Education Minister Erica Stanford concerned about 'one-way trend' in student stand-downs

Education Minister Erica Stanford says she's concerned about what she calls the one-way trend of standing down students from school.

It comes as schools are standing down more students than they have in at least 20 years.

Stanford met Education Review Office (ERO) officials this week to discuss behaviour in schools after the latest figures came across her desk.

She told Newshub outcomes for students who are stood down are not good, so she wants to get them before they reach that stage.

But first, she plans to assess the best interventions, and invest in those that work.

Stand-downs are a tool to remove a student from school for up to five days after a serious incident, to give everyone breathing space.

They're now being used more often, rising by almost 25 percent on the previous year.

Data from 2022 showed schools stood down one in every 30 students, with physical assaults accounting for 29 percent of cases.

"The vaping, alcohol, violence, as well as that behaviour that we know was based on time spent out of school on social media that ended up brewing up into trouble in the school gates," said Kate Gainsford, chair of the Secondary Principals' Council.

Data from 2022 showed about one in 30 students were stood down from school, but it's since risen.
Data from 2022 showed about one in 30 students were stood down from school, but it's since risen. Photo credit: Newshub.

Teachers believe students learned many antisocial behaviours during the lockdowns "when students were at home and in situations that were stressful," Gainsford told Newshub.

"And these were some of the unhelpful ways they were managing their own stress."

Suspension and expulsion figures changed little but stand-downs have been rising since the first COVID-19 lockdown in 2020.

Often problems at home escalated, like an emotional pressure cooker.

"A number of ordinary things that might defuse tensions in a family situation were not able to be used and so sometimes tensions built in those situations and again they boiled over into schools," said Gainsford.

"Schools have probably got to take a more holistic approach to this generation [of students] because they're much more vulnerable", said neuroscience educator Nathan Wallis.

"They didn't grow up with their grandparents around the corner. Nana was at work, even if she did live close, and most of them have been raised in childcare centres rather than at home," he added.

"And with a short generation that's made them a whole lot more vulnerable, and then they experience COVID."