LABOUR’S new education policy to tackle hungry stomachs and sharpen young minds has good intentions but there are flaws, say Gisborne and East Coast principals.
Ngati Porou East Coast Principals’ Association chairwoman Sue Ngarimu-Goldsmith of Hiruharama School, said it was interesting that Labour was targeting all decile 1 to 3 schools for the breakfast programme.
“Not all of these children would require a meal. There are already breakfast programmes in place to support children with those needs.”
Mrs Ngarimu-Goldsmith said adequately feeding a child was a parental responsibility.
“There are places in New Zealand where the cost of living is so much higher and the economic strain means the kids are hungry, but I feel the blanket approach is flawed.”
Makarika principal Berris Brew does not want to see a welfare-type system similar to those set up in the 1970s.
“I am worried this might see parents opting out of their responsibilities. It is a legal requirement that parents send their children to school well fed and ready to learn.”
Ilminster Intermediate principal Peter Ferris said it was “absolute bollocks”.
“I don’t believe a low-decile rating indicates that children don’t get fed.
“They’re basically saying that because parents send their kids to a low-decile school, they are not in a position to feed them and that’s not right.”
Ilminster Intermediate has a decile 2 rating.
Mr Ferris said 98 percent of his students were fed every morning.
The school offers a breakfast club for children who want it.
Mr Ferris, who is also a member of the New Zealand Teachers’ Council, said the Labour Party was making “one huge assumption”.
“We could debate at length the quality of the food but it’s not for us to get into what families decide to feed their children.”
Gisborne Primary School Principals’ Association president Judy Nicoll, of Makauri School, said while she saw value in providing a food in schools programme for all decile 1 to 3 schools, it was already being done where schools had identified this as a priority need.
“They would probably be using their existing decile funding — therefore a mechanism already exists.
“Making this a mandated programme could be seen as taking away education dollars for social and health needs.”
Cobham School provides a breakfasts in school programme called Kick Start.
Principal Jane Portman said there was not a single day that went past where a child was not coming in for a morning meal.
Mrs Portman said the effect of the children having breakfast was huge.
“They are fed and ready to learn. How can a child learn when they are hungry? When the children are hungry, it makes our jobs so much harder.”
Mrs Portman said the reading recovery initiative and a Minister of Children were positive incentives.
“I believe in reading recovery. We have seen huge improvements in the level of reading skills and all-round learning.
“It would be fantastic to have a minister with the sole task of looking after a group of people in our society who can be extraordinarily vulnerable and are undeniably precious.”
Mrs Brew agrees.
“Reading Recovery — this is wonderful. Quick get them in. The idea is excellent but, of course, whether that happens is another story. We are very lucky to have reading recovery teachers training at this school.
“Not every child needs it and there is the cost, but overall we applaud the proposal because it catches literacy issues at the beginning and not at the end.
“It is great to see the interest in our children’s education and that there are plans to put things in place early, and therefore avoiding the problems later on.
“Children are our most precious commodity and yet they are loosely looked after by the ministries of health, education and social welfare.
“We desperately need to get away from the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff mentality,” she said.
Mrs Nicoll said reading recovery had always been a joint responsibility between the ministry and the school.
“Schools use a proportion of their own operating grant and this is supplemented by ministry funding.
“Decile funding again can be used to support reading recovery. However, we must remember that reading recovery targets children at six years of age only.”
Labour’s strategy, released by party leader David Shearer yesterday, will also introduce “clear and easy-to-understand school report cards” and develop new ideas to bridge the gap between the classroom and workforce.
“Despite the high standard of our education system, we have too many people who do not achieve,” he said. MORE ON PAGE 9