The Press 05 August 2008
High school students “causing merry hell” are being held in schools by Government measures that principals say are designed to make politicians look better. Rangiora High School principal Peggy Burrows has spoken out on a Ministry of Education policy to cut early-leaving exemptions in half. She was yesterday backed by the presidents of the Canterbury and national principals’ associations. “Because it’s an election year, the Government is trying to make sure the statistics look really good,” Burrows said. A clampdown on troubled students being allowed to leave before they turned 16 was “very difficult”. “You’re dealing probably with the most disengaged group or, in North Canterbury, with young men who have got really good job opportunities and can earn really good money and they don’t see the reason for staying at school,” she said.
A ministry policy introduced in May last year aimed for the number of high school early-leaving exemptions to be halved. The latest report from the ministry shows 6.6 per cent of applications were turned down in 2006, rising to 36 per cent last year. About 28 per cent fewer students applied in 2007. The changes meant a net reduction of 50 per cent in the number of exemptions granted. Burrows said there was also pressure to reduce the number of suspensions and stand-downs, which made it impossible to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on drug use. “We get hammered for our high suspension rates,” she said.