Money will miss most vul­ner­a­ble

Central Leader - - NEWS - By ROSE CAWLEY

THERE has to be a bet­ter way to spend $359 mil­lion.

That’s the mes­sage from one low decile Auck­land school af­ter hear­ing the govern­ment has set aside $359 mil­lion for the In­vest­ing in Ed­u­ca­tional Suc­cess pro­gramme in the 2014 budget.

The prin­ci­pal and com­mu­nity of May Road School say the pol­icy is chan­nelling money into the pock­ets of in­di­vid­u­als rather than help­ing New Zealand’s most vul­ner­a­ble stu­dents.

Nga Arona, 59, has five grand­chil­dren at the Mt Roskill school.

‘‘There is a lot of poverty out there,’’ she says.

‘‘It is hard to see chil­dren come to school with­out lunch and no shoes when the govern­ment has money they could be giv­ing them.’’

She says qual­ity teach­ing is im­por­tant, but it has a limited im­pact if the chil­dren’s stom­achs are empty.

The pro­gramme would see the in­tro­duc­tion of four new roles: ex­ec­u­tive prin­ci­pals, change prin­ci­pals, ex­pert teach­ers and lead teach­ers, as well as a teacher-led in­no­va­tion fund.

Those in­di­vid­ual teach­ers’ and prin­ci­pals’ salaries would be topped-up by the govern­ment. For ex­am­ple a change prin­ci­pal would re­ceive an ex­tra $50,000 per year on top of their salary.

The ini­tia­tive aims to raise stu­dent achieve­ment by in­creas­ing the qual­ity of teach­ing and lead­er­ship. But May Road School would rather see that money used to ad­dress class sizes, give more sup­port to new en­trant stu­dents who have English as their sec­ond lan­guage, fund more sup­port teach­ers and tackle poverty.

Board of Trustees mem­ber and mother Waa­ji­dah Va­hora says par­ents are cru­cial to the equa­tion but they haven’t been in­cluded in the de­ci­sion.

‘‘There wasn’t enough time for any con­sid­er­a­tion, there wasn’t enough time for us to think of other ways,’’ she says.

‘‘There are many ways to use that money, so find other ways, show us how you want to use it and we will tell you if that is go­ing to work for our chil­dren.’’

Prin­ci­pal Lynda

Stu­art says the process be­hind the pro­gramme hasn’t been trans­par­ent.

‘‘The work­ing group and all the de­vel­op­ment around the re­port that has gone to the min­is­ter has all been kind of se­cret squir­rel,’’ she says.

‘‘It is all there but it isn’t in the pub­lic, it is just beaver­ing away in the back­ground and that is a dan­ger – some­thing is go­ing to be done to schools across New Zealand and by the time we know it is go­ing to be too late.’’

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hekia Parata says the in­flu­ence of poverty on ed­u­ca­tional suc­cess is not be­ing un­der­es­ti­mated.

But the govern­ment can’t wait for poverty to be weeded out be­fore it starts to tackle the in­equitable ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

‘‘We’ve got a prime min­is­ter that is from a state home and a sole par­ent and a min­is­ter of ed­u­ca­tion that is from a state home with a sole par­ent – it was ed­u­ca­tion that made the dif­fer­ence,’’ she says.

‘‘Teach­ers didn’t say, ‘ well you’ve got such a poor back­ground we need to fix that be­fore we can teach you’.’’

Parata says in the next two or three weeks she will take the work­ing group paper back to cab­i­net.

‘‘At that point there will be fur­ther and wider con­ver­sa­tions so it is an on­go­ing process,’’ she says.

‘‘It is not in­tended to be im­ple­mented un­til next year so we will have had 18 months to two years of con­ver­sa­tion and de­vel­op­ment be­fore it is im­ple­mented.’’

Photo: ROSE CAWLEY

Bet­ter change: Grand­mother Nga Arona, May Road School Board of Trustees chair­woman Fono Ti­ga­fuaFinau and mother Waa­ji­dah Va­hora op­pose the Govern­ment’s $359 mil­lion In­vest­ing in Ed­u­ca­tional Suc­cess pro­gramme.

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