Stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions : a dilemma for primary school principals : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Administration, Department of Social and Policy Studies in Education, College of Education, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
The purpose of this study was to investigate how a selection of primary school principals managed and viewed the process of stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions. The researcher saw the need for such research because of the recent legislation that has changed the procedures for principals to follow, the growing public concern over the national statistics for disciplinary exclusions and the lack of research on disciplinary exclusions of primary age pupils or for principals' perspectives of the disciplinary exclusion process. The research involved two main research methods (survey and case-study) which included a postal questionnaire distributed to all primary school principals in a localised area, a review of their Education Review Office Reports, structured interviews of five primary school principals and a review of their Behaviour Management Plans. These data were analysed with the aid of computer software packages: MICROSOFT EXCEL for the quantitative data and QSR NU*DIST for the qualitative data; and techniques of thematic induction and dilemma analysis were used. The characteristics and behaviours of the primary age pupils receiving disciplinary exclusions in this study are an accentuated version of the trends of gender and ethnicity factors already identified for all New Zealand school pupils in the national database. This study also isolated other characteristics - the final year of school (either at primary or intermediate) and the transference of these pupils at-risk of disciplinary exclusions from school to school. Disciplinary exclusions can be attributed to many interacting complex factors related to individuals, families, schools and the direct impact of changing economic and educational government policies and legislation. It was evident that principals worked hard at maintaining and providing an education for extremely difficult pupils but these pupils presented a dilemma for principals. On the one hand, principals' comments showed that caring principals and hardworking teaching staff went out of their way to support and educate these seriously misbehaving pupils in their schools, but, on the other hand, principals perceived that they had no other choice but to use the disciplinary exclusion process. The concept of'dilemma' was developed further in this study with implications for principals' future practice and professional development and further research.