Schools Not So Safe

The Press (see below) has got hold of some ACC figures that show that school based injuries in NZ cost the tax payer $14 million last year and the range of injuries includes some things that seem out of place in what should be relatively safe learning environments for kids: explosions, fires, driving into holes or objects and fungi poisoning.

The feature article also draws in recently published data that shows that 13 year olds are disproportionately represented in poisoning figures which includes “pranks” where chemicals were put into drinks bottles and kids snorting aspirin. We question if the ingestion of poison in this age group is related to the high incidence of youth suicide in New Zealand.

In NZ claims for work, sport or school based injuries are dealt with by the ACC rather than private insurers,  some say safety standards in such  places would be a lot tighter if private insurers were allowed to have a  ‘regulatory’ effect on the types of activities that were allowed.

We’re not sure if the report includes injuries sustained on school buses but it is worth noting that there is no requirement for school buses to be fitted with seat belts in New Zealand.

To our knowledge some of the more serious recent accidents to have occurred in schools include a student at Waiuku College who was severely burned in a meths fire and a school caretaker who died when a school boiler exploded at Orewa College, his colleague was seriously injured. Charges were later laid against the board of trustees.  And of course  we must not forget the six students and their teacher who  died whilst on an outward bound course in the Mangatepopo canyon. The recent coroner’s report into the tragedy stated that “complacency was a factor in their deaths

This is what the Press had to say:

Schoolyard injuries cost taxpayers almost $14 million last year.

Injury causes range from explosions and fires to eating fungi and loss of consciousness.

ACC figures obtained by The Press show 66,705 claims from schoolground incidents involving primary and secondary pupils were approved in 2009.

The bill for those claims came to $13.92m – down $822,000 on 2008 claims, which were similar in number.

Most of last year’s claims resulted from pupils losing balance or personal control (19,203), colliding or being knocked over (10,782) and being struck by a person or animal (7627).

Some of the more unusual incidents were caused by driving into holes or objects, exposure to the elements, lurching/jerking vehicles and eating fungi.

The most common body parts to suffer were hands/wrists (7640), fingers/thumbs (7182) and faces (6777).

Last week, an attempt to climb a rugby goalpost went awry for a Hillmorton High School pupil, resulting in tendon and muscle damage and concussion, acting principal Graham Leslie said.

In his 41 years at the school, he said it was one of the most unusual mishaps

A wayward drink bottle lid that narrowly missed causing serious eye damage and a “swinging forearm” from a skateboarding fall were two of the more bizarre accidents St Martins School principal Rob Callaghan had dealt with.

However, he said schools and their playgrounds were more safety-conscious and “toned down” than ever before and the last thing staff wanted to do was “make that call” to parents.

Canterbury Primary Principals’ Association president Denise Torrey said awareness and documentation of school injuries had grown as the cottonwool culture had grown.

“The more we wrap kids in cottonwool, the more aware of accidents we are.

“We now look at every bump and bang kids have, but kids will always have accidents and schools have huge health and safety regimes to abide by, and they do.”

Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand president Patrick Walsh said that with groups of energetic young people “something’s bound to go wrong from time to time”, despite schools’ comprehensive health and safety systems.

As of March 20, the ACC had approved nearly 5000 school claims for this year.

The statistics come as a preliminary Otago University study shows 13-year-old boys appear to be most at risk of poisoning while at school.

Undergraduate pharmacy student Benny Pan compared statistics on school and preschool poisonings from 1989 to 2009, as collected by the National Poisons Centre.

Results showed almost a quarter of the 3632 calls received by the centre about school poisonings in this period were related to 13-year-olds.

Of those calls, boys comprised 60 per cent.

Poisons were mostly industrial (including chemicals), followed by therapeutics (including medications) and household agents such as cleaning products.

Senior pharmacy lecturer Rhiannon Braund, Pan’s supervisor, said some of the incidents included pranks where chemicals were put into drink bottles, a group of teens who snorted powdered aspirin and pupils who brought medications to school.

However, more research was needed to establish why 13-year-olds were over-represented, Braund said.

“But we do know that 13 is an interesting age and it’s often a period of great change, including the beginning of high school and puberty.”

Braund said preschool-age children were still the highest risk group for accidental poisonings.

“It is vital that cleaning agents, medications and industrial agents be kept in a secure and child-proof place in all settings,” she said. “

Crime in Schools

It’s shocking but some of these injuries weren’t accidental and not all injuries resulted in ACC claims, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

You may also wish to read  Hundreds of Teachers Assaulted in New Zealand schools, written on 8 March 2010.

There were 1167 recorded violent crimes in New Zealand schools and educational institutions during 2009. That includes 51 grievous assaults, 298 serious assaults, 488 minor assaults and 274 incidents of intimidation and threat (source

New Zealand Scores Second Worse in World for Bullying in Schools, written on 5 March 2009. High rates of bullying in schools is reflective of a punitive culture. “The culture of brutality that we have tolerated for too long has to stop.” Peter Duune

The Children’s Commissioner once said

“It appears that we do have high levels of physical and emotional bullying in New Zealand schools in comparison to other countries. This is historical. We’ve had this for quite some time in our schools.”

2 thoughts on “Schools Not So Safe


    I read this online the other day, attracted to check it out further because I found an interview with its maker, who expressed what I consider to be the Kiwi laissez-faire approach towards parenting, same which results in such a high child accident rate. I do not find that Kiwi parents are overprotective. The opposite would be the case compared to UK and North American parents, in fact. Maybe not compared to parents from a different continent, where life is cheaper by necessity due to hardship however.

    “Epic new film on New Zealand’s rich adventure sport history”/snip

    ((Check out the retroparadise poster on the link to the movie above, working the eco angle hard – the vintage family car driving off into nowhereland, rainforest music, the ambience of “Get Wild! Discover the Wild Soul You’ve Lost by Traveling to NZ and Spending Lots of Money in our Cash-strapped Tourism-dependent Country!), never mind the bungee standards…”In a land of Vivrgin Wilderness and Extremes… says the voiceover))

    “I think we are over-protective about kids today,” Neeson said. “There is too much paranoia and over-protection. It would be safer, honestly, to let them go into the wilderness than into town.”
    Last Paradise was the most-watched New Zealand film at last year’s NZ International Film Festival. It is now being shown at movie theatres around New Zealand after being officially released, and is being snapped up by overseas movie buyers. As interest in the movie grows, Neeson said he was worried about where the next generation of eco-sport pioneers would come from./snip

    ((Some VERY familiar marketing themes ‘n’ memes there, wonder who funded this guy? Ah, some research reveals, the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), the state funder! Are we surprised? It’s very clever prop disguised as a documentary…one giant infomercial for Tourism New Zealand))

    He said the nation’s youth were being robbed of the chance of outdoor adventures, due to the shift towards urbanisation and increasingly stringent health and safety regulations, which were causing issues for adventure sports’ operators and organisers. /snip

    ((We can’t have “issues” being caused for these cowboys – they bring in the bucks for NZ tourism, they set the pace, give the flavour, we can’t cramp their style!))

    ((so would he advocate more risk? From the ACC website:
    “New Zealand children are twice as likely to die through injury as children who live in Australia, and three times as likely as a child from England or Wales. Each year, over 3,500 children suffer moderate to severe injuries, and one child dies from their injuries every five days on average.”

    This is typical of the truly immature black and white thinking that some migrants find difficult to handle. Instead of increasing exposure to the wilderness minus the insane risk factor, via solid safety training, education, and widespread consistent standards that have teeth in them, men like this simply decry that Kiwis have lost their wilderballs and have to grow that set again. Good coup I have to say – dodging regulatory ethics arguments and reaffirming the Kiwi “Hazardz soul” that pulls the cashed-up suckers in, both at the same time. You have to give them credit for knowing how to spin their memes! It’s one of those cheap shot reductionist arguments I hear them using again and again to avoid serious discussion and responsibility. Efforts to explain that “we are not saying lose your balls – we are just saying be more sensible”.are fruitless with these people. They are simply lazy, and using emotional arguments like this, which are impossible to counter, to cover up their unwillingness to man up and implement some tedious standards. This is the land of the sensationalist, reductionist, emotional appeal. Just hope you do not end up in court – it’s not much different from writing for Shortland Street. You’ll find this type of argument repeated over and over again in miscellaneous forms – all of them just excuses for not having standards. Billy T James with his Home Improvements is funny-as. For comedy. You wouldn’t want him as a landlord or at the other end of your bungee. 🙂

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