13 September, 2012
Impact of poverty on education not understood
Principal of Otahuhu College Gil Laurenson says that the impact of poverty - including poor housing, diet and violence -
on families and kids’ education is not understood by governments.
He says despite battling huge odds, the gap in educational achievement is closing in South Auckland, with the help of
families, good programmes and money to fund them.
Mr Laurenson will be talking at a fono in South Auckland on September 15 which will be focussing on how we make every
local school a great school and respond in particular to the needs of Maori and Pasifika learners.
He says one of the initiatives at his school involves a three-way conversation between the teacher, the student and
their family. He says family engagement makes huge difference to student achievement and their future direction.
He says programmes at Otahuhu College such as the Health Sciences programme, which is part funded by the
Counties-Manukau DHB, is having great successes but he is concerned about what happens if funding for such programmes
His school is proof that huge strides can be made for all learners within the public education system if they are given
the right support and he is sceptical about the worth of charter schools.
“Why can’t we base huge changes in our education system on sound academic research rather on the whim of some coalition
agreement (between political parties)?”
Gil also says that early childhood education is vital - so that kids start school on the same footing.
“We just can’t wave a magic wand when a kid turns up (at high school) and expect them to catch up.”
The event will include people from both the community and the education sector.
NZEI Area Council chair and principal at May Road School, Lynda Stuart, says many community groups have expressed an
interest in the fono and will be attending.
She says the attack on education is something that affects the whole community and the whole community wants to get
Some of the guests at the fono include education heavyweights Professor Martin Thrupp who will talk about National
Standards and league tables and John O’Neill, Professor at Massey University and Peter O’Connor, Associate Professor at
Auckland University Faculty of Education, who will speak about charter schools.
There will also be a panel discussion entitled “What will make the difference for Pasifika students?” This includes
Jacqui Passi, a teacher at Waitakere College; Damon Salesa, Associate Professor for Pasifika Studies at the University
of Auckland; Efeso Collins, Samoan Youth Advocate; Shirley Maihi, principal of Finlayson Park School and Ant Backhouse.
South Auckland Education Fono, 9am-2pm, Saturday, 15 September, Otahuhu Town Hall.