Monday, April 22, 2024

Distance a barrier to education?

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Changes to the Government allowance available to country kids attending boarding school will be a blow to many rural families living in remote parts of New Zealand.
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Currently 1368 country kids receive an allowance amounting to about $2725 a year. From next year, boarding bursaries and the Mapihi Pounamu scheme will be replaced with a new boarding allowance scheme.

It appears the policy has shifted from a focus on geographical isolation to other barriers, like where a young person’s ability to achieve at school is hindered by their past achievement, participation, behaviour, relationships and environment.

The new policy will accommodate only 1300 children under the geographical access criteria, which is less than the current number being supported.

There is a legitimate argument that country children should support the local high school and community.It could have wider repercussions, like making it harder to attract and retain staff with school-age children in remote areas.

But that depends where you live. I went to boarding school and I hated it – not the school, just the being away from home and the farm part – but there really was no other choice.

It could have wider repercussions, like making it harder to attract and retain staff with school-age children in remote areas.

I didn’t go to the closest school, but even if I had I would have boarded, given the distance we lived from town. It just would have been weekly rather than full boarding.

This would still have required my parents to spend significant time and money ferrying me to and from school, or to the nearest bus pick-up point.

The hitch is that under the new criteria only children living more than 20km from a bus stop, or 60km from their nearest high school, are eligible for help.

Previously, children were eligible if they lived more than 4.8km from the nearest bus stop or, if there was no school bus service, 4.8km from the nearest high school.

That’s a huge difference and could mean a long time each day spent on a bus for a child.

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