Poverty seen at school: Walsh

The latest decile review has shown up a poverty fault line in New Zealand schools, according to
the principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, Patrick Walsh.
Mr Walsh told NZ Catholic on November 12 that he thinks that faultline is reflected in the growing socio-economic divide, and also that poverty is not an imagined issue.
The Ministry of Education carries out a decile review every five years, after each census.
“As Catholic educators and leaders, are we not to reflect on any dogmas of the Church’s social justice teachings and the Church’s preferential option for the poor?” Mr Walsh asked.
Another issue in Catholic schools, he believes, is a weakness related to different ethnicities and
economic backgrounds.
“Catholic education in the Catholic Church has a commitment to our bicultural heritage in building a harmonious society,” he said, “and some of our schools are so strongly divided on ethnic and economic lines, I think it should be a concern to society, and to Catholic educators.”
Catholic education leaders should work collaboratively to solve issues of poverty in New Zealand, including in the Catholic schooling system.
He agreed that the Government and other agencies were working together, in some schools, to provide
breakfasts, but there were also bigger issues.
“The Government is pushing the line that what makes the biggest difference is the quality of the principal and the teacher,” he said. But that ignored the fact of poverty coming from overcrowded
homes that are damp, and from a poor diet.
“Those sorts of issues I think need to be addressed at the Government level, with the support of the churches and Catholic schools.”

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Michael Otto

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