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McClay gets wrong end of the stick on suspensions

McClay gets wrong end of the stick over suspensions --School Trustees

The New Zealand School Trustees Association has hit back at the Commissioner of Children over his comments on school suspension – and says schools only suspend students when absolutely necessary.

NZSTA president Owen Edgerton says new rules for dealing with suspended students were introduced just last year.

“There was extensive consultation on the new rules right across the sector, and this included Mr McClay’s office. The results have been very positive, and it has been a huge step forward and we are getting a fair deal for all students.

“Clearly boards want to make sure the student is treated fairly and is getting the help he or she needs. No school likes the end result to be suspension, and it is treated as a last resort. Unfortunately, there are cases when this is the most appropriate option.

He says schools also have to balance the needs of the individual students, with those needs of the other students.

“It is also important that people don’t lose sight of the needs and rights of those students who are obeying the rules. The board has a responsibility to them as well to ensure they are being educated in a safe environment.”

Owen Edgerton says schools already actively encourage parents to be involved in disciplinary matters including suspensions. The new rules allow greater flexibility, and boards do hold group conferences, involving the student and the family.

However, he says Mr McClay’s call for all schools to use family group conferences used by child care and protection and youth justice models isn’t a suitable option.

“No-one would argue the sense of calling a group meeting. But he has lost sight of the fact schools primarily exist to educate. He seems to be suggesting that boards and their schools should become more and more a social welfare agency rather than an educational institution.”

Owen Edgerton says if Mr McClay believes this is the direction schools should be taking he should be actively seeking the extra funding which would be needed.

“He has taken it upon himself to imply schools should become welfare agencies. If that’s the case, he should also spell it out clearly where the money will come from for schools to cope with this expanding role.”

[ends]

For more information contact Owen Edgerton. Phone: (025) 441-397.


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