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The Papanui-Innes Community Board has heard that school principals in the area are becoming increasingly concerned about unmet post-quake needs of primary school students.
At a regular meeting at the board room on Friday, Principals from primary schools in Belfast, Mairehau, Papanui, St Albans, Redwood, Casebrook, Shirley and Northcote said they are concerned at the growing issue of dealing with stress affected children.
Mairehau Primary School Principal, John Bangma says children at local schools are having to wait up to 6 weeks for a first appointment and then up to 8 months for a referral to be actioned.
Principals said “This is not sustainable for our communities,” he said. “We are seeing many 5 and 6 year olds starting school who are not what I’d call “ ‘school ready’. They are anxious, behaviourally challenging; basically they need a lot more specialist support than is available at present.”
The Principals say they believe the mental health and behavioural issues they are seeing are the results of being “in-utero” (stress hormones / chemicals affecting the unborn baby), ongoing insurance / EQC problems for families during the child’s formative years, many families having to move several times (rents going up, EQC repairs of properties, landlord selling properties); and this is creating families who feel disconnected and unstable, ongoing road and central city repairs which is slowing a sense of returning to ‘normality’.
They also say that following the quakes parents wanted to keep young children close so preschools were not as well attended in the years following the quakes as parents wanted to keep young children at home with them, and add that if B4 School checks were are not picking the issues up, this information was not being passed on to schools.
Bangma says there’s new research from Dr Kathleen Liberty that supports what the principals are seeing and the CDHB and MoE should acknowledge this. Dr Kathleen Liberty’s research was reported widely late last year and Ms Dr Liberty is preparing to present her findings. http://www.research.canterbury.ac.nz/documents/RR20144243.pdf
Local organisations like the CCC Papanui-Innes Community Board funds social workers and other support for local schools, which the Principals acknowledged.
John Bangma spoke highly of community organisations such as Neighbourhood Trust, which he says “are an essential element of the success of our schools because our parents and kids children need to trust who they are working with and that takes time and money, and a school is a great hub for this.”
Bangma said Neighbourhood Trust, for example, has been fantastic but they need to be funded more effectively to do their work, “They have worked with us closely in a number of ways including establishing coffee groups, counselling, parenting support as well as before and after school care as well as and holiday programmes, which have helped our kids children and parents immensely,” says Bangma.
“More help in the psychosocial area is badly needed. At least one other of our schools is paying for a counsellor to come to school twice a week to help us.”
The Principals said they feel the Ministry and Government don't understand the immensity of the problem in Christchurch when it comes to the effects of the earthquakes, and the following years, on our children and families.