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Need for concrete social initiatives in schools

17th February 2012
For Immediate Release

Need for concrete social initiatives in schools to help lift children out of poverty

The education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa says it’s time to start looking at some concrete social initiatives in schools and early childhood centres which can make a meaningful difference to lifting children out of poverty.

The Salvation Army’s State of the Nation Report, The Growing Divide, gives New Zealand a C- for its efforts to deal with child poverty. It says in the past year there has been no progress towards reducing rates of child poverty. 1 in 6 Pakeha, 1 in 4 Pacific, and 1 in 3 Māori children are now likely to live in relative poverty.

Teachers in schools and early childhood services deal with the consequences of child poverty everyday and see the effect it has on a child’s ability to learn.

NZEI President Ian Leckie says “issues around poverty play a large part in children’s underachievement, particularly in the outcomes for the children who make up New Zealand’s so-called tail of underachievement. We know that schools are increasingly reliant on breakfast clubs and charities to help give children the basics like food and clothing just so they can be in a position to learn”.

“We need to start looking at and debating some concrete policy initiatives such as having nurses attached to clusters of schools and ECE centres who can liaise with families and social services, providing free school lunches, or establishing a robust network of school community and social workers. These are solutions that could make a meaningful difference to our children and should be put on the table”.

There is currently a great deal of political focus on child poverty and the government’s Green Paper on Vulnerable Children is out for public consultation.

Ian Leckie says it’s about priorities.

“As a society we need to ensure that children are well-fed, well-housed and well-clothed so they are in a position to get the most out of their education”.

“We don’t want children missing out on opportunities through no fault of their own. The millions of dollars going into National Standards would be better spent on providing more resources or funding initiatives which meet the basic needs of children,” says Mr Leckie.

ENDS

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