Labour's school laptops plan 'should go further'

By Elizabeth Binning

Labour leader Phil Goff visited Crawshaw Primary School in Hamilton yesterday to announce his party's education policy. Photo / Christine Cornege
Labour leader Phil Goff visited Crawshaw Primary School in Hamilton yesterday to announce his party's education policy. Photo / Christine Cornege

Labour's plan to give laptops or netbooks to 31,000 children in low-decile schools has been welcomed - but with a warning it doesn't go far enough and middle-class children could be left behind when it comes to e-learning.

The party yesterday announced a $75 million e-learning package which would give Year 7-13 students at low-decile schools access to the same kinds of technology that are already compulsory in many high-decile schools.

"We know technology is one of the most important tools in developing 21st century schools," said education spokeswoman Sue Moroney. "Mobile devices are now part of the stationery requirements at some high-decile schools.

"Yet, despite our world-class education system and the dedication of teaching staff, some of our kids are still missing out. They are failing to achieve and they are disengaged. These are often the most vulnerable students - Maori, Pasifika and children from low income families."

Ms Moroney said every decile 1-3 school would be given $600 for each student in Year 7-13. It would then be up to the school to decide what kind of device - be it a laptop, iPad or netbook - the money was put towards and whether the student got to take it home with them or if it was kept at school.

Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said the laptops should be rolled out to all schools, not just the low-decile schools. "[People] think that higher and mid-decile schools have the money but in fact they also have a high cohort of students that would struggle to pay for laptops and iPads."

He said technology was becoming so important - some schools overseas don't even have textbooks now - that it was unfair to provide funding for it to only some schools.

Ms Moroney said the initiative would be partly funded by savings of $14.1 million a year from discontinuing programmes such as the private school scholarships for students from low-decile schools.

Other highlights from Labour's education policy include:

Retaining existing subsidies and fee controls for 20 hours' free early childhood education and restoring funding and the 100 per cent fully qualified teachers target.

Establishing parent advocates to work alongside parents to engage with teachers, principals and boards of trustees to ensure their needs are being met.

Amending guidelines to ensure all schools have an effective anti-bullying programme and provide external multi-agency support for schools in dealing with these issues.

Boosting placements for work-ready students through enhanced Gateway.

E-Learning boost

* 31,000 laptops or netbooks to be given to children in low-decile schools.
* All Year 7-13 students in decile 1-3 schools given $600 to go towards a mobile learning device such as a laptop.
* It will be up to schools to decide what kind of mobile device is purchased and whether it's kept at school or the students can take it home each night.

- NZ Herald

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