3.4.1 Participation

Poor educational outcomes are known to be linked to later criminality, although the evidence suggests these factors to be parts of a wider process, rather than a discrete causal factor. Nevertheless, the evidence is sufficient to suggest an increased risk. For example, an unusually high proportion of sentenced prisoners are found to have left school at a young age. Studies of prisoners (e.g., the 2003 prison census 1) recorded that 45% of sentenced prisoners had left school before reaching Year 11, which is three times the rate for the general population 2. Similarly, only 16% of prisoners had a school qualification such as School Certificate or higher 3, which is considerably lower than the general population figure.

A recent review of evidence about retention in school indicated that this factor led to reduced delinquency in young people 4. Retention rates for age 16 students have decreased, from 86% in 1998 to 80.5% in 2005; for age 17, rates have decreased from 63% in 1999 to 60% in 2005. Rates of retention of Māori students are typically twenty percentage points lower than those of other students at ages 16 and 17 5 (see Appendix: Figures 5.1, 5.2, 5.3). Similarly, the rates for school exemption 6 for Māori students are much higher than for other groups, although rates are rising for all ethnic groups (Figure 7 below).

Figure 7: Early leaving exemption rates by ethnic group (per 1,000 students)
Māori Pacific Asian NZ European Total
2000 135.6 53.9 5.5 49.2 64.1
2001 141.8 50.1 5.1 54.5 67.4
2002 154.6 54.2 5.7 55.9 70.8
2003 159 62.8 3.9 55.4 71.4
2004 142.3 55.9 5.8 57 69
2005 158.4 62.4 3.9 54.8 71.4


Ministry of Education, Early leaving exemptions data cube. www.educationcounts.edcentre.govt.nz Accessed 25 October 2006


1 Harpham David (2004) Census of Prison Inmates and Home Detainee 2003. Department of Corrections, Wellington.

2 Ministry of Education, Student Participation: retention of students in senior secondary schools. www.educationcounts.edcentre.govt.nz Accessed 25 October 2005.

3 Census of Prison Inmates and Home Detainee 2003.

4 McLaren Kaye (2000) Tough is not enough – Getting smart about youth crime Ministry of Youth Affairs, Wellington.

5 Ministry of Education, Student Participation, op.cit.

6 School attendance is compulsory for children and young people aged between six and 16, but an exemption can be sought from the Ministry of Education once a student turns 15.