The Equality Network is asking for politicians to commit to a truly free education, which will benefit all children, irrespective of their household incomes. Members of the Equality Network, a non-partisan network of 37 members united by the vision of a more equal Aotearoa New Zealand, say that the hidden costs of education are putting unnecessary additional stresses on our poorest families.

Free Education Gives Best Results

Mark Potter, principal at Berhampore Primary School in Wellington, says every child in New Zealand has a right to a quality, free education – but not all are getting this. “Effectively we’ve had a funding freeze in place which has made it very difficult for schools to provide for children.”

He says this funding freeze has meant that schools have stopped providing resources that they should be, for example by not painting school buildings, or halting the purchase of new library books. “We need to make sure we’ve got better funding so all the children have access to friends, access to their community, access to learning. We will be a much richer society for it.”

Countries with their best academic results, such as Finland, have properly free education, including tertiary studies, says Peter Malcolm, former principal of Otumoetai College in Tauranga, and National Secretary of Closing the Gap. “If we removed the hidden costs of education and made it properly free for all children, we would create a more just and fair Aotearoa New Zealand which allows every child, regardless of the income level of its household, to thrive. We also need to provide more resources for schools that target low-achieving students in order to help them succeed.”

Hidden Costs Start Early

The hidden costs start with Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), for example the fees beyond the 20 hours subsidy from the Government, the hidden costs of non-qualified teachers and the costs of poor provision of education in poorer areas.

Low-income households with school students are then faced with the many hidden costs at school, that average at around $2,800 per year per child. These include voluntary “donations” that parents are expected to pay, digital stationery packs, Education Outside the Classroom, co-curricular sport and cultural activities, examination fees,  ‘specialist’ consultations to provide evidence of the need for additional support, family-subsidised teacher aide hours and supplementary private tutoring such as Kip McGrath. Children also miss out on key learning opportunities through overseas trips and often find it difficult to cover uniform costs or to buy season-appropriate clothing, for example wearing shorts instead of pants in winter.

The Equality Network is asking for a commitment from the incoming Government for increased educational funding to ensure every child and young person has access to free, quality public education that allows them to reach their full potential; and

It is also asking for a huge boost to retraining and skills programmes to give people a better chance to find a job.

Read the full Equality Network Election Statement here.