New Suspension And Truancy Measures Before Parliament

  • Wyatt Creech
Education

Legislation containing new suspension measures to help schools discipline students is back before Parliament today.

The Education Legislation Amendment Bill will take further steps through Parliament today as MPs debate the Committee Stages of the Bill.

The Bill will give schools more ways of dealing effectively with discipline problems while making certain that the process is fair to all.

The law change will introduce two new concepts in the suspension process

stand down - for periods totally a maximum of ten days in any one year exclusion - to exclude a student in very serious situations.

The changes are designed to give schools a range of responses for cases of varying degrees of seriousness while also minimising the disruption to a student's attendance at school.

The new stand down would act as a shot across the bow of a student warning them about their unacceptable behaviour

The suspension will continue with additional flexibility to allow schools to attach conditions to the suspensions. For example a student may be required to attend anger management or
counselling.

At the extreme end a school would be able to exclude a student in very serious situations. The exclusion would be teamed up with a requirement to get the student into another school.

The new Education Bill contains provisions to tighten up on truancy. It gives the Secretary for Education power to make rules designed to keep a track of students throughout the school system. A new mandatory and nationally consistent enrolment record will be created which can be transferred wherever the student goes.

The Bill also

Gives the Ministry of Education power to investigate fraud by past holders of student allowances. It includes a new offence for failing to provide information or notify a change of circumstances.

Contains provisions that will enhance ministerial discretion to decline applications for integration.
At present proprietors of integrated schools are required to own the land and buildings which constitute the premises of the school. Integrated schools are funded by the taxpayer for their day to day running. The Bill will allow integrated schools to use leased land or premises.

Clarifies the powers of the Education Review Office to review home schools, including making it clear that no reviewer can enter a home without the occupier's consent.

Gives greater flexibility and remove the duplication contained in the consultation process currently in place when schools are established, merged or disestablished.

The Business Committee has agreed to progress the Committee Stages of all clauses in the Bill, except those relating to enrolment schemes. Debate on those clauses will continue next week.

Education Legislation Amendment Bill 1997

Background Information

Suspensions - the Bill gives schools more flexibility in sanctioning of students and makes the suspension process fairer.

With regard to suspensions the amendments will:

Achieve greater procedural fairness in suspension procedures in particular the right to speak and to be represented.
Give greater flexibility of response to student needs, in particular the introduction of a power to suspend 'with conditions' aimed at facilitating the return of the student to the school.

Introduce two new concepts to the suspension process:
stand-down - to be available for a specified period and reduce the likelihood of early recourse to a suspension. The stand-down replaces the specified suspension.
A student may be stood down for up to five school days in any term, but not for more than ten school days a year.
exclusion - with a clear and short timeline to ensure prompt follow up action to have the student enrolled in another school, and for a report by the principal to the Secretary.

Reduce the complexity of present legislation.
Give the Secretary of Education the power to publish rules, after consultation, that will require principals and boards to comply with principles of natural justice.

Curriculum
With regard to curriculum, the requirements in state schools will all be brought into one Act - the Education Act 1989. The Act will then provide for:-

A statement of foundation policy on learning and assessment.
Appropriate flexibility for the New Zealand curriculum, or elements of it, to be gazetted by the Minister of Education to apply to particular years, particular state (including integrated) schools, or particular groups of students and to allow phasing in.

Truancy

The Secretary for Education will be able to make rules designed to keep a track of students throughout the school system.
A new mandatory and nationally consistent enrolment record will be created which can be transferred wherever the student goes.

Student Allowances

The Ministry of Education will have power to investigate fraud by past holders of student allowances.
Creates a new offence for failing to provide information or notify a change of
circumstances.

Integrated Schools

To allow a Ministerial discretion to decline to accept applications for integration from private schools.
To allow integrated schools to use leased land or premises.
Delete some obsolete references.

The following other matters are included in the Bill:

Exemption from personal liability for commissioners.
Corrections to technical deficiencies in certain boards of trustee elections.
Allowing flexibility in the length of time a Commissioner can be appointed to a school if it coincides with school trustee elections.
Greater flexibility in the length of the school half day. This should allow the Government to respond positively to a range of proposals already being advanced by communities, in particular in rural communities and which impact only on a defined group of schools.
Updating of existing powers of officials of entry and inspection.
A reserve power will be created for the Secretary to be able to require a board of trustee to engage specialist support to assist it in meeting its statutory obligations. This intermediate level intervention was discussed some years back with school sector organisations and was approved as an alternative to the very heavy step of dismissing a board and appointing a Commissioner. It will complement the present thrust of the School Support initiative.
More flexibility is needed in the procedures for establishing and modifying schools. In particular the two stages of consultation required to establish a middle school or a new contributing primary school will be reduced to one. This enabling legislation will permit the adoption of new structures such as senior high schools.
Alterations in the appointments procedures for members of the boards of the central Education agencies (such as the Education Training and Support Agency) and the ability for the names of those agencies to be changed from time to time as appropriate by Order in Council.
Clarifies the powers of the Education Review Office to review home schooling, Clarifies the powers of the Education Review Office to review home schools, including making it clear that no reviewer can enter a home without the occupier's consent.
Disclosure of course costs to students before they complete enrolment at tertiary institutions.
A minor wording change to align the requirements for financial reporting by Private
Training Establishments with the requirements of the Public Finance Act 1989.
Remedying an oversight concerning replacement of a Commissioner at a school where because of its special role the membership of the board is gazetted.
A provision for an exemption from enrolment to expire when the student reaches the school leaving age; or enrols at a registered school;

three property issues which will:
correct an oversight which technically excludes schools which are not on Crown land, e.g. integrated schools, from complying with codes governing the use of
property in all state schools;
allow greater flexibility to boards of trustees to lease surplus school accommodation to early childhood centres;
allow leases of school property to third parties for longer than the ten years that is currently the case. This is desirable when there are community buildings such as a gymnasium or swimming pool on school property;

amendments to the Ngarimu VC and 28th (Maori) Battalion Memorial Scholarship Act 1945 to
widen the pool of appointees eligible to serve on the board;
give membership to the Minister of Maori Affairs; and
clarify that the Maori Members of Parliament eligible to join the board are those from the electorate seats.
exemption from enrolment at a registered school for certain students in DSW residences;