Answer to school transience needed

TAO LIN
Last updated 05:00 05/06/2014
Phil Palfrey and students
Tao Lin

CHANGE NEEDED: Manurewa East School principal Phil Palfrey says society needs to be more child-centred if issues around student mobility in schools are to be addressed. From left: Robert Elive, Jai Namoa, Phil Palfrey, Breize Rawiri and James Filipo.

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A primary school principal is calling for adults to think more about the needs of children after the release of a report on transience in Auckland schools.

The Child Poverty Action Group revealed in its report The revolving door: Student mobility in Auckland schools that transience, or student mobility, is a significant issue that negatively impacts students in low decile schools.

It based the report on a survey that looked at student turnover rates of 52 schools in south and west Auckland.

Manurewa schools had the highest turnover rate, where two of the 14 schools surveyed in the area had rates of more than 60 per cent.

Manurewa East School principal Phil Palfrey says transience is a big problem for his school, which has a 32 per cent turnover rate.

It's damaging for young people when they're changing schools constantly, he says.

"If you're moving children all the time it's hard for them to establish good relationships with other children and teachers."

Palfrey says parents can help by making sure they get their little ones to school and let them stay there for the whole school day.

"We have to insist that children come to school every day and they come to school on time. Sometimes adults don't think of how it affects the children," he says.

"Our society needs to be child-centred."

Report chief researcher Donna Wynd says children who live in low-income families are the ones most likely to move frequently.

"Transience just adds another layer of disadvantage," she says.

It might make that disadvantage worse if children are unable to form long-term relationships with other people, leading to behavioural problems, she says.

Education Review Office reports show transient students are often behind their peers in learning as well.

"Education is key to economic progress for poor children but these kids are left at the starting gate. Put simply, they do not have equality of opportunity," Wynd says.

A lack of affordable housing is at the heart of transience issues, she says.

The report shows a strong link between high student mobility rates and areas with a high proportion of rental housing.

That means families might move around often depending on rent and housing availability and pull children in and out of school depending on where they're living.

Wynd says the education sector can't resolve all transience issues on its own.

"We must address the causes of transience by introducing housing policies that actively address the shortage of secure, affordable housing in areas where low-income families live."

The revolving door: Student mobility in Auckland schools report was launched at Manurewa East School last week.

Go to cpag.org.nz to download a copy of the report.

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- Manukau Courier

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