of stand-downs occurring during the school year

Denominator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: July School Roll Return)
Total number of students on roll as at 1 July of each year, by individual year of age, excluding:

  • students from schools which are not receiving public funding
  • students at Correspondence School
  • adult students (older than 19), and
  • International Fee-Paying students.

Suspensions from school

The age-standardised suspension rate is one where all subgroups, for all years, being compared are artificially given the same age distribution. In this indicator, the age distributions of students in each subgroup and year have been standardised to (or weighted by) the set of 2019 age-specific suspension rates for all New Zealand.

As suspensions are highest for ages 13 to 15, standardising for age will remove any differences due to one group having a younger or older population than other groups, or if the overall age distribution has changed from year to year. As such, the standardised rate is an artificial measure, but it does provide an estimate of how groups, or overall rates by year, might more fairly compare if they had the same age distribution.

The numerator and denominator for each age-specific suspension rate is calculated as follows:

Numerator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: Stand-downs and Suspensions Database)
Total number of suspensions occurring during the school year

Denominator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: July School Roll Return)
Total number of students on roll as at 1 July of each year, by individual year of age, excluding:

  • students from schools which are not receiving public funding
  • students at Correspondence School
  • adult students (older than 19), and
  • International Fee-Paying students.

Exclusions and expulsions from school

The age-standardised exclusion/expulsion rate is one where all subgroups, for all years, being compared are artificially given the same age distribution. In this indicator, the age distributions of students in each subgroup and year have been standardised to (or weighted by) the set of 2019 age-specific exclusion/expulsion rates for all New Zealand.

As exclusions are highest for ages 13 to 15, and expulsions peak at age 16, standardising for age will remove any differences due to one group having a younger or older population than other groups, or if the overall age distribution has changed from year to year. As such, the standardised rate is an artificial measure, but it does provide an estimate of how groups, or overall rates by year, might more fairly compare if they had the same age distribution.

The numerator and denominator for each age-specific exclusion/expulsion rate is calculated as follows:

Numerator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: Exclusions and Expulsions Database)
Total number of exclusions and/or expulsions occurring during the school year

Denominator: (Data Source: Ministry of Education: July School Roll Return)
Total number of students on roll as at 1 July of each year, by individual year of age, excluding:

  • students from schools which are not receiving public funding
  • students at Correspondence School
  • adult students (older than 19), and
  • International Fee-Paying students.

Interpretation Issues

There was an apparent large increase (greater than 50 percent) in the stand-down rates for 'Other' ethnic groups between 2000 and 2001, while there was little change from 2001 on. This could be an artefact of small numbers or students being recorded as `Other' when recording stand-downs, when, on the school roll, they may appear in one of the other larger ethnic groups.

From 2004 onwards, for a small number of schools, there was an abnormally large increase in the number of stand-downs recorded as belonging to 'Other' ethnic groups. Investigation of individual records, trends over time for each school, and each school's catchment area indicated a considerable number of records had an ethnic group erroneously coded as 'Other'. A conservative adjustment was made to the data to correct for this poor coding.

Where for a particular school stand-downs in 2004 (or 2005-2019) for 'Other' ethnic groups are greater than one-third of the number of 'Other' ethnic group students for that year, then the following adjustment was made:

  • The 2003 stand-down rate for 'Other' ethnic group was applied to all the school's 2004 (or 2005-2019) 'Other' ethnic group students to calculate the new number of stand-down records with an ethnic group of 'Other'.
  • The difference between that new number for 'Other' ethnic group and the supplied number of stand-downs coded as 'Other' ethnic group equals the number of erroneously coded records.
  • The erroneously coded records were then reassigned to new ethnic groups based on the distribution of the submitted non-'Other' ethnic groups. For schools where all stand-downs had 'Other' ethnicity, the distribution of cases across all schools has been used.

This adjustment to stand-down data allows more accurate ethnic comparisons to be made, however, it does stop other ethnic group comparisons being made for dimensions specific to individuals, such as, reason for stand-down.

This same issue existed, and subsequent adjustment was made for suspension, exclusion and expulsion data.