Problems at school 

My child’s being bullied at school. What can I do about it?

The Ministry of Education defines bullying as behaviour that repeatedly harms someone else physically (e.g. hitting), verbally (e.g. teasing or threatening) and/or by damaging the victim’s self esteem. It can happen in a range of situations including face-to-face, on the internet and by mobile phone.

The Ministry of Education recommends a number of steps to help cope with a situation where a child is being bullied.  You can try:

  • talking to your child
    • confirm the facts: how are they being bullied? Who by?
    • tell your child that reporting bullying isn’t “telling on others”
    • tell your child you and the school will support them 
  • making a plan – giving your child strategies to try such as:
    • ignoring the bully
    • if that doesn’t work, tell them to stop
    • if the bullying continues, walk away
    • talking to an adult or a friendtalking to the school
    • asking the principal, school guidance counsellor and your child’s teachers what they can do to support your child
    • keeping in touch with the school and letting them know about any developments in the situation
    • if you think the situation is getting worse, you can put your concerns in writing and send them to the school board
    • if your letter doesn’t help the matter, you can lodge a formal complaint with the school board
  • using support activities and friendships – you should try to make your child’s time out of school enjoyable and supportive by:
    • involving your child in activities outside of school, such as sport or hobby classes
    • encouraging them to spend time with friends
    • reading a book about bullying with your child

If the bullying is of a very serious nature, or your child is coming home with injuries, you need to hold an emergency meeting with your school. Each school will have its own policy and procedure for dealing with violence and abuse in schools. This could include mediation, suspension, or in extreme cases, expulsion.

We talk more about different types of bullying in our Family and Personal section . A range of different support systems is available for victims of bullying.

My child’s failing maths. Can I get help for him?

There are different options for helping your child with their maths:

Talk to your child’s maths teacher

Talking to the maths teacher is a good way to get a better understanding of why your child is failing maths. What areas of maths does your child struggle with? Are there behavioural problems as well? Is your child having problems paying attention in class? Your maths teacher might offer some useful advice, and will know about any extra maths tutoring available through the school.  Many schools run homework clubs too.
Online assistance

There are many great websites offering help and support with school subjects, for example: 

  • WickEd, is a Ministry of Education website aimed at 7-12 year olds. 
  • For NCEA students there is Study it, a New Zealand website that can provide support in a range of subjects. It makes clear the standards involved and provides old test questions to practise on. You can find their website here.

Private tuition

If you can afford it, you could also consider getting some private tuition for your child. For more information about how to find a tutor, see the next question.

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Where can I find a tutor to help my child?

Private tuition is one way to help your child improve in a particular subject, either to help them if they are struggling or to provide extra practice to further improve their skills. Private tuition is where you hire someone who has knowledge of a particular subject, the tutor, to teach your child about the subject, either in your home or in their offices. This will cost some money, but you may be able to hire a secondary school or university student to work as a tutor for a reasonable rate.

Advertisements for tutors can be found almost anywhere from community and school noticeboards to local papers. You can also find advertisements for people willing to act as tutors in New Zealand on the internet, for example

How do I make a complaint about a teacher?

If you want to make a complaint about a teacher, you should discuss your concern with the dean, head teacher or principal of the school. The school will have procedures set up to deal with complaints, and should be able to deal with most complaints effectively. If you are not satisfied, you can take it to your school’s Board of Trustees.

In extreme circumstances, you can lodge a complaint with the Teachers Council of New Zealand. Schools must report any complaints of serious misconduct to the Teachers Council. You can only make a complaint to the Teachers Council directly,

  • if the teacher is not currently working as a teacher and so the school is unable to deal with the complaint
  • if you think the employer will not be able to deal with the complaint because of a conflict of interest
  • if you are not satisfied with the way in which the school is dealing with the complaint
  • in other exceptional circumstances

For more information about making a complaint to the Teachers Council, see their website. For help and advice in making a written complaint to a school or the Teachers Council, see your local CAB.

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My child is having ongoing problems with the teacher. Do I have the right to change teachers or classes?

In some cases children can change teachers or classes. First of all though, it would be a good idea to ensure you have had an in-depth discussion about the situation with your child so that you have as much information as possible – at least from your child’s perspective – before taking any further action.

Depending on what the discussion reveals, if you find your child has a genuine concern, and if it is appropriate, an option might be to invite the teacher to a sit-down discussion with you and your child. The focus of the discussion could be on fostering a better understanding between them and on finding solutions/compromises that work for both. 

If this approach does not seem to work or is not feasible for some reason, then you could approach the dean or school principal with your problem, and work together to come up with a solution that may involve changing teachers or classes, or if you are concerned about a teacher’s conduct, competence, or mental fitness you can make a complaint.

My daughter hates school and wants to leave. I don’t know whether I should let her or not.  What are the options?

Once your child turns 16, even if you want them to attend school they no longer have to go. If your daughter is under the age of 16, and has a suitable training course or job arranged, she may be granted an “early leaving exemption” as long as she has your permission. Information about this is on the Careers New Zealand website. The first thing to do is discuss with her what she thinks about school and her plans for the future.

You can also talk things over with your daughter’s teacher, the form dean, and the school careers counsellor. Careers New Zealand is a government service set up to offer free advice on what good alternatives there might be for her. They can help your daughter understand what choices are available to her, as well as helping her to understand what skills she needs, to get where she wants to be. More information about leaving school early is on the Careers New Zealand website and you can chat to a representative by calling 0800 222 733 or arrange an appointment for your daughter to receive one-on-one advice and assistance.

Leaving school doesn’t necessarily mean your daughter’s chance of an education is over – sometimes people choose to return to high school as an adult, to get the credits they need, or go to university or other tertiary training course after working for a while. Once she is 20, she could be admitted to university without University Entrance.