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Hunger and Learning

This category contains 22 posts

Welcome to NZ, where a gang will feed the kids but government won’t…

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.

poverty-pass-it-onPeter Dunne smugly announced that it wouldn’t keep him from sleeping at night. Must be nice to have a stone where some of us have a heart, Peter – how proud you must be.

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.

#FeedTheKids

Read the full article here.

Education Equality – Always read the smallprint

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.

Happy Learning!

Group B

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.

Happy Learning.

Smallprint

– 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.  

 

school A B C level playing field

Key’s Hunger Games

KeysHungerGames

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/

The problem of hunger in our schools

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 ibowl of cornflakesn 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.

~ NZEI

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Read also:

Superman socks: child poverty and education in New Zealand

Poverty of body, mind and soul

 

 

Treasury officials challenged to go without breakfast for a month

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.

hunger bowl“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.”

– NZEI

Feeding School Kids – Let’s play spot the difference

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.

Let’s compare…

England

union jack plate“Education Minister David Laws told BBC News he expected some 15,200 primary schools – or 98% of the total – to be ready to provide the meals…

“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.”

Source

New Zealand

NZ flag food“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:

  • “On Friday 5 September Campbell Live is bringing back its popular ‘Lunch Box’ day in support of the KidsCan Charitable Trust. A $3 donation can be made by texting LUNCH to 2448, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to the charity.” Source
  • “KickStart Breakfast – a national programme supplying Fonterra Anchor milk and Sanitarium Weetbix for breakfast. All schools across all deciles are eligible, including teen parent units and Alternative Education providers.” Source
  • “Fonterra Milk for Schools – a nationwide programme that supplies free milk to all primary schools (Years 1-6)” Source
  • “KidsCan – a national charity that supplies equipment and food for breakfast and lunch programmes, as well as supplying items to address other student needs, such as raincoats, shoes and head lice treatment.” Source

Rest of the world

brazil flag foodFinland and Sweden provide state-funded free school meals.

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.

Source

Aotearoa, let’s do this

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.

 

Education and Poverty in New Zealand – research, publications and groups

 

twelve thousand hours bookTwelve Thousand Hours: Education and Poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand

by Vicki Carpenter

“There is well-documented concern regarding the links between poverty and education; statistics demonstrate, over many decades, that the economically poorer the New Zealand child’s family, the more likely it is the child will not reach her/his potential.

“The blame for such inequitable outcomes is variously placed on children’s families and communities, on teachers and schools, and on wider structural and system injustices.

“The contributors to this book are key NZ writers and thinkers in the field of education and poverty.

“Reasons for our contemporary schooling’s inequitable outcomes are examined and critiqued.”

The book can be purchased here.

 

 

Child Poverty in New Zealand

Child Poverty in New Zealand

by Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple

“Child poverty could be addressed with help from money freed up by lifting the age of eligibility for NZ Super, a new book, Child Poverty In New Zealand, out this weekend has claimed.

‘The book’s authors, academics Jonathan Boston and Simon Chapple, said progressively deferring NZ Super until age 67 would be a reasonable step to free up money to reduce the blight of child poverty.

“They canvassed various ways to raise the money needed to make inroads into child poverty and therefore lift the trajectory of our economy.”

Source: NZ Herald

 

Inequality - a New Zealand Crisis - bookInequality: A New Zealand Crisis

This book “examines the explosion in the rich-poor divide during the last 30 years, its effects on our society, and how it might be reversed.

“The book has generated widespread discussion and numerous reviews, articles and comments, many of which can be found at www.bwb.co.nz/books/inequality. Since its publication, the rise of interest in inequality has continued, and the issue is becoming one of the defining subjects of the 2014 election campaign.

“In March this year, we published ‘The Inequality Debate: An Introduction‘, a short guide to inequality in New Zealand based on the opening chapters of the 2013 work.”

Source: http://www.maxrashbrooke.org.nz/inequality/

 

 

Reports from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner

 

Children's Commissioner logoSUMMARY REPORT: PARENTS’, FAMILIES AND WHĀNAU CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDUCATION SUCCESS

Office of the Children’s Commissioner, July 2013

A summary of the working paper ‘Parents’, Families’ and Whānau Contributions to Educational Success’.

http://www.occ.org.nz/publications/reports/?category=6

 

 

Children's Commissioner logoPOSITION ON PARTNERSHIP SCHOOLS KURA HOURUA

Office of the Children’s Commissioner, May 2012

This paper outlines the Children’s Commissioner’s position on partnership schools kura hourua and his views on the key elements that could be implemented to support the education success of all New Zealanders.

http://www.occ.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Reports/Education/Position-on-partnership-schools.pdf

 

Children's Commissioner logoTHROUGH THEIR LENS – An inquiry into non parental education and care of infants and toddlers

Dr Janis Carroll-Lind and Dr John Angus, Office of the Children’s Commissioner, February 2011

This paper reports on an inquiry into the impact being enrolled in formal non-parental early childhood services has on children’s wellbeing and makes recommendations on service delivery.

http://www.occ.org.nz/publications/reports/?category=6

 

Other sources of information on poverty, children’s rights, and education

Inequality – a New Zealand Conversation – http://www.inequality.org.nz/

Office of the Children’s Commissioner – http://www.occ.org.nz/

Child Poverty Action Group – http://www.cpag.org.nz/

Tick For Kids – http://tick4kids.org.nz/

https://www.facebook.com/InsideChildPoverty

https://www.facebook.com/cpagNZ

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Childrens-Commissioner-NZ/186408948108425

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New Zealanders coming together to put children on the election agenda

tick for kids very large logo w quote

The launch of the Tick for Kids campaign  marks the beginning of a national movement to create the political will to improve the status and wellbeing of Kiwi Kids in the lead up to the election and into the new parliament. UNICEF NZ is pleased to be playing a central role in Tick for Kids and urges all New Zealanders to get involved.

UNICEF NZ National Advocacy Manager and Tick for Kids spokesperson, Deborah Morris-Travers, said, “Political parties are starting to pay attention to the growing public concern about children suffering permanent damage from rheumatic fever, going without nutritious food and blankets on cold nights, and unable to participate in the ordinary activities we expect for Kiwi kids, like school trips.  We all want Kiwi kids to do well.”

In the lead up to the election, Tick for Kids will reinforce the message that our country will only do well when our children do well using the slogan, ‘It takes a child to raise a country!’ 

 Ms Morris Travers added, “Tick for Kids includes UNICEF NZ, Plunket, the Paediatric Society, the Royal NZ College of Public Health Medicine, the National Council of Women, and a range of others concerned that political parties have not paid enough attention to child wellbeing.

“The campaign will be working to engage the public so that all of the parties take meaningful action to address the public policy issues that can help improve life for families and children.  People interested in supporting the campaign can contact any of the partner organisations to offer help with local events, to find out what questions to ask candidates, or to write to MPs.

An advocacy toolkit is available at www.tick4kids.org.nz

“It’s essential that all parties have strong policies for children that give effect to children’s rights, so that the new parliament can make progress on some of the urgent issues facing children and their families. Tick for Kids will remind voters to keep children in mind when they go to vote.

“It’s a truism to say that our future depends on today’s children, but somehow successive governments seem to have forgotten how important our children are.  It’s only a few years until the number of labour market entrants will be on a par with the number of people leaving the labour market to retire* – reinforcing the urgency to ensure that all children are healthy, educated, safe and able to participate.

“UNICEF NZ urges all parties to engage positively with debate about children’s rights and interests in the election campaign and to prepare bold policies designed to make a significant difference for children,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

Campaign launch Tuesday 17 June at 11.30am

 

Superman socks: child poverty and education in New Zealand

I have a 5 year old, and a lucky one at that.  If he’s had a bad night and is tired, I can keep him home from school or collect him early.  Either way, he is warm and well fed.  Some days, even with all that, he’s not on top form.

Still, even with bad days, research shows that children like him stand a good chance of doing well in life.  He has access to a warm, dry home, to medical care, to good and plentiful food, to books and computers, and he has shoes, a coat and a bed.  Not everyone is so fortunate.

Over 285, 000 Kiwi kids live in poverty, with 17% of our tamariki going without the day to day things they need.  Three fifths of those children live like that for years on end.

Many children don’t eat well and don’t have access to proper medical care.  They live in houses that are not healthy. They might be cold.  They may not sleep well.

But whatever their circumstances, five days a week, 40 weeks a year, off they go to school

Hard Yakka

A student’s job is to learn.

For six hours, five days a week, students come face to face with new challenges, new information, old problems they haven’t yet mastered, social interactions that need to be manoeuvred, and physical challenges big and small.  It’s no mean feat to be a student.

Even when it’s fun and you’re motivated, it’s hard yakka.

Even when you are healthy, happy and safe, it’s hard yakka.

Yes,  student’s job is to learn – and that’s not easy when the odds are stacked against you.  That’s bloody hard yakka indeed.

Walk in their shoes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPut yourself in the shoes of a less fortunate child for one moment.  Imagine sleeping in a damp bed, maybe top to toe with someone else, that’s assuming you have a bed. You’re cold all night and not getting a good rest. Then waking up to an inadequate breakfast – or no breakfast at all.  Off you go for the day in bare feet or worn shoes that let water in.  No, you don’t have a coat – and you are walking – so if it rains you get wet.

Now imagine working all day in those damp clothes, with cold feet and a rumbling tummy.

You have to think, listen, cooperate, learn, exercise, share, write, read, calculate….  You might just have thought about lunch, but no, you don’t have lunch either – or nothing worth mentioning, nothing that will sustain you.  And you still have a couple more hours to go.  No-one can collect you early because they’re at work.  And even if they could, it would be the same tomorrow.

Now imagine doing that day after day after day after day…

If it were you in those circumstances, how well would you do your job?

Pull your socks up

old socksThere are always those who blame the poor for their own circumstances.  If only they’d pull their socks up, these people contend, then they’d be fine.

It’s a simplistic and insulting argument to put forward – arrogant, in fact.  People’s lives vary so widely – no one person lives through the same circumstances as another.

As Bryan Bruce recently put it:

“I also find it interesting how some people who have ‘made it’ out of poor circumstances have the attitude “if I can do it anyone can”.  Not true. Not everyone’s life experiences are the same and we have working poor now – people who work all week and still can’t make ends meet- which is a relatively recent phenomenon.”

It is well documented that poverty leads to poorer mental health and cognitive development. Put simply, if you grow up in poverty, your chances to learn well and do well later in life are reduced.

Conversely, giving children the tools so they have a far better chance of moving onwards and upwards is good for all of us, as it lessens many potential future burdens, not least of all in the health sector, unemployment, and crime.

So, when someone says, “See, poverty doesn’t matter. High expectations are all it takes to overcome poverty,” tell them to read the work of Shonkoff and the Harvard Center on the Developing Child. Some children survive the most extreme adversity, but far more do not

Social Braces and Superman Socks

superman socksIt pays to remember, as well, that children have little to no power to change their lot.  They are at the mercy of whatever circumstances they are born into.  And that lot is what governs their future.

Isn’t it, then, a better plan to reduce poverty and make it easier for more people to be able to ‘pull their socks up’?

Children who are fed, warm, healthy and safe learn better, not just as children but also as adults.   They are less likely to put financial burdens on society. They are more likely to do well.

The least a decent society can do is give them the basics to keep them fed and healthy, so they can learn and have a good chance.  It’s not charity.  It’s not a hand out.  It’s a hand UP.

If we want people to be able to pull their socks up as adults and we want our tamariki to succeed at school, we must prevent the metaphorical socks being so far down to begin with.

Let’s give our tamariki superman socks and watch them fly.

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Further reading:

https://blog.greens.org.nz/2014/05/14/inequality-in-new-zealand-is-getting-worse/

http://www.occ.org.nz/assets/Uploads/EAG/Final-report/Final-report-Solutions-to-child-poverty-evidence-for-action.pdf

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/inside-child-poverty-new-zealand-by-bryan-bruce/

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/breaking-non-news-the-rise-of-poverty-and-the-fall-of-the-middle-class-affect-schools/

What I demand from the next government, by Miriam Pierard

“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):

Pasi Sahlberg

 

“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

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The List: What National has done to New Zealand education

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?

  1. Speak up. Talk about the issues with others – encourage them to think about what’s going on and what it means in the long run;  and most importantly,
  2. Vote.  VOTE.  Definitely vote. And encourage everyone you know to vote, as well.

Because three more years like this and the list above will look like child’s play.

~ Dianne

one person stands up and speaks out

Ravitch - public schools under attack

Government error hides true size of child poverty

PovertyThe Government is continuing to fail our kids who are in poverty by not even
measuring the size of the problem correctly, the Green Party said today.

The Government has today admitted that it got its calculations wrong when
measuring child poverty and inequality. The new figures show that there are
285,000 children living in poverty, not 265,000 as previously claimed, and
that the GINI inequality index is not improving.

“There is no reason that 285,000 children should be living in poverty in
New Zealand. This Government has failed to even measure the problem
correctly, let alone do anything to fix it,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria
Turei said today.

“National has been trumpeting its supposed progress on child poverty but it
turns out that was all due to the Government doing its sums wrong. It’s not
the first time that National’s numbers have turned out to be dodgy, and it
makes you wonder what else they’ve got wrong.

“It’s past time for National to wake up to the tragedy of child poverty
that is playing out in homes all across our country. Child poverty has gotten
worse under National, rising from 240,000 in 2007 to 285,000 in 2012.

“There is no excuse for 285,000 kids to be living in poverty in a modern,
wealthy country like New Zealand. Those 285,000 kids are victims of the
choices that governments make – like National’s decision to borrow for
tax cuts for the rich at the same time as cutting Working for Families
payments.

“The Greens will do better for our kids. We will extend Working for
Families, we will invest in nurses in schools, we will set standards for
warm, healthy housing, and we will raise the minimum wage towards a living
wage for all workers,” said Mrs Turei.

The Greens’ education policy aims to hit child poverty head on

The Green Party have unveiled their education proposals, and they clearly aim to address head on the issues facing those students living in poverty.

child poverty has many parentsMetiria 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.

Which of the these plans do you think would have the most positive impact on tamariki’s chance of education success, and on mental and physical wellbeing, and will give them a better chance overall?
~ Dianne
The link between poverty and lower education success – further reading:
http://www.education.auckland.ac.nz/webdav/site/education/shared/about/news-and-events/docs/tekuaka/TeKuaka01-2013.pdf
http://dianeravitch.net/2013/12/05/daniel-wydo-disaggregates-pisa-scores-by-income/
http://www.weac.org/News_and_Publications/13-12-03/PISA_test_results_reflect_effects_of_poverty_in_U_S_Van_Roekel_says.aspx

Poverty of body, mind and soul

family heirloom - povertyI was having a lovely day today, reading Bridget Jones, drinking coffee, chatting with friends online, and generally swanning around enjoying myself.

Well, that is over with a bang.

How anyone could continue to be content with their lot when this is going on in our beautiful country is beyond me.  I certainly can’t.

Overall 265,000 children live in poverty – 25% of our kids.  One in four.

Not to be party political, because this is an issue for all parties and one they really must face together, but Mr Key’s assertion today that “the fastest way out of poverty was through work,”  was a total evasion of the whole problem. Two fifths of those in poverty live in homes where the parents do have jobs.  So how about maybe looking at a living wage?

And this woman is working – but that’s no help if there is nowhere for her to live other than a bloody tent!

Sorry, but I am just so incensed.

Anyway, that’s poverty and this site is about education, right?

Well, to me they are intrinsically linked.

Nourish the body, mind and soul

feed our kidsYes you can learn when you are poor, you can excel, too.  Students and teachers together do amazing things all the time and poverty is not necessarily the end of a person’s chances of success.

But – and it’s a big BUT … if you grow up in poverty, your chances of succeeding are far less than if you have food in your stomach, a warm and dry place to call home, and the money for medical care when you need it.

A child growing up in poverty suffers from stress that can impact their learning and indeed their whole lives.

A student that is cold cannot concentrate.

A student that is hungry cannot concentrate, either.

And, yes, a student that is ill and has no medication is hardly likely to be doing their best work.

Poverty and educational outcomes are linked.

Lalalala Not listening (again)

Paula Bennet on child povertySo I cannot for the life of me see why the government refuses to acknowledge AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS.

It comes to something when the Children’s Commissioner, Russell Wills,  has to find alternative funding because the government will not look into this.

Refuses to.

And Paula Bennet won’t even comment on it.

Despite plenty of research, such as that by Prof. Jonathan Boston, showing the link and the scale of the problem.

Despite Bryan Bruce’s Inside Child Poverty highlighting the issues plain and simple, and offering solutions.

Shame on this government.

Not good enough, New Zealand

Our children deserve better.

They all deserve to be fed, warm, in decent homes, have access to medical care that is free and comprehensive, and be able to learn with as few impediments as possible.

After all, this is New Zealand.  This the Godzone.  This is Aotearoa.

Our tamariki matter.

.

.

One in five gets a raw deal in NZ…

Funny how on one hand we’ve got Hekia Parata having a pink fit that 1 in 5 leaves school without NCEA2 in maths and English….

and on the other hand Paula Bennett saying 1 in 5 children in poverty ain’t so bad….

and both insisting there is no link between the two….

Hmmm…

Paula and Hekia 1 in 5

 

Might want to read some actual research on that, ladies….

To improve student achievement, we must face the real problems

Who achieves what in secondary schooling? A conceptual and empirical analysis

Child Poverty Expert Goes it Alone – Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has decided to publish his own annual stock take of child poverty after the Government spurned his call to publish official measures and targets.

Mind The Gap – A documentary about growing inequality and poverty in New Zealand, by Bryan Bruce

 

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