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Improved student safety in hostels

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Education

22 July 2005 Media Statement

Improved student safety in hostels

New measures to improve the safety of students in boarding hostels were announced today by Education Minister Trevor Mallard.

Regulations to be made under the Education Act 1989 will provide for:

- Licensing of hostel owners, and checks on people who operate a hostel;
- Minimum standards for hostel premises and a code for management practices; and
- Direct intervention options where serious safety concerns in a hostel are identified.

“Most hostels accommodating school students are already well run and provide a safe environment. However, in a small number of cases, hostels can be unsafe,” said Trevor Mallard.

Every year safety concerns are identified in some hostels – Education Review Office (ERO) reports on hostel reviews carried out in 2004 and 2003 indicated that between 10 and 20 per cent of hostels required improvements in matters relating to boarder safety, including:

- Policies to guide hostel operations;
- Appropriate appraisals of hostel staff;
- Accountability and reporting mechanisms to parents, trustees and proprietors;
- Clear disciplinary procedures; and
- Relationships between hostels and parents.

Past reports prepared by the Commissioner for Children, ERO and others have also raised concerns about very serious problems in a small, but significant, number of different hostels. These problems include bullying, sexual abuse, harassment, physical assault, and related failings of hostel management.

“There are currently no regulations designed specifically for hostels and, because most hostels are run independently, government has had few powers to intervene,” said Trevor Mallard.

“There are gaps in existing legislation in terms of:
- Consistent, appropriate, and well-understood pastoral care standards and procedures for students in increasingly diverse hostel environments;
- Enforcement mechanisms and incentives to report poor operators where serious safety concerns are identified; and
- Coverage of privately run hostels of unknown standards.

“Reporting regimes, such as the ERO review process, can encourage good practice. However they are not adequate where there is a serious risk of harm to boarders and hostel operators are not willing or able to address that risk.

The new regulations are expected to start in January 2006, and all existing hostels would then have to apply for a licence before January 2007.

The Ministry of Education estimates that the average annual cost of a three-year licence for each hostel will be $200 or, on average, $3 per boarder per year.

Boarding fees charged by hostels vary widely, but the Ministry of Education estimates that the average annual fee, per student is between $6,000 and $7,000.

“Business compliance costs will be very low because the new requirements for hostel management are reasonable ‘bottom line’ safety measures that hostels should already be meeting,” said Trevor Mallard.

The Ministry of Education will work with hostel sector representatives this year to develop guidelines to help hostel owners comply with the new regulations.

Detailed proposals for regulations were the subject of public consultation in 2004 after the release of the discussion document Ensuring the Safety of School-student Boarders: The development of proposals for Education (Hostel) Regulations.

For more information on the proposed regulations see the attached regulatory impact statement/business compliance cost statement and the Ministry of Education website: www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/hostelsconsultation.

ENDS

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