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)
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.