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Poverty in NZ

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Child Poverty in New Zealand

Prime Minister, John Key, today suggested it was too hard to deal with child poverty because it’s not like just counting rodents. I would suggest the issue is not in the counting or even the method of counting, Mr Key, but in the political will to deal with the problem. Policies that exacerbate the wealth gap, homes that are legally be unhealthy, homelessness, poor health care… these are all political decisions.

The way Mr Key faffed around the issue on Radio NZ today showed how little he actually cares about children poverty. I can only hope he is voted out next year and the next government has more compassion and a will to actually get things changed for these kids.

Poor Budget For Poor Families – Bryan Bruce

All economic decisions are moral decisions Bryan BruceThis from Bryan Bruce:

The day after the budget is announced there is always a blizzard of big dollar numbers that often blind us to the underlining moral decisions that went into producing it.

(Because make no mistake in the end all economic decisions are moral decisions.)

So what moral decisions did our government make this particular budget?

Well, here’s a few.

1. The poor are undeserving

It’s really their own fault that they are poor. So let’s progressively give less money to them through Working for Families,let’s deny our poorest families the in-work tax credit of $72.50 a week and let’s not increase the maximum rates of accommodation subsidies.

You can read more about this in an analysis by Associate Minister of Economics Susan St John here.

2. You don’t have to keep your word

Commissioner for Children Russell Wills reminds us in the article below that in 1993, New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child one of which is the right to an adequate standard of living, including a home.

Yet “50 per cent of Pasifika children and 25 per cent of Maori children live in crowded homes. Forty per cent of families on low incomes spend more than 30 per cent of their weekly income on rent. In South Auckland, rents have increased 25 per cent since 2010, so typical rents for a three-bedroom house are about $400 a week.. and …..The Salvation Army estimates around 10 per cent of garages in South Auckland are being used as a residence.”

You can read more of what Dr Wills has to say here.

3. State Child Abuse is OK

The government knows that around 42,000 children a year end up in hospital with chest infections and respiratory illnesses caused by bad housing and that it’s estimated 15 kids a year die as a result .(See  article by Dr Wills)

The answer to this on going tragedy is to provide warm dry affordable homes.

Do I see a determined effort to do that in this budget? I do not.

4. Rich people are more important than poor people

The top 10% of New Zealanders now own over 52% of the Nation’s wealth. We are no longer a fair society yet we know that countries where the gap between the rich and the poor is narrower than our do better in all sorts of areas from lower crimes rates to better education outcomes.

Did this budget do anything to redistribute the nation’s wealth more fairly by making the rich pay their fair share of taxes ? No it did not.

5. It’s OK to say one thing and do another

At the beginning of his third term in government Prime Minister John Key said he would make addressing Child Poverty issues a priority .

Well I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen much of an effort being made to address the Child Poverty issues he says he now knows exist in our country.

Truth to tell – this is yet another budget that won’t help poor families break out of the cycle of poverty.

by Bryan Bruce (Source)

NOTE: Bryan Bruce will be on the panel at Waatea 5th Estate at 7pm, 27th May 2016 on Face TV (Sky Channel 083) along with Andrew Little , Helen Kelly and Oscar Knightly talking about events this week. You can watch the live stream here http://www.waateanews.com/Waatea+TV.html

Bryan’s Facebook page is here.

Education and social disadvantage are closely connected, says OECD report

It is worrying that in today’s NZ Herald Hekia Parata again conflates poverty and socio-economic status, and to further confuse matters throws in decile ratings as if the three things are the same. They are not.

Either she doesn’t know the differences or she chooses to ignore them, and I’m not sure which. Either way, she continues to mislead to public.

The Difference Between Socio-Economic Status and Poverty

Socio-economic status is far more complex than poverty.  SES takes into consideration a far wider set of factors such as parents’ education achievements, occupation, social status, neighbourhood and so on.

Researchers looking at the impact of SES on student achievement will look at such things as how many books a home has in it, what art work it has, whether there is a desk to work at, how many parents there are, even considering matters such as mental health, birth weight and drug habits.

SES is not merely about income. SES is not the same as poverty.

Expert Opinion on the Impact of Socio Economic Status on a Student’s Educational Success

The 18% in the early part of the PISA report that Parata likes to quote actually refers to the effects of poverty alone – not socio-economic status.  Remember, they are not the same thing. The same report  she misquotes goes on to say that the impact of socio-economic status is around 75%. That is in stark contrast to Parata’s assertions, is it not?

Stephen Machin, in his 2006 OECD report on Social Disadvantage and Educational Experiences, notes:

“The evidence from empirical research is that education and social disadvantage are closely connected and that people from less advantaged family backgrounds acquire significantly less education than their more advantaged counterparts.

This translates into significantly reduced life chances as individuals’ economic and social outcomes as adults are significantly hampered by lower education levels owing to social disadvantage.”

The fact is, whilst teacher quality is a big *in-school* factor for student success, the out-of-school factors – the socio-economic factors impacting the student every single day – have by far the biggest impact overall.

And if we are not addressing those adequately, we are merely tinkering at the edges.

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

_________________

Sources and further reading:

Machin, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers No. 32 – Social Disadvantage and Education Experiences, 2006, p. 26

Hekia Parata: Socio-economic factors are often overstated, NZ Herald, 6/11/15

Does poverty impact student achievement? The research says yes.

Hekia Parata today wheeled out her favourite trope “decile is not destiny” in a bid to convince us that poverty has little to no impact on a student’s educational and life success.  She quoted (or misquotes or misrepresents, take your pick) OECD research, saying poverty only has an 18% impact on students. Source

Whether the Minister truly believes her own rhetoric, one can only guess, but it is safe to say that for most students the socio-economic background in which they grow up has a life-long impact on their chances of success.

And whilst we disagree on many things, I believe Ms Parata and I agree on this: the current situation isn’t good enough and needs to change.  So here’s some further research for her to consider:

  • Because of the socio-economic gap, there is an “enormous disparity in children’s home backgrounds and the social and cultural capital they bring to the educational table” (Benn & Millar, 2006 p. 23).
  • The “gap” is not restricted to one society (e.g. USA or NZ) or to one type of society (e.g. English-speaking); it occurs in every developed society. Students with good family resources out-perform those without (Biddulph, et al, 2003).
  • Most significantly, the OECD having studied 25 school systems (not including New Zealand) to determine the determinants of school achievement, found that, “the first and most solidly based finding is that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school” (OECD, 2005, p. 2).
  • “The evidence from empirical research is that education and social disadvantage are closely connected and that people from less advantaged family backgrounds acquire significantly less education than their more advantaged counterparts.  This translates into significantly reduced life chances as individuals’ economic and social outcomes as adults are significantly hampered by lower education levels owing to social disadvantage.” (Machin, OECD Social, Employment and migration Working Papers No. 32 – Social Disadvantage and Education Experiences, p. 26 – Source).
  • Even the US Office of Education, despite its support for “accountability based programmes”, having reviewed the international evidence, admitted that it was clear that “most participating countries do not differ significantly from the United States in terms of the strength of relationship between socioeconomic status and literacy in any subject”  (Lemke, et al, 2002, p. 35).
  • When children attend schools which are widely different in social class composition, the gaps between the aggregate achievement of schools mirrors closely the gaps between the social classes which predominate in them.  Based on his research in New Zealand (and consistent with many overseas studies) Richard Harker has claimed that “anywhere between 70-80% of the between schools variance is due to the student ‘mix’ which means that only between 20% and 30% is attributable to the schools themselves” (Harker, 1995, p.74).

And a final sage word from David Berliner:

“People with strong faith in public schools are to be cherished and the same is true of each example of schools that have overcome enormous odds. The methods of those schools need to be studied, promoted and replicated so that more educators will be influenced by their success.

But these successes should not be used as a cudgel to attack other educators and schools. And they should certainly never be used to excuse societal neglect of the very causes of the obstacles that extraordinary educators must overcome.

It is poor policy indeed that erects huge barriers to the success of millions of students, cherrypicks and praises a few schools that appear to clear these barriers, and then blames the other schools for their failure to do so.”

If we truly want to improve the chances for those with lower socio-economic backgrounds, we must stop the soundbites, blaming and ideology and turn our minds to the wealth of quality research, which must then be read without agenda and applied honestly. Our students deserve nothing less.

Dianne Khan

SOSNZ

Sources and Further Reading

The Gap – EXCUSES, EXCUSES: SOCIAL CLASS AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT, by Massey University Emeritus Professor Ivan Snook

Berliner, David C. (2009). Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit.    http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential.

Chenoweth,Karin. (2007). It’s Being Done: Academic Success in Unexpected Schools. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.

Ministry of Education (2009). National Standards and Reporting to Parents. Wellington: NZ Government.

Lemke,M et al (2002). Outcomes of Learning:Results from the 2000 Program for International Student Assessment of 15-year-olds in Reading, Mathematics and Science Literacy. Washington: US Office of Education

OECD (2005). Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers. Overview. Paris: OECD.  http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/39/47/34990905.pd

Rothstein, Richard (2004). Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic, and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap. Economic Policy Institute, Teachers’College, Columbia University.

Tunmer, W. and J. Prochnow (in press). Cultural Relativism and Literacy Education: Explicit Teaching based on Specific Learning Needs is not Deficit Theory.

Wilkinson,R. and K.Pickett (2009). The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always do Better. Allen Lane, an Imprint of Penguin Books, London.

SOCIAL CLASS AND EDUCATIONAL ACHIEVEMENT: BEYOND IDEOLOGY. Ivan Snook Massey University, October 2009

How to turn child poverty around

NZ child poverty-pass-it-onThe most effective, efficient way to improve the lives of children living in the poorest homes in New Zealand is to increase the income coming into those homes:

This is a problem which can be fixed by ‘throwing money at it.’

The ‘ask’:

Fix child-related tax credits (Working for Families) so they include the poorest children, are simple, inclusive, and don’t discriminate on the basis of how many hours parents are working.

Sign the petition asking government to effect these changes.

All Children

Tax credits and child benefits should not be used as a carrot only for parents able to find work.  It should be about ensuring adequate income and a standard of living that supports children’s wellbeing.

Limiting tax credits and child benefits’ availability for parents who can’t find enough work punishes the most vulnerable children.

Tax-funded income support should be universally available to help parents help their children flourish.  Making it conditional discriminates against some children and only makes the problem worse.

This is about priorities

We can afford to invest in children if we choose to.  This is about our Government making the youngest and most vulnerable citizens a priority and recognising its role in supporting parents.

The options for raising $1bn would need to be carefully considered but they could include taxing high income earners or introducing housing taxes.

It’s also worth noting that the 2010 tax cuts stripped $1bn out of Government coffers, which could have been targeted towards the children in most need.

Kids/Elderly

Children are the population group most likely to live in poverty in New Zealand, with significant impacts on their physical, mental and social development.  Child health data illustrates how damaging poverty is on young children:

24% of Kiwi kids live in relative poverty and 17% go without the things they need (eg protein, milk, fruit and vegetable)

In contrast, New Zealand has a low level of elderly poverty – at about 7%.  Older people are protected from poverty through the provision of a simple, inclusive, income payment that doesn’t discriminate against them on the basis of work status and is maintained even in hard times.

We should treat our children as well as we treat our elderly, through policy that doesn’t discriminate and is inclusive.

Sign the petition asking government to effect these changes.

Child Poverty: Real Action, Real Change

empty purseParents know best what their kids need, and ensuring their income is adequate allows them to get more fresh food, warm clothes, heating for the house, and enable children to participate in normal things like school trips, swimming lessons, music lessons and other educational opportunities. The government doesn’t need more cumbersome programs to deliver support, just give the parents tools and resources to help their kids thrive.

All the available data internationally shows that, with few exceptions, parents in low income households prioritise the needs of their children.

Research published by Superu (formerly the Families Commission) shows that:

  • Making ends meet is stressful and requires planning, time and effort.
  • Families often go without, for example by skipping meals and by children missing out on opportunities.
  • Parents prioritise spending on accommodation, power, food and transport.

Parents want to do their best for their children, both in terms of care and providing material resources.

When these parents have additional income it is the needs of children which are given first priority.

Moreover, New Zealand expenditure data shows that low income and beneficiary households spend less on alcohol, drugs, tobacco and gambling and a greater percentage of their income on food than high income households.

THE NUMBERS

The Household Expenditure Survey provides a range of data on patterns of expenditure in different households. While it doesn’t directly provide data on the expenditure of beneficiaries with children, it does provide data on income groups, expenditure for recipients of benefits and wages and for different types of households with children.

  • Households with the lowest incomes spend 18.4% of their income on food compared with 15.3% for the highest income group.
  • They spend 1.8% of their income on alcohol ($8.20) compared with 1.9% ($42.9) for the highest income group.
  • Both benefit recipients ($14.70) and wage and salary households ($34.70) spend the same proportion on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (2.7%); comparable figures for spending on alcohol are not available.

Turning to households with children, the percentage of income spent on food ranges between 15.6% for a sole parent household with dependent children ($116.1) and 18.8% ($273.20) for a couple with three or more dependent children.

Turning specifically to alcohol expenditure, sole parent households spend the smallest percentage of their income on alcohol ($6.00 or 0.80%) while the largest expenditure occurs among couples with one child ($22.20 or 1.7%).  A similar pattern emerges for overall expenditure on alcohol, cigarettes and drugs with sole parent households spending the least both as a total expenditure and as a proportion of their weekly spending.

Ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, by Slane (used and cropped with permission)

Ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, by Slane (used and cropped with permission)

State Responsibility

Government is obliged by international law to ensure that all children have a standard of living that enables their physical and mental development.  Government should provide support to families to ensure they can meet their children’s needs.  Children need to be healthy, educated, and have a sense of belonging to participate in New Zealand society.

Children also have a right to the highest attainable standard of health and it’s clear that those living in poverty are unable to achieve this.

60 babies under the age of 1 die each year from poverty-related illness;

40,000 hospitalisations from poverty-related illness each year

Scale of the Problem

The government currently spends $6b-$8b each year mopping up the costs of poverty and its effects.  That cost is made up of the high health needs of children in poverty, remedial education, justice costs, and lower productivity downstream when children don’t get the best start in life.

If we spent just a portion of this – $1bn – we would significantly improve the standard of living, health and well-being of children, while also strengthening our economy.

Real Action, Real Change

The petition is advocating for a move away from the current tinkering approach to the issue of child poverty.

We are demanding the government makes this an unequivocal priority and puts the resources in place to generate the step change for thousands of children and the future of our country.

– END

Petition Link: http://www.actionstation.org.nz/endpovertynz

Cartoon Sourced from: http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=79654&l=mi

#endpovertynz

Education and Poverty: the Monopoly Analogy

I think this analogy to capitalism pretty much applies to education, too.

monopoly

Student A is given a healthy home, good food, adequate medical care, a computer, internet access, books galore from birth, educational games, trips, plenty of discussion and questioning with adults, educational TV programmes, museum visits, art gallery visits, pencils, paper, felts, toys that encourage creativity and experimentation, and more.

Student B has poor housing, inadequate health care, few if any books, few if any educational toys, few if any educational visits, little if any discussion and questioning with adults, non-educational TV programmes, few if any visits to museums or galleries, and little chance to explore, create and experiment.

Student B usually loses the testing and exam race compared with Student A.

At which point student B and his teachers are deemed to have been lazy. Or useless. Or both.

At this point, those in Student A’s world push for more tests. Tests that their companies will benefit from but which do nothing to help the student B.

And the cycle continues.

Rigged game, much?

The Gulf in New Zealand Education Today, by Bevan Morgan

Make no mistake about it – education is absolutely one of the most important tools for rescuing lifestyles that are drowning in the oceans of poverty crashing over the country.

French economist Thomas Pikketty, whose book Capital in the Twenty-First Century has been praised as the most important economics book of the decade, writes that ‘historically the main mechanism to reduce inequality has been the diffusion of knowledge, skills and education. This is the most powerful force to reduce inequality between countries…this can also work within countries if we have sufficiently inclusive educational and social institutions which allow large segments of the population to access the right skills and the right jobs’. Simply put, education and upskilling works.

“In 2015 New Zealand the relevant questions that need to be asked are not about whether or not education is inherently unequal based on socioeconomic background but rather; how severe this inequality is, and how badly this trend is accelerating?”

However there is of course a proviso to this. Education can only be this catalyst for change if there is equality of accessibility and quality. Without this accessibility the education system is just a tool in cementing class social structures and systems (think of education in Victorian England for example). In New Zealand the notion that educational access should be equal across the financial spectrum has traditionally been an idea that has been put in the ‘well fucking duh’ basket, and has been about as controversial an idea as separating the drinking water from the sewerage system. Astonishingly though this has changed. In 2015 New Zealand the relevant questions that need to be asked are not about whether or not education is inherently unequal based on socioeconomic background but rather; how severe this inequality is, and how badly this trend is accelerating?

There are reams of data that demonstrate how dramatically economic inequality has taken a sledgehammer to education here. A working paper released by the Children’s Commissioner in July 2013 found that 89% of school leavers from schools rated decile 9 and 10 (10 is the wealthiest, 1 is the least wealthy category) achieved NCEA Level 2 or above. Comparatively the figure was an astonishing 32% lower in decile 1 and 2 schools. There was also the absurd example of 2169 students in decile 8, 9, and 10 schools receiving additional assistance with NCEA exams while there was only an inexplicable 73 students receiving equal assistance in decile 1 and 2 schools.

The OECD readings are particularly grim to look at. A 2009 OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study examining reading, mathematics, and science stated ‘countries exhibiting the widest distribution of performance in reading are the OECD countries Israel, Belgium, Austria, and New Zealand – all of which have a gap of at least 15 points between their top quarter and bottom quarter of students wider than the average gap. The difference in performance between the top and bottom quarters in these countries is in the order of, or more than, two full proficiency levels’.

When PISA brought out a new report in 2012 examining the educational ability of 15 year-olds internationally, the slide had continued for New Zealand. This examination of the mathematics performance of 15 year-olds as inequality increases makes for some particularly depressing viewing:

Bevan

It is easy for people to see how well New Zealand does educationally as a whole and ignore the growing problem of inequality within the sector. But as well as New Zealand does, just taking that fact in isolation ignores the remarkable tumble the sector has taken. It is well known for example that in the 1970s New Zealand was ranked first in the world for reading, whereas today we are down somewhere in the 20s. Taking the fact that we have reasonable education in isolation also ignores just how much effect inequality is having on this performance and in education’s ability to allow those at the bottom of our socio-economic well to successfully climb out.

HOW LIFE INSIDE THE CLASSROOM IS EFFECTED BY INEQUALITY

In New Zealand, schools are funded according to their decile – a crude system that divides the schools of the country into tenth percentiles based around samples of income in the surrounding community. In theory the lower the decile the school is, the more funding it should get. The decile system though is tainted by its association to neo-liberal policy, and the accompanying neo-liberal perspective that sees no social ill that can’t be fixed by tweaking a formula in Excel. Therefore, while this system is admirable in intentions, it is depressingly predictable in its lack of efficacy when it comes to the more complex nuances of funding. If every school had the same number of students from the same percentage of different socio-economic backgrounds, with the exact same learning requirements then using the decile as the sole funding yardstick might actually work. But this isn’t reality sadly. Schools vary wildly, but the decile system implies that the socioeconomic situation of the community surrounding the school has no further impact on the financial operations of the school, other than as a classification tool. Thus the funding is well off where it needs to be and schools are becoming ever more reliant on donations and contributions that are understandably harder to accrue in lower socio-economic regions.

As far back as 2003 this was painfully obvious. In that year an annual conference paper from the Post Primary Teacher’s Association (PPTA) found that secondary schools were becoming increasingly dependent on locally raised funds to meet their funding shortfalls which had the following consequences:

A trend of rising parental expenditure on education and considerable differences between schools based on the communities they serve;

• “User pays” reinforcing institutionalised inequity between well-off schools and those which were struggling;

School leaders assuming financial/managerial roles rather than educational leadership;

Some schools simply accepting the inevitability of a budget deficit, regarding it as one way of letting the government know there is insufficient money.

To give you an idea of just how different community contributions are you just need to examine the numbers. In 2012 decile 1 schools were able to get an average donation of $53.00 from anywhere between 30 and 100 students. For decile 2 students the figures were better – $92.00 on average from between 50 and 120 students. But these pale in comparison to what the higher decile schools could collect. Decile 9 schools were able to get an average of $379.00 from between 125 and 740 students while decile 10 schools were able to harvest $423.00 from between 250 and an astonishing 900 pupils. In essence the schools that have the pupils that probably need the least financial help from the community get well and truly the most, while the students that could benefit hugely from this extra generosity tend to be located in the poorest regions of the country, where social conditions are so bad at present, that just looking after your own family is troubling enough.

Additionally today’s educational costs have risen dramatically as we understand more about how to utilise non-teaching staff within the environment, particularly in administration, compliance, social work, and medical assistance. And that is not even bringing up the fact that technology, while no doubt being an invaluable tool for the sector, has brought up the cost of operating a classroom significantly.

But funding is only one issue when it comes to inequality. Cathy Wylie, a chief researcher at the New Zealand Centre for Educational Research has incredible insight about how the inequality of status in schools is crippling the ability of those in the lower deciles to improve. In the 2013 book Inequality: A New Zealand Crisis, Wylie points out that because New Zealand has a policy emphasis on parental choice, coupled with stand-alone, self-managing schools that compete for students ‘many low decile schools are smaller than they were and less able to attract their community’s higher performing students who migrate to higher decile schools’.

And inequality is not just erecting hurdles that block retention of students – because of inequality lower decile schools also face enormous obstacles to recruit and retain an experienced faculty. Wylie demonstrates that even in 2012, during the economic downturn 20% of decile 1-2 secondary school principals had difficulty finding suitable teachers, while comparatively only 3% of the decile 9-10 secondary schools did. Compounding this issue further though is the fact that teaching in lower decile schools has become brutally hard due to the nature of the schools being under resourced, and the litany of issues caused by poverty. Inevitably this leads to a higher burnout rate amongst these already over-burdened teachers who often have to implement social development programmes (that are admittedly well-meaning and often effective), without any administrative support– to the point where lower decile teachers rank 31.8 on a scale measuring indicators of work related burnout compared to 24.2 for their upper decile colleagues.

HOW OUTSIDE INEQUALITY COMPOUNDS THE ISSUE IN THE CLASSROOM

Hekia Parata, the current National Party hack that has been awarded the poisoned chalice that is the education portfolio, goes to great lengths to actively alienate school faculty by placing the blame for New Zealand’s slide in education quality squarely at their feet. By misusing OECD data, Parata has repeatedly made the idiotic claim that socio-economic background accounts for only 18% of student achievement. Martin Thrupp, a professor of Education at the University of Waikato (and one of the most respected and influential voices on education in New Zealand) has slammed this notion, pointing out that if you take into consideration neighbourhood and school socio-economic factors the figure skyrockets to 78%. In other words, Hekia only considers what is literally inside a family’s four walls as being an indicator of their socio-economic standing. Which for want of a better term, is fucking stupid.

Thrupp has made repeated calls for policy makers to acknowledge the role of ‘middle class advantage’ in perverting the equality of accessibility in education. Thrupp is so aware of this ‘middle class advantage’ that he has been happy to highlight the gains his own family have made thanks to it. In a New Zealand Herald column Thrupp asked himself the question of what worked for his daughter (who had just graduated University) and answered ‘I think it has mostly been general middle class advantage. Two professional parents and the language environment that goes with that. Being read to frequently as a small child and access to good early childhood education. Living and holidaying overseas for several years. Attending schools with mainly advantaged peers and whose teachers were able to capitalise on all the advantages those children and young people were bringing to school’. Thrupp is adamant that the question of middle class advantage is crucial to understanding why we have such massive disparities in our education sector, and he argues in another paper entitled Some Inconvenient Truths About Education in Aotearoa/New Zealand that ‘it appears education policy is shaped and bounded by electoral pressures and doing anything to assist children from low-income families and neighbourhoods is regarded as politically risky’.

Extrapolating on the long term effects of this political viewpoint Thrupp then points out that ‘failing to raise middle class advantage in education as an issue, politicians and policymakers imply that it is a natural part of the world order over which they have no control. And so we have a society where most people see putting their child into a high socio-economic school as value free’. What this simply means is that due to a cynical political strategy of avoidance, we have a situation in New Zealand where certain people cannot actually even conceptualise the reality of poverty, and thus simply assume that the inequality we have must be natural. By extension then, there are many middle New Zealanders who simply can’t conceive of the fact that those whose schooling life is conducted in lower decile schools are punished right from the start of their lives.

“Amanda illuminated the idiocy of claiming to want more kids in school, while then shooting down the most cost effective and beneficial method of guaranteeing that children would actually show up”

I recently spoke to a former Primary School teacher named Amanda who worked in decile 1A School and some of what she told me was sickening. The reality of the poverty she dealt with would seem implausible to those that have never conceptualised poverty in New Zealand and the brutality of it is neutered by trying to compress it into a few sentences. Amanda told me about the never ending cycles of violence, hunger, and sickness that she encountered while working. She told me about how she spent at least half of her salary buying things like equipment and food for the classroom, because often the only time the children ate was when they were at school. The homes of many of her students didn’t have luxuries like pens and balls that could be found at school. When I asked her about the recent decision to not fund ‘breakfast in schools’ she brought a perspective to the issue that is sorely lacking from the ministerial hacks that currently occupy our debating chamber. She pointed out that for some of the parents in her school it was too embarrassing to send the kids to school without food, so they wouldn’t send the children at all. Amanda illuminated the idiocy of claiming to want more kids in school, while then shooting down the most cost effective and beneficial method of guaranteeing that children would actually show up.

The government seemed blissfully oblivious to the plight of the ‘wonderful’ children that Amanda adored, and one of the breaking points for her came when the charity KidsCan came into her school, but couldn’t provide enough shoes for everyone. She was forced to choose amongst a whole classroom of children that needed shoes, who would actually get them. The next day as the lucky few who couldn’t believe how fortunate they were to have a pair of shoes came to school excited, the other children were broken-hearted and couldn’t understand why their shoes that were falling apart were considered adequate footwear in the eyes of the staff. Amanda loved these children and spent at least 80 hours a week doing everything she could to protect them and help them. Understandably, recapping this anecdote to me was emotional and tough going for her.

Educationally, the issues only added to the toll. It was not uncommon to encounter students from different cultural backgrounds who not only had no concept of reading, but had no concept of a book or what words were. Rather than being able to simply launch into the basic elements of how to read and write, she found herself in the unenviable task of having to help five year olds conceptualise the very notion of reading. When Thrupp points out that the value of reading in the home is one of those things that middle class families often forget about when they ignore their advantage, it is exactly these kinds of fundamentally abstract issues that he was referring to. Again – this is how schooling in the lower decile communities starts. The schools have the most challenges to face, the most work to do, and the most disadvantaged members of the electorate are underfunded, ignored, and blamed for the very problems that they are trying to fix. These issues don’t simply stop once the students get to High School – they carry on, morphing into further issues that of course occur when you add hormonal changes and puberty into the mix.

Due to a variety of historical systemic factors Maori and Pacific students are well and truly over represented in the lower socio-economic areas of New Zealand and face the consequences of being in this group. Education is one of the most notable of these areas, and one of the most distressing as education should be the main force to counteract this inequality. According to statistics from Victoria University there is only a 50.6% retention rate for Maori students in High School (to age 17) compared to 75.4% for non-Maori, and only half the number of Maori students will achieve NCEA level 2 in comparison to their non-Maori counterparts. This has inevitably helped create a situation where youth unemployment for Maori in New Zealand is at a woeful 22.4%, compared to just over 9% for non-Maori. The cycle of poverty in inequality only gets entrenched and strengthened by these figures.

“We are currently at a crossroads in New Zealand.

Everything that was good about our education system is being rapidly pissed away by ideologues who received the gift of a free world class education when they were younger but don’t think today’s young people deserve the same opportunity.”

We are currently at a crossroads in New Zealand. Everything that was good about our education system is being rapidly pissed away by ideologues who received the gift of a free world class education when they were younger but don’t think today’s young people deserve the same opportunity. We still have a better education than a lot of countries, but it is quickly deteriorating because of the rampant inequality that has been sewn into it through thirty plus years of devotion to an economic religion that is starting to collapse. We can either choose to acknowledge that there is something very wrong with our system, and stop blaming the overworked, overburdened, underpaid, and under-resourced staff that do this work because they love the children they teach – or alternatively we can let the whole thing get to the point where only the rich can get a decent education, and the poor will simply go to school to have their spirits crushed, and to learn how to do menial labour. You might not think that’s your problem right now – but unless you’re currently sitting in the top 10% of earners in this country, it will become your problem very, very soon.

By Bevan Morgan.

Read more from Bevan here.

Punishing poor children to prove a point is bad economics as well as cruel – Bevan Morgan

defend the children of the poor

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/

Parental engagement, not real estate, is key to student success – NZEI Press Release

nzei logoAuckland parents who want the best education for their children would be better investing in time and support for their child’s learning instead of fretting over real estate, says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Louise Green.

“Children are successful when parents have the time, energy and focus to support their children’s learning.  That starts with a strong partnership between parents and quality early childhood education services and extends into support for children and their learning at school.

She says an article in the NZ Herald today suggesting parents could save money by buying outside so-called elite school zones and instead pay for private education simply perpetuates a very misleading myth about education.

“New Zealand has a high quality public education system.  Great teaching and learning happens in schools right across the country – at all deciles.  There is no evidence that a child will achieve better educational success at a private or “elite” public school.

“The biggest indicator of a student’s success is their home environment.  Children succeed when they have parents who put time, energy and commitment into supporting their learning.

“To suggest that parents stress about either committing huge amounts of money to buy in certain school zones or on private school fees shows a lack of understanding about education.  And this could even be damaging to children.

“One of the biggest challenges facing education is anxiety and time-poor parenting.  Teachers see this time and again.  We also see it in poorer communities where parents often have no choice but to work extremely long hours on very low pay and still struggle to provide basic necessities.  That’s why NZEI supports the Living Wage campaign.”

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

State housing sell-off will harm vulnerable children – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

“The government’s planned sell-off of state housing will cause serious harm to the education of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children”, says QPEC Spokesperson John Minto.

Pushing more low-income families into the private housing market and social housing will mean another increase in transience (children changing schools frequently) because more families will struggle to pay the higher rents.

Housing from private landlords and social housing providers is typically much more expensive than income-related rents provided through state housing. When income-related rents were introduced, school transience reduced.  This policy will have the opposite effect.

The effect will be to destabilise more families and increase the educationally-disastrous levels of transience. Some schools in low-income areas already have a student turnover of more than half their school roll each year because of transience related directly to poverty.

These transient children are the students who are failing. They make up the “long tail of underachievement” the government says it wants to address.

However National’s policy of selling state houses will increase the huge pool of children changing schools frequently. It will throw up more barriers to education for the children who need the most help.

“Selling state houses is a very cynical policy targeted at families already struggling with issues related to poverty and inequality. John Key’s trademark is to be able to say with a straight face that policies that are destructive to the poor are good for everyone. But there is no good news story with this announcement – only another rise in housing costs for those least able to afford it”, says John Minto.

State housing provides affordable income related rents and helps stabilise families. We need more state houses to stabilise more children and enable them to succeed at school.  QPEC challenges the government to find any family paying income-related rents who will be better off or have a more stable existence as a result of this policy.

John Minto

QPEC

Feed The Kids Bill – please email j.key@ministers.govt.nz by 3rd Nov

feed the kidsLast 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  j.key@ministers.govt.nz 

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/

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.

 

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