Education Minister Chris Hipkins challenged over lack of online resources for low-decile schools

The Education Minister says college students leaving school to work is not new, as concerns grow about the impacts of COVID-19 on our education system.

School principals are saying COVID-19 is increasing the inequity in our education system - with some students having to choose work over school to help support their families.

Hipkins says not all students who leave school end up at university, and the Government is providing additional financial support for families hit hard by COVID-19.

"Not every student is going to stay at school until year 13 - that's never been the case."

Hipkins doesn't believe there will be a legacy of students having to compromise their education because of COVID-19.

"The Government cannot solve absolutely every problem here - families I know work really really hard to put food on the table for their kids."

Hipkins believes the Government's investment in vocational training like the trades and apprenticeships can catch students who do leave school.

"There's nothing wrong with those students leaving - as long as they're going into a job that will give them a ladder, rather than a dead-end job which will keep them on the minimum wage forever."

The ability of schools to provide digital devices and internet connections for students has also been in the spotlight.

Hipkins does admit there were issues with supplying laptops and internet during the first nationwide lockdown in March. More devices are being shipped out to schools this week, with low-decile schools a key focus.

"We will ensure in Auckland every senior secondary school student has access to a digital learning device," Hipkins says.

Chris Hipkins on The Hui.
Chris Hipkins on The Hui. Photo credit: The Hui

The inequity within the education system was put under further scrutiny this week after a new study revealed the impacts of streaming classes on Māori students.

The study of 70,000 Māori learners, He Awa Ara Rau, foundMāori were disproportionately represented in low-ability classes, which hampered their ability to get the qualifications that lead to well-paid jobs.

Hipkins says schools in New Zealand should not be streaming.

"All of the international research is very clear - streaming does more harm than it does good.

"We should be having high expectations of Māori and Pasifika students just like any other student.

If any parents had concerns about streaming classes, Hipkins encouraged them to take it up with their school leadership - or raise it with the Ministry of Education or the Education Review Office (ERO).