Pasifika students lead decrease in school suspensions

Monday 14 July 2008, 11:37PM
By Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban

A Government initiative to reduce school suspensions is showing good results among Pasifika students, with a 17 per cent drop in their suspensions since 2006, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Associate Education Minister Parekura Horomia and Pacific Island Affairs Minister Winnie Laban said today.

“Through the Student Engagement Initiative (SEI), schools and the Ministry of Education are addressing the causes of truancy and discipline problems,” Helen Clark said.

“Suspensions among Pasifika students at the schools participating in the Student Engagement Initiative dropped by 29 per cent in 2007 compared with the previous year.

“Across all New Zealand schools an average of 37.5 Pasifika students in every 1000 were suspended in 2007, compared to 44.9 per 1000 in 2006. This decrease of 17 per cent is a turnaround from previous years of small but steady increases. Pasifika students had been increasingly over-represented among students who got into trouble, or who didn’t reach their full potential at school.

“The rates of stand-down, exclusion, and expulsion for Pasifika students have also fallen. The 2007 figures have been released today ahead of the full report being made available later this month.”

Helen Clark said these improvements come as good news as the Government prepares implementation of its Schools Plus programme.

“The aim is to keep young people in education for a longer time and for them to achieve more while they are there. Lowering suspension rates is critical for that to be achieved.

“This good news also comes at a time when the Government is making more tertiary education options available in Counties Manukau through its funding support for the Auckland University of Technology campus in the centre of Manukau City. Significant proportions of Auckland’s Maori and Pasifika young people live in Counties Manukau.

“Young people in this area deserve every opportunity to realise their career aspirations. Having a university campus in the heart of Manukau City is an important step towards making that happen,” Helen Clark said.

Associate Education Minister Parekura Horomia welcomed the decrease in suspensions.

“A concerted effort was made last year to assist schools experiencing high suspension rates. The results show that these efforts are worthwhile,” Parekura Horomia said.

Pacific Island Affairs Minister, Luamanuvao Winnie Laban said that because of their previously rising suspension rates, Pasifika students had been a focus of the SEI since July 2006. “The same approach used to reduce Maori suspensions has been used with schools showing high Pasifika suspension rates. The schools then work with the Ministry of Education to implement strategies to reduce their suspension rates.

“These latest figures augur well for lifting Pasifika achievement in education. Our Pasifika families value education and want their young people to succeed. Positive programmes like the Student Engagement Initiative are helping them do just that,” Winnie Laban said.