31 Mar 2017

Cash-strapped schools may suspend violent children

5:02 pm on 31 March 2017

Northland primary principals are backing a call to start suspending violent children until they get more funding to properly support them.

Tai Tokerau Principals' Association president Pat Newman said schools were seeing twice as many children as a decade ago who were damaged by trauma at home, or by methamphetamine or alcohol before birth.

He said these children caused havoc in the classroom, and without a minder or teacher aid some posed a health and safety risk to teachers and other children.

Special education services did their best but were overloaded and under-resourced, he said.

"We have got to the stage, and I have been in discussion with my colleagues, that I'm seriously looking at calling from principals up here to start suspending these children until we get the help we need."

Mr Newman said he had 10 children in his school who needed full-time, one-on-one supervision - but they were funded for two hours a day at most.

"These children that we have in this school have a right to an education, and they have a right to learn, and they have a right to get the counselling and all the rest that they need."

Mr Newman said in the past two weeks one child at his school had pushed another downstairs, tried to strangle him, and caused him to hit his head on the floor by pulling him off a stool.

Principals around the Far North backed his stance.

Ruakura School principal Marilyn Dunn said teacher aides were the key to managing troubled children - but they were funded for only two hours a day.

"I have full sympathy for Pat, and I just get frustrated with the constant fight and justifying the teacher aide hours I'm needing to support my staff," she said.

"I had one staff member say to me the other day if we can't get teacher aides, we're going to get teachers leaving because they just can't manage those children without some support."

Selwyn Park Primary principal Vern Stevens said his school was running a deficit, but for safety reasons it could not afford not to dip into operational funds for one boy who had stabbed another child with scissors.

"It's costing us three days a week full-time teacher aide.

"The ministry funds two hours a day and we're picking up the rest of the bill."

The New Zealand Principals Federation said more than 90 percent of primary schools were dipping into operational funding to pay for help for disruptive children.

National president Whetu Cormick said schools had been left to flounder, as they tried to cope with growing numbers of damaged children.

Mr Cormick said the incidence of severe autism, ADHD, foetal alcohol syndrome, P-babies and trauma were accelerating in schools, but the resources were not.

He said many principals felt the $329 million set aside for the Ministry of Education's Communities of Learning project would be better spent supporting children's real needs.

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