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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.

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

What are National Standards really being used for?

national standardsThe National Government needs to come clean about its plans to link controversial National Standards data, such as those released today, to future decisions about school funding and teacher pay.

The 2013 National Standards data shows marginal improvement in results across the narrow part of the curriculum being measured – reading, writing and maths – but NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said the latest results were just as unreliable and meaningless as the previous data.

“Teachers still have no faith in National Standards, but use them simply because they have no choice,” she said.

“What the results show is what they have always shown – the strong link between socio-economic background and student achievement. We are more concerned about how the government plans to use this dodgy data in the future.”

In March, Education Minister Hekia Parata told the Herald on Sunday newspaper that the government was looking to fund schools according to the progress students made in National Standards. The Minister also told media when the government’s “Investing in Educational Success” policy was announced in January that National Standards would be used to measure the success of the proposed “communities of schools”.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said that with the General Election approaching, the government needed to front up to parents and teachers about its plans.

“This is an election year and New Zealanders have a right to know what the government’s real plans are if it wins the election.

“We challenge the Education Minister to assure voters that there is absolutely no intention to move towards a system that funds schools or teachers according to National Standards performance,” said Ms Nowotarski.

“Schools should be funded according to the needs of their students, to ensure equal education opportunities for every child, regardless of their background. I can’t imagine anything more unfair than taking funding from schools in disadvantaged communities and giving it to schools where kids are already making great progress thanks to their socio-economic background.

Ms Nowotarski said such a move would be absolutely disastrous for education in this country and children would end up as the collateral damage.

Ms Nowotarski said teachers and parents were not impressed with the government’s plan to spend $359 million on four highly-paid new roles as part of its “Investing in Educational Success” policy. Surveys have shown that teachers and parents would prefer supporting children more directly through smaller class sizes, more special education support and high quality early childhood education.

“Ultimately, the real question parents and  school communities want answered is when will the government address the real causes of educational underachievement – poverty and inequity – instead of doggedly pursuing its ideological experiments in education,” said Ms Nowotarski.

Ngati Porou section of the National Party at work, by Kelvin Smythe

Within a month, unless the two teacher organisations have united, and on an agreed programme, teachers will find themselves near powerless, and at the fate of Hekia Parata, Peter Hughes, John Key, John Hattie, Andreas Schleicher, Core, Cognition, and overseas multi-nationals. For this to happen, Phil Harding will probably need to be pushed aside. But that is up to him.

My ministry source tells me that the ministry coffee talk is all about how Hekia Parata and representatives of Nga-Kura-a-Iwi (Iwi Education Authority) seem to have worked together to harass Judith Nowotarski, president of NZEI.

Delegates at the conference were taken aback at the way Pem Bird and Hekia combined to to put Judith down.

What was that all about delegates asked?

The issue in question was the protest by NZEI in Auckland and Wellington against pay inequities of support staff in schools and the wider community.

Hekia set the tone, saying that ‘she was disappointed with the protest timing, especially given NZEI’s involvement in the organisation of the summit …’

Then a cold threat: ‘We will continue to try to work together but it does take two.’

I interpret this as utu from the National Party section of Ngati Porou. And I connect this behaviour to her behaviour to protect Edie Tawhiwhirangi over the kohanga reo scandal.

In respect to that scandal, I wish the matter had been exposed earlier so it could have been resolved better. Edie is a remarkable person (as an aside I played golf with her but she didn’t find me in great form that day) and deserved some kind of protection, but not the arrogantly absurd clumsy partisan way Hekia went about it.

Co-chairwoman of Nga-Kura-a-Iwi, Arihia Stirling, in a matching arrogantly absurd clumsy partisan way, chimed in about the NZEI marches, saying it was an ‘inappropriate time to be airing dirty linen.’

What? At a conference about inequity and its effects on education performance? Do we still live in a democracy? Or is it now democracy as defined by the National Party section of Ngati Porou?

However, Arihia, at least you agree in a roundabout that it is ‘dirty linen’. As a result, perhaps you could inform Sir Toby Curtis also of Nga-Kura-a-Iwi that the link between inequity and child performance is not ‘lame or dodgy’.

Oh, and Arihia, seeing you recognise the existence of inequity as dirty linen, meaning your criticism was really just the timing of the protest, can we expect you to be a prominent member on the next march about inequity and its effects on education?

Arihia goes on to say: ‘It’s wrong to do this now, we don’t have people in the streets, we don’t have people bleeding at the hands of the education sector … it’s poor judgement of the leadership of the union to do this at this time.’

Arihia, there weren’t people bleeding in the streets when the foreshore and seabed hikoi took place, either. And if you’ll excuse me saying – Maori, and good on them, are past masters at picking the right moments to make their hikoi point. Why shouldn’t they be? They feel strongly about their cause. As do NZEI marchers about theirs. Do you feel strongly about inequity Arihia? Or has something superseded that?

Readers should know that this little clique (with some others) has done a deal with Hekia to set up iwi schools, as a form of charter schools, to be lavishly funded, lightly supervised, and to be paid on ‘performance’.

The only problem is what to do with Kura kaupapa Maori. If only they would disappear in a puff of smoke.

Oh, happy days.

Education today in Aotearoa.

From all this, the lesson to be learned by those in teaching, is the absolute need for unity.

The policy on clusters set out by NZEI in their newsletter of April 2, 2014, is an excellent starting point – why not unite on that or something like it?

If the teacher organisations don’t unite then they will be picked off or made irrelevant. (In regard to the latter, they should know how that feels.)

~ by Kelvin Smythe

 

New plan to establish elite teachers ignores biggest hurdle to student success – NZEI

nzei logoCreating a new elite group of “change principals” and “expert teachers” misses the biggest reason children do not succeed at school – New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty and deprivation.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski says the Prime Minister’s announcement of $395 million for new principal and teacher roles and allowances does not address the key underlying causes of student underachievement – inequity and poverty.

Judith Nowotarski says the sector should have been consulted on the best way to use the new funding to support student learning.

“For example, we would like to see better support for students with special needs, a reversal of cuts to early childhood education, better professional development for teachers and school support staff, and extra assistance for students struggling with literacy and numeracy.

“NZEI has been working with the Ministry of Education for a long time to develop a career pathway that keeps expert teachers in the classroom and welcomes recognition of the importance of quality teaching and leadership.”

However, Mrs Nowotarski says members are concerned that aspects of the package -such as parachuting highly paid change managers into struggling schools – had not worked overseas and could increase competition rather than collaboration.

“Creating sustainable change requires genuine collaboration with teachers.   With “change principals” the government is again imposing a failed overseas experiment and putting ideology ahead of what will really work for children’s education.”

Collaborative strategy good news for schools, says PPTA

ppta logoGovernment plans to put resources into teaching and learning rather than finance and administration are being greeted with optimism by PPTA.

President Angela Roberts said Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that $359 million would be invested in teaching and school leadership over the next four years was a positive one.

She praised his commitment to ““support a culture of collaboration within and across schools” and said the creation of principal and teacher positions to provide leadership and support across communities of schools marked the beginning of a collaborative approach long sought by PPTA.

“Enabling schools to support each-other rather than compete against each-other is a good response to a problem that has bedeviled our education system since the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools,” Roberts said.

Acknowledging that this required resources to sustain was also a positive step, she said.

Roberts praised the strategy’s focus on providing time for principals and teachers to share their resources instead of dangling a financial carrot.

“It’s not just about rewarding individuals it is about providing them with time and enabling them to share what they know to support their colleagues across schools – and that rewards everyone.”

While Roberts was supportive of the new proposals she cautioned they would not solve all the problems New Zealand education faced.

poverty - bare feet“We still need to address inequality and poverty and support schools to become hubs for their communities to better meet their health and welfare needs.

“This policy won’t be a silver bullet, but it will be a very good place to start.”

Roberts also welcomed Key’s commitment to consult with unions about the proposals.

“We look forward to being involved in the development of these roles,” she said.

Greater equity vital for improving children’s learning

Paula Bennet on child povertyReversing the growing equity gap is vital if the government wants to improve student learning.

NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Judith Nowotarski says this is a view shared by many international education experts attending a major education conference in Wellington this week.

The Prime Minister is expected to focus on education in a speech tomorrow.

Mrs Nowotarski says international evidence is clear. Inequity equates to poorer outcomes for students while systems with high levels of equity have better student learning results.

“The government’s education, economic and social policies have resulted in greater inequity and this has done nothing to improve teaching and learning.”

She says there are a number of important policy changes the government could make if it is serious about improving opportunities and education for all children.

poverty and capitalism“We see the results of unfair policies and inequity every day in schools.  For instance, school support staff are vital to the running of schools and education of students.  Not only does poverty affect children’s learning directly, many support staff working in schools are not paid a living wage.  In fact, many are paid little more than the minimum wage of $13.75 an hour. 

“Cuts to professional development for teachers  and early childhood teacher-student ratios, along with National Standards and poorly paid support staff have clearly done nothing to improve educational outcomes for students.

“It’s time to take a different path – one of fairness and equity for children and their families – to get a lasting improvement in children’s educational success.”

poverty and school reform

 

 

Poorer Special Needs Students Get The Least Exam Help

examEveryone wants to know why our poorest children tend to get the worst exams results?  Well here’s one more cog in the machine that grinds them down.

It was reported today that if a student wants to access special assessment conditions (SAC) funds to help with exams and assessments, such as a reader for a dyslexic student, or a separate room for someone who is easily distracted, or someone who needs to use braille, then they first need an assessment.

That sounds reasonable – it’s fair to check that the student truly needs the different conditions and the funds to pay for it.

What is NOT fair or equitable is that the initial assessment has to be paid for by the student’s parents or whanau.

No assessment – no help for that exam.

Or more to the point:  No funds – no assessment – no help.

“The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand says the system benefits wealthy parents at private schools who have greater access compared to poor parents whose children miss out.”

Let’s look at some of the statistics of which schools got the most or least funding for SAC:

  • King’s College in Auckland (private) – 24.4 per cent of its 180 students got funding
  • Rudolf Steiner School in Christchurch (state integrated*) – 24 per cent of its 50 students got funding
  • Christchurch’s Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti (state) – 19.5 per cent of it students got  funding
  • St Andrew’s College, Christchurch (private) – 16 per cent of its pupils got funding
  • Otahuhu College (state, decile 1) – no SAC applications

That’s right.  Otahuhu had not one application for help despite having 4 times more students taking exams than nearby Kings College.

In fact the article in Stuff reports that “Nationwide, about 60 per cent of decile 1 to 3 schools made no requests for assistance for their pupils.”

Equitable System?

Just how fair is a system that relies on parents to pay for the initial assessment? How much are these assessments? Hundreds of dollars?

no money

Tell me how a family that cannot afford to heat their home can pay for that?

Yet again the have-nots get the shitty end of the stick.

And of course this will impact on students’ chances to do well at school and in exams; Without the proper assessment, they cannot get the correct support in class, let alone in exams, and they stand more chance of falling through the cracks.

Just another nail in the coffin for children of families with limited finances.

There’s a chance that would impact that long tail of under-achievement the National Party are fond of bandying around, don’t you think?

Change the System

It’s good to see that the system is being re-evaluated by the Ministry of Education, and I only hope they agree to fund assessments for those on low incomes.

Otherwise nothing changes, and the poorest are given the worst chance of success, yet again.

 

* Was previously noted as a private school, in error.  Changed 10.01 23/6/13.

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