Principal's Thoughts

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Recently a Paeroa School refused to enrol or re-enrol an excluded student. This was contrary to a directive by the Ministry of Education to enrol the boy. The legal situation is that:- “The Ministry may arrange for, and direct, the Board of any state school (that is not an integrated school) to enrol an expelled student at their school. The Ministry must first take all reasonable attempts to consult the student’s parents, the Board, and any other person or organisation that may be interested in, or able to advise on or help with, the student’s education or welfare.”

The Board’s Role:

“A Board must comply with a direction to enrol a student from the Ministry of Education. A direction overrides the provisions of any enrolment scheme the school may have in place. If a direction to enrol is made the student is able to enrol and attend a new school immediately.”


This story surprisingly made national headlines. I am surprised because I have been in the position of not accepting an excluded student back or refusing to enrol an excluded student from another school. This same scenario did not make national headlines and I am also aware that this situation has also occurred in many schools.


While I accept that every child has the right to an education in New Zealand I also believe it is the right of every child to feel safe while at school. For many children school is the safest place they can be.


Many years ago at another school I refused to allow a violent child to re-enrol in my school. The child had a nasty habit of slamming desk lids down on the head of other students plus other anti-social behaviours. The authorities ordered me to re-enrol the student despite the strong possibility that the outstanding classroom teacher was considering resigning from teaching because of the stress of the behaviour and the inability to effectively teach the other students in the class. I was also concerned that the other children were subjected to unprovoked attacks. This situation was untenable. Fortunately, after a three week “stand off” the authorities relented and provided one to one support for this child. This resolved the situation.

I feel it is my mission to “save” every child, but in later years I have become more protective of the majority of children who can be the victims of anti social, violent behaviour if these children are put back into the classroom. Children have the right to attend school and learn in a caring, nurturing environment that fosters high levels of achievement.


I have seen some of these excluded children “turned round” but it often takes a lot of extra effort, strategies and support for and from the family. I don’t know what all the answers are but I know that the Ministry of Education is in a similar situation of looking for answers. What we know is that every child is unique and that a traditional school might not be the place for them. We need to look for alternative forms of education.


I have a responsibility as a Principal to ensure the safety of all students.





I learnt a great deal about teaching and learning by talking and listening to my children.  The most valuable thing you can give your child is your time and attention.  Communication is a two way process and its amazing that you can learn so much about your child from these conversations.  I guess I had a frustration like many parents in that I could not fully understand how my child truly felt about different situations or feelings but I now understand that for a long time children do not have enough words at their command to express feelings adequately, even if they could express them as you would.

The three to five year olds can begin to learn to talk about their
feelings instead of acting them out.  You can help by talking about your
own feelings.  To pre schoolers, each emotion is separate: they do not
realize that anger and love can exist together.  So you might say, “I am
very angry that you did this.  I still love you, but I do not like what
you did!”  I have a grand daughter who is nearly three.  Her “black and
white” stage of thinking is so fascinating and amusing.

In this article I will move from Pre Schooler to Adolescence.  Sometime
around the early teen years your child will begin to move from a childs’
view of the world to an adult.  This is a difficult time for both parent
and child, but the parent at least has the advantage of an adult
perspective on the situation.  The rapid physical changes – both internal
and external – taking place in teenagers cause them to react emotionally
to everything that happens.  They may be jubilant one minute and deeply
depressed the next.

The problems may seem insignificant to you, but they are very real to teenagers.  They may not admit it, but they still need the strength of your guidance.  Be there when you’re needed, but don’t press if they don’t unburden themselves immediately.  Their need for privacy is stronger than ever.

When they do open up, you will block off further communication if you
react with “You’re making a lot of fuss about nothing.”  Your child’s
response is likely to be, “Oh, you just don’t understand!”  Try this
instead:  “I see how that could be a real problem, because it is so
important to you.”  It may start your teenager thinking more positively,
exploring possible solutions with you.

The principle need of teenagers is to be accepted socially, by friends of both sexes.  In the normal course of tackling the problem of breaking away from the family – which they must do – they rebel against parental control and conform to the dictates of “the crowd.”  Life will be easier if you tolerate unimportant fads in dress, haircuts, or speech, in moderation, but when your child’s well-being is affected, you must set a limit – with drugs, sex, cigarettes and the like.

How you impose the limits may make all the difference in how peacefully you and your child live through adolescence.  The most frequent outcry of the teenager may be, “You’re treating me like a child!”  Adolescents need to be treated as near-adults, however, even though they often revert to childish actions.  Respect and trust children in accordance with their growing maturity.  Take them into your confidence and they may take you into theirs.  Tell them why you must place some limitations on freedom. Instead of dictating the rules, reach a mutual agreement on such issues as curfew, car use and family responsibility.

Encourage the good in your teenager more often than you punish the bad. But when the limits are overstepped, punishment that is suitable to a young adult is necessary.  Your teenager needs you as a parent, not a pal. Avoid sarcasm.  Resist any impulse to criticize your teenager in front of others – especially friends.  Talk things over when you are calm;  if you are upset, your words will reach your teenager as just so much nagging. Ultimately, your own example of behavior will make a strong impression on your child at this stage.  

If you respect your teenager, talk openly, and are fair in your demands, you can help make easier the difficulttransition from childhood to adulthood.

No parent is perfect.  You have undoubtedly made mistakes at various stages in your child’s life.  But an overall relationship of love and understanding will override the small mistakes, the occasional times when you have been too tired or too busy to consider your child’s perspective on a problem.

Being a parent is not easy. Being a good parent is even harder. It is never too early – nor is it ever too late – to begin to try to understand your child’s own special point of view on growing up. And the rewards of understanding are always well worth the effort.

Doug McLean
Principal – Whakatane Intermediate School