LAUNCH OF INITIATIVES TO STRENGTHEN SCHOOLING IN MANGERE AND OTARA

  • Wyatt Creech
Education

MALAEOLA CATHOLIC SAMOAN COMMUNITY CENTRE, WAOKAURI PLACE MANGERE

Ko te manu e kai i te miro, nona te ngahere,
ko te tangata e kai i te matauranga, nona te ao.
Tihe, mauri ora!

The bird who eats the miro berry has reign of the forest,
the person who consumes knowledge has reign of the world.
Behold the breath of life!

Representatives from Boards of Trustees, principals, supporters of schools in Otara and Mangere, distinguished guests, thank you for this opportunity to meet you today to outline the ways the Government intends to strengthen the education offered to students in Mangere and Otara.

Kia ora tatou, talofa lava, kia orana, malo e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, ni sa bula vinaka, taloha ni.

This part of New Zealand is indeed rich with a variety of cultures.

Regardless of who you are, or where you live, a good education is a passport to a more secure and successful future.

None of this is more important than in areas such as Mangere and Otara. You have had as far as your education services are concerned, what we call `bad press'. You are not alone in New Zealand with your problems, but frequent media exposure has tended to exaggerate them.

Reports identifying problems with education provision in these suburbs have come in for years. Often, when trying to respond to the issues raised in the reports, before you even have had a chance to really make progress, another report came out identifying the problems, again bringing another round of bad publicity, that tended to set everything back to square one again. Under those circumstances, frustration naturally builds and success harder to achieve.

Of course the easiest thing in the world to do is to identify problems. Too many people in my occupation earn their livings doing it. Finding and implementing solutions that work is much much harder. That is what we must today engage in. That is the real challenge.

Since becoming Minister of Education I have visited many schools throughout New Zealand. Many very positive things are happening right now. You will never read a word of them, but a single bad report will be front page news or a Holmes Show highlight. We always battle this disadvantage.

You all know as I do that it is not all bad. I recognise the hard work and achievements evident in Mangere and Otara schools. Achievements such as the academic performance of the four students from Southern Cross Senior School who won University Scholarships in the 1996 examinations.

Initiatives such as the establishment of a Centre for Languages Education and Research in Otara, and strengthened links between the secondary schools and Manukau Institute of Technology.

Another example is the Ngati Tamariki Project in Otara to improve students self-esteem through sporting opportunities.

This afternoon we have heard fourth form singers from Aorere College. I look forward to hearing the students from Clover Park Middle School. These students are a credit to their schools and families.

This evidence of student achievement and school performance in Otara and Mangere reflects dedication, commitment and hard work by many people. It should be supported and encouraged. It is the reason I am here today. The Government is committed to doing all it can to encourage and support educational achievement and to lift the quality of education in Mangere and Otara.

Education issues facing the two communities were brought to public attention last year with the release of the Education Review Office report on schools in Mangere and Otara. It was an important report, although coming as it did after similar reports, many viewed it as negative. It was seen to overlook the good things happening in your schools like those I have just referred to. It mentioned that in ERO's view, a number of teachers were not performing; it seemed to ignore the large number of highly dedicated and hardworking professional teachers that were here.

Some felt that the ERO report did not sufficiently recognise the wider social and health problems that arise not in the schools, but in the community. Schools don't invent those problems, but they have to deal with them. They can limit your students ability to learn and participate effectively.

While the report may have had this connotation of being negative, it was not intended this time to be that way. Rather it was a "we have looked carefully at this issue; these are the problems, and this is how we suggest you fix it." It did highlight the magnitude of the challenges faced by schools and students in Mangere and Otara.

I agree that ERO was right to say we should have high expectations for the schools in this part of the country. Your children should have the education that helps them succeed in their later lives.

The Government accepts that the challenges faced by a number of schools and students in these communities are large and that additional help is needed. What really brings the issues home to me is the number of parents and students voting with their feet in Mangere and Otara. At least 3,000 out of the 17,000 school aged students in the communities by-pass local schools for their education. This is far more pronounced in the secondary sector. This is a very stark reality that we have to turn around.

We all - Government, Ministry of Education, agencies, sector groups, boards of trustees, teachers, parents, and the community - need to work together to ensure that all students in Otara and Mangere receive a first class education. Behind the announcements I am making today has been a mass of consultation.

We have taken into account the signs of positive change already evident from Nga Tapuwae College, now Southern Cross Senior School and part of the Southern Cross Campus Development, Tangaroa and Hillary Colleges.

We have also considered a wide body of international findings on schooling improvement.

As I said before highlighting the problems is simple - anyone can do that - the solutions are not simple. The problems have a long history and will not be resolved overnight. It is not just a question of finding that one simple Government intervention that makes everything work.

Far from it.

There needs to be a common purpose from everyone. Parents, families and whanau need to support and encourage a child's learning. Schools need to be delivering the education goods. The community and its schools need to work well together. They need to be supported by effective and coordinated government policies.

The initiatives we are to put in place in Mangere and Otara are designed to complement other policies which will support education.

They will supplement the new initiatives already underway as part of Special Education 2000, Teacher Supply Initiatives, a Maori Education Strategy, the Pacific Island Education Plan and new resourcing for schools to be announced by the Treasurer in the upcoming Budget. Other initiatives too will add to the comprehensive policy approach we will pursue.

We are also committed to strengthening the way education, health and welfare organisations work locally and nationally. The Ministry of Education will work more closely with agencies such as Health and Social Welfare to ensure that programmes administered by the three are better coordinated and managed.

We do not intend to just throw money at the problem. What we put in we want to see make a difference. But where we are confident it will make a difference, we will put money where our mouth is.

There is little merit in introducing across the board measures when the problems faced will vary from school to school. The new initiatives will be tailored to the specific needs of individual schools.

We want initiatives that target the source of difficulties and come up with the solutions to tackle and overcome them.

Additional support will be negotiated with the boards of trustees and will depend on their acceptance of a strategy designed to overcome those problems. Assistance will be backed by a contract with a school which sets out the action plan that a school and its community is committing itself to follow. The contracts will establish milestones to demonstrate to the community and the Government that it is on track and that the problems are being successfully overcome.

This is not a `one size fits all' solution. This will provide help to schools in ways that best meet the needs of that school and its students.

Communities must contribute by strengthening the governance of schooling and improve the capability of boards of trustees. Schools must strengthen management and teaching.

This must be part of community wide improvements to schooling. Nothing is more devastating to a school than to see its hard work and efforts undermined by what is happening at another school. We need to systematically address the longer term structures of schooling provision in Otara and Mangere and to consider factors such as change of class, and school re-organisation.

These new initiatives are consistent with the Ministry of Education Schools' Support Project and incorporate the business cases for Southern Cross Campus, Hillary and Tangaroa Colleges, formal action, and schooling improvement action already underway in Mangere and Otara.

I can almost hear you thinking "How will we come up with the specific solutions for each school?" and "How much money is there?"

Firstly, schools and students are the main focus of our attention. We will appoint two co-ordinators, one for Mangere and one for Otara to work with individual schools to analyse what they need to improve.

The co-ordinators will work with the board of trustees and principals to diagnose the needs of each school.
The co-ordinators will work with clusters of schools and individual schools to develop action plans to meet those needs and lift educational achievement and standards.
They will negotiate any extra resources.
Each school and community will have to come up with solutions that work best for them, the solutions will have to be backed by a strong and tangible commitment and an accountability to implement any agreed strategy.
Performance measures will be negotiated with schools so that it will be possible for schools, the community, and Government to know clearly that improvements have been made.
Secondly, we will complete the Mangere Schooling Development Plan, which includes:

Working with the board of trustees of Southern Cross Middle School, and the commissioners of Southern Cross Senior and Junior Schools to complete the establishment of the Southern Cross Campus.

Deciding on a permanent location for the Kura Kaupapa Maori o Mangere.

Strengthening provision for secondary school education for girls.

Deciding on the best educational use for the Southern Cross Primary School and Arahanga Intermediate school sites.
Thirdly, we will establish an Otara Development Plan which will build on work already started by Otara schools. We will consult with the Otara community about the types of schools they think meets the needs of students in the Otara area.
The community and Government in partnership will decide how best to use the schooling resources we already have in Otara.

We intend the Otara Development Plan to generate practical ideas which are innovative, effective, and relevant to the needs of students and to the wishes of the Otara communities.

Until the Otara Schooling Development Plan is concluded, I will defer any decision on change of class applications which have been submitted for my approval, or are in the process of being submitted.

Last but by no means least - the money! The exact amount set aside for strengthening schooling in Mangere and Otara is part of the Budget for the Schools Support Project, that will be announced in the Coalition Government's Budget at the end of June.

I can tell you, however, the amount is considerable

The approach we are taking in Mangere and Otara is not a soft option.

What we are putting in place is designed to get to the heart of the problems faced rather attack the symptoms. The Government is prepared to spend substantial amounts of money and effort to support schools, but we have to be confident that it will make a difference.

We want to start putting in place these initiatives immediately.

The coordinators' positions will be advertised in the New Zealand Herald on Monday. They will start work as soon as posisble.

Over the next couple of weeks, the Ministry of Education will convene meetings in Otara and Mangere to discuss the initiatives with schools and the community.

Advertisements will be placed immediately in local papers to inform your community about the initiatives, and to invite them to meetings.

We want to work with and support communities to solve problems. We cannot do it by ourselves. We want to see parents and students take responsibility for improving their education.

Thank you for the support you have already given to our schools in Mangere and Otara.

Today's announcement is a big step forward. I am confident that with your efforts and ours combined, we will make a difference. I ask for your support in ensuring that our young people in Otara and Mangere are given every opportunity to succeed.

No reira, e nga iwi e tau nei, e hoa ma, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa.

Therefore, all those assembled here, friends, distinguished leaders, greetings, greetings, greetings one and all.

ends