More help needed as student violence grows - Northland principal

Source: 1News

There’s growing concern over the number of school lockdowns happening around the country because of incidents relating to violence involving students. 

It comes after a Northland school was placed in lockdown yesterday after reports of an altercation involving students and a man who didn’t attend the school, where a knife was said to have fallen on the ground. 

In March, after a teacher was allegedly attacked with a saw at a Canterbury school, the New Zealand Principals' Federation pointed out they’d been asking the Government for more than a year to urgently act to help schools deal with the issue. 

In a survey by education union NZEI Te Riu Roa in 2019, 20 per cent of teachers reported getting threats of violence from students, and 30 per cent reported experiencing actual violence. 

Leanne Otene, the principal of Manaia View School in Whangārei, spoke out in 2019 about being punched in the stomach several times by a student. 

Otene told Breakfast this morning violence is an issue in schools throughout the country. 

It’s an issue the Ministry of Education has acknowledged. As part of a strategy to tackle the issue, the Government has announced a $199 million education wellbeing package , which includes additional funding to help more students access counselling.

“The problem’s got so big - this is critical. Everyone is trying, but they haven’t hit the mark yet,” Otene said. 

She said trying to get support was a “complicated process” because schools needed to take into account their staff and the wider community. 

“We want the best for our tamariki. The child that’s having the challenging behaviours, that’s just one part of working through the problem. 

“We look for all the support we possibly can and we’re seeking that support not only for that child, but all the other children in the school.”

Ultimately, it came down to a lack of resources, and systemic change was needed, she said. 

Otene said “more adults on the ground” at schools, including support staff and teacher aides, and increased mental health support would make the biggest difference. 

She said individual schools couldn’t solve the problem on their own, either, because kids arrive at school already at risk. 

“We need to start looking at the ministries, all the ministries in Government talking together because these problems come from frustration associated with poverty, with intergenerational trauma, with mental health,” Otene said. 

Manaia View School’s Leanne Otene says the problem stems from poverty and mental health challenges.

“Until we really look at all of those things together and work on the problem … we’re not really going to see the changes that we necessarily need.”