Lived Experiences of Primary-Aged Māori Students Exposed to Disciplinary Exclusions
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
This qualitative research study aims to document the lived experiences of several primary-aged Māori students, and the impact on their caregivers, when these students have been stood down, suspended or excluded from their school.
In order to contextualise the students’ narratives, data from primary school site personnel, the principals and Board of Trustees chairperson of the students’ schools were gathered. The research also involved interviews with Ministry of Education and Group Special Education personnel, to gain an understanding of the Ministry’s perspective on how it meets the differing needs of students, caregivers and schools. An analysis of the two schools’ policy and procedures, and relevant documents, with regard to stand-down, suspension and exclusion of primary-aged students was also undertaken.
Qualitative research methodologies enabled me to explore the lived experiences of these young people excluded from primary school, from the subjects’ own frame of reference. Data were collected using participant observations, document analysis, and in-depth semi-structured interviews. Kaumātua support for both the researcher, and the whānau involved, was sought with the aim of ensuring that the research proceeded in culturally appropriate and safe ways.
The research aimed to keep the students’ stories central to the discussions.
One of the key themes that emerged from the students’ narratives was the impact of being repeatedly framed by focusing solely on their behaviour. The impact of institutionalised racism evident within these educational life histories highlights the children’s struggle to persevere and survive in what they describe as hostile, racist, uncaring school environments.
A key issue as outlined by the caregivers in this study has been the lack of understanding and support from or genuine partnership with their children’s education providers. The caregivers spoke of the effect that the disciplinary exclusion had on their relationship with their child and on their lives. Eventually the caregivers too become angry about, disengaged from and disillusioned with an education system that allows young people to be removed from schools, based solely on their behaviour.
The themes that emerged from discussions with schools centred on lack of support and follow-up from government agencies. School personnel were critical of the length of time it took to access support packages from the Ministry of Education. They discussed the impact of Tomorrow’s Schools, particularly the current legislation on stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions. School personnel suggest their ability to manage high needs students is further complicated by the existence of kiwi suspensions and geographical school zones.
This thesis stresses that it is critical for the students’ voices to remain central to discussions concerning their own education, so their creative ideas for possible solutions can help to create pathways forward.