Children’s Commissioner speaks at Cambridge education day

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft during his talk at Cambridge High School last Friday.

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft had a message for Cambridge teachers when he spoke at the Cambridge Community of Learning’s second annual Professional Development Day at Cambridge High School on June 14.

“Teachers can make a difference. Some things teachers can change and some things they can’t. But the things they can change, they can have a big impact on.”

Judge Becroft said the biggest issue with the education system today was disparity.

“New Zealand has one of the most unequal education systems in the world,” he said.

“If you look at it structurally and say ‘how well do New Zealand’s children do?’, 70 per cent do really well, 20 per cent struggle and 10 percent are at a real disadvantage.”

He went on to break down the main challenges facing New Zealand’s education system today – understanding the impact of child poverty, the need to do better for some Māori and Pasifika children, and understanding the prevalence and effects of neurodevelopmental disabilities.

“Some of these you can change, some you can’t, but you can respond to all of them.”

He said the starting point for teachers was being truly child-centred, and broke down what that meant for the 350 people in the room – which included early childhood, primary, middle and high school teachers as well as resource teachers, Ministry of Education members and Cambridge Lifeskills counsellors.

In his additional information Judge Becroft said he wanted a change in Oranga Tamariki’s care, protection and youth justice systems.

“We advocate for systemic changes that support children and young people to remain within their families, whānau, hapū, and iwi and wider family group.”

He highlighted his office’s four areas of focus for Oranga Tamariki:

Encouraging Oranga Tamariki to build respectful and positive relationships with whānau, hapū and iwi Māori, and to support and resource them to successfully care for their own children.

Encouraging Oranga Tamariki to develop and tailor more community-based care options to meet the needs of children who require specialist or custodial care.

Advocating for the phased closure over time of the national care and protection residences, and reducing the use of national youth justice residences for remand purposes.

Advocating for the removal of the option which allows the Youth Court to remand young people into police cell custody as contained in the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989.

Several education experts spoke during the development day, covering topics like special needs learning, understanding the brain, growth mindsets and more.

Educational psychologist Nathan Wallis spoke in his morning session about the first 1000 days of life, and how these shape what kind of person you become, and gave an afternoon session on understand the teen brain.

Cambridge educators Lee Bird, Vikki Cooper, Arnia Caccioppoli and Daniel Peters also shared aspects of their outstanding teaching practices.

“It was fantastic to see over three hundred local educators, from early childhood to senior high school combining, to learn together to gain a better understanding of how best to support all learners in our community,” said David Graham, leader of the Cambridge Community of Learning (Te Puna o Kemureti).

“Combining together strengthens all of us and allows everyone to access world class speakers alongside our local experts including our mana whenua. The day strengthened partnerships while challenging our teachers to continue to work together to strive to best meet the needs of our children.”

The day was funded through Ministry of Education grants pooled together by all schools in the Cambridge Community of Learning.

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