High achieving 16-year-olds from Pomare describe what makes a difference
The government has absolutely no idea how some students from disadvantaged backgrounds manage to succeed at school, according to Bill English.
"It's pretty amazing," English said earlier this month at a Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce post-Budget lunch.
"I've got an idea. Let's go and ask them. Let's not go and do a literature search on Pittsburgh and Oslo and their schemes.
"Let's go and ask the 16 year-old born in Pomare about what happened. We don't do that, so we don't know what works."
Hutt News took up the challenge. We tracked down two 16-year-olds from Pomare to ask them what had helped them to succeed so far at high school.
Teagan Tautala-Hanita and Kaisa Fa'atui are both in Year 12 at Taita College.
The pair are certainly doing well - Tautala-Hanita plays softball for New Zealand and Fa'atui has recently been nominated for a First Foundation scholarship.
Fa'atui said that almost a bigger problem than the social deprivation in Pomare was the negative perceptions about the place.
"Pomare is one of those places that is known for nothing but strife, for nothing positive," he said.
Something the pair thought was working well at the school was its 'homework club'.
Three days a week after school, 20-50 students consistently attend sessions supervised by volunteer teachers.
There the students are able to use computers for their work, which they may not have access to at home.
Fa'atui said poverty and poor housing was obviously an issue in Pomare and inevitably had an impact on education.
"I think the best thing the government can do is experience for themselves how different students treat education.
"We are successful but we're not the whole school. They need to understand the different assistance that different people would require."
Tautala-Hanita said she remembered Bill English coming to the school a few years ago.
She said it was about time for him to return.
"We just need a face-to-face conversation.
"I think a lot has changed in four years. They get all these views from different reports and different statistics but they don't come out here and see what's going on."
"Kids not having lunch is something we see every day."
Emma Henderson, Taita College's assistant principal and head of English, said there were plenty of young achievers Bill English could speak to, with 23 students attaining Level One with merit or excellence endorsements last year.
- Hutt News