Children in poverty 'lost' to education system

JESSICA TASMAN-JONES
Last updated 05:00 29/05/2012
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NO INTEREST: 70 per cent of youth offenders are not engaged with school.

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At least 1000 Auckland children are "lost" to the education system with 70 per cent of youth offenders not engaged with school at all, a new report reveals.

Poverty is so bad some children are growing up sharing small homes with other families - one family to a room.

The sad findings are contained in a report to Mayor Len Brown, called The Children and Young People of Auckland, which includes insights from a Youth Court judge, the office of the Children's Commissioner and youth panels and advocacy groups.

It will be used to develop an action plan for Auckland's children and young people to be completed by the end of this year.
The results of deprivation are acutely seen in the justice system, according to principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft, with most serious youth offenders from pockets of a "third generational, permanent underclass".

"Those who appear in the Youth Court share distressingly similar characteristics and we must not shrink from naming them," he states.

Most come from family dysfunction where there is no positive male role model and 79 per cent have a history of abuse and neglect.

He said non-enrolment rather than truancy is a common theme with 70 per cent not engaged with school or education in any way.

In Auckland he claims at least 1000 young people are "lost" to the education system.

Youth Court judges, he said, rarely see children who have strong connections to family, education, peers and their community. They hardly ever see youth who are involved in sport, cultural groups, youth groups or waka ama.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the OECD with 18 per cent of children living under the bread line.

The report acknowledges many Auckland children grow up happy and healthy, but there are populations of significant deprivation, most notably in Maori and Pacific populations.

Children account for about a third of the city's population.

In 2012, 68 per cent of the city's Pacific students and 52 per cent of Maori went to decile 1,2 and 3 schools. This compared with 4.5 per cent of European children.

The report said Auckland's socio-spatial division is so significant "different groups of people are less likely to know or even talk to each other, making it difficult to share a common vision for the region's future".

Research completed last year, details the conditions children attending decile one and two schools experience at home.

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Almost every school provided breakfast or lunch to some or all of their students as some parents were too ashamed to send their children to school without the food they could not afford.

Home grown research shows children born to poor families are more likely to be poor themselves, something which is mirrored in problems with illiteracy.

Alison Sutton, strategic analyst of the City of Manukau Education Trust (COMET), reports inter-generational learning programmes are producing positive outcomes in families where parents have little reading ability.

These build adult's skills with the intention they can then support their children's learning while at the same time improving their own employability.

Early childhood education produces children who are more likely to succeed at school right through to their teenage years.

However, there are not enough early childhood centres for every three to four year old child in Auckland.

According to Sutton COMET is addressing this problem by streamlining council approval processes for early childhood centres and pioneering the use of council land in deprivation areas.

According to the 2006 census 288,573 children aged up to 14 lived in Auckland. A further 198,477 aged 15-24.

In the outer suburbs children and their families are more prolific, particularly in the west and south of the city.

In the Mangere-Otahuhu ward almost half the entire population is children and young people.

- Auckland Now

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