A child’s ability to read and write has a profound impact on their future success and wellbeing – but not everyone is getting the help they need to master these basic skills.
Lots of kids are struggling to learn in overcrowded classrooms, live a transient lifestyle or simply aren’t encouraged to read or write at home. That’s where private tutors like Angela Gunn step in.
“One-on-one tuition gives them that support they can’t get at home or in school and it makes a massive difference,” she explains.
“We make it quite holistic and introduce kids to new ideas and teach them how to think critically. I’m not criticising our schools; they do a tough job in difficult circumstances. But the reality is they can’t provide some things for some students and that’s where we can help.”
Raising The Standard
Angela launched Rotorua tutoring business In2Learning five years ago and now helps approximately 100 students each term with reading, writing and maths. But there’s a special group of kids she’s particularly excited to work with – those whose parents can’t afford to pay the full cost of private tuition themselves.
“The economic situation has changed in New Zealand. A lot of people have less disposable income now so even though they want to do the right thing for their kids they just can’t afford private tuition fees.”
To solve this problem, Angela’s Spirit of Excellence Education Trust launched an initiative called “Raising the Standard” in 2015. Children who are working below average levels in Rotorua classrooms are given a heavily subsidised one hour lesson each week.
In Terms 2 and 3 this year, 20 students between Years 1- 8 will benefit thanks to a $10,000 grant from BayTrust.
“We’re just really rapt and very grateful that we can use this money to help people in the community,” Angela says. “It’s just another way we can reach kids who wouldn’t normally be helped. It provides them with an opportunity they may not have got.”
Based on past results, Angela says students who receive tuition through ‘Raising the Standard’ gain on average a whole year level in their maths and two years in their reading comprehension.
To qualify this year, families must commit to their child attending every week for 20 weeks and must make a small financial contribution themselves. “The money the parents pay, that all goes towards helping another child.”
The cost of not helping children learn to read and write properly while they’re young is enormous.
Angela believes up to 40 per cent of adults now suffer from ‘functional illiteracy’, meaning they don’t have the basic literacy and numeracy skills required to cope in the modern workplace.
“That has huge implications not just for our economy but for people’s wellbeing. When you don’t have those skills, how do you access the help you need in education or health or anything when you don’t have those skills to navigate through life?”
She believes New Zealand needs to re-examine the education system and how children are being taught. “Maths, in particular, we don’t teach very well in this country. We also really need to look at the quality of who we’re getting to teach our kids. In Finland, teachers are very well paid and only the top 10 per cent of graduates can enter that profession.”
While the current gaps are due to a combination of factors, Angela believes early intervention is the key to ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive.
“Because of a range of circumstances, often beyond their control, some people simply can’t get access to their ‘piece of the pie’ because they struggle to read or write. When individuals do well, society and our economy does well.
“I passionately believe that sound literacy and numeracy skills are fundamental to helping achieve success in the modern world.”