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Fair schooling should reduce disadvantage of poorest children

Compulsory education policy must address children's disadvantages outside school to improve their life chances, says Child Poverty Action Group in a new policy paper.

Education spokesperson Professor John O'Neill said, "As a society, we have a wonderful opportunity to help level the playing field for the poorest children through public education.  Quality schooling, that also addresses children's disadvantages outside the school gate, can help to counter the worst effects of poverty and inequality on children's lives."

Compulsory schooling and education is the third in a series of CPAG policy papers, called Our Children, Our Choice, being released in the lead up to the 2014 election with recommendations for policy change to alleviate child poverty.

Compulsory education policy must address children's disadvantages outside school to improve their life chances, says Child Poverty Action Group.

The Government's key schooling indicators show New Zealand's current school system is failing to help students overcome the effects of poverty and socio-economic disadvantage.  On average children at lower decile schools do not achieve as well as children who are better off, at every level.

They start school disadvantaged and leave school disadvantaged compared to children from wealthier communities.  Government redistribution of resources simply does not go far enough and it relies on families to fill the resourcing gap.

CPAG education spokesperson Professor John O'Neill said, "A narrow focus on quality classroom teaching is not enough to reduce educational inequalities between children who begin life in material disadvantage and those who don't. 

"Poor children do not leave their lives at the school gate. Their skills and abilities, dreams and aspirations, are influenced by many factors in their lives, both in and out of school.  What children learn at school will not change their daily life circumstances in the short term - but meeting their immediate needs can certainly improve their educational outcomes."

John O'Neill said, "As a society, we have a wonderful opportunity to help level the playing field for the poorest children through public education.  Quality schooling, that also addresses children's disadvantages outside the school gate, can help to counter the worst effects of poverty and inequality on children's lives.  Schools can contribute to greater justice and equality, by redistributing financial resources so disadvantaged children do not fall further behind their more advantaged peers."

In Compulsory schooling and child poverty, released on 3 July, CPAG recommends ten policies which would significantly improve educational achievement for New Zealand's poorest children.  Compulsory schooling and child poverty is the third in CPAG's policy series Our Children, Our Choice, being released in the lead up to the 2014 election with recommendations for policy change to alleviate child poverty.

Recommendations include a reduction in class sizes for low decile primary schools and salary incentives to encourage the best teachers to teach in poor areas.  CPAG also recommends that decile 1-4 schools be developed as community hubs to provide education, health, parenting, budgeting, community law and social services and that free lunch and breakfast be provided in low decile schools

The full report is available to download here.