Poverty and 'despair' the cause of 'significant rise' of violence in NZ classrooms – education expert

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A significant rise in New Zealand students inflicting violence on themselves, and living in communities where "despair" is a way of life, has contributed to a sharp increase in school stand-downs, an education professor says.

Professor Peter O’Connor says more funding for schools could help the address the problem.
Source: Breakfast

Last year saw the first increase in student stand-downs across New Zealand schools in a decade, and it was by a dramatic number, more than 1000.

Most of those stand-downs were for physical attacks on teachers and other pupils.

Auckland University Professor of Education Peter O'Connor says this worrying jump in school stand downs for violence is a product of increasingly dysfunctional home environments.

"There are issues around communities where they live pretty much in despair - this is the way the world is and not much is really going to shift and change," Professor O'Connor told TVNZ1's Breakfast today.

"The violence that we see acted out in classrooms, in those communities is often acted out not against others, but against themselves.

"So while we have this significant rise of violence in classrooms, we have a significant rise in the number of young people who are violent to themselves, who harm and hurt themselves, and that’s a huge worry as well."

Professor O'Connor said the logical solution to this is rectifying a period of "chronic underfunding" in New Zealand schools.

"If we want to make a difference in schools let's get back to funding special needs properly and let's get back to funding guidance counselors in schools," Professor O'Connor said.

A school stand-down is less severe than a full suspension or expulsion of a student, and can be enforced at the discretion of the principal.

It can be for a maximum of five days, and does not require consultation with the school's board of trustees.

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