“The report from ‘Every Child Counts’ which shows that New Zealand is ranked 28th out of 30 OECD countries in outcomes for children, and has one of the lowest rates for public investment in children, is shameful,” says Ernie Buutveld, spokesperson for the New Zealand Principals’ Federation.
A quarter of New Zealand children are living in impoverished circumstances. The consequences of that are huge economically, socially and culturally. The report estimates that the cost of this neglect is in the range of $6billion.
“We are hearing the call from our colleagues leading decile one and two schools to have state supported hot meals in schools, so that children can be in a fit state to cope with a day’s learning,” says Buutveld, “but the problem is more complex than just providing a meal,” he said.
“It is time to take positive action to stem the flow of child neglect, child poverty and child abuse which can no longer be treated as individual cases,” says Buutveld.
“When we are talking of a quarter of the population of children in a country, it is a social trend, not a bunch of individual cases,” he said.
“While hunger is a symptom we need to address the root causes,” says Buutveld.
The report lists the causes of child deprivation as family income, poor quality housing, inability to access health services, educational opportunities and social engagement.
“Education has a part to play in alleviating child poverty,” says Buutveld, “and given our high position in the OECD educational achievement rankings, with the low government investment, it already plays that part very well.”
The report indicates that child poverty must become a priority for this country because this situation will only get worse. It also indicated that programmes that the government is funding are ineffectual.
“We are seeing far too much of government spending on ineffectual programmes,” says Buutveld. “Millions have been poured into a standardized assessment method called national standards which will also do nothing to address the problems of impoverished children,” he said.