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Life’s tough for kids on the move

PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

ELISA VORSTER
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Some Wairarapa primary school pupils have attended more than nine primary schools before they begin secondary education, and that can damage their chances of achieving top qualifications.

A Treasury working paper released last month showed children who change schools frequently have lower NCEA pass rates and more problems with truancy and suspensions than those who do not.

The report on student mobility said students born in 1998 who went to five or more schools between the ages of eight and 14 had an NCEA level 1 achievement rate of just 57 per cent.

Those who changed schools no more than three times had a pass rate of 90 per cent.

The issue is nothing new to Masterton Primary School principal Sue Walters, who has collated the numbers into a report of her own.

“About one third of our kids had attended more than two schools and some had been to up to nine schools,” she said.

Just last term, 11 pupils left school, but the biggest surprise came on Monday when 15 new pupils enrolled for the start of term two.

“We know who’s leaving but we have no idea who’s enrolling.

“They just turn up.”

This aligns with the Treasury report which states around five per cent of transient students change schools at the start of the schooling year, and six per cent move to a new school at least once during the schooling year.

The report also said schools needed to transfer information about transient students quickly and effectively, with a separate Education Review Office report saying the exchange of information when students moved schools was “a major weakness” in the school system.

However, Mrs Walters believed the biggest impact on transient students’ learning was not the exchange of information but the social impact on the children.

“Let’s face it, social adaptation is higher on our list of priorities than reading and writing.

“It’s upsetting for kids – you’ve got to find your place in any hierarchy you go into.

“If you’re doing that every year, or in some cases every two terms, that’s pretty damaging socially.”

She said more funding from the government for these students would go a long way as the school is only allocated $600 per student per year for programmes which help transient students who speak English as a second language.

The school offers a reading recovery programme to help those students but due to the waiting list, some transient kids move to another school before they can take part in it.

Extra funding would mean more teachers and a shorter waiting list.

“It costs me about $350 per day for a relief teacher so $600 is pretty much two days of teaching per year.”

Principals’ Federation president Whetu Cormick told Radio New Zealand that decile-based funding was not enough to help schools help transient children.

“Our schools are under-funded anyway, so for those schools who are having high levels of transience, I believe that they need further funding and this report does support that,” he said.

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