Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions from school

What We Have Found

In 2019 age-standardised stand-down, suspension, and expulsion rates increased; whilst exclusion rates didn’t change.

Schools continue to stand-down, suspend, and exclude Māori students at a greater rate than any other ethnic group. Male students are twice as likely to be stood down, suspended or excluded, and they are three times more likely to be expelled than their female peers. Fourteen year-olds continue to have the highest rates of stand-downs and suspensions.

Date Updated: July 2020

Indicator Description

Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions are measures of a school’s reaction to challenging behaviour. While one school may opt to suspend a student over a particular incident, another school may not. The number of these incidents should not be used as a proxy measure for student behaviour.

This indicator uses age-standardised rates. These are expressed as the number of stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions per 1,000 students enrolled. 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. (Most stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions occur between the ages of 13 and 15.)

Expulsions occur only for 16 year-olds and above, therefore the expulsion rate refers to the number of expulsions per 1,000 students enrolled, 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 students enrolled, standardised for students aged 15 or under. Due to the low numbers of expulsions the trends in age-standardised rates are subject to greater variation. All mention of schools in this indicator refers to state and state integrated schools only.

Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions are measures of a school’s response to particular behaviours. For example, a behaviour that one school may choose to suspend for, another school may not.

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 student can be stood-down for a maximum of 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 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 (Board) decides the outcome at a suspension meeting. Following a suspension, the Board 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 (Education Review Office, 2018) 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 (Rohan, 2017), 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.

How We Are Going

A stand-down is when a principal removes a student from school for a period of up to 5 days. Stand-downs offer the chance for both parties to reflect on the action which lead to the stand-down and to reduce tension in the situation. Schools work with students and their parents and whanau to address behaviour issues and to focus on the students’ engagement, progress and achievement, for the welfare and long-term outcomes for students.

The age-standardised stand-down rate increased from 24.6 stand-downs per 1,000 in 2000 to 30.4 stand-downs per 1,000 in 2006. After 2006, the stand-down rate decreased each year to a low of 19.5 stand-downs per 1000 in 2015. Since 2015 stand-downs per 1,000 has started increasing again, rising to 29.0 per 1,000 students in 2019.

In 2019 there were 22,285 stand-down cases, received by 16,486 students. This equates to just over 2% of the student population. Of these students 76% were stood down only once during 2019 and 54% of stand-downs took place in secondary schools. Only 6% of secondary schools did not use stand-downs compared to 42% of primary schools, these findings are consistent with previous years.

Figure 1: Age-standardised stand-down rates (2000 to 2019)

Ethnic Group

In 2019 stand-down rates increased for all ethnic groups. Schools continued to stand down Māori students at a higher rate than any other ethnic group.

Schools suspended Māori students at a rate 48.6 per 1000 students. This is twice the rate for European/Pākehā students (24.4 stand-downs per 1000 students). Asian students continue to have the lowest stand-down rate at 6.0 per 1000 students.

The stand-down rate for Pacific students decreased in 2018 to 28.6 per 1000 students, from 29.5 per 1000 in 2017, but has increased to 34.4 per 1,000 students in 2019.

Figure 2: Age-standardised stand-down rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2019)

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 in quintile 1 schools are over three times more likely to be stood down than students in quintile 5 schools (decile 9 and 10).

In 2019, students in quintile 1 schools had the highest age-standardised stand-down rate of 49.5 per 1,000 students, and students from quintile 5 schools had the lowest age-standardised stand-down rate of 13.6 per 1,000 students.

Figure 3: Age-standardised stand-down rates by ethnic group and school quintile (2019)

Gender

In 2019, male students continued to have consistently higher stand-down rates than female students. This pattern is consistent across ethnic groups. The national average for male students was nearly three times higher than for female students. Male students had an age-standardised rate of 41.7 per 1,000 students whereas the rate for female students was 15.7 per 1,000 students.

Asian students had the largest difference between the genders, with male students (9.6 stand-downs per 1,000) over four times more likely to be stood down than female students (2.3 stand-downs per 1,000). The next highest gender difference is for European/Pākehā students, with male students at 37.7 stand-downs per 1,000 and female students at 10.6 stand-downs per 1,000. Māori students had the smallest difference between genders, however Māori male students (65.0 stand-downs per 1,000) are twice more likely to be stood down than Māori female students (31.5 stand-downs per 1,000).

Figure 4: Age-standardised stand-down rates, by gender and ethnic group (2019)

Behavioural Reasons for Stand-downs

In 2019 physical assault on other students continued to be the main reason for stand-downs; it accounted for 32% of all stand-downs and represents 9.2 stand-downs per 1,000 students. This is followed by continual disobedience, which accounted for 18% of stand-downs, at a rate of 5.3 stand-downs per 1,000 students. Along with verbal assaults on staff (2.3 stand-downs per 1,000) and smoking or alcohol (2.2 stand-downs per 1,000) these four behaviours account for two-thirds of stand-downs in 2019.

Rates for almost all behavioural reasons for stand-downs have increased in 2019. This is in line with the increase in the national rate of stand-downs. Verbal assault on staff (2.3 stand-downs per 1,000) decreased in 2019 by 0.1 stand-downs per 1,000. The largest change from 2018 to 2019 was in physical assault on other students which increased 0.9 stand-downs per 1,000.

Figure 5: Age-standardised rate per 1,000 students of stand-down, by behaviour (2018 to 2019)

Age

Students between the ages of 12 and 15 receive 56% of all stand-downs. With 14 year olds having the largest number of stand-downs at 70.6 per 1,000 students in 2019. In comparison, 5 year olds had the lowest number of stand-downs at 5.1 per 1,000 students.

This substantial variation is why 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 comparable over time.

Figure 6: Stand-down rates, by age (2019)

* Labels on the bars show the odds of a student being stood down. For example, a 14 year old student is 2.4 times as likely to be stood down as an average student across all age groups.

How We Are Going

A suspension is a formal removal of a student from school until an outcome decision by the Board of Trustees at a suspension meeting. The Board can lift the suspension, with or without conditions, extend the suspension, or terminate the enrolment of the student following the meeting.

Since 2000 the age-standardised suspension rate has been declining and has decreased by 42% from 7.4 suspensions per 1,000 in the year 2000, to 4.3 per 1,000 in 2019.Suspensions have increased slightly, by 0.2 per 1,000, compared to 2018.

In 2019 there were 3,283 suspension cases, received by 2,988 unique students. This represents 0.4% of the total student population. Of these students 90.9% were suspended only once during 2019. In 2019, 17% of all secondary schools did not use suspensions as part of a behaviour management programme, compared to 80% of all primary schools.

Figure 7: Age-standardised suspension rates (2000 to 2019)

Ethnic Group

Compared to 2000, the age-standardised suspension rate in 2019 has decreased across all ethnic groups, however the rate has increased slightly since 2015. The greatest reduction was for Māori students where the rate decreased by 54% since 2000 to 8.3 suspensions per 1,000 students in 2019.

Schools continue to suspend Māori students at a higher rate (8.3 per 1,000) than any other ethnic group. They are more than twice as likely to be suspended as European/Pākehā students (3.2 per 1,000) and twice as likely to be suspended as the national age-standardised exclusion rate (4.3 per 1,000). Pacific students (4.6 per 1,000) have a slightly higher rate than the national rate. The age-standardised suspension rate continues to be the lowest for Asian students at 0.5 per 1,000 students.

Figure 8: Age-standardised suspension rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2019)

Decile

Students who attend quintile 1 schools (deciles 1 and 2 schools) are over four times more likely to be suspended than students at quintile 5 schools (deciles 10 and 9). In 2019 students at quintile 1 schools have an age-standardised suspension rate of 8.4 per 1,000 students. With students at quintile 5 schools having an age-standardised suspension rate of 2.0 per 1,000 students.

Figure 9: Age-standardised suspension rates by ethnic group and school quintile (2019)

Gender

In 2019, male students continue to have a higher suspension rate than female students, with male students having an age-standardised suspension rate of 5.9 per 1,000 compared to female students with 2.5 per 1,000 students.

A clear gender disparity can be seen across all ethnic groups. The greatest difference between genders is between Asian students where male students (0.8 per 1,000) are four times more likely to be suspended than female students (0.2 per 1,000). Followed by European/Pākehā students, with Male students at 4.9 stand-downs per 1,000and female students at 1.4 stand-downs per 1,000.

Figure 10: Age-standardised suspension rates, by gender and ethnic group (2019)

Behavioural Reasons for Suspensions

Physical assault on other students was the primary reason for suspensions (24%) in 2019, with an age-standardised rate of 1.0 per 1000 students. This is followed by drugs (including substance abuse) which represents 20% of suspensions and has an age-standardised rate of 0.8 per 1,000 students and continual disobedience which accounting for 19% of suspensions (0.8 per 1,000 students).

Suspension rates between 2018 and 2019 stayed the same across the reasons with only minor changes of 0.1 per 1,000 in some reasons.

Figure 11: Age-standardised rate per 1,000 students of exclusions, by behaviour (2018 to 2019)

Age

Similarly to stand-downs, the majority of suspensions occurred for students aged 13 to 15, accounting for 60% of all suspensions. 14 year olds had the highest suspension rate with 14.0 suspensions per 1,000 in 2019, an increase from the 2018 rate.

Figure 12: Suspension rates by Age (2019)

How We Are Going

An exclusion is the termination of a student’s enrolment following a suspension meeting. Exclusions are given to students under the age of 16, with the requirement that the student enrols elsewhere.

Since 2009 the overall exclusion rate has decreased from 2.3 exclusions per 1,000 students in 2009 to 1.6 exclusions per 1,000 students in 2019. This equates to a 30% reduction in the age-standardised exclusion rate over the period 2009 to 2019. The drop appeared to happen from 2009 to 2014, and has been steady at 1.4 -1.6 per 1000 since 2016.

In 2019 1,069 exclusions were received by 1,052 students. This equates to 0.1% of the total student population under 16 years-old receiving exclusions. Of those students excluded during 2019, 99% were excluded once.

Figure 13: Age-standardised exclusion rates (2000 to 2019)

Ethnic Group

Compared to 2000, the age-standardised exclusion rate in has decreased across all ethnic groups, however the rate has increased slightly since 2015. The greatest reduction was for Māori students where the rate decreased by 47% since 2000 to 3.2 per 1,000 students in 2019.

Between 2018 and 2019, the age-standardised exclusion rate decreased slightly for European/Pākehā and Pacific students, but the rate increased slightly for other ethnicities.

Schools continue to exclude Māori students at a greater rate (3.2 per 1,000) than other ethnic groups. They are nearly three times more likely to be excluded than European/Pākehā students (1.1 per 1,000) and two times more likely to be excluded than the national age-standardised exclusion rate (1.6 per 1,000). Pacific students (1.8 per 1,000) have a slightly higher rate than the national rate. Asian students continue to have the lowest age-standardised exclusion rate at 0.2 per 1,000.

Figure 14: Age-standardised exclusion rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2019)

Decile

There is a clear correlation between school socio-economic mix and exclusion rates. Students from the lowest quintile schools (deciles 1 and 2) are nearly five times more likely to be excluded than students in the highest quintile (deciles 9 and 10) and 3 times more likely to be excluded as students in quintile 4 (deciles 7 and 8).

In 2019, students in quintile 1 schools had the highest age-standardised exclusion rate of 3.1 per 1,000 students, and students from quintile 5 schools had the lowest age-standardised expulsion rate of 0.6 per 1,000 students.

Figure 15: Age-standardised exclusion rates by ethnic group and school quintile (2019)

Gender

Schools consistently exclude male students more than twice as often as female students, with an age-standardised exclusion rate of 2.3 per 1,000 for males and 0.9 per 1,000 for females. This gender difference is consistent across all ethnic groups. The smallest difference between genders is for Māori students where male students (4.0 per 1,000) are 1.7 times more likely to be excluded than female students (2.4 per 1,000).

Figure 16: Age-standardised exclusion rates, by gender and ethnic group (2019)

Behavioural Reasons

In 2019 continual disobedience and physical assault on other students continued to be the primary reasons for exclusions, they accounted for 50% of all exclusions (0.4 per 1,000 students for each). This was followed by drugs (including substance abuse) at 12.5% (0.2 per 1000). Age-standardised exclusion rates for both physical assault on staff and verbal assault on staff was 0.1 per 1,000 students.

In general exclusion rates by reason have remained similar over the last three years. Since 2018 an increase has been seen for drugs (including substance abuse) which rose by 6%, and continual disobedience decreased by 6%.

Figure 17: Age-standardised rate per 1,000 students of exclusions, by behaviour (2018 to 2019)

How We Are Going

An expulsion is the termination of a student’s enrolment following a suspension meeting. Expulsions can only be received by students aged 16 and over, as once a student turns 16, there is no requirement that they stay in the schooling system, so students can decide to enrol at a different school or finish school.  In 2019 there were 138 expulsion cases received by 137 students or, 0.1% of students aged 16 and over.

Age-standardisation for expulsions only standardises against those in the population who can be expelled i.e. students aged 16 and over. The national expulsion rate in 2019 was 1.4 per 1,000 students. This is a slight increase from the 2018 rate (1.2 per 1,000 students) of 0.2 expulsions per 1,000 students.

Overall, the expulsion rate has decreasing since 2010, with a reduction from 2.0 per 1,000 in 2010 to 1.4 per 1,000 in 2019. The rate for 2019 is slightly above the lowest expulsion rate seen in 2016 (1.1 per 1,000).

Figure 18: Age-standardised expulsion rates (2000 to 2019)

Ethnic Group

Because the overall number of expulsions represents a small number of students, small variations in the number of cases from year to year can cause large changes in the rates, especially when broken down by ethnic group.

Between 2018 and 2019 the expulsion rates for Māori, Pacific and European/Pākehā students have increased. In 2019, school expelled Pacific students at a higher rate (3.4 per 1,000 students). This is three times higher than the rate for European/Pākehā students at 1.0 per 1,000 students and nearly two times higher than that for Māori students at 1.9 per 1,000 students. Asian students continue to have the lowest expulsion rate in 2019, at 0.5 per 1,000 students.

Figure 19: Age-standardised expulsion rates by ethnic group (2000 to 2019)

Decile

Schools in lower deciles had greater expulsion rates than high decile schools. Schools in the lowest quintile (deciles 1 and 2) draw their students from communities with the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage.

In 2019 students in quintile 1 schools had the highest age-standardised expulsion rate of 3.3 per 1,000 students, and students from quintile 4 schools had the lowest age-standardised expulsion rate of 0.5 per 1,000 students. The age-standardised expulsion rate for students from quintile 5 was 1.4 per 1,000 students.

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

Gender

Male students were four and a half times more likely to be expelled than female students in 2019. Male students were expelled at a rate of 1.8 per 1,000 students, compared to female students who had 0.6 per 1,000 students.

There is a clear gender disparity in the expulsion rates across all ethnic groups. The difference is the greatest for Pacific students where male students (5.7 per 1,000) were five times more likely to be expelled than female students (1.1 per 1,000).

Figure 20: Age-standardised expulsion rates, by gender and ethnic group (2019)

Behavioural Reasons for Expulsions

Physical assault on other students was the primary reason for expulsions accounting for 30% of expulsions (0.4 per 1,000 students). The second most prominent reason was Drugs (including substance abuse) at 25% (0.4 expulsions per 1,000 students). The third most common reason was continual disobedience, accounting for 18% (0.3 expulsions per 1,000 students).

In 2019, expulsions caused by drugs (including substance abuse) and continual disobedience saw increases of 0.1 expulsions per 1,000 students.

Figure 21: Age-standardised rate per 1,000 students of expulsions, by behaviour (2018 to 2019)

Where to Find Out More

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 on Positive Behaviour for Learning visit the TKI website.

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. Huia Publishers.
  • Christenson, S., Reschly, A. L., & Wylie, C. (2012). Handbook of research on student engagement. New York, NY: Springer.
  • Education Review Office (2018). Building genuine learning partnership with parents. Wellington: Education Review Office.
  • 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 (2010). Success for All – Every School, Every Child. Wellington: Ministry of Education
  • Rohan, Tracy. (2017) Teaching for positive behaviour. Wellington: Ministry of Education