Stand-downs, suspensions, exclusions and expulsions guidelines – Part 2

About the guidelines

These guidelines:

  • are designed to assist school boards, principals, and teachers with their legal options and duties and meet their obligations under relevant statutory requirements, and
  • are for use in all state and state-integrated schools.

Independent schools may also wish to adopt this guide.

Please note:  The Education and Training Act 2020 has replaced the Education Act 1989.  Any references to the Education Act 1989 in the SSEE Guidelines  below should be replaced with the relevant sections in the new Education and Training Act 2020. This includes replacing the sections of the Act in the letters in the Good Practice Guidelines Part 2 (refer Appendix).

The guidelines comprise:

Part 1: Legal options and duties [PDF, 2.4 MB]

Part 2: Good practice [PDF, 2.4 MB]

These guidelines replace those published by the Ministry of Education in June 2004 and the 2007 Supplement. The paragraphs have been numbered for ease of use and reference. Cross-references to Part 1 – Legal options and duties are given where relevant.

11. Documenting processes

Robust documentation processes are an essential safeguard for schools. A key element of good practice is good record-keeping. When dealing with incidents of school discipline it can be helpful to consider the following factors when documenting processes:

  • Documentation within the school
    • Good record-keeping is an essential part of good business management and day to day operations. Robust systems that record information about students can be valuable tools when monitoring student behaviour.

      Documenting complaints is an important part of school record-keeping. When managing a complaint, it is good practice to ensure all communication and actions are documented.

      Any letters, emails or records of telephone conversations should be kept and placed on the relevant student or staff file.

      When confirming an agreed way forward, it is helpful to record the agreed actions. It may also be appropriate for documentation to be sighted and signed by all parties. This will help to confirm that agreement has been met and to give confidence that procedures are being followed in a fair manner.

      All records of board of trustees meetings should be kept, as should records of outcomes of suspension meetings.

      All documentation needs to remain secure and retrievable. You may be asked to retrieve information at a later time eg, parents may require student records or other agencies may require information for Care and Protection or Police matters.

  • Documentation for parents
    • Documentation is used to inform and answer questions, and solve problems. It can be a powerful tool for you to use when communicating with parents about their child’s progress.

      When devising documentation for parents, you may wish to consider:

      • detailing any history or associated material relevant to the situation eg, obligations under school rules or code of conduct
      • the purpose – why are you producing the document?
      • the scope – what does the document discuss? This can be listed as bullet points, and should explain the areas covered in the document
      • roles and responsibilities – describe the roles, positions or people responsible for implementing aspects of the process. This can include names and telephone numbers of staff to contact about particular issues
      • procedures – describe how the process works. Document a series of process steps in a practical or operational way that will be easily understood by parents. You may like to use a flowchart from Part I of the legal guidelines to explain the stand-down, suspension or exclusion process.
  • Documentation for the Ministry of Education
    • All advice of school disciplinary action is to be submitted to the Ministry of Education.

      Ask this question of your school

      Do we have a designated person to submit the following forms to the Ministry immediately?

      • Advice of stand-down.
      • Lifting a stand-down.
      • Advice of suspension.
      • Advice of outcome of board of trustees suspension meeting.
      • Reconsideration of outcome of board of trustees suspension meeting.
      • Notification following exclusion.

      The information requested in these forms is required by law and should be provided as part of the principal and/or board’s process. It is important to ensure all necessary information is completed.

  • Examples of situations of documenting processes for stand-downs and suspensions
    • Example 1

      A suspension was imposed upon a 15-year-old student. The student was one of six who were witness to an assault on another student. The principal investigated the situation for all six students. He decided that each student would be suspended as they had all been involved in witnessing the incident and had taken an active role in encouraging the assault and evading detection by school staff.

      The school completed an incident report on the event and placed a copy on all six students’ files. The principal also spoke with the victim of the assault and completed a written account of the impact of the event on him. The principal immediately informed all the parents by telephone about the incident and that he had suspended the students. The principal documented these telephone conversations.

      Following these telephone conversations, the school sent a letter to each of the parents, informing them of the suspension and inviting them to attend a board meeting. This letter also contained a copy of the Ministry of Education’s pamphlets Suspension, exclusion and expulsion of a student from a state and state integrated school: Information for parents and Stand-down of a student from a state and state integrated school: Information for parents. These letters were copied and placed on each student’s file.

      ‘Advice of suspension’ forms were completed by the school on the day after the decisions were made. Copies were printed and sent to the Ministry of Education and placed on the students’ files.

      The board meetings were held and the parents of the students attended. The board viewed copies of the incident report and the victim impact statement. Copies of the minutes of the meetings were retained. Copies were also placed on the students’ files.

      Following the meetings, the school sent a letter to each parent informing them of the outcome of the board meetings. These letters were copied and placed on each student’s file. ‘Advice of outcome of suspension’ forms were sent to the Ministry of Education following the board meeting. Copies were printed and placed on the students’ files.

      Example 2

      This Court of Appeal case with Lynfield College highlights the importance of schools keeping sufficient records throughout the entire suspension process. This includes records outlining the reasons behind board decisions.

      While student X was treated as if he had been suspended for a second time, there was no valid second suspension as no grounds were specified under Section 80(1) of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link). The Court of Appeal found that the suspension was invalid because of the board’s failure to identify whether the second suspension was a result of gross misconduct or continual disobedience.

      While the Judge described the board’s record as “succinct”, in fact the record was too brief to give any indication that the board had engaged with its statutory task and applied the relevant criteria. The Judge stated that while it was not necessary for extensive records to be kept, there must be a sufficient record to demonstrate that the board members have addressed their minds to the criteria they have to apply.