Labour’s former leader David Shearer has realised the faults in his proposal for free breakfasts in school:
. . . Is it right to impose a one-size-fits-all solution on to every low-decile school in the form of a food hand-out?
There’s an old saying: give someone a fish and it will feed them for a day; teach someone to fish and it will feed them for a lifetime.
Of course, we all agree that no child should be hungry at school. But what’s missing is a programme that will not only fix that but also improve nutrition and ensure self-reliance.
Before coming into politics I ran huge feeding programmes for starving kids, including one for 30,000 children in Somalia.
Without that food, those children would have died. But the programme was always designed to be temporary. As soon as the crisis passed, the families moved on, relying on themselves.
My fear is that we will institutionalise dependence through relying solely on a feeding programme. We need to be far more forward-looking. . .
Unfortunately Labour’s potential coalition partner hasn’t seen the light.
The party’s policy announced yesterday is to provide:
. . . 1. A dedicated School Hub Coordinator ($28.5 million per annum)
The Hubs Coordinator will work for the school to recruit adult and community educators, early childhood, social and health services and explore other opportunities to develop a unique hub in conjunction with the school and its community.
2. Free afterschool and holiday care programmes ($10 million per annum)
We’ll provide free after-school care and holiday programmes for every child at decile 1 to 4 schools, and we will expand access to Out of School Care and Recreation (OSCAR) low income subsidies to children at decile 5-10 schools.
3. A national school lunch fund ($40 million per annum)
The Fund will make lunch available at all decile 1 to 4 primary and intermediate schools, but will be available to other schools based on need.
4. Dedicated school nurses in decile 1-4 schools ($11.6 million per annum)
School nurses will deliver primary health care to children and their families in the school environment where they are known and trusted. . .
Not only have the Greens not taken note of Shearer’s concerns, they haven’t done their homework on what support is already available:
Education Minister Hekia Parata says the Green Party appeared to be completely unaware of what happens every day in schools up and down the country when it wrote its latest policy ideas.
“We already have around 300 nurses working with virtually every school in the country and with a particular focus on low decile-schools.
“We already provide social workers for every decile 1 to 3 primary school in the country, under the Social Workers in Schools scheme.
“There are already a number of schools operating as community hubs, so it’s not a new idea, but it’s also not a concept that should be forced on every school.
“With Fonterra and Sanitarium we already provide a breakfast in schools programme five mornings a week to any school that wants it.
“We have increased our funding to KidsCan who provide services like raincoats and shoes for children and provide school lunch packs from donations.
“We already subsidise after-school care and holiday care for about 50,000 children, with assistance targeted at low-income families.
“We are already investing $1.5 billion in early childhood education, up from $860 million in 2007/08. Participation in early childhood education has risen to almost 96 per cent and we are focusing on improving participation amongst the most vulnerable groups.
“The Greens should do their homework. They are clearly unaware of all the things the Government is doing in this area, and they are also clearly in denial that the biggest influence on children’s achievement is quality teaching, says Ms Parata.
“Quality teaching raises achievement for kids from all schools, no matter what their decile ranking, which is why we announced our big new investment on Thursday to raise teaching practice and strengthen school leadership.
“If the Greens really cared about getting better results in education they would back that policy instead of opposing it, and they would do the work to understand what is already happening in terms of providing additional support for children in school.”
Steven Joyce put it more succinctly:
Free milk and breakfasts (paid for by Fonterra and Sanitarium) are given to any schools which want it – and not all do.
Among those which don’t are some decile 1 -4 schools who will have publicly funded lunches foisted upon them.
Other support already provided is targeted at those in need.
In spite of the danger Shearer has seen, the Green Party will use public money to fund policies which institutionalise dependence, waste money where it’s not needed, foist food on schools that don’t want it and treat some of the symptoms but do nothing to address the underlying causes of the problems.