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Some inconvenient truths about education in Aotearoa-New Zealand

How does poverty affect New Zealand children’s schooling? Answers to this question generally revolve around three perspectives. First, it is argued that the children of families in poverty in New Zealand are disadvantaged in schools because of the level and nature of their family resources. Such resources can be both material and cultural: ill health, poor nutrition, overcrowding and transience, fewer curriculum relevant experiences, limited literacy and little early childhood education all reduce the ability of children to progress at school (Biddulph, J, & Biddulph, 2003; Nash, 1993). Second, it is argued that schools serving poorer areas are under-resourced. This applies more to places such as the USA, where school funding depends on the tax-base of local districts (Kozol, 1991), than to New Zealand, where schools are funded nationally and extra funding is provided for low socio-economic “low-decile” schools. Nevertheless underfunding, or the method of funding, of low-decile schools remains an issue in New Zealand, both because of relatively low parent and community contributions in such schools, and because of the sheer scale of their students’ needs. A third perspective is that poor teaching and ineffective schools are the problem, rather than poverty. Yet quality teaching and school improvement cannot be divorced from the social context. Low socio-economic schools often find it difficult to recruit permanent, long-term teaching staff. Teachers at low-socio-economic schools struggle more to meet the learning needs of children and spend a lot more time on pastoral care than in those middle class settings (Thrupp, 1999).
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Thrupp, M. (2008). Some inconvenient truths about education in Aotearoa-New Zealand. In S. St John & D. Wynd (Eds.), Left Behind: How Social & Income Inequalities Damage New Zealand Children (pp. 109-119). Auckland, New Zealand: Child Poverty Action Group.
Child Poverty Action Group
This article has been published in the book: Left Behind: How Social & Income Inequalities Damage New Zealand Children. ©2008 Child Poverty Action Group Inc. Used with permission.