Local providers of Alternative Education for students who have been excluded from mainstream education are welcoming an announcement from Pita Sharples, the Associate Minister of Education, of a funding increase for the sector.
“The 8.4% increase works out to a lot less than the rate of inflation since the last funding increase in 2000 but it is a start and we hope the government is committed to at least pegging future funding to inflation” said Manu Caddie, a Trustee for Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti that runs Ka Timata, a programme for up to nine boys aged 13-16 years.
“We have been lobbying government for many years on this issue – these are the forgotten kids who miss out on the resources of mainstream education once. Ironically they are the young people who have the highest needs and get the least support.”
Recent national studies have shown that students in Alternative Education are more likely to be Maori from low income neighbourhoods and have much higher rates of health problems, learning deficits and involvement with crime than their peers who stay in mainstream schools.
Ka Timata records from 2007-2009 show that 75% of the 20 students had involvement with Child, Youth & Family, 85% had come to the attention of Police, 95% had numeracy and literacy levels well below their peers, 60% had little connection to their marae before coming to Ka Timata, 90% had five or less positive adult influences and nearly all had a history of violence and alcohol and/or drug abuse.
After leaving Ka Timata one third of the students went into employment, half went on to further training, 10% left town and 10% went to unknown destinations.
“We are also very pleased to see the requirement for a qualified teacher to work with Alternative Education students, though we are not sure how we are going to pay them what they would otherwise get in mainstream schools given our resourcing is still so low compared to what schools have to work with” said Mr Caddie who was himself a teacher in Alternative Education and has been involved at a national level in lobbying for increased resourcing for AE from four different Ministers of Education.
Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti is a member of Te Ora Hou Aotearoa, a national network of faith-based Maori youth and community development organisations that emerged in the 1970s and have provided residential homes for at-risk youth, schools for teenage parents, alternative education programmes, community development projects, international indigenous youth exchanges and community youth clubs in centres around the country.