August 7th 2008
Poverty Report Recommendations Must Be Taken On Board
The education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa is welcoming the recommendations made in a report on child poverty, which underlines the effect poverty can have on a child's learning.
NZEI says the report, "A Fair Go for all Children" commissioned by the Office of the Children's Commissioner and Barnardos, urges a broader social response to child poverty, and wants to see greater government and community commitment in tackling it.
Issues around poverty play a large part in children's underachievement, particularly in the outcomes for the 20 percent of children who make up New Zealand's so-called long tail of underachievement.
NZEI National President Frances Nelson says this latest report rightly identifies poverty as a major barrier to a child's ability to fully participate and get the most of their education. It states that poverty leads to developmental delay and lower educational attainment.
"Learning outcomes and poverty go hand in hand and as a society we need to address the social factors to ensure that children are well fed, well housed and well-clothed so they can get the most out of their learning. This report points to a wider social and government commitment to improving the lot of all New Zealand families and communities," Ms Nelson says.
NZEI is pleased to see the report emphasise the importance of good quality, free or low cost early childhood education as vital to a child's development. It recommends better access to early childhood education particularly for Maori and Pasifika children and in low income communities. It wants to see the age range and number of hours of free early childhood care and education extended.
NZEI has repeatedly said that if the government is serious about improving education underachievement it needs to directly provide early childhood education to those who need it most.
Ms Nelson says a planned national network of public early childhood education centres and recruitment of more qualified ECE teachers is needed to ensure every child has access to early childhood education."
NZEI also welcomes the report's recommendation to provide additional support and funding to lower decile schools linked to programmes such as reading recovery and professional development.
"We hope the government embraces the recommendations in this report, as it sets up a system of realistic indicators and targets to try and tackle child poverty. Child poverty is not an issue which educators and health professionals should be left to take responsibility for. Children's health, well-being and learning opportunities are the responsibility of society as a whole," says Ms Nelson.