By Tracy O'Brien | Posted: Tuesday September 19, 2017
Kia ora te Whanau ma o te kura tuarua o Kawana. Hello again to our Kavanagh Community
As you well know we have a national election this weekend-some of you may have already voted! Me, I like to do my democratic and civic duty on the day- flat white in hand. Good luck with your decision! It's certainly been an interesting buildup with the pundits and polls to-ing and fro-ing. Hard to know if the polls are accurate. It looks close but could there still be a landslide in either direction blue or red?
I generally try to remain apolitical as a good public servant should, however, I was asked to speak recently at a luncheon about things in the education sphere so gave my 5 cents worth. Essentially I argued that New Zealand was in danger of becoming like most other developed economies where the almighty dollar dictates the quality of, and the access to, education. The big issue is access and equity or fairness. As a country, we have traditionally been fairly egalitarian when it comes to education. Kiwis generally hold the belief that a fair go for all rules. Even in a rural community, the small primary school would deliver often greater outcomes than the bigger city schools. Secondary education is where things have become most contestable particularly in the bigger cities like Auckland where secondary placements are somewhat akin to a lolly scramble. Those that can move do in search of a "better" school. Big bucks are shelled out for a house "in-zone" or for a private school.
There are currently over 60,000 young adults in New Zealand between 18 and 24 who are classed as NEETs (not in employment, education or training). Think about that for a minute! That's two Forsyth Barr stadiums full to the brim of people NOT undertaking any training and not in work. It is an unspoken national tragedy. A huge waste of human resource not to mention the economic drain on the country. The data also shows that over 50% of this group is coming from about 20% of our secondary schools. Clearly, something isn't working.
Solutions to this situation are not simple but a good place to start is throwing every resource we can at early childhood and primary education. This may mean some adjustment to our funding formula which may not impress some of my secondary colleagues. The fact is there will never be enough dollars. However supporting and resolving issues around poverty, severe behavior, mental health and learning support is essential in the critical early years. If we haven't tackled this by age 12 at the latest it's a hard ask from there which is where we are now. We need a generational change to this issue if we are going to significantly dent that 60,000 in the long run. I'm surprised neither of the major parties have stepped up on this preferring to tinker around the edges. We need an all-out war on reducing inequities and supporting young families who are after all our children's first teachers.
Anyway one principal's view so good luck at the ballot box!
Nga mihi nui