by Catherine Delahunty
Senior Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft has put out a challenge to Boards of Trustees to stop expelling students because it help creates youth crime.
He says schools should be social service hubs where we do everything we can to keep students engaged. His speech highlights the way in which inequality has impacted on youth and asks schools to play a front line role.
It is hard to disagree but there are some specific changes that Government as well as schools would need to embrace. If schools are to be social service hubs they need the staff and resources to offer the practical support.
Government will also need to step up on professional development programmes for teachers in addressing cultural bias. I was at a recent meeting where teachers asked why Te Kotahitanga hadn’t been provided to help them address the needs of Maori students and were told it was very expensive.
The Greens think this kind of professional development is vital and the Government’s failure to fund these programmes creates long term cost.
We need a vision of education that is based on the current social reality. We know that educational environments work better for students if they are based on collaborative teaching, smaller classes and cultural responsiveness.
Experienced teachers agree with Judge Becroft that participation and engagement come before achievement.
Hence the Greens opposition to National Standards, league tables, charter schools, performance pay and artificial targets for NCEA create tension and undermine the inclusive school environment that Judge Becroft is calling for.
A focus on competition doesn’t work with the reality of educational disadvantage but makes schools even less keen to keep students who are struggling. The Government needs to abandon these negative policies and embrace the schools as community hubs.
This concept is more than a social service approach, it is about life-long learning being offered at the school site, and schools and communities building an open relationship of trust and respect.
It includes valuing the success of Kura Kaupapa and schools which are leading an open door approach. We must not prosecute parents for their children being truant.
We need to ask those students what they need from school. I did this in my What is a Real Education report and the students had great suggestions. Another fantastic initiative in some schools is the use of a whole of school restorative justice model to build a peaceful co-operative community. If this was rolled out universally many students would feel heard and are more likely to stay engaged.