Principal details school welfare role

The social welfare of children has become a responsibility for the wider community, Marlborough Boys' College principal Wayne Hegarty says.

A new policy paper released on Thursday by the Child Poverty Action Group called for compulsory education policies aimed at addressing children's disadvantages outside the school gates to help their chances inside the classroom and later in life.

Hegarty said the college had been running pastoral programmes for its students for some time, as had Marlborough Girls' College, in order to contribute to their overall wellbeing.

"There's no debate that schools have a greater role to play in supporting the students and young people today than what they had in the past."

As well as the pastoral programmes, the college also had help from businesses, including Dowsons Shoes, which helped provide students with shoes, and it offered breakfast to students three days per week, Hegarty said.

Societal changes meant families often needed extra support in providing for their children, he said.

"It's acknowledging, and it's one of the biggest challenges that we have in education at the moment, that we are not only teachers of subjects and the like, but the reality is that we are significant players in the students' socialisation, really."

The Child Poverty Action Group report said the school system was failing to help students overcome poverty and socio-economic disadvantage, as children from impoverished backgrounds struggled to keep up.

Its author, Professor John O'Neill, associate director of research at Massey University's Institute of Education, said more than 285,000 New Zealand children, or one in four, lived in poverty.

Students' abilities and aspirations were influenced by factors both in and out of school, but a child's daily circumstances played an important role.

Meeting poverty-stricken students' immediate needs would improve their educational outcomes and their futures, O'Neill said.

The report recommended 10 policies aimed at lifting the educational achievement of deprived Kiwi kids, including a reduction in class sizes for low decile primary schools, decile 1 to 4 schools being developed as community hubs to provide education, health, parenting, budgeting, community law and social services, and providing free lunch and breakfast in low decile schools.

The Marlborough Express