Calls for Inclusiveness and wellbeing dominated the Auckland Education summit at the weekend – where the Government announced a $21 million boost for children needing learning or behavioural support.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the funding would help nearly 8,000 children in early childhood education over four years.

“The way I see it, when these children miss out on the extra support they need to learn, they are missing out on their education.

“For the past decade funding for learning support has fallen well below what is needed to ensure enough kids get what they need, we want to turn that around.”

Ardern said children waited an average of 74 days for learning support from the early intervention service. The additional funding would halve the current waiting list.

The summit audience heard Thursday’s budget would contain more for learning support initiatives as well as an increase of capital and operational spending.

A teacher aide, Linda Jordan, who has worked in learning support for 20 years with year 11 to 13 students said early help would have made a huge difference to some of students with whom she works.

Assistance at early childhood level could flow to students as they progress through schooling, which could help them get the most from their education.

“We have to nurture our babies first.”

An associate Education Minister, Tracey Martin, said the desire for a holistic approach to education with a focus on wellbeing was evident at both the Auckland and Christchurch summits over the past two weekends.

“What success looks like is a more holistic concept of success and that’s what education needs to be moving towards. Strangely enough, that’s what the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Whāriki would be able to deliver if a government got out of the way of the people who are actually capable of delivering it.”

The curriculum was launched into schools the same year national standards were introduced. Martin said while the curriculum offered flexibility of teaching, the standards had stopped this.

“If we all agree what we believe success looks like is a well-rounded human being, then that gives our schools the permission to change the way they deliver the curriculum to support those well-rounded human beings.”

Martin said the summits are the start of a nation-wide conversation on education, moving next to the regions.

One community discussion at the summit on Pasifika was attended by Associate Minister of Education Jenny Salesa, who planned to attend six Pacific regional forums on education to listen to the community.

Participants wanted more support for Pacific languages in schools and focused on mental health and the well-being of students.

Feeling too brown for New Zealand but too white for Samoa was mentioned by one participant. Another urged the Pacific community not to be “whakamā” (uncomfortable) talking about mental health and well-being problems and the struggle to find themselves, and their culture in New Zealand.

Moved to tears by the plea of a school student wanting more multicultural learning at school, Salesa asked: “How do we ensure every child is valued?”

Ōtāhuhu Primary School principal Jason Swann was happy to see Salesa speak and felt the government was listening to Pasifika people.

“I have hope and I haven’t had that for a while.”

The summits and results from an online survey and the regional meetings will form a vision of what New Zealanders want from the education system. This will help the government as it completes its three-year education work programme.

The programme includes the following projects:

– the NCEA review

– a review of Tomorrow’s Schools

– developing a future-focused Education Workforce Strategy

– a continuous focus on raising achievement for Māori and Pasifika learners

– development of a strategic pathway for Māori-medium education

– an action plan for learning support

– an early learning strategic plan

– a comprehensive review of school property

– a programme of change for vocational education

– a full review of the Performance Based Research Fund

– better support for the research aspirations of our tertiary sector

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