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National Education, 16 October 2006

National Education
16 October 2006

Study confirms what teachers know

A Christchurch-based longitudinal study on 1265 children from birth confirms that good management of severe behavioural children has big payoffs for the wider community. The subjects in this study are now 30 years old. Dr David Ferguson who runs the study says conduct disorder between the ages of 6 and 10 is the strongest indicator of future problems with prison, addiction, suicide and violence. Schools are in the best position to identify these children but they can't be left on their own to deal with them. Schools need more options to get these students on the right track.

We Know Their Names

While behavioural problems look huge to the school dealing with them, nationally the problem is manageable. Teachers I talk to tell me that they know the names of the difficult students in their area and so do the social agencies. In one town I was told that of 11 children in the CYFS home, 8 had the same grandparents. 10 years ago government set out a blueprint for improving mental health services, at a time when the problems looked overwhelming. Services and skills today are much better. Severe behaviour needs the same approach - long-term consistent improvements in services, skills and pathways. It's one useful thing Steve Maharey could do in his unspectacular tenure.

Integrated Schools Too Integrated?

While government policy is that all schools are the same, parents and children are sensitive to diversity and part of that diversity is integrated schools. Government policy on integrated schools is confused. On the one hand the Ministry is more aggressive about zoning integrated schools as if they are part of the state network. Integrated schools are not obliged to institute geographical zones and they should not be bullied into it.

On the other hand, Steve Maharey appears to have loosened up on roll caps on integrated schools. At least two integrated schools have been given significant roll increases recently against the wishes of surrounding state schools. National supports more choice and we applaud this move. In the long run integrated schools should continue to develop and assert their distinctiveness. They should not cave in to Government pressure for sameness.


A growing number of redundancies in universities and polytechs demonstrate that the days of endless growth are over and no amount of government funding or clever strategy can save institutions from market pressures. The next logical step is consolidation and rationalisation as universities and polytechs adjust to fault or declining enrolments.

Consolidation and specialisation is a predictable result in an EFTS system where change is driven, as it should be, by student choices. Tertiary institutions will now have to sort out their strengths and weaknesses and some long talked about specialisation may develop momentum. Cullen's proposed funding changes are likely to hold up progress by holding out false hope that changes can be avoided.

Bill English


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