B4 school health checks going nationwide

  • David Cunliffe

Launch of B4 School Checks

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Health Minister David Cunliffe today launched the roll out of B4 School Check, a new nationwide health screening programme designed to ensure that all four and five year old children get the best possible chance to succeed at school.

“Labour’s commitment to B4 School Checks was announced in our 2005 manifesto. The programme is designed to ensure that all New Zealand children, either about to turn five years old, or who have recently turned five, are prepared and supported to learn before they start school,” Helen Clark said from Favona Primary School, one of the schools which took part in the pilot last year.

“Today is the just the second day of school for many five year olds, so this an ideal time to launch the programme nationwide. We want to ensure that all New Zealand children have the opportunity to succeed, and getting these checks done as they start their life at school is a crucial part of their ability to learn,” Helen Clark said.

"The Labour-led Government is committed to providing the best possible educational opportunity for all our children and young people. That is why we introduced 20 Free Hours ECE for three and four year olds, and that’s why we are rolling out these B4 schools checks. These will give our youngest children the best possible start at school, while our policy of having all young people in education, training, or some other form of structured learning until they are eighteen, ensures that they too get the best start to the next phase of their lives, whether it is in the workforce or continued education.”

The B4 School check includes a general health questionnaire, hearing and vision screening, height and weight measurement, behavioural/developmental screening, and an oral health assessment. As part of the programme parents will be able to access health education, advocacy, and support.

“This year the B4 School Checks will see more than 13,500 children - an estimated sixty per cent of the age group being targeted - undergo screening this year. We expect all new entrants will be able to undergo the checks next year,” Helen Clark said.

“The checks are intended to identify health, behavioural, social, or developmental issues which could affect a child's ability to learn, such as hearing problems or communication difficulties.

“People often talk about the basics of education being reading, writing and arithmetic. To succeed in these areas, our children need to be able to see the board and hear their teacher. If they can’t, then we need to pick that up as early as possible so we can address it. We want our children arriving at school ready and able to learn,” Helen Clark said.

Health Minister David Cunliffe said the nationwide roll-out of the programme follows a very successful pilot last year involving 880 children in the Counties Manukau and Whanganui DHBs areas.

“The feedback has been positive from parents and schools. Public health nurses around the country are now undergoing training to conduct the health checks beginning with children in the Waikato, Lakes, MidCentral, and Nelson Marlborough DHB coverage areas. All DHBs will begin delivery of the checks by 31 August this year, with checks offered for all four year olds by the end of 2009,” David Cunliffe said.

The B4 school checks will cost $9.7 million each year when fully operational, plus $1 million for administration of the programme.