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Teachers “gobsmacked” at Minister’s poverty claims

17 August 2012

Teachers “gobsmacked” at Minister’s poverty claims

Teachers and principals from schools in poorer areas are shocked and astounded at the Social Development Minister’s claims that measuring poverty is “too difficult because people move in and out of poverty on a daily and weekly basis.”

The principal of a decile one school in Tauranga says she is “gobsmacked” at Paula Bennett’s claims.

“Poverty is a reality for many kids on an ongoing and daily basis. I see the effects of poverty every day at school,” says Merivale school principal Jan Tinetti.

“Everyday we have kids coming to school cold and hungry. These kids have no shoes, no jerseys, no lunches. We have children getting sick and staying sick because families can’t afford medical treatment.”

Despite huge strides the school makes in children’s learning, Ms Tinetti says it’s clear children at her school are disadvantaged in their learning simply because of poverty.

“This is not something that can be blamed on the parents of these kids”, she says. “Every child is loved by parents who are struggling to do their utmost to give their children opportunities. But it’s poverty that is holding them back.”

The effect that poverty has on health is hugely significant and in the six years that Jan Tinetti has been at the school she’s noticed it’s getting worse.

“We’ve had a lot more children seriously ill and hospitalized this winter including one child at Starship in a critical condition – with an illness that started as untreated school sores.”

And she knows that the stigma of poverty, especially in an area regarded as affluent such as Tauranga, has an impact on the morale of the children at her school.

NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Ian Leckie says poverty and inequality are the biggest causes of educational underachievement and teachers at low decile schools work hard to ensure those children get a good education.

He says it’s ironic that the government is prepared to spend huge amounts of money in measuring and publishing dodgy and untested National Standards but is not prepared to measure the level of poverty when that is the single-biggest cause of educational underachievement in this country.


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