Parents are sometimes called to meet with the principal and advised that it would be best that they remove their child from the school. They are usually told that, if they don’t, the child will be suspended and the likely outcome is that they will be excluded or expelled. Parents are promised that if they do withdraw their child there will be no exclusion or expulsion on the school record.

The parent’s possible responses to this situation are different depending on whether the student is at a state, state integrated or a private school.

State school

Asking or advising parents or the student themselves to withdraw from a state school, where the alternative is the possibility of suspension, exclusion or expulsion, is illegal. Sometimes it is used by schools as an easy way to get rid of difficult students without going through the suspension and exclusion process. Other times the school genuinely believes it is in the best interests of the student to move to another school.

The problem for a student excluded or expelled from a state school is that other state schools do not have to enrol the student. However, the Ministry must help excluded students (under 16) to enrol at another school and is allowed to help expelled students (over 16). In either case it has the power to direct another school to enrol the student.

The problems with agreeing to withdraw a student voluntarily are:

  • The Ministry of Education doesn’t have to help the student find a new school as they would if the student was formally excluded although they may do so.
  • If your child is wrongly accused of doing something or if you believe the child has been treated unjustly the suspension hearing provides an opportunity for the student and parents to be heard. It becomes more difficult (although not impossible) to make a complaint, argue the student’s case to the school board, or clear the student’s name at a later date.
  • Even though there may be no record of the student being expelled or excluded on their school record, other schools will likely contact the principal by phone. The new school may then refuse to enrol you. If you are in zone for the new school, this refusal is not legal and can be contested.

If you have been asked to remove your child from school it is important to get individual advice before making any decision as circumstances may vary widely.

State integrated school

If the student has been asked to leave the school the student still has the right to enrol in the state school for which they are in zone. However, if the student is excluded or expelled from the state integrated school they will not have that right.

Private Schools

Private school students do not have the procedural rights set out in the Education Act 1989 in relation to suspensions, exclusions and expulsions or being asked to leave.

The contract of enrolment at a private school generally gives the school the right to ask that a student be removed from the school for a range of reasons.  These include such things as the principal deciding that the student is not willing or able to benefit from the education provided by the school.  When parents sign the enrolment contract they accept the possibility that the principal may make that decision about their child.

There are no regulations controlling how this process is managed by the private school but overseas case law suggest that there is an implied term of fairness in the enrolment contract. If a parent believes their student has been treated unfairly, and an appeal to the board is unsuccessful, the next step would be to take a breach of contract case in the courts.

A student who has been expelled, exclude or suspended from a private school, or a student who has simply withdrawn from the school is still entitled to enrol at the state school for which they are in zone.