Greens pledge help for low-decile schools

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the policy today. File photo / Brett Phibbs
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the policy today. File photo / Brett Phibbs
The Green Party has launched its election year by announcing a $90 million a year package for low decile schools, including free after school care and holiday programmes, free lunches, and school nurses in every decile 1-4 primary and intermediate school.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei announced the package, dubbed Schools at the Heart, at the Green's annual 'State of the Planet' picnic in Wellington today.

She said the measures were aimed at tackling inequality and would be delivered through "community hubs" set up in every decile 1-4 primary and intermediate schools. The party also wanted to build at least 20 new early childhood centres in low decile primary schools, which it expected to cost $25 million.

"The evidence shows that if kids are fed, are healthy and have the support services they need then they do better at school. This announcement represents a significant commitment to eradicating inequality in New Zealand and it's effects."

The hubs would be led by a school hub coordinator whose role would be to recruit adult and community educators, as well as early childhood, social and health services, and look at other ways to develop services which were needed in any particular school community.

Ms Turei said ensuring children were fed and healthy was critical for learning.

"Kids in lower decile schools will be fed through a national school lunch fund, sick kids will get medical attention from dedicated school nurses, and families will get the support they need to work, further their own education and be engaged in their kids' learning."

The hub coordinators would take the workload of establishing the hubs off teachers and leave them free to teach.

Ms Turei was critical of the National Party's education announcement last week. That policy rewarded good teachers and principals and set up a system for them to share their skills and knowledge across other schools. Ms Turei said it did nothing to address the primary cause of under-achievement which was poverty.

Education was the most important factor in a child's ability to escape poverty, she said.

"But's that's a challenge because a poor kid here is less likely to do well at school than a poor kid in almost any other developed country."

The Greens policy would secure savings in health, education, stable school rolls as well as stronger communities, she said.

Ms Turei also said reducing inequality would be the Greens' primary focus in the election year. She said the party's time had come to be part of a Government, and although it recognised it would have to compromise for that to happen, it would not compromise on its values such as reducing inequality.

In May last year, Prime Minister John Key announced a further $9.5 million over five years for the current KickStart programme run by Fonterra and Sanitarium. That was to allow the breakfast in low decile schools programme to be extended to five days a week and to more schools.

The policy included:

* employing a hub coordinator in each of the targeted schools, at a cost of $28.5 million;

* free after school and holiday care programmes for the targeted schools at a cost of $10 million a year, as well as extending the current after-school care subsidies to children at decile 5-10 schools;

* a national school lunch fund, expected to cost $40 million a year, to provide lunch at all decile 1-4 schools, and other schools where there was a need; and

* dedicated school nurses in the targeted schools, expected to cost $11.6 million a year.

- Claire Trevett of NZ Herald

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