Although there is not a single measure for student wellbeing, the factors that contribute to it are interrelated and interdependent. For example, a student’s sense of achievement and success is increased by a sense of feeling safe and secure at school and affects their resilience.
The findings explored in this section are from international and national research related to the ideas of a sense of belonging and connection to school, achievement, being active, feeling safe and secure, and feeling included. Findings about Years 9 and 10 students and school leaving qualifications are discussed, as behaviours developed in Years 1 to 8 contribute to these findings.
Engagement and retention in all forms of education are critical for success as these reflect whether a student has a sense of belonging and connection to the school. Stand-downs and suspensions rise from age 10, spike at about 14 and then decrease by age 17. Māori and Pacific students are at risk of not experiencing the Desired outcomes for student wellbeing (see figure 1). Stand‑downs and suspensions of Māori students are nearly twice that of Pacific students by age 14 and more than three times that of other students. 1 Further data shows that currently two in every 100 Māori students are frequent truants by Years 9 and 10, and 34 in every 100 leave school without a qualification. The picture for Pacific students is slightly better – one in every 100 is a frequent truant by Years 9 and 10 and 24 in every 100 leave school without a qualification.
Approximately 70 percent of students in Years 1 to 8 have the reading, writing and mathematics knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet the demands of The New Zealand Curriculum. That is, they have achieved at or above the relevant National Standard for their year level. The achievement of Māori and Pacific students is significantly lower than this. 2 Fewer students in Years 7 and 8 achieve at or above the National Standards levels than students in other years.
Achievement is influenced by many factors. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 2011) 3 stated:
Students with the highest mathematics (and science) achievement typically attend schools that emphasize academic success, as indicated by rigorous curricular goals, effective teachers, students that desire to do well, and parental support. In contrast, schools with discipline and safety problems are not conducive to high achievement. Students that attended schools with disorderly environments and reported more frequent bullying had much lower achievement than their counterparts in safe and orderly schools (page 247).
The TIMSS 2011 study showed that a relatively high proportion of New Zealand students (68 percent of Year 5 and 54 percent of Year 9) reported experiencing negative behaviours from other students at least monthly. A higher proportion of boys than girls experienced these behaviours although no particular ethnic group experienced them more than would be expected based on their proportion of the population. This negative pattern has been evident since 1994 and is not reducing. 4 In the same study, students in both Years 5 and 9 generally perceived their school as a good place to be. More than eight out of 10 students agreed they liked being at school and felt safe and secure there. A higher proportion of girls than boys were positive about school and Pacific and Asian students were the most positive of the ethnic groups. This finding appears to be in conflict with the earlier finding about experiencing negative behaviour.
Young people are generally active and like playing sports. Only 2.8 percent of 5- to 10-year-old boys and 3.2 percent of girls this age dislike playing sport. But within the 15 to 18 age group this has increased to 5.7 percent of boys and 10.2 percent of girls. 5 Fifty percent of secondary students are active in one or more school sports. Slightly more boys than girls are involved. 6 Across the ages 5 to 18, Pacific boys (72.4 percent) and Asian boys (74.3 percent) are less likely to participate in games and activities than all boys (78 percent). Asian girls (77.2 percent) are less likely to participate than all girls (81.5 percent).
Students feel included in schools through cultural and social activities that reflect personal interests. We have less information about this involvement, although we do know that 37 percent of 5- to10-year-old boys and 42 percent of 5- to 10-year-olds girls participate in kapa haka. 7
We also know that among children aged 10 to14, approximately one sixth of all deaths are due to suicide. Most of these are Māori children. 8 These findings show that: