Increased classroom numbers "can only succeed on a case-by-case basis" says Dingle

Friday 3 February 2012, 2:50PM
By Foundation for Youth Development (FYD)

Mountaineer and co-founder of the Foundation for Youth Development (FYD), Graeme Dingle, has expressed concern at education cost-cutting measures suggested by Treasury this week.

The suggestions include more children per class and state school closures, to free up money for better-quality teaching.

“Whilst FYD supports increased investment in quality-of-teaching and believes that increased classroom numbers may be effective in some cases, it is certainly not a one-size-fits-all situation and if simply a cost-cutting initiative than it is of grave concern.”

“We know that for young people to remain positively engaged and achieving in education, they need to feel safe, supported and nurtured in the classroom and school environment. For students with low self-efficacy or higher needs, greater numbers in the classroom will compromise learning, they will lose their voice,” he says.

“FYD potentially supports implementation of this plan but only on a case-by-case basis. A positive connection and mentoring bond with teachers is imperative for students. Increasing student numbers has the potential for serious negative impact including added stress to already heavy teacher workloads, reduction of one-on-one teacher-student time, increased student disengagement and quite feasible increased bullying in the classroom and the playground.”

Dingle and his partner, lawyer Jo-anne Wilkinson, started FYD over 15 years ago and their youth development programmes – Kiwi Can, Stars, Project K and MYND – have achieved a high level of success.

“We set up FYD following six months in the Arctic where we were shocked by the high levels of social deprivation, alcohol abuse, suicide, mental health and more, we felt so thankful coming from New Zealand where these issues for young people ‘just didn’t exist’.

“When we got back, we realised that we’d been incredibly naïve. Our country’s own track record with young people was not very flash. So after much research we developed FYD, our approach is all about being the fence at the top of the cliff not the ambulance at the bottom.”

FYD advocates holistic programmes that envelope young people from an early age right through to the end of high school and beyond, to ensure that there is support for those that need it as they make the transition from child, to adolescent, to adult.

“We recently took part in a four-year pilot project in Northland which saw three organisations collaborating so that four programmes ran throughout the community, from pre-school right through to a parenting programme, and the results were excellent. It has prompted FYD to invest in the sequencing of our own school-based programmes in areas of most need.”

FYD’s Community Development Strategy (CDS) has now commenced in Mataura, Huntly and Manurewa are now underway.

“It requires long-term planning and financing, but we see it as a worthy investment in our country’s future. The sums are paltry, compared to the cost of not investing in the first place,” he says.

FYD programmes use the great outdoors, inspirational classroom leaders and world class mentors to help kids from age 5 to 18 keep on track, develop confidence and self-belief and create goals for the future.

Programmes focus on leadership skills, building confidence, developing life skills and teambuilding to help kids discover possibility and motivation, creating a youth population with a positive outlook and eyes open to the future.

FYD’s programmes are run in 17 regions across New Zealand by licensed community trusts, together reaching over 17, 500 young people every year.