15 Aug 2015

Schools 'not resourced for violent kids'

2:06 pm on 15 August 2015

A new survey of primary schools in Northland shows more than half feel they are not equipped to deal with growing numbers of disturbed and violent children.

Teacher and student at Linwood Primary School, Christchurch.

Teacher and student at Linwood Primary School, Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Fourteen percent believe that posed a risk to the safety of staff and pupils.

More than 100 schools responded to the survey sent out by the Tai Tokerau Principals Association.

Fifty one percent said their biggest concern was a lack of resources to help children with special needs and behaviour problems.

The schools said the numbers of violent new entrants was rising and the funding available for teacher-aides, and psychological help comes nowhere near meeting their needs.

Principals said five-year-olds damaged by abusive families were arriving at school angry at the world, threatening to kill, unable to learn, and unsafe around other children without a minder.

The head of Kaitaia Primary School, Brendon Morrissey, said an angry five-year-old at his school was one of many who was not getting the intensive help they needed.

Mr Morrissey said the boy, who had seen family violence, erupted in explosive rages, and began making death threats the day his mother brought him to school.

"My first experience meeting her son was I said to the boy 'you must be our new boy who has arrived today'.

"And instantly I was given: 'who the f*** are you? I'll go and get my gun and make you f***in dead'."

"And I thought, oh my god, there's something seriously wrong here."

Mr Morrissey said the school had been refused the intensive support the boy needed, but he had been given a minder for the next term.

School children

Photo: 123rf

Marilyn Dunn of Ruakaka Primary School said in the past decade there had been an increase in new entrants who were angry, violent and unsafe around other children.

She said the Ministry of Education's Special Education Service did its best to provide help, but that only went so far.

"They do everything in their power to support you and fund you, but their hands are tied because they just haven't got the funds from the Government.

"It's so tight for them as well, so they're struggling to be able give the manpower, the specialists, because they just haven't got them."

She said the rage-filled new entrants have typically been affected by methamphetamine or alcohol in the womb, and come from abusive families.

Principals Association president Pat Newman said under-resourcing was now a health and safety issue for many schools.

Mr Newman said angry children from abusive homes needed intensive clinical and practical support to heal, and most were not getting it.

He said many primary schools would be able to predict which of their pupils will go on to be violent before they turn 20.

More resources for Northland: Ministry

But the Ministry of Education claims it's putting more resources into Northland schools for children with behavioural needs, after many primary schools in the area said they were not well enough equipped to deal with the growing numbers of disturbed and violent children.

The Ministry agreed there was a problem and said it understood how difficult it was for principals in Northland, and was doing all it could to ensure there were no waiting lists for that part of the country.

Children's shoes outside the classroom in Linwood Primary School, Christchurch.

The Ministry of Education say they understand how hard difficult children are for schools. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Ministry of Education's support spokesperson Katrina Casey said it was helping about 1200 children in Northland this year, and provided extra funding for a pool of specialist teachers to work with children with behavioural difficulties.

Ms Casey said some of the issues facing these children go well beyond educational problems.

"We do recognise how difficult it is for principals and teachers when children present in difficult ways, and we're doing the very best we can to put extra resources into Northland, but sometimes the response is a multi-agency one."

Ms Casey said the Ministry funded special education services in Northland at a higher rate than the rest of the country.

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