Coronavirus: Government reveals $15m package to get kids back to school after lockdown

The Government has unveiled a $15 million package to help Auckland pupils "re-engage" with the education system after nearly three months at home.

But that won't necessarily involve just paying students to learn - rather than quitting to support their families financially. 

Senior secondary school students were allowed back into classrooms this week, while a tentative date of November 15 has been pencilled in for primary-age kids, none of whom have been vaccinated yet. 

During the lockdown some schools reported losing track of many students, and if last year's experience is anything to go by, many simply won't return before year's end, if at all. 

Various reasons have been suggested, including a lack of internet connectivity or having to work to support families through tough economic times. 

"Restrictions in Auckland and long periods of distance learning will have impacted on the progress of some children and young people," said Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, who is also the COVID-19 Response Minister.

"The investment will help our older students who are returning to school and heading into exams, and support younger students to get back to face-to-face learning soon."

Associate Minister of Education Jan Tinetti told Newshub Nation on Saturday "young people need to be attending school", not just for their education but mental health. 

"We know that being at home, being away from their friends can have a negative effect on our young people."

The fund includes:

  • $6 million in targeted support "to meet the immediate needs of Māori and Pacific students within their whānau so they can re-engage in learning, either back at school, online or with another education provider"
  • $3 million Rapid Resurgence Fund for "immediate and flexible support to schools - allocation to focus on Māori and Pacific students and weighted for equity"
  • $2.2 million "to deploy the Te Kura 300 programme to support at-risk students in Auckland to stay engaged, or re-engage, in learning"
  • $1.5 million in new counselling support, focusing on years 6 to 9
  • $1 million "for students with identified learning support needs, including those with disabilities"
  • $630,000 "to scale up Check & Connect in Auckland to provide additional mentors for at-risk students referred to the service by schools and kura"
  • $600,000 to rapidly connect with and actively support learners to re-engage with school.  

She said the  $15 million package will "help re-engage our learners in the education system".

"Some of that will be about community-based support, some will be targeted support into schools, individualised support around counselling, learning support, and basically a whole lot of measures that will look at re-engaging our young people. 

"Some of those young people won't come back to school this year, but we want to make certain that we're touching base with them, keeping them engaged in the system and also that they know that we care."

Jan Tinetti.
Jan Tinetti. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

Newshub Nation host Simon Shepherd asked if that would include paying secondary students to go back to school, rather than get jobs - a short-term financial call that could potentially hurt their prospects later in life. 

"That's where the community based support comes in. It's about… finding out why they're disengaging with schooling and what other supports can come into play," said Tinetti

Asked again if that could involve direct payments, Tinetti said community support providers would get in touch to find out what they need. 

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