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Money will miss most vulnerable

ROSE CAWLEY
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014
May Rd school
Rose Cawley
BETTER CHANGE: Grandmother Nga Arona, May Road School principal Lynda Stuart, Board of Trustees chairperson Fono Tigafua-Finau and mother Waajidah Vahora oppose the government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success programme.

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There has to be a better way to spend $359 million.

That's the message from one low decile Auckland school after hearing the government has set aside $359 million for the Investing in Educational Success programme in the 2014 budget.

The principal and community of May Road School say the policy is channelling money into the pockets of individuals rather than helping New Zealand's most vulnerable students.

Nga Arona, 59, has five grandchildren at the Mt Roskill school.

"There is a lot of poverty out there," she says.

"It is hard to see children come to school without lunch and no shoes when the government has money they could be giving them."

She says quality teaching is important, but it has a limited impact if the children's stomachs are empty.

The programme would see the introduction of four new roles: executive principals, change principals, expert teachers and lead teachers, as well as a teacher-led innovation fund.

Those individual teachers' and principals' salaries would be topped-up by the government. For example a change principal would receive an extra $50,000 per year on top of their salary.

The initiative aims to raise student achievement by increasing the quality of teaching and leadership. But May Road School would rather see that money used to address class sizes, give more support to new entrant students who have English as their second language, fund more support teachers and tackle poverty.

Board of Trustees member and mother Waajidah Vahora says parents are crucial to the equation but they haven't been included in the decision.

"There wasn't enough time for any consideration, there wasn't enough time for us to think of other ways," she says.

"There are many ways to use that money, so find other ways, show us how you want to use it and we will tell you if that is going to work for our children."

Principal Lynda Stuart says the process behind the programme hasn't been transparent.

"The working group and all the development around the report that has gone to the minister has all been kind of secret squirrel," she says.

"It is all there but it isn't in the public, it is just beavering away in the background and that is a danger - something is going to be done to schools across New Zealand and by the time we know it is going to be too late."

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the influence of poverty on educational success is not being underestimated.

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But the government can't wait for poverty to be weeded out before it starts to tackle the inequitable education system.

"We've got a prime minister that is from a state home and a sole parent and a minister of education that is from a state home with a sole parent - it was education that made the difference," she says.

"Teachers didn't say, ‘well you've got such a poor background we need to fix that before we can teach you'."

Parata says in the next two or three weeks she will take the working group paper back to cabinet.

"At that point there will be further and wider conversations so it is an ongoing process," she says.

"It is not intended to be implemented until next year so we will have had 18 months to two years of conversation and development before it is implemented."

- Central Leader

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