Funding boost for Maori schools

01:22, Nov 28 2013

The Government will pour more than $31 million into Maori secondary school students to lift achievement levels, Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced.

Speaking at the Iwi Chairs Forum in Gisborne, Parata said the new Building on Success programme would extend progress made on existing Maori achievement programmes.

The new programme, to be funded over the next three years, would roll together the best aspects from programmes such as Te Kotahitanga, He Kakano and Starpath, and also integrate literacy and numeracy programmes.

"Distilling these programmes into a comprehensive package and extending their benefits to more schools is expected to significantly raise achievement for young Maori," Parata said.

OECD figures due out next week were likely to see New Zealand lag further behind in the education stakes, "as we see further improvement of especially Asian countries".

Talking to Fairfax Media, Parata said that did not mean Asian countries were making New Zealand look bad.

She said that when National became the Government if found New Zealand students were "stagnating at reading, we were declining in maths and science", and the introduction of national standards was to arrest that decline.

She denied the new initiative was race-based funding.

"It's achievement-driven funding in the same way as we identified which curriculum subjects we really need to beef up - maths and science I announced yesterday," she said.

"This cohort of students are the ones that are systematically not achieving."

She said the Government needed to find what worked for those students, "so that's what this $31 million represents".

It was expected that up to a quarter of all secondary school students would be enrolled in the programme at any one time.

"In 2012, almost 61 per cent of Maori 18-year-olds gained an NCEA Level 2 or equivalent qualification - up almost 4 per cent on 2011," she said.

"However, the Government has a better public services target of 85 per cent of 18-year-olds having an NCEA Level 2 or better qualification."

Labour Maori Affairs spokesman Shane Jones said pouring millions of dollars into Maori education programmes was all well and good, but there had to be jobs at the end of it.

"Any initiative that boosts achievement among the brown tail is important.

"But the real issue here is that many Maori boys, and girls for that matter, are not well-suited by the current curriculum."

He said mounting problems associated with transitioning Maori into the workforce meant Parata had taken a "panic-stricken" step.

 "A key part of it is a lot of these kids are not being well-served by the opportunities that are at school and a substantial boost to vocational learning and apprenticeship learning would have significantly met these kids needs."

But Jones said children's whanau should never overlook their responsibility.

"That whanau themselves, have to boost expectations and provide more practical support to our Rangitahi during this period of time."