Stand-downs reach 20-year peak

Stand-downs among students in New Zealand have reached almost 3.3 per 100 students, the highest in 20 years.

The latest Ministry of Education figures show stand-downs have risen in New Zealand schools, with over 25,000 incidents in 2022.  

The figure equates to almost 3.3 per 100 students being stood down, the highest rate on record. Despite this rise in stand-downs, serious action like suspensions and exclusions remained relatively constant.  

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The largest cause of stand-downs were physical assaults, which accounted for 29 percent of cases in 2022. The second largest cause was vaping and smoking, accounting for 20 percent of the increase in stand-down cases between 2021 and 2022.  

The highest rates were among 13- and 14-year-olds, boys, Māori pupils and students from low socioeconomic communities.  

Photo on Unsplash by Jeremy Weber

Kate Gainsford, the Secondary Principals’ Council Chair said that lockdowns were the primary driver of the high numbers. She told Morning Report that students with unsafe and negative lockdown experiences may have picked up unhelpful coping mechanisms for stress.  

“This relates to some of the figures you’ll see around vaping and smoking and drinking and even violence, and of course, some families lost access for their young people and for themselves to some pretty important support networks and professional services.” 

Responding to the latest figures, Education Minister Erica Stanford said that the government was looking at social investment strategies to support children before they reached the point of stand-down.  

“It is not a good trend. We know that the outcomes for children who are stood down are not good,” said Stanford.  

She reiterated that the government would be “fully evaluating everything we do, finding out what works and using data to identify kids before they get into a situation where they’re being stood down.”  

Former Education Minister Chris Hipkins added that he also believed there were higher levels of anti-social behaviour resulting from the pandemic.  

“It was an incredibly pressured time for young people, a lot of disruption. We should make sure schools are supported to settle things down again there.”  


Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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