14 March 2008
More resources needed to help schools deal with bullying.
Bullying issues at Hutt Valley High School highlight the need for clearer Ministry guidelines and support, PPTA president Robin Duff says.
“In bullying cases schools are being made scapegoats for widespread system failure”.
The school had been criticised by parents and police for the way it dealt with a series of alleged bullying incidents that took place last year, but the resources the school had available to deal with the problem had not been examined, he said.
The incidents at Hutt Valley High were a perfect example of the dangerous climate secondary schools and teachers had to work in.
“These are serious incidents and we take them very
seriously, but targeting the school isn’t fair.
“Schools need real support, not brickbats,” he said.
They have to make judgements based on the resources they have, and that doesn’t amount to much.
There is a grave lack of alternative education places for difficult students, leaving schools with few options other than to keep problem students, even though they need far more individual support than over-stretched secondary schools can provide.
There has been no action on the recommendation of the 2002 Staffing Review Group to increase management, guidance and pastoral care time in secondary schools so they can work more effectively with these students, he said.
The Ministry’s answer to these very real problems has been to develop a website.
The Supporting Positive Behaviours website was touted by the Ministry of Education last year as a way of dealing with bullying issues, but so far it has been a huge disappointment, he said.
“It is difficult to navigate and you practically need a map to find it”.
The website has very little in the way of practical information and does not even state clearly upfront what bullying is, he said.
“It doesn’t give a clear
Ministry position as to what schools should be doing.
“If these are the resources schools have to work with then it’s no wonder there are problems. When are we going to see some real help for schools instead of fine words about best practice?
“While the PPTA has welcomed the debate on new youth policies by both major parties, today’s issues need to be addressed first,” he said.