New Zealand Scores Second Worse in World for Bullying in Schools

December 2008

NZ Schools Lead World in Bullying


“Three-quarters of primary school children have been bullied in the past month, ranking New Zealand 34th of 35 countries in a major international study. More evidence of an endemic bullying culture comes as teachers call for law changes to single out the most troublesome students and as the Ministry of Education plans a Behaviour Summit for early next year.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showed only Tunisia had fewer Year 5 students reporting no instances of bullying over the past month.

Pupils were asked how often the following happened in their school in the past month:

Something of mine was stolen.

I was hit or hurt by other student(s) (for example, shoving, hitting, kicking).

I was made to do things I didn’t want to do by other students.

I was made fun of or called names.

I was left out of activities by other students.

In New Zealand, 33 per cent of children answered yes to three or more of the questions — far worse than the international average 18%.

A further 42% of pupils said they had suffered one or two of the bullying incidents in the past month.

Only Tunisia rated worse for bullying — there, 23% of students reported no bullying.

Auckland paediatrician and former Children’s Commissioner Ian Hassall said the high rates of bullying reflected a “punitive culture”.

“It’s not just children who are bullied; adults bully as well,” Hassall said. “We do have a punitive society that rather believes in punishing people and threatening them, so it’s not surprising that children pick up on this and go punishing one another.”

Inquiries into school bullying by the Children’s Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission are under way.

Briefing papers to the new Education Minister, Anne Tolley, reveal plans for a Behaviour Summit to be held in March next year.

The papers state that the Ministry of Education is already dealing with 4500 children aged five to 14 who have “the most severe behavioural needs”.

“In March 2009, the ministry is planning to bring together the education sector and other stakeholders in a Behaviour Summit to consider the evidence on effective behaviour management and commit to a plan of action,” the papers state.

A spokeswoman for Tolley said the conference plan was at a “very embryonic stage”.

Only last week a 10 year old boy tried to jump from a school roof after suffering abuse at Ascot
Community school following burns he sustained in a fire 2 years previously.In March 2008 Toran Henry, 17 died after a fight at Takapuna grammar school where he mother said he was bullied by both students and staff

New Zealand’s Culture of Brutality

Peter Duune has said

“anti-bullying, and “character education” programmes were needed in primary and intermediate schools.

“The culture of brutality that we have tolerated for too long has to stop,”

Shortly after this post was made the Human Rights Commission released a report in which it identified significant human rights issues in relation to violence in New Zealand Schools.

“The report (also) focuses on how well the principles of human rights and natural justice are reflected in school policies and practices managing peer-to-peer violence in schools.

Chief Commissioner Rosslyn Noonan said, “We found that parents and children can be re-victimised when they are not accorded the right to be heard.

Schools require clear guidelines stating that parents should be informed if their child is bullied, abused or attacked at school. There was little or no information or guidance from government agencies on how to deal with bullying between peers. These left schools with no clear steer about when or how to involve the police or Child, Youth and Family.

Ms Noonan said, “There is insufficient focus on the terrible impact violence on children and young people has on the victims’ right to education.”

A human rights approach to bullying highlights the need to protect the rights of the most vulnerable and to treat violence between students at school as seriously as we would violence involving adults or incidents outside school.

Ms Noonan said, “Recognising and respecting the rights of the victims in no way undermines the rights to education and natural justice of those students accused of violence, abuse or serious bullying.

“It will, however, produce fairer, more durable outcomes and safer schools.”

The Commission receives a persistent and concerning level of complaints about school bullying, 31 in 2008 and 15 in 2007.

Ms Noonan said that the cases that have come to the Commission have demonstrated the importance of making human rights and responsibilities explicit in education law and the visible foundation for every school.

She said, “It is time every child and young person has the opportunity to learn, practice and experience the human rights that are at the heart of New Zealand society.”

The Commission has worked alongside the Office of the Children’s Commissioner on the issue of violence in schools. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner releases its investigation into school bullying today.

Ms Noonan said, “We have been working closely with the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and government agencies on this issue and we will continue to do so in order that the necessary changes happen to ensure children and young people are safe when they attend school.”

5 thoughts on “New Zealand Scores Second Worse in World for Bullying in Schools

  1. A friend of mine is an occasional math and science reliever at a lower-decile rural school, and it’s just chaos. Disorder and disrespect. He really needs the money for his family and mortgage, but a day of relieving knocks him for six. I cannot imagine doing this day in and day out. You must have a hide as thick as a rhino, be very stupid, or be starving to death to teach in NZ schools, LOL.

    Good on you for going public about it. FWIW, when your story first came out a few weeks ago or so, it was easy to Google keywords and click “news” and find the story. Now it is much harder to find. They don’t make it easy to find bad information about New Zealand.

    They have a very specific methodology for teaching here though. They want to churn out a certain product with certain characteristics. If you cannot teach “their” methodology very rigidly (think “gym class”), you will not fit in the system, IMO.

    • Sorry, no blog. I put all my energy into writing my book. You can order it from, or just send an e-mail to

      However, you might be interested in:

      That blog is maintained by a friend of mine whose wife had a similar (and I want to say worse, though it’s difficult for me to imagine what could be worse) experience to mine in a different New Zealand school. Bad management seems to be rampant in New Zealand public schools. I will put in my usual disclaimer here that I did teach in some schools which seemed (based on a few weeks’ experience) to be run very well. However, I did get the impression that a large number of New Zealanders have abandoned public education in favour of private schooling, either via home schooling or private schools.

      • Thanks for the link Gregg, we’ve added it to our blog list. You’re correct, private and home schooling are very popular in New Zealand. The admin of this site know many children in NZ who’ve been home tutored, most of them chose this option because they were bullied in mainstream schools schools. There are excellent support and resources network for home tutors.

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