Poverty, not poor teaching the problem

ANDREA O'NEIL
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014

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Poverty, not teaching quality, is the main reason for pupils' underachievement, according to Porirua's Holy Family School principal Karl Vasau.

"When a kid turns up cold, wet, hungry, tired, with sores, we've got to focus on getting them educated, fed and looked after."

Mr Vasau, whose school is decile 1, did not rate the success of a change or executive principal with no roots in a community. "In low-decile areas, communities need to trust and get to know their principal."

Government funds should be devoted to strengthening relationships between schools and families, so children were supported in their learning at home, he said.

However, Izzy Ford, a parent and board chairwoman at Rangikura School, a decile 2 Porirua primary, said any policy that lifted pupils' achievement was positive.

Dedicated and talented teachers deserved recognition for their efforts too, she said. But they were already strapped for time and energy, and any added role would only increase that.

"That won't go down at all if it puts unnecessary strain on teachers."

Keeping good teachers and promoting them without lumping them with administration work was a great aspect of the policy, Tawa College principal Murray Lucas said.

"Teachers shouldn't be totally promoted to be outside the teaching profession."

However, he said overcoming culture change could be a problem for executive principals. "Just because you're good in one school with its particular flavour doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be good in another area."

A better use of the money might have been to follow the Finnish education model, where teachers were funded to spend time outside the classroom, networking with and getting professional development from other teachers, he said.

Wellington College principal Roger Moses said time would be a challenge for an executive principal. "I'm struggling to get my job done on 6 days a week."

Principals should have the flexibility to reward great teachers, but it would be worrying if the policy disincentivised other teachers, he said.

However, the cash injection was overwhelmingly positive. "It's tremendous that the Government is prepared to put a lot of extra money into education as a priority."

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- The Dominion Post

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