NZAC backs principals call for more investment in at-risk youth

More investment is urgently needed in early intervention if young children are to be properly supported, rather than potentially facing “a future of crime”.

The NZ Association of Counsellors (NZAC) is backing calls from Dunedin North Intermediate principal, Heidi Hayward, for more financial support for at-risk students.

In October, the Ministry of Education unveiled a new funding regime for schools with at-risk students on their rolls.

From 2017, an extra $92 per child will fill schools’ coffers in attempts to close New Zealand’s achievement gap between the top and bottom students.

Ms Hayward said the extra money “would make no difference” to her school’s 49 identified at-risk children, and she wrote an open letter to Government Ministers Anne Tolley, Paula Bennett, Nikki Kaye and Hekia Parata stating so.

NZAC president, Bev Weber, is backing her call for more government funding and resources to help children.

“This issue should speak to the heart of all New Zealanders; we must implement a better support network for our country’s most vulnerable.

“If schools had the proper resources to fund early intervention programmes, like school guidance counsellors in primary and intermediate schools, the burden of the student’s wellbeing wouldn’t fall to the teacher alone.”

Ms Weber says the new school funding regime is akin to the former funding system, in that it fails to address the factors that impact on children’s learning.

“Look at the needless and avoidable death of a nine-year-old girl. Coroner Carla na Nagar concluded the young child was motivated to end her distress, not her life.

“Children face a range of issues that we need to take care of early, so that we can give them the best chance of success.

“An extra $92 per student, or one day per annum of teacher aide time, isn’t going to help if early intervention measures are not put in place.”

Ms Weber says guidance counsellors can make a significant difference if funded and placed in primary and intermediate schools.