Wednesday, 28 September 2016

'White Flight' and why it upsets me so much

I am a Pakeha (white) relief Primary School teacher. I travel around to a variety of South Auckland schools that are predominantly Maori and Pasifika. I love teaching Maori and Pasifika children. They are some of the kindest, beautiful kids I've taught. Imyself live in Papakura - a diverse but low socio-economic area. We chose to live here over other areas in Auckland and love it here. Many other Pakeha families looking to get on the property ladder have also moved here in recent times due to it being more affordable. But does it show in the local schools? No. And it saddens me.

On my way to one school in the mornings I drive past a group of Pakeha primary aged kids all gathered at a bus stop - dressed in the uniform of a rural school. The local school is a good school and has had fantastic ERO reports. In fact - most primary schools in Papakura have. Again, why are there so many Pakeha families sending their kids elsewhere for school? According to some articles that I've read - it's because they don't want their kids to feel like a minority. Completely ignoring the fact that Maori and Pasifika people are the minority in everyday life. Surely it would be a good thing to feel that way? Therefore they would have more empathy towards other ethnic groups later in life (or so my theory goes). Being at a diverse school means that children are able to be exposed to other cultures and learn about them. I see that as a fantastic thing.

When I relieve, I quite regularly get asked what my culture is. I answer Irish (that's the one I identify with most). I'm proud of my heritage (there's some very interesting stories in my family history - but that's a story for another time). The kids get really excited when I tell them my culture and then proceed to tell me about theirs. I have learnt so much from these children about different cultures and I love that I have.

Another problem with 'white flight' is the decile rating system (as of writing this is still in place - the government is proposing change). This is where students are funded based on the socio-economic status of their school catchment area. The lower the number, the more funding they get per student. The theory is that in higher socio-economic areas families can fund-raise more money for the local school. Many people misinterpret this as a rating on how good the school is. When I worked at Farmers I remember overhearing a conversation between a few of the ladies there about how they wouldn't send their kids to a low decile school because it was worse. Needless to say - I enlightened them to how it really works and urged them to check out the school's ERO report. Not surprisingly (for me at least), the school that they were talking about had a very good ERO report. This stigma needs to stop.

What I would love, is for people to send their kids to local schools - regardless of the ethnicity of the other children who attend ( the only exception to this I have is if the school has a bad recent ERO report or if they don't cater to your child's special needs). Chances are - your child will come out of there a more open-minded human being than they would otherwise. I know that few years of teaching in South Auckland has changed me and I embrace the fact that it has. Enough with this 'white flight'. You are part of the community. You chose to live here. That means that you should enrol your kids in the local schools so that they can get to know their local community too. You as a parent will too. Deal with it.

Disclaimer - this is my opinion. If you disagree you are free to do so in the comments - but do it in a nice way.