National calls for schools to reopen immediately

National Party education spokesman Paul Goldsmith. Photo: NZ Herald
National Party education spokesman Paul Goldsmith. Photo: NZ Herald
The National Party is calling for schools closed because of lockdown to reopen immediately and to be given a funding boost to help them catch up next year.

Schools are generally closed at alert level 3 or above, meaning the majority of Auckland's school pupils have been educated at home since mid-August.

National's "Back on Track" plan calls for the immediate reopening of schools to give pupils at least a month of schooling before the summer break.

The plan then focuses on attendance levels in 2022, and catching up on lost time and opportunities because of lockdown.

It includes a funding boost of up to $400 per pupil for schools in 2022, attendance targets and required daily maths and literacy teaching.

The Government is set to announce its own plans to reopening schools in Auckland this afternoon. Currently just senior pupils in some high schools have returned since the region went into lockdown mid-August.

"Children have missed out on too much critical class time and the risk of children not going back to school – the disengagement, loss of social connection and significant milestones now outweighs the risk of reopening schools," National leader Judith Collins said.

"Our truancy and achievement challenges will not be turned around by continuing to lock kids out of school.

"Even without lockdowns, two in five children do not attend school regularly and lockdowns increase the risk of long-term disengagement."

National's Education spokesman Paul Goldsmith said even the month remaining in the school year of fulltime schooling could "make all the difference to kids who are increasingly falling behind".

"By Year 8, more than half of New Zealand students are performing below expectations in the maths, English and science, according to the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement.

"Online learning can never replicate the full benefits of education that come from attending school in person."

Goldsmith said the Government had a "week-by-week strategy" rather than a plan.

"We urge the Government to adopt National's plan immediately – our kids' education depends on it."

National's plan:

• Setting a target for attendance and publishing each school's attendance data online.

• Providing up to $400 per pupil for schools to spend on catch-up initiatives in 2022.

• Requiring all schools to regularly assess pupils in reading, writing and maths.

• Requiring at least one hour of maths and one hour of literacy teaching every day for Years 1-10.

• Pausing the Government's curriculum overhaul for two years to enable schools to focus on ensuring pupils have caught up on lost time.

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