The loss of a crucial breakfast-in-schools programme raises serious questions about the government's priorities for education and social spending, says the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa. The supermarket chain Countdown which provides food for the Red Cross Breakfast in Schools programme, is pulling out.
It is well-documented that having a proper breakfast and adequate food has a huge impact on a child's ability to concentrate, learn and behave well and not surprisingly the gap between rich and poor is mirrored by the gap in achievement levels.
"Ideally there would be no need for these types of programme, but the reality is quite different," says NZEI President Ian Leckie.
The Salvation Army's report "Stalled" released earlier this year also said there is evidence that child poverty rates are increasing, particularly in single parent households.
Mr Leckie says "schools are noticing that poverty is getting worse in the community. The same issues are out there but they are intensifying with things like higher food and petrol prices. Parents who were getting by just aren't getting by now and that looks set to worsen with social spending cuts to things like Working for Families." The government also continues to throw even more money into its flawed National Standards policy, despite the fact schools have no confidence in them. "National Standards will do nothing to raise student achievement because they don't take account of the social factors which impact on a child's ability to learn. Schools have to take a holistic view of education. The money being wasted on National Standards would be better spent on resources that will actually make a difference," says Ian Leckie. "New Zealanders would be surprised to know just how much schools rely on charities to help feed and clothe their students. Breakfast-in-schools programmes are essential and everything must be done to ensure they continue because all children deserve to start on a level playing field."
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