Drive for class peace welcome

By Genevieve Helliwell

Bay principals have welcomed an injection of more than $63 million to tackle disruptive classroom behaviour and lift achievement but one says the money could be better spent.

Education Minister Hekia Parata revealed in a pre-Budget announcement the Government would spend an additional $80.5 million over four years with $63.6 million going on positive behaviour for learning programmes.

The programmes are targeted at parents, teachers and schools to help address problem behaviour in children and young people.

Kaka Street Special School principal Barrie Wickens applauded Ms Parata's move to address disruptive behaviour but told the Bay of Plenty Times in his opinion she was "arrogant" and needed to engage with the education sector instead of "throwing money" at a problem.

"[It] looks great in the public eye, but is actually money seriously wasted," Mr Wickens said.

He suggested the money could be better spent on employing new teaching graduates and support staff to offer assistance in classrooms with students with challenging behaviour.

This would get more graduates into employment, they could learn on the job and give the more experienced teacher the chance to spend time with the troubled children. This was "not rocket science" he said.

He also questioned where the "bucket of money" came from in the current economic climate and suggested it had come from staffing level cuts.

Positive behaviour for learning, also known as PB4L, was introduced in 2009 to improve behaviour in children and young people, increase educational engagement and achievement, and decrease the long-term costs of difficult behaviour continuing into adulthood.

Currently 408 schools throughout New Zealand participate in the programme.

Early reports showed most children involved in the programme experienced improvements in their behaviour, Ms Parata said.

"When we address the behaviour of children it helps families, and schools," she said.

Bethlehem School principal Brian Field agreed.

"The reality is with our education system, you can't make progress with an angry child unless the environment and conditions, ie behaviour, is right."

He said children who misbehaved could disrupt a whole classroom and inhibit other students' learning.

Education Ministry figures show violent and harmful behaviour offences accounted for more than half of primary and secondary student stand-downs, suspensions and permanent dismissals last year.

Teacher unions have previously raised concerns about classroom violence and threatened industrial action if their members felt unsafe.

The Government had already committed $81.7 million over four years to the PB4L programme to curb disruptive behaviour.

The $63.6 million investment will boost funding for the programme to $145.3 million over four years - a 78 per cent increase. The additional funding will result in an extra 200 primary and intermediate schools having access to the PB4L programme over the next four years.

Budget 2013 four-year education initiatives include

  • $63.6 million for Positive Behaviour for Learning

  • $14.5 million to support Boards of Trustees

  • $2.4 million for Connecting Communities programme

- Bay of Plenty Times

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