24 May 2013

Call for new ways of raising poor children's achievement

8:56 pm on 24 May 2013

A conference on the impact of poverty on education has been told that the Government should give more money to poor families and expand the Whanau Ora social and health programme to schools.

Delegates to the symposium at Victoria University in Wellington on Friday also heard Social Development Minister Paula Bennett urge principals not to expel at-risk children from their schools.

Principals at the symposium said health and food programmes can help overcome the large negative impact of poverty on education.

But an expert on child poverty said the Government needs to do more than provide food in schools if it wants to improve education outcomes for children from poor families.

Jonathan Boston, a professor of public policy at Victoria University, said raising the incomes of the poorest families is essential for raising educational achievement.

Professor Boston, who was also the co-chair of the Children's Commissioner's now-disbanded Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty, says increasing poor families' incomes is essential for raising educational achievement.

"We know from overseas studies, as well as local research, that if you can boost the income of low income families, particularly when children are young, you will get better educational outcomes and employment outcomes for those children."

The former Kohanga Reo head, Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi, said Whanau Ora should be used in schools to engage the help of whanau and family.

Mrs Bennett said principals should avoid expelling children for whom school is the only stable thing.