Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Charter Schools----A POLITICAL SOP!

I’m a little tin soldier beating my drum, over and over but the only people listening are those who like the sound of my drum; the ones who recognise the beat---about Charter Schools.
What don’t they get it? The Government simply turns its face on facts. It is going to waste millions of dollars based on spurious research. Don’t they understand that teachers cannot produce miracles with every student that comes through the school gates? God knows, they try. They give, they cajole, they go the extra mile, and they go home tired and emotionally drained.
I am not being dramatic. I see teachers, day after day and wonder what they are taking home with them. They too have families, but the energy levels they take home probably equate to having little left for their loved ones. Knowing these hard-working teachers like I do, I suspect that they pick themselves up and get through the week, the term and then get sick in the holidays. Does that scenario sound familiar?
Teachers have little influence on what happens in the homes. They have no sway on the current economic status of the families they teach; what they do offer is hope for the future; that they can give the student the gift of education--- that represents an enhanced future.
If a student arrives at school hungry, tired and angry, then they start way behind their cohorts in other more affluent schools. That is a socio-economic fact. If a student comes from a home where parents care about their children but do not have the tools to do more than encourage (a high ideal in itself) then again the student is at a disadvantage. Understanding how to support along with being able to provide the necessities, and yes, the extras (like access to computers and a place to study) for their children, goes a long way to achieving meaningful goals in education. That then has a higher correlation for success in other areas of life’s journey.
Take another simple measure of being ‘connected’ with education. Try driving past a high decile school at the end of the day and take a note of what the students are carrying---yes large bags, full of books, texts and possibly ‘notepads,’ I pads and various other techno stuff. Do it in the morning if you wish. On the next day do the same thing at a low decile school and compare results. Don’t be surprised of you see kids coming and going, who carry absolutely nothing. What does that tell you? Don’t put down the lower decile school--- what you are seeing is a reflection of what life is like for many of our students---possibly the one in five who are failing and that figure is spread across all schools, so if you take that measure in some of our lower decile schools, then you see the figures even more highly skewered to ‘failure.’
Schools have many programmes and initiatives to try and address these dismal figures, including: literacy programmes, student-teacher engagement training (Te Kotahitanga Programme) and well-resourced student pastoral care departments. These are not enough if we want to make a real difference.
Unless educational initiatives and student support resourcing are backed up with stronger family support schemes, based in the communities that ‘feed’ the school, then we will only ever be playing around the fringes. What I am proposing is not new. PPTA and many other social support commentators have been saying this for years, but the political will is lacking, mainly because of a lack of real commitment and an unwillingness to fund such support. Instead we constantly hear from those espousing ‘self-help’ and standing on one’s own feet.
We even have a crown minister who received such help when she was a single parent, and then became part of a Government that took away that scheme—one that allowed her to rise above her tenuous financial position.
So---- before the Government pours millions into a scheme that will benefit very few and take away from existing successful programmes--- they should take a break and seek advice from those other than National Party cronies.