This is a guest post from reader Anna

Should NZ develop a transport policy to reduce child poverty?

When I had kids at two separate schools, plus one at daycare, transport ruled my life. Despite living on the Auckland isthmus with good public transport, the task of getting the kids safety off for the day and both of us to work was only just possible.

If it is this hard for a two parent family living in the central suburbs, how hard must it be for a solo parent on the urban fringe? Quitting work and bringing your children up in poverty would seem like the only option.

So when I read through the Government’s Child Poverty Reduction and Elimination Bill, I was looking for the word “transport”. It’s not there.

The Bill does say is that this Government and any future NZ government must develop a strategy to improve child wellbeing and reduce child poverty. Then it specifies (in Section 7) the need for that strategy to include policies on income, deprivation, education, health, housing, social inclusion and cohesive communities.

Clearly some of the answers to child poverty lie in these areas, and more could be done. But people working in these areas have always known their work was relevant to child poverty. They have likely worked out the easy answers already.

The whole point of a Bill is to seek feedback, and this article makes the case for including transport (and its inseparable other half, urban planning) on the list of policies that will be required as part of NZ’s overall strategy to reduce child poverty.

A transport policy to reduce child poverty would require a real shift in thinking, and a lot of new work. The established tools and systems used in the transport profession have a big blind spot when it comes to children and another blind spot about people living in poverty. For example:

  • Transport data collection is overwhelmingly about vehicles, and morning peak journeys to work. There is far less data on the modes that children, people with disabilities, and other disadvantaged groups use to travel
  • Calculations of housing affordability are done in isolation rather than looking at what people are really buying in a city, which is the package of housing and transport costs
  • The economic evaluation used in NZ to compare transport projects is premised on offering new choices to adults who already own and can drive a car, saving them time (which is then converted to money). Transport cost benefit analysis misses the contribution of transport to social inclusion
  • Even public transport is prioritised where it will reduce congestion, which sounds a lot like elite projection given how vital public transport is for anyone too young, too old, too poor or otherwise unable or unwilling to drive

All these blind spots make it understandable that the Government, in thinking of ways to reduce child poverty, did not immediately put transport on its list. These blind spots also mean that, without a clear directive, NZ’s transport agencies are unlikely to take the initiative to look specifically at how their decisions could make a difference to child poverty.

Yet if we start to think about how families lift themselves out of poverty, and how children from impoverished homes can lift themselves out of their current circumstances, we start thinking about transport and about cities.

I think of the homeless Auckland child interviewed at the end of an Al Jazeera news item, saying “It was really hard [to not commit crime] because it was really boring, just staying in the tent”. He took his transport poverty for granted – but he was living in our city and that should have meant he had other options.

Cities have grown over generations as people move from the country in the hope of better opportunities, if not for themselves then for their children. And for successive generations the city has delivered on that promise. That wonderful effect, cursed with the awful name of agglomeration, means that bringing people together in cities, and linking them with transport networks, creates more opportunities for everyone.

For the solo parent on the urban fringe, a transport policy to reduce child poverty could put the bottom rung back onto the ladder to a better future.

We don’t yet know what such a policy would look like, but we do know some things that it would likely include.

  • It would look at independent mobility for children. Slower urban speeds and better street design would mean children could get themselves safely to and from school and around their community. It would look at all the ways young people get around, and bring skateboards and scooters into the mix along with more traditional choices like walking and cycling.
  • It would also look at how parents and families in deprived areas can have more options to get to work, to education, and to social events. Public transport would be better supported, especially where it made trips possible for people who would otherwise be trapped at home. Free offpeak travel for SuperGold card holders could be extended to children and families living in poverty.
  • It would include a defined measure of basic transport costs, and a mechanism for including transport costs along with housing costs when assessing “low income after housing costs”.

Those are just a few ideas and I’m sure that if more people start thinking about transport and child poverty, many more and better ideas will come to light that contribute to the Government’s goals in ways not yet thought of.

The Bill has a timeline showing a select committee phase including the opportunity for public submissions. So there is scope for new ideas to be included.

What do you think? Do you see links between transport and child poverty? And do you agree that the Child Poverty Reduction Bill should include transport on the list of policies required as part of the overall strategy to reduce child poverty?

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58 comments

  1. Thanks Anna, great post. There’s nothing in you post that I disagree with, and thanks for flagging the opportunity to input to the bill process.

    We should base all design in a city on the needs of kids, because that would both inherently serve everyone else well _and_ be inherently future-focussed. Our kids live with the outcomes of our decisions much longer than we do.

    Thanks for emphasising the massive blind spot in the way transport projects are assessed and understood as part of our city (and national economy) when you talk about how current tools are narrowly targeted in their measurement of benefits and when determining what outcomes we want them to deliver.

    Data, KPI’s, evaluations and the Objectives used for transport all need serious attention. I know that’s a broad and challenging agenda, but it would be great to see this government go to the heart of the problem and redefine these in policy and regulatory guidance. A better framework for decisions might help avoid the embarassing situations of recent times.

    Finally – that key definition of Housing affordability has been ignored for too long (we don’t even have a national measure yet for goodness sake), and we’ve let politicians get away with the total cop-out of talking about it as relative to market prices. It _must_ be relative to income, and the sooner it is combined with Transport the better.

    I’m looking at you, Mr Twyford.

    For anyone who has not seen it, here’s one version of how to combine these measures:
    https://htaindex.cnt.org/

  2. Timely post. On Sunday I heard of a young family where both parents commute from Hamilton to work in Auckland. They have twins aged 4 and a baby who needs surgery to correct a small birth defect. With both parents doing manual work they cannot be well paid but they probably earn enough to be out of ‘poverty’ as usually defined.

    It is time we thought of NZ children as an investment not a cost and paid a generous child universal benefit.

    Independent mobility for children – a great idea and your goldcard for kids I’ve proposed many times.
    It is wishful thinking to believe “Slower urban speeds and better street design” will solve children’s independent mobility. Obviously good design is better than bad design but in my North Shore suburb we have inherited quiet, safe roads and convenient footpaths but it is the parents who insist on driving their kids to school. Quite unlike my growing up in a UK city where just about every child went to school unattended – in fact we would have been dreadfully embarrassed to be seen with our parents delivering us to school.
    There are statistics on this phenomena that is based around parents fears their kids will be abducted – TV has made us fearful.

    1. I grew up on the Shore and everyone walked, rode a bike or bussed. I now live next door to my old school and they don’t even have a single bike rack.

      the only additional traffic in the intervening years is that caused by the parents dropping off their kids.

      Meanwhile we have an epidemic of childhood obesity. Its barking mad.

      The world has not become a more dangerous place for kids but parents seem to think it has

      1. It’s a bit self-fulfilling as well. Many parents like myself would be happy with children walking or biking to school if others were doing it as well (safety in numbers).

  3. Great post – I recently read an article on Copenhagen and how some of their transport and urban design policies had an impact on health. Community cohesion is a term we dont hear enough of. Vert timely, thank you Anna.

  4. Thanks for the great post. I think in part what you are getting at is how all persons in our city get to participate in the life of the city. We may have great facilities but if people cannot access these then to them they don’t exist. Growing up in South Auckland I was acutely aware of the poor PT options compared to the more affluent suburbs.

    1. The affluent suburbs you talk about are the ones close to the city where busses are a good option and well used. In south Auckland it is much harder to provide a good bus system as the city is much further away and less people are travelling to the city. I live in Mt Roskill which is hardly affluent yet we have good PT due to location (or should I say terrible PT by world standards but good by Auckland standards).
      I think it would be quite difficult to provide good PT for people who’s destination isn’t the city. Doable in cities with more density, but difficult in Auckland.

      1. I is indeed difficult. So it’s really really important we don’t make more suburbs even further out when the existing suburbs need the extra density to support good PT.

  5. I agree totally. Transport to and from hospitals is something that should be on the priority list. This can be a major stress on families.

  6. In a word no… the bill is facile at best and you are conflating differing objectives into it that could never be advanced in the real world.

    If you are driving kids all around and complain about how unfair it is then welcome to the real world. Thousands of parents in Auckland and possibly millions worldwide are drivers for their children – that’s what you do as a parent – I know I racked up thousands of kms around Auckland being their driver.

    If you are now demanding Govt solve so called problems for choices you have made as a parent then you are in the wrong. its not the Govt responsibility to make you like easier by socialising your costs. being a parent is hard. Get over it.

    1. Well 30 years ago the kids would get to school by bike. So the ‘costs’ are actually a result of prioritising cars over all else. We are demanding the government gives less priority to cars and make it safe for kids to walk and cycle. That is hardly an unfair demand, and it is hardly socialist.

    2. If the parents can’t afford a car or a working long hours then if would be pretty hard for them to rack up thousands of kms driving their kids around, this is where the problem is.

    3. If you don’t mind driving your children everywhere, good, that’s a legitimate choice.

      Other parents may choose not to for a variety of reasons. Maybe they have other things to do than sitting in congestion near a school. Maybe they would like their kids to have some independence. Maybe they can’t afford those extra kilometres.

      The council may enable that choice or take it away. For instance on the previous post, this is a still of that old Mill Road video:

      https://3.bp.blogspot.com/-YSgoZ5s_bb4/WoIHawmc2QI/AAAAAAAADFM/RV0vhQ4JIz47Y0NL6OQSYPheE_YQR7HMQCLcBGAs/s400/Safe-access-or-not.jpg

      Big road, big high-speed roundabout. That is a big barrier to children going from those planned houses to that school. That’s how the council may (perhaps inadvertently) take away that choice for parents. We should think long and hard about whether or not that’s a good idea.

    4. Here we go. I knew there would be a comment along these lines.
      1/It’s all these people’s own fault: leave them to it.
      2/I did it all by myself with no help from anyone.
      3/It’s not the government’s job to help people.

      1/ A callous disregard for children and the social consequences of not helping.
      2/ Yeah right; you got huge subsidies for your driving addiction and heaps of others.
      3/ If it’s not the government’s job to help people just why do we have one?

  7. Excellent, 100% agree

    Another add in on this is school roles (especially primary) – These have been growing over the decades and results in longer commute time for students. Smaller schools and dare I say charter schools (like old rural schools) would reuce the need for cars for school student commutes. Technology replaces the need for teachers to know that much subject specific mater, they just need to be great organisers, ecouragers etc.

  8. A good step would be to take school buses away from AT and make the Schools responsible for them. The current Min Edu rules were written in about 1915 when little kids were expected to walk 2 miles to school (hence the 3.2km rule). The Min Edu rules exclude anyone within 3.2km of a public bus route, so a little kid can be expected to cross a 100km/h highway to get to a public bus. AT has a sole focus of running school buses as cheaply as they can so they link up every school and you can expect your 5 year old to be sitting in front of 14 year old boys without any adult supervision to stop them picking on little ones. The current system means that when buses are finally so clapped out they are no longer suitable for public use they become school buses. Is it any wonder so many people drive their kids.

  9. Dear Anna,

    This is a great post and I completely agree. In the case of the long commute for those with little ones you are right that thinking has to be more joined-up, otherwise it is too hard. I would love to talk to you further about this. I would love to know if there is anything I can do. I have done a little research in this area.

    Re, older kids (school age) there has been some great research in this area that backs up that kids would like more independent mobility, cycling, going on the bus etc, and that many parents would like that too. The walking school bus is a good transition for the juniors and only means parents have to escort once a week.

    Barriers do include the limited PT and safe AT options that you mention above, and that it is the social norm to escort kids to school and around town as mentioned by other comments. Rather than putting all the blame on parents though one should consider why the social norm exists. Betsy Levy Paluck has discovered that social norms shift when figures of authority send a certain message of what is and isn’t acceptible. These authority figures could include respected peers, respected community leaders, government, the police, pastors etc. I would argue that group leaders in NZ, people with authority over how children should be raised do not support independent mobility.

    Yes, the roads are busier, but there are pedestrian crossing, kids can learn, as we did to negotiate the city alone, or in groups, however for a parent to let a kid out alone is to go against police advice, and all other websites purporting to give parenting advice in NZ. Teachers and principles seem to err on the side of caution also, and councillors when asked (at the Auckland Conversations talk on the 880 city) when they would let their kids out alone, either avoided the question or said they wouldn’t let them out until over 10.

    http://www.police.govt.nz/advice/personal-community/keeping-safe/children-safe.

    If there was guidance at the top that balanced a child’s safety with all the opportunities for them within a city amenities then this could be enormously helpful to poorer parents. If there was a sense that police/ and adults would help kids out there if they needed it, and tell them off if necessary too, without shaming the whole family for such appalling parenting, then it would free up a huge amount of time, and open up a world of opportunity for them. Paul Tranter’s suggestion in escaping the parent’s trap is by having a community discussion instead of defaulting to official recommendations – I have noticed that the pasifika community in my area are much less suspicious of their children and give them greater credit for their common sense in getting about to school and to the park without causing any problems for themselves or others. I assume different authority figures and cultural norms.

    References

    Carroll, P., Witten, K., Kearns, R., & Donovan, P. (2015). Kids in the City: Children’s Use and Experiences of Urban Neighbourhoods in Auckland, New Zealand. Journal of Urban Design, 20(4), 417-436. doi:10.1080/13574809.2015.1044504

    Ergler, C. R., Kearns, R., & Witten, K. (2016). Exploring children’s seasonal play to promote active lifestyles in Auckland, New Zealand doi://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.auckland.ac.nz/10.1016/j.healthplace.2016.07.001

    Kearns, R., & Collins, D. (2006). Children in the intensifying city: lessons from Auckland’s walking school buses. In B. Gleeson (Ed.), Creating Child Friendly Cities (pp. 105-120). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

    Mitchell, H., Kearns, R. A., & Collins, D. C. (2007). Nuances of neighbourhood: children’s perceptions of the space between home and school in Auckland, New Zealand. Geoforum, 38(4), 614-627. doi:10.1016/j.geoforum.2006.11.012

    Tranter, P. (2006). Overcoming Social Traps: A key to creating child friendly cities. In B. Gleeson (Ed.), Creating Child Friendly Cities (pp. 121-135). Abingdon, UK: Routledge.
    Cheers,

    Alex

    1. “If there was a sense that police/ and adults would help kids out there if they needed it, and tell them off if necessary too, without shaming the whole family for such appalling parenting, then it would free up a huge amount of time, and open up a world of opportunity for them.”

      Wholeheartedly agree with this. It’s disgusting and very limiting that we act as if a child that does anything wrong is representative of a failure by the entire family! Children test social boundaries, it’s part of being a child. Children who never get to test boundaries end up doing it as an adult where the potential for harm to themselves or others is much higher.

      You see another sort of admonishment often when a child tries to hop on a bus and asks the driver ‘do you stop on xx street’. The drivers’ attitudes often clearly indicate that they believe that children should be escorted and that their role is not to assist in the wayfinding of children. The consequence is that a child is made to feel ashamed or naughty for having gone somewhere alone, even when that place is their school!

      1. Yes, I’ve actually formed the habit now of sitting near the front so I can step in as required to help children. And it is required.

    2. Thanks Alex, I’ve copied your entire comment and will go through all those references. I had come across research by Plunket and Council about apartment-dwelling solo mums in Auckland, but you’ve got much more info here, which will be useful. Cheers.

  10. I cycled to school, about 1.5 ks in today’s language, my son walked to school, it was just around the corner, and now his son cycles to school, also about 1.5 ks. His oldest son son, now working, caught a bus to school as they chose to send him to a private school some distance away. No cars involved at all.

  11. As a mum who gave up the car a decade ago and told the kids they could do any activity they could get to by walking, bike or PT, here are some issues that lie across the Transport-Education divide:

    1/ Cloak Rooms. Children in Helsinki get cold and wet in the snow. But they have cloak rooms to get changed in and to store wet clothes and shoes in a way that means they are warm and dry, not cold and mouldy, at the end of the day. Kids weren’t walking today, but getting dropped off because there is no culture around getting into a dry set of clothes and shoes. Even the pegs in the corridor for raincoats are being incorporated into larger Modern Learning Environments. No school is going to provide the space for cloak rooms unless mandated by the Ministry. Kids who walk are therefore more likely to get sick. When my Mum taught in Otara, plenty of kids didn’t turn up on wet days, not because they were sick, but because their parents kept them at home to avoid getting sick, which is what happens when you are in wet clothes and shoes all day.

    2/ Uniforms. Children without a uniform can choose the appropriate clothing for the weather. My son’s school raincoat is fleece lined and only comes to his hips. Totally pathetic for a day like today. He’ll be soaked. The raincoat is also navy – navy! Visibility saves lives, and when you’re letting your child walk in the rain amongst all those drop-off cars, he should be in bright colours! Westlake Boys’ new we-want-be-back-in Mother-England blazer doesn’t even fit under their raincoat. They’re not allowed to wear jumpers without blazers. At some schools, the kids can’t afford both jumpers and blazers, so they just have blazers. But they’re not allowed to wear blazers in the class room, so they sit there cold. Totally and utterly stupid rules. Get rid of uniforms so children can be dressed appropriately for the transport choices they make.

    3/ BYOD. MoE decides that computers are necessary for education and then refuses to fund them. Well who do we think are missing out? Those who can’t afford them, or have support to fix them, etc. Now, on the transport front, all these devices are having to be carried to and from school. Often WITH plenty of books, too. How dumb can we be? I wouldn’t want to walk to school with hobby paraphernalia like sports, music and art gear with the additional weight of a laptop! One more thing to make walking unattractive.

  12. Awesome post.

    Love that it expresses stress, particularly of mothers, trying to get themselves and multiple children in different directions. The phrase “only just possible” is a really graceful way of expressing the degree of every day stress.

    The people who are the poorest in society are those with no options. When you see that ordinary life is “only just possible”, you are very close to a core measure of poverty anyway.

    I would make public transport in the City simply free for everyone at high school and under.

      1. 100 percent agree that we should do this, and stop making kids use HOP cards that they always lose and can’t replace at school.

  13. Big driver of poor health outcomes is the lack of transport options, many people don’t appear at their scheduled hospital appointment times not because they have no way of getting there; public transit is so poor across much of Auckland it’s not a viable option meaning every adult in a household needs to own a car to get to work and appointments, an expensive and unaffordable proposition.

  14. If it doesn’t already HNZ could have a policy to provide:
    1) some low income housing within walking distance of schools
    2) provide that housing to low income families with children for the period that they are at that school.
    This would help reduce transport costs for low income families.

  15. Here’s an idea. Congestion charging for school drop off / pick up! As a minimum no parking within say 500m of school. Just don’t get why it has become the social norm. Walking school buses are great or cycling.
    I may be completely guessing but it wouldn’t surprise me if in poorer areas more kids make their own way to school. Agree that school buses need to be better where walking etc is not practical.

  16. Certainly the effect of transport policy on children and families should be taken into account to a greater degree. Current pricing, for example, with its focus on commuters, makes it quite uneconomic for families to go with anything else but a car when traveling together. This is quite different to many European countries, where children often travel very cheaply or free with parents (or accompanying adults). And what about those mothers and dads, who need to take many short trips during the day?

    It’s a no-brainer that housing and transport has to be looked at together – that includes housing for families.

    A friend, who lived in both South Korea and the USA as a child, notes that public transport was the one thing that made her experience in Korea a lot better: she was able to meet easily with her friends and go to activities.

  17. An interesting topic but a disappointing article that parroted ideas rather than promoting solutions that will actually work.

    As has been suggested by many, 30 years ago this was not a problem. Guess what. There weren’t any bike lanes and cars were doing 50kmph. With that in mind suggesting reducing speed limits and building infrastructure would appear to be completely pointless.

    I’ll tell you why kids aren’t utilising active modes. It’s because they aren’t going to their local school. Why aren’t they doing that? Because we’ve removed the ability for kids from poor schools to shine. It started with NCEA and has been completed with the removal of national standards. In 2018 it’s not about how good you are because nobody has any way of telling that. It’s all about what school you attended which is why students are shipped off all across Auckland.

    You want to end “transport poverty”? Re-institute an education system where students can be compared across schools.

    1. Yup, the entire problem just emerged 5 mins ago with the removal of national standards. In reality your reply is the bleating of some privileged goon in an audi compensator waffling about the issue he has with current govt education policy whilst ignoring the fact that kids from low socio-economic areas don’t get ferried about Auckland to wanky decile 10 schools but need footpaths and cycleways that don’t allow them to get crushed by turds in Audis because both their parents are working and are unavailable to protect them from said turds en route to school.

    2. I dont disagree with anything from the post, but The Re’al Matthew actually makes a really key point.

      There are so many key factors that determine poverty and transport really isn’t one of them. Transport affects all our lives, but even if we gave everyone as much free cars and free petrol and free PT as they wanted, we would still have struggling poor people. Lots of them. Guaranteed.

      A transport plan that aims to reduce child poverty will only ever deal with the symptoms and never the root causes.

      We have a housing development system that encourages expensive, low-density housing.
      We have an education system that is failing the poor and creating a growing underclass.
      We have a social welfare system that traps people in poverty.
      We have a healthcare system that fails to support the most vulnerable in society.
      We have a tax system that heavily punishes wealth creating income earners and grossly rewards parasitical landlords (I’m one btw).

      Spending money on helping poor people VIA transport spending, is unlikely to achieve anything. It will only alleviate symptoms, not resolve the root causes. If reducing poverty is the goal, our limited resources should not be spent via transport interventions.

      1. Ari, the world’s 500 richest people increased their wealth by $1 trillion last year, (according to the Guardian.) Half of the world’s wealth was owned by 8 men a year or so ago, then 6, now 5. https://www.salon.com/2017/06/15/now-five-men-own-almost-as-much-wealth-as-half-of-worlds-population_partner/ Similar statistics exist for any way you want to measure it: the world’s natural and human resources are being exploited for the benefit of a few.

        When our systems: government, education, transport, welfare, etc are having to mop up the mess left when big business ruins ecosystems and social structures, it’s very hard to provide lives of dignity for the disempowered.

        Yes, there’s a root cause of it all. Changing that might never happen in our time. Meanwhile we can only have respect and empathy for everyone.

        1. Hiedi, those 500 “rich” people are only rich on paper, usally shares. These shares are only valuable because your Kiwi Saver fund buys them. If you stopped investing in stupid “safe” shares, then those 500 people would not be so “rich”

          1. Yes, it’s obviously our fault for trying to survive in a fixed system, not the fault of the people who rigged the system.

          2. What am I reading? Have I suddenly been given Kiwi Saver? 🙂 Yes, individual actions matter – I base my whole life around that. No, the 500 rich aren’t rich because the system’s been “rigged” by the masses who just can’t help themselves.

    3. National standards were introduced in 2010, your argument that they made the school system in the past great is completely unfounded.

      Odd that you would criticise someone elses ideas then just parrot a whole lot of rubbish yourself.

    4. “I’ll tell you why kids aren’t utilising active modes. It’s because they aren’t going to their local school.” That is often a big part of it.

      “Why aren’t they doing that?” Well, let’s see. We adopted systems from England and harp back to there, often ignoring the practices in countries unless they also adopted English education systems. The English systems were very class-based, unlike those of many countries in which all children are given equal access to quality education. This is the biggest pity for NZ education; it’s why we have such snobbery about schools.

      We need to end competition between schools and provide resources as required for teachers to educate the children, whatever they bring to the classroom. Comparisons between schools or classes are unhelpful, and undermine excellent education by teachers who have more children with more home and learning issues to deal with.

      NCEA isn’t perfect, and has been slowly morphed away from its original intentions by people who like to rank kids. It was never intended to be L1 at yr11, L2 at yr 12, L3 at yr 13, for example. But it’s a hell of a lot better than what we had before, where a pass or fail was determined on the results of an exam on one day, and the pass rate was predetermined based on the English capabilities of the children taking that subject. The fact that children with ESOL, dyslexia or a particular learning style might gravitate to particular subjects, taking their equal intelligence but lower English capabilities with them, meant that in those subjects – where they probably were excelling – had a very high fail rate. That was all about setting up a system to fail kids. I’m glad we’ve moved on.

      I just wish we could reapportion that huge part of the year when students are on study and exam break back to classroom learning. In this way, assessment is directly impacting on student learning, and is generally only used to support this comparison of schools rubbish. I look forward to more schools dropping doing NCEA at year 11 so that they can continue teaching uninterrupted by exams for longer.

      1. Couldn’t agree more. As someone who came through the old system and always did better in internal assessment (which is far more representative of the real world) than exams, I’d love my children not to have to do as many exams.

      2. Heidi your planned changes to the education system are exactly what I’m trying to get rid of.

        The only way to distinguish the strengths of an individual under your system is to look at the name of the school they went to. In Auckland everyone knows which schools are viewed as the “best” schools. Auckland Grammar, Kings, Baradene, Dio etc.

        Your system would result in students being transported all over Auckland as parents try to get their children into the best possible school. Exactly the opposite of what we want to achieve. We actually need to make student assessment comparable so a student suffers no adverse effects from going to what is considered to be a less desirable school.

        1. We’re after the same goal: parents content with sending their child to the local school.

          Certainly having three different systems (NCEA, Cambridge and IB) doesn’t help. Getting rid of that would help with the issue you are describing. There are also some complexities in choosing units within NCEA that I think could be dropped, but only to simplify things for students and teachers. Maybe this is something that concerns you?

          Educational assessment methods should be decided on how they assist the students to learn, not for any other reason. There are too many other factors involved in why parents want to send their children to other schools to pin avoiding-the-local down to assessment method. They include:

          – white flight and its ilk
          – so the children meet the “right sort of people (I’ve been quite shocked at how big this factor is)
          – making a comparison of assessment results and extrapolating wildly that this has to do with the learning opportunities at the school instead of understanding other differences
          – or understanding the reasons behind the assessment results but still thinking that one’s own child will do better amongst higher achievers

          To improve the support for teachers to be able to really reach and educate each child, whatever their background, and whatever the class make-up, involves increasing funding to education across the board. Currently, a decile 4 school has a population that is quite economically disadvantaged, needing a similar (though lower) amount per student as a decile 1 school does. Instead it gets only a 5th or 6th the amount, a full $700 less. [Apologies if I haven’t got that quite right – I’m tired.] Schools in that middle-lower band are particularly underfunded.

          Plus we need to stop the ballot system for out of zone places. Schools have shown repeatedly that they’ll fiddle this system to get the students they want; I think they’ve abused the privilege and we should just scrap it.

        2. I have to agree with TRM here. I have never understood the point of NCEA. There is no way to really compare students from different schools because the marking system is totally biased from school to school.

          Not to mention putting higher marking burdens on teachers.

          I have always felt boys do better in a exam focused system because of their more competitive nature and don’t do so well in the internal assessment environment.

          NCEA is producing a poor underclass because schools force students into utterly useless courses because it is easier to pass and looks better for the school and the students dont know any better. But what do I know, lets just keep producing low wage baristas. The students coming out of schools are no way prepared for uni exams because they are so used to internal assessments.

          The old systems wasn’t perfect, but I really don’t see how NCEA is any better.

          1. Comparing students is not necessary – there are enough countries out there without national exams at all to know that you can have a world-class education system without comparing students.

            I have reservations about our schools, NCEA, the requirement to stay at school so long, etc. But a society where adults reduce learning opportunities for young people, and increase their stress, just so they can be compared… that is a cold and calculating society that I will resist. These children are our treasures. What about the concepts of supporting, nurturing, guiding, encouraging, inspiring, and letting be?

  18. Anna I was so happy to read your post – hugely insightful thinking (and like many blindingly great ideas, I immediately thought “Hell, why aren’t we doing that already?!”)

    For those musing on transport’s contribution to overall poverty (a) reread Anna’s piece (b) check out how transport appears here – the Empathy Tool https://www.aucklandcitymission.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Demonstrating-the-Complexities-of-Being-Poor-An-Empathy-Tool.pdf

    Slightly off topic but a treat for those wondering about education (internal assessment vs exams etc etc) and our paradigm, this utterly superb animated video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

  19. Of course consider the effects of transportation costs on how it impacts on child poverty, but then let’s address the issues through the welfare system, that’s what its designed for.

    As a country we need to decide what we want our public transport system to deliver. For the last government they believed that everyone (or at least everyone who voted for them) wanted to drive and so they built endless roads.

    Some countries have decided that the greatest benefit of public transport is that is reduces congestion, carbon emissions, and pollution generally; that the individual non ownership of cars increases individual wealth; that it increases the countries wealth because of the reduction of foreign vehicles and fuel. If that is NZ’s am, or Auckland’s then let us have guiding transport objectives that seek to achieve these goals. And if we wish to achieve the greatest benefits then let us have specific targets for us to achieve in specific time frames.

    1. Addressing the needs of those in poverty only through the welfare systems misses the opportunity of allowing the issues to guide good design. While many of the needs of poor people are similar to the needs of users of cheaper, sustainable modes, there are other needs that shouldn’t just be equalised through financial assistance. If we had time, we’d probably find a few examples by looking through metrosideros’ link about the complexities of being poor. A (very) quick squiz (sorry, metrosideros, I’m going to read it properly later) shows up:

      “The participants were immersed in the present and made decisions based upon the needs confronting them on the day.” This has implications around cash fares vs HOP cards and passes.

      Gambling issues: Could there be, for example, a policy about no advertising for gambling anywhere in or near public transport?

      Food: While some services are working hard to enable people in poverty to have access to bulk fresh food and to provide education around growing food and cooking cheaply from scratch, what would be the effect of having snack food vending machines and advertising for low-nutrition high-packaging poor-value ‘foods’ at stations?

      And there’d be other issues, too, like planning routes simply on passenger demand, without looking specifically at those passengers who are entirely dependent on routes for the very basics of life.

  20. I finally caught up on reading the comments to this post properly, so much to think about here (& more on the education issue itself) & thank you Heidi and others for some great insights. There is always big debate about external exams vrs internal assessment, school zones & such. Different things suit different groups & types of people, so I think having different systems is probably inevitable especially in NZ. What suits parents or students doesn’t suit teachers, differences between genders etc etc. I like the idea of free PT for children->students in lots of ways, especially say just weekdays perhaps up to a certain time, but think would be a shame to lose the valuable HOP data they would be currently gathering to help improve services etc. Could of course use HOP but free or bus drivers could manually count on & off kids but that is far from perfect & difficult for drivers & what about trains?

    Our local primary school seems to have a lot less car pick up and drop offs (judging by how many cars parked outside out place before school finishes) since paths were upgraded in the surrounding area (and more yellow no stopping lines implemented I think). Also the walking school bus scheme introduced…could be that it’s not winter also (in theory).

    1. Hi Grant, I wonder if anyone took any measurements of traffic before and after the path and walking bus improvements at your local primary school? That’s the sort of data that is great to have. I appreciated the New Plymouth data someone provided on here once, for example.

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