Children sometimes bring unhealthy lunches to school – that’s a sad fact. When you see a lunch box with no fresh fruit or veg, or that’s wall to wall sugar, or just a packet of noodles, or … well, you get the idea – when you see those lunch boxes, you sigh. But trying to change what lead to that lunch box being in front of that student by policing said lunch box would be wrongheaded.
No educator wants to be in the position of telling kids they should or shouldn’t bring this or that, when in fact they usually have no part in the decision-making around what goes in their lunch box.
Similarly, it’s not at all helpful to create tension with parents by sending home notes about the food they provide. Of course I want students to eat healthily (and eat enough), but making parents feel judged does harm to the home-school relationship, and that is a bad move. The solution has to be focused on education, not policing.
Education for students around what good food looks like, clever buying, balanced diets etc is much more helpful. In my experience, the more clued-up the students are, the more they influence the purchases of the grown ups around then. We all know how insistent small people can be when they want something at the supermarket!
When I was trying to eat more healthily, I charged my year 5-6 students with checking my lunch box each day, and giving me feedback, and by crikey they took to that challenge like ducks to water: “Have you SEEN how much sugar is in that low fat yoghurt, Mrs Khan! Don’t be fooled by that ‘low fat’ thing!” They also wrote me a list of healthy snack foods for 3pm, knowing my tendency to stop at the local garage and make poor choices when driving home around 5 or 6 pm. Given good information and a real life problem to solve, kids will almost always blow your socks off with just how clever they are.
So focusing on educating kids and letting them educate the adults seems like a good strategic move. But it must be collaborative, done with the community, not at them. Which leads me to the brilliant work done by Julia Milne and her team at The Common Unity Project Aotearoa.
The Common Unity Project is a school-based project with a collaborative community model. It started small and got little to no Ministry or official support, but through sheer tenacity and will power and the support of the school in which she is based, Julia has built a magnificent living model right here in Lower Hutt, NZ.
In their own words, the Project “works collaboratively with Epuni Primary School, a little school with a big heart, in Lower Hutt. We grow food on a disused soccer field – enough to feed our children of Epuni School three times each week. We invite our parents and wider community to come to school each day and learn, share and educate one another. In turn, this has become a collective response to meeting the needs of our children and developing our own resilient solution within our community.”
The Project has brought a community together to learn and grow – literally and figuratively – together. Learning about food is linked with curriculum work – maths, literacy, science, art – you name it, they’ve linked it, and done so meaningfully. Identify the problem, find solutions, get helpers with the skills needed, helpers pass on skills to the kids, helpers learn new skills themselves, and BINGO! we have real life learning. This is what The Community Unity Project does.
The kids are cold? Put a call out for wool and some knitters with a bit of time on their hands, and BINGO! the adults are passing on key skills to kids to make something they all need.
The kids are hungry? Put a call out for helpers to come make a meal using food grown by the kids in the school gardens. The helpers teach the kids, the helpers learn new skills, and they all have enough to eat.
Gardening, cooking, knitting, bike maintenance, building, sewing bee keeping, food budgeting – you name it, they’re onto it.
Real life problems, real life solutions, real life learning. And community.
That’s my kind of model.
Bevan Morgan writes:
“I’ve written a lot recently about our government’s pathetic effort last week in shutting down the food in schools legislation. And I’ve learned a few things since then.
“The biggest takeaway has been that we have a major problem with how people conceptualise issues. Listening to people’s attitudes about poverty in New Zealand it is clear that it’s not simply a case of people not knowing about poverty – it is that that they don’t actually understand the very concept at its core foundation. Describing the reality and impact of poverty to people from middle NZ is like trying to explain string theory to someone who has never even heard of the term ‘physics’. You may as well be speaking Cantonese.
“There have been a lot of people tell me various myths, misconceptions, and out right lies about the poor in New Zealand. But even if all of those things were true (which they are not) not one single person has been able to explain to me how anything that poor parents may do wrong is the fault of the children.
“Not one single person.
“Because people are so angry at the poor for being poor, they have no problem with the wealthy ripping us off by $9.5 billion a year. And they have no problem feeding the future generation to the wolves despite the fact that they profess to love kids. That’s insane.
“Even if we look at it selfishly, people are so angry at people for being poor and daring to want assistance that they are literally willing to punish potential future doctors and engineers just to make a point.
In pure dollars and cents terms, our attitude to poor children is an absolute waste of future money: We are throwing away future billions for the cost of some Weetbix.”
“This is so counter-intuitive to human nature it is absolutely staggering. But sadly our leaders have done such a good job of hiding poverty that nothing is going to change any time soon. Unfortunately things will only change when inequality becomes so ridiculous that we have lost our middle class.
“But then again if the USA is anything to go by, this won’t even make a difference.”
– Written by Bevan Morgan and shared with permission. Read more by Bevan, at https://bevan-morgan.squarespace.com/
It’s been 2 days since National, ACT and United Future voted down the Feed The Kids Bill, and I am still fluctuating between heartbroken and seething.
As for the Under-Secretary-for-Charter-Schools-and-Generally-Selling-off-our-Education-System-to-the-Private-Sector, said that “…in general from a Māori perspective, top down centralised solutions have never been very good for them.” Because, you know, only Maori kids are hungry, and he’s such an expert on all things Maori, being a rich white guy from Epsom.
So let’s turn to people who DO know about poverty. Who have lived it. Who aren’t just waffling to promote or protect their own careers. No, not teachers this time – let’s turn to a gang leader.
Jamie Pink is the president of the Tribal Huk gang. This gang runs a Feed The Kids operation of its own: “They are making sandwiches for kids at school who have nothing to eat. They make between 450 and 500 sandwiches every school day and deliver them to 25 Waikato schools in Hamilton, Ngaruawahia, Huntly – as far north as Rangiriri.” They fund this themselves, and use either home-grown produce or bought goods, using 40 loaves a day (Coupland’s Bakery sells it to them for 90c a loaf – bless you, Coupland’s).
The Tribal Huks have been making and delivering sandwiches for two and a half years and haven’t missed a single day, reports Waikato Stuff.
This gang sees a need and meets it. They realise that kids learn far better if they are not hungry. They get that children will will see school as a far more positive experience if they are fed there.
“When I was little we had no food,” says Pink, “so I grew up a hungry little bugger and a bit angry, too.
“The main reason we’re doing this is because there’s a lot of hungry kids out there and it means a lot to be able to fill their little bellies up.”
And despite David Seymour’s ‘expert’ comments, it’s not only Maori bellies that need feeding. When the gang heard of a child who could not eat their sandwiches as they weren’t halal, they made different sandwiches just for him. Because whilst David Seymour thinks only Maori kids are going hungry, Pink knows different, and rather than wax lyrical his gang meet the need. Jam sandwiches it is, for as long as the lad needs them.
Will Pink stop? No. “‘There’s no stopping,” says Pink. ”There’s no, ‘Oh, I don’t feel well today, we’re not coming in.’ Nah, it don’t work like that. No way, no way. Because then you’d get that nightmare that those kids might not have been fed that day. Oh, that’s enough to keep you going.”
How shameful that failure to feed the kids would give Pink nightmares but doesn’t make Peter Dunne miss a wink.
And while Pink is delivering sandwiches daily, John Key maintains his wilful ignorance and refuses Metiria Turei’s invitation to visit a school in need of a food in schools programme.
What a bizarre and shameful situation for New Zealand that a gang understands hunger’s relationship to education better than those in government.
Read the full article here.
I am sending you on a professional development course next week. The course is residential and you will be supplied with everything you need for the week.
You are in Group A:
There will be no breakfast. You will be provided with chippies and water for break, a small pie for lunch, beans on toast for dinner, and as much water as you want.
A bed is provided, which you will share with one or two others in an unheated room. The room has only a modicum of mould and damp
You should not bring books or a computer.
You should only bring one or two sets of clothes for the week. If you have some, bring a worn pair of shoes with holes in them. Otherwise jandals or bare feet will be fine. It is only a 20 minute walk to the course venue, so a coat or umbrella is not needed.
Should you get ill during the course, you will have to continue, but there is plenty of sympathy on offer. You cannot miss any of the course, even if ill, as there is no-one available to look after you.
Welcome. Your group will get cereal, milk and fruit for breakfast, sandwiches, fruit, a cereal bar, cheese and crackers for lunch, a hot meal of meal and two veg for dinner with dessert on some nights, and hot chocolate and a biscuit for supper. There will be hot drinks, milk and water readily available throughout the week.
Your single occupancy room will be heated and have a bed, books, internet connection and a computer, a TV, and an en suite shower. It is a dry, clean, healthy room.
Bring one or two sets of clothing per day and as many pairs of shoes as fit in your luggage. Please bring a coat and umbrella to keep you dry as you walk to and from the car that will take you to the venue.
Should you get ill during the course, you will have access to a nurse or doctor and suitable medication. Should you be too sick to attend any part of the course, someone will be there to pick you up, take you to your room and watch over you until you are fit to return.
– Please note that both Groups A and B are expected to pass the course with the same high achievement levels.
– If any students do poorly or fail the course, their tutors will be deemed to have failed.
– League tables will be released showing which tutors fared the best/worst.
– Tutors with failing or low achieving students will have their wages docked accordingly.
– Failure of Group A to achieve equal pass rates to Group B will result in workshops for Group A being handed over to the private sector.
Last week Metiria Turei of the Green Party took over the Feed the Kids Bill that Hone Harawira had introduced to Parliament. If passed, the Bill will provide government-funded breakfast and lunch in all decile 1 and 2 schools.
Metiria explains, “Hungry kids can’t learn and are left trapped in the poverty cycle when they grow up. Let’s break that cycle, lunchbox by lunch box. We can feed the country’s hungry kids, if we work together.
“My Bill is at a crucial stage of its progress – part way through its First Reading – and may be voted on as early as next Wednesday 5 November.
“The way the numbers stack up in the new Parliament the Bill will be voted down unless we can persuade the National Party to change its position and support it going to Select Committee. National have been talking a lot about child poverty since the election, and supporting my Bill is one way they can start to address it.
“You can help me persuade the Prime Minister to let the public have a say on this important issue by emailing John Key, asking that National support my Bill at least to Select Committee.
“We need to broaden and build the public debate on addressing child poverty, and submissions on this Bill to a Select Committee will help achieve this.
“Because of the potentially short time frame, you’ll need to send your emails as soon as possible and before Monday 3 November at the latest.”
Email John Key at email@example.com
Because feeding hungry kids so they can learn is SO last season.
See here for the Children’s Commissioner recommendations on poverty: http://www.occ.org.nz/publications/expert-advisory-group/
by Judith Nowotarski, NZEI Te Riu Roa President
When it came out this week that Treasury had advised the government that school breakfasts had no measurable impact on educational performance, principals of low decile schools around the country were flabbergasted.
It appears the officials at Treasury know more than the doctors and nutritionists who have long championed the crucial importance of breakfast, especially for children. They certainly think they know more than the principals who see the difference a full belly makes on concentration and behaviour levels. They have even managed to find one study from Auckland University to support their stance, despite what the overwhelming majority of other local and international research says.
Windley School in Porirua has a breakfast club five days a week and principal Rhys McKinley has observed that on the three occasions that fights have occurred, they involved students who hadn’t had breakfast. Many of the students come from very difficult home situations and being able to come to school and start the day with a hot, nutritious breakfast means they can focus on their work rather than their gnawing hunger.
The students at Windley School are lucky to have a breakfast club, run most days by volunteers from Arise Church and school staff, but many low decile schools are missing out or receive support and funding on an ad hoc basis from various NGOs and community groups.
Certainly the government doesn’t want to get involved – they are trying to farm out social services such as housing. They don’t want to take on any more initiatives, even though every charity that works with impoverished families thinks school meals are a great idea.
Feeding hungry kids is surely a moral obligation in a country that can afford to do so. It is also just the beginning of what needs to be done to break the cycle of poverty that is trapping too many families. It is almost two years since the Children’s Commissioner’s Experts Advisory Group released its report with 72 solutions to child poverty, but it was largely sidelined. Boosting family incomes is the obvious key to reducing poverty, but that will take time and investment. In the meantime, children still need energy to learn.
The Treasury paper from February 2013 warned that if the government itself got involved in providing food in schools there was a risk of “scope creep” – uncontrolled or continuous growth in costs. It pointed out that the government already supplies fruit in low decile schools and the likes of KidsCan, Fonterra and Sanitarium run breakfast clubs. The fear of spending too much money is apparently a good justification for spending hardly any at all.
Treasury recommended more research on the extent of the problem and engaging with existing providers of food in schools to understand the level of need.
Meanwhile, as the numbers are crunched, children are going hungry through no fault of their own. As treasury pointed out, not every child who misses breakfast does so because of a lack of food, but tens of thousands do. Many of these children went to bed hungry in the first place. And then we ask them to come to school for a mentally and physically exhausting day of learning.
Inevitably, in a discussion such as this, some people will blame the parents for inadequate budgeting, but whether parents could have stretched the grocery budget more effectively or not, the fact remains that children in our first world country are going hungry. If you don’t have compassion for hungry kids in this land flowing with milk and Weetbix, you could consider what a drain on the public purse their poor health and educational underachievement will be in the future.
For the government to depend on charities and corporate philanthropy to meet the needs of the increasing number of families that are falling through the cracks is like baling a sinking boat with a tea cup. Certainly the government needs to focus on growing the economy and creating jobs that families can afford to live on. But please, in the meantime, can we also ensure no child has to learn and grow on an empty stomach? What’s good for the weakest and most vulnerable amongst us, is good for all of us.
The principal of May Road School in Auckland, Lynda Stuart, has challenged Treasury officials to go without breakfast for one month in order to share the experience of thousands of New Zealand children.
She says it beggars belief for Treasury to suggest that there is no link between hunger and educational success.
“We run a breakfast club and so we see first-hand how breakfast sets children up for the day. Any teacher will tell you that a child who is hungry will not be able to learn properly. Contrary to what Treasury believes, this is backed by real evidence from both here and overseas.”
The principal of Merivale school in Tauranga, Jan Tinetti, agrees and says breakfast club at her school is absolutely crucial.
“For a lot of our kids it’s the first meal they’ve had since lunch time the previous day. I’ve seen kids that arrive at school completely off the boil and so we get them over to breakfast club and that settles them down and puts them in the correct space for learning. The difference that breakfast makes is simply enormous.”
She says that moreover, feeding hungry children should not be just a value-added or cost-risk argument.
“Surely it is immoral to suggest that it’s fine for children to be allowed to go hungry because there’s no food in the fridge at home?”
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski says she backs Ms Stuart’s challenge.
“I think it would be a very good reality check for Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf and his senior advisors to go hungry and see how effective they are in their jobs.”
“It is time for Treasury to stop indulging in its ideological agenda and see the real world.”
“Research consistently shows that children who do not have adequate food at home are likely to be more frequently absent or late to school than their peers, have lower academic achievement and poorer performance, especially in numeracy and literacy, and difficulty concentrating.”
Children go hungry in all countries, in all walks of life, but some countries are better than others at accepting the responsibility for ensuring children are fed.
“Today our goal to offer every infant child a healthy, tasty school meal has become a reality, a move that will put money back in parents’ pockets while ensuring all children get the best possible start in life.”
“The government has provided £1bn to meet the costs of the meals over the next two years.
“In addition, it has made £150m available to improve kitchen and dining facilities, plus an extra £22.5m for small schools.
“Schools will have a legal duty to offer the meals, which are expected to save families £400 per year per child.”
“Mana Party leader Hone Harawira’s member’s bill to provide free breakfasts to all low decile schools is due before Parliament in coming weeks but is unlikely to get majority support.” Source
I didn’t pass. Just breakfast for low decile schools – not even all schools – just those at the sharp end – and it STILL didn’t pass.
So, charities are again filling the gaps:
Other countries like the UK… provide state-funded free meals to eligible students, and some such as Brazil and Chile provide state-funded free meals to schools with high levels of deprivation.
Come on, New Zealand, it’s not too much to ask that kids are assured on one decent meal a day on school days so they can concentrate and learn. It’s time to get this sorted out. Let’s do this.
Catherine Delahunty and Metiria Turei are on a speaking tour to explain and discuss the Green Party’s education policies. They will discuss the Greens’ plans for more community involvement in schools, community hubs, nurses in school, and their plans for such things as National Standards and Charter schools, amongst other things.
It’s a great chance to hear from the horse’s mouth what alternatives there are to what is being implemented now, and to ask questions. There are also some great guest speakers.
To keep up with new events/speakers, you might want to follow Catherine Delahunty’s page on Facebook.
I attended the Lower Hutt event, and it was hugely interesting to not only hear from Catherine but also to hear from people working at local schools, undertaking innovative and hugely successful projects that encompass the whole community. It was informative and very inspiring, and I can’t recommend the talks enough.
These are the latest conformed dates:
Auckland – 30 April, 6-7.30pm
17 Mercury Lane, Newton Auckland
Gisborne – 6 May, 7.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Ilminster Intermediate School Library, De Latour Road
Guest speaker: Peter Ferris, Principal of Illminster Intermediate.
Tauranga – 12 May, 5.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Gate Pa School Staffroom, 900 Cameron Road
Guest speaker: Jan Tinetti, Principal of Merivale School.
Thames – 13 May, 7.00pm (NOTE THIS IS A CHANGED VENUE & TIME)
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Grahamstown Community Hall.768 Pollen St, Thames
Whakatane – 14 May, 7.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Knox Presbyterian Church, 83 Domain Road
Whangarei – 19 May, 7pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Old Library, 7 Rust Avenue
Rotorua – 22 May, 6pm
Haupapa Room, Rotorua District Library, 1127 Haupapa Street
Auckland – 22 May, 7.30pm
Te Atatu South Community Centre, 247 Edmonton Road, Te Atatu South
Hamilton – 16 June, 6pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Stack Space, Hamilton Library, 9 Garden Place
Guest speaker: Martin Thrupp, Waikato University Institute of Educational Research
New Plymouth – 18 June, 7pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Beach Street Hall, 40 Beach Street
Auckland – 26 June, 7.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Mangere East Community Centre, 372 Massey Road, Mangere East (Behind the Library)
Whanganui – 23 July, 7.30pm
Catherine Delahunty and Dave Clendon
Alexander Research and Heritage Library (Venue now confirmed)
Palmerston North – 25 July, 7.30pm
Palmerston North City Library, 4 The Square
Guest speaker: Professor John O’Neill, Massey University Institute of Education.
If National, Labour or any other party plan a similar tour, I will share that as well, but as yet only the Greens are fronting up. Do let me know if you spot any talks (from any party) that I don’t seem to know about. Thank you.
“A strong, progressive education system that acknowledges the beauty of difference in our kids and supports its people on the front line is what I demand from the next government…”
I shared this meme on the SOSNZ Facebook page tonight, and it elicited the response below. The author has given me kind permission to share (bold for emphasis has been added by myself, not by the author):
“Thanks for posting, I was really moved by this tonight. I love my job so much. Every day for the last two months I’ve come home grinning, laughing or feeling really proud of my students. I am so happy to work with my colleagues and be teaching what I really care about. Sure, like any job it can be a pain and Sunday evenings lose their sparkle in the shadow of an impending Monday, but not a day goes by when I’m not laughing or smiling a lot about something in class with the kids or in the office with the staff. I love meeting other teachers, because they’re often interesting and nice people. I’m honoured to be able to proudly say I work in education, I’m a history and social studies teacher, I work here.
I believe education is the key to everything.
“And yet we lag behind countries like Finland because, for some reason I just can’t find logic in, our government has latched onto other countries as examples to follow, such as the United States (!!!)… countries whose education systems we can be quite critical about. Their policies are regressive and we are too happily taking them on, without much if any consultation with a range of the professionals (You’d think that would be a good idea right?).
“The result is that it is the most vulnerable in our society who get often left behind. This is NOT because the teachers in low decile schools are worse or their management is under par, but because the government does things like bring in National Standards and slash funding to integral and creative areas. They are not just perpetuating this system of inequality, they are worsening it.
“There isn’t enough room in here to explain all I would like to with this, but it’s possible to sum up this much quickly: kids that go to school hungry will not learn easily because they will not be able to concentrate. They are being set up for struggle and failure. They are the future, they are our future. This should not even be a political issue – Feed the Kids!
“Our kids are leveled against all other children in standardised tests that only measure intelligence, competence, knowledge and development in one pretty narrow way. Their background, family life, artistic strengths, personality, challenges, ability to empathise etc. are not acknowledged. Kids develop at different levels at different ages in different ways. Now a lot of our kids are labeled as failures because they are below the expected or average, and they have to feel that. At age seven. What does that do to a generation? We’ve seen it in our older generations to realise that we don’t want that for our tamariki and mokopuna. Do we?
“From a number of things that Education Minister Hekia Parata has said, National looks like it would like to change the zoning system of funding school budgets (which granted isn’t perfect) to performance funding. For schools maybe at first, and then perhaps for teachers themselves.
“How insulting to pitch us against each other on a very unequal playing field, and worse, how rudely ignorant of what it is actually like to work in schools, to teach, to manage, to aid. There are far too many factors at play that make it almost impossible to make those funding decisions really fairly.
“It wouldn’t be fair for me at a high decile school to get paid more than my mates teaching out west or down south, just because my kids are doing better in the exams. I know that I worked equally hard at a decile 4 whose students aren’t at the top of the tables like ours. I know that the kids there are just as deserving of a good education, and that they’re not necessarily less able or studious than mine. There are different parts about each, some that are harder and some that are easier, but it all levels out. My friends and colleagues at lower decile schools work hard and they have many difficult, often poverty-related external factors to deal with at the same time as the teaching. They are great and their students are great, but they would be punished with less money. Again it’s the poor who lose out. We cannot move ahead when we leave so many behind.
“The current government makes it harder for us to do our jobs really well and to live up to the potential of our profession.
“The next Minister for Education must talk to the professionals and experts, and make their decisions on that advice.
“A strong, progressive education system that acknowledges the beauty of difference in our kids and supports its people on the front line is what I demand from the next government, however it is made up.
by Miriam Pierard
It is astounding the list of wrongs done to the Kiwi education system in a few short years. I’m not exaggerating – it is just beyond belief. To the point that when I try to think of it all, my head hurts and a thousand conflicting issues start fighting for prominence rendering me unable to sort through the spaghetti of information and in need of a big glass of Wild Side feijoa cider.
I live and breathe this stuff, and if I find it bewildering I can only imagine what it does to the average parent or teacher, grandparent or support staff.
So I am truly grateful that Local Bodies today published a post listing the long list of things public education has had thrown at it since National came to power.
This is the list. It needs to be read then discussed with friends, colleagues, family, teachers, students, MPs and the guy on the train. Because this is it – this is what has been thrown at education in a few short years. It is no overstatement to say that New Zealand Public education is under attack.
Take a breath, and read on:
A National led Government was elected and New Zealand’s public education system came under heavy attack:
You can add to the list the change to teacher training that allows teachers to train in 6 weeks in the school holidays and then train on the job in one school without varied practicums, just as Teach For America does to bring in low cost, short term, untrained ‘teachers’. (Coincidentally great for charter schools, especially those running for profit.)
The full Local Bodies article is here. It is well worth sharing and discussing (share the original, not this – the full article is better)
Please be aware that what has already gone on is just the preamble to far more extensive measures getting increasing more about Milton Friedman’s “free market” than about good, equal, free public education for all.
Unless you want NZ to descend into the horrors being seen now in England and the United States, you need to act. How?
Because three more years like this and the list above will look like child’s play.
“They are developing policies not to benefit children but to benefit those who wish to invest heavily in a privatised education system.”
“Since the current National government slipped through a policy on charter schools as part of their deal with John Banks and the ACT Party, the education system in New Zealand has started to resemble a chaotic mess.
This chaotic mess was started not to benefit New Zealand children but to open the education system up to wholesale privatisation. It has nothing to do with education children or improving standards or anything of that nature. These current education policies are drawn directly from Neoliberal Education Policy 101. They are utterly ideological and utterly doomed.
Their policies are full of contradictions. On the one hand the government say teacher quality is the single most important contributor to student success yet they are allowing unqualified and unregistered teachers to front classes in charter schools….”
A brilliant letter to the editor by Boonman. Read the rest here: My submission to Stuff Nation.
The Green Party have unveiled their education proposals, and they clearly aim to address head on the issues facing those students living in poverty.
Metiria Turei stressed that “10 per cent of New Zealand children were living in poverty, poorer kids had three times the rate of hospital admissions from preventable illnesses and were up to 50 per cent more likely to become a poor adult and perpetuate the poverty cycle” and that this needs to be addressed in order for children to have the best chance of success.
This view is upheld by the OECD, and the latest PISA study made clear that equality, health care and safety were the hugest factors in a child’s chance of future success. Having good quality teachers a big factor in the classroom, but is not the greatest factor overall.
John Key fudged that point in his speech last week. He acknowledged that quality teachers a big factor in the classroom (but without any stress on “in the classroom” so that it was read by many to mean that teachers have the biggest influence on success full stop), and he then went on to say that we don’t have increasing poverty and inequality in NZ, refusing to accept that there is any link between poverty and lower educational success.
This is rubbish, and he knows it. There is a mountain of research and analysis that shows the link very clearly. *
It’s good to know that the Greens acknowledge the link and intend to do something concrete to address it. This is the Greens’ plan, as reported at Stuff:
The Greens have unveiled a new policy which would see schools in lower income areas turned into hubs which would meet all the health, social and welfare needs of poor families.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the policy in a speech to party faithful at Waitangi Park in Wellington this afternoon, saying inequality was increasing in New Zealand and the best way for people to escape the poverty trap was through education.
“Education remains the most effective route out of poverty. But school only works for children if they are in a position to be able to learn,” the party’s policy statement reads.
“Many kids come with a complicated mix of social, health and family issues, often related to low income, that need to be addressed before they can get the most out of school.” Read more here.
And this is the NZEI’s response to the proposals:
Green Party education proposals will make a big difference for children
NZEI Te Riu Roa says it welcomes the Green Party’s proposals to tackle the impact of growing inequality on children’s education.
National President, Judith Nowotarski says the proposal to develop health, welfare and support service hubs in lower decile schools goes right to the heart of tackling the biggest problem we face in our education system – poverty and inequity.
“International evidence clearly shows that poverty and inequality are by far the biggest obstacles that children face in education.
“This proposal directly targets these real issues and, if adopted, would make a big difference to the education outcome of thousands of children in this country.
“Policies such as this would ensure that many more children in this country get the opportunity for a good education – something that teachers and school support staff have been calling for, for a long time.”
However, Ms Nowotarski says inequality and poverty are now much more spread throughout the community so NZEI wants to see policies that target children from financially disadvantaged backgrounds at all schools – not just lower decile schools.
She says the education sector looks forward to working with the Greens in further design and implementation of the policy.
Fairfax-owned stuff.co.nz launched its expanded School Report this morning – more than a little sad to see Auckland’s Faculty of Education uncritically advertising the tool as helpful on its Facebook page.
Stuff say they’ve matched National Standards and NCEA data with “key demographic details to provide users with a quick, easy-to-understand snapshot of every secondary, intermediate and primary school in the country”. No mention of how many children have English as their second language, so, nope, I didn’t see a picture of my school with all its challenges and charm. No attempt to go deeper and give readers reasons why.
And there was some attempt to report on/acknowledge the widening gap between students from rich and poor backgrounds.
Hekia Parata, however, apparently said that “decile funding had not been an effective way of directing resources at where they could do the most good”.
“The decile system has a good intention in that it takes into account the different backgrounds students come from but has increasingly become the explanation for everything. It is not. Quality teaching and school leadership make the biggest difference so that is where we think our resources are best directed.”
Quality Public Education Coalition national chairperson Bill Courtney, however, hits the nail squarely on the head: “You’ve got to change as much as you can about the quality of these children’s lives outside the school system. Why don’t those kids right down the bottom with top level needs have much smaller classes, more resources and a much stronger focus on helping them to accelerate? The parents are doing the best they can, but some of them are out at 7am cleaning your office. These kids don’t necessarily have people to help them study.
”What happens to your learning when every night you go home and sleep in a garage? Think about that compared to a decile 10 kid.
”The education our rich kids get is literally the best in the world. Why is that? Didn’t our teachers all go to the same university? Don’t we have the same curriculum? What’s the difference?”