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Education and poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand

Sales from book on poverty in schools will go back to the classroom

A new book that highlights issues surrounding poverty in our schools also offers messages of hope for the future, and highlights the work teachers do to help their pupils.

Twelve thousand hours: education and poverty in Aotearoa New Zealand, is edited by Dr Vicki M Carpenter and colleague Sue Osborne, and will be published by Dunmore.

Dr Carpenter says she decided to edit the book and invite contributions after many years of being aware that working class and/or poor children, despite their potential, usually do not reap the rewards of our education system. The book’s title comes from the estimated number of hours a child spends in compulsory/formal schooling (ages 5-16).

“Pretty much all of the data show that low decile schools’ outcomes are well below those of other schools. Most, but not all of the children we are talking about are Maori and Pasifika”. As Snook and O’Neill indicate in the first chapter, inequitable outcomes in education are largely due to factors outside of the school’s control – like hunger, household crowding, and health issues. While teachers and principals work very hard, schools are often under - resourced and classroom teachers face considerable pressures.

Very little extra community based funding is available to low decile schools, and this restricts what schools are able to offer students.

Both editors have indicated that all Royalties from the book will be donated to low-decile schools.

“The purpose of the book is to bring these issues to greater attention. The fact is if you are poor in this country you don't do as well in the education system as you could be doing. To me that's unacceptable.”

Dr Carpenter’s own education was in Porirua. She grew up in a state house in Titahi Bay, attended primary schools there, and then went on to Mana College. “The schools I attended are today called Decile 1 schools”. “I feel I had a very good education”.

What Vicki has seen during her 20-plus years teaching in low-decile communities in Porirua, South Auckland, Moerewa and the Hokianga, has both inspired and, more recently, saddened her.

“We have an education system now where kids don't all get the same things when they go to school. They arrive with disadvantages and when they go to school, their schools aren’t equitably resourced.”

Dr Carpenter says the situation in recent decades has worsened and inequalities have increased. Today’s policies allow families to contribute to their children’s education; while wealthy families are willing and able to do this it’s impossible for those in poverty.

“Kids are going to school in parts of Auckland; they haven't seen the sea, they haven't been over the Harbour Bridge. More and more of their education is funded by philanthropy. The communities just don't have the money to pay for school trips or extra IT.”

In recent years Vicki has lectured and researched in the Sociology of Education in the Faculty of Education. Much of the material surrounding poverty and education comes from the United States and focuses on the work being done to help disadvantaged Latino and African American children. Dr Carpenter felt there was a need for a local book that highlights the problems facing low decile primary and secondary schools, and the hard work of the many innovative people working there.

Contributors are all from NZ and they include include: Ivan Snook, John O’Neill, Martin Thrupp, Manuka Henare, Diane Mara, Donna Wynd, Karen Nairn, Jane Higgins, and Jane Blaikie. (see attachment for all names)

The book will be launched at Manurewa High School on Thursday, 28 August. At the same time there will be a panel discussion on “Our challenge, Education and Poverty in Aotearoa, New Zealand”. Panellists are Frances Nelson, Manuka Henare, Ivan Snook, and Angela Roberts, and the panel will be chaired by Fa’amalua Tipi. (see attachment, invitation)

Dr Carpenter hopes the book will inform people about education for children in poverty in New Zealand.

“We didn't want it to be a really depressing book, we didn't want people to read it and feel disheartened. At the same time the issues need to be more ‘out there’.

“As well as really opening up what's going on we also wanted to share hopeful and positive stories because there are a lot of them. I think the book achieves both things.”


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