Rotorua Daily Post: Giving kids the best start

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It's often said “Our children are our future”. True, so what must we do to prepare our children for our future?

It’s important that every child gets the best possible start to life, and a good education is vital to success. All children, no matter their social or economic background, deserve an equal chance when it comes to education. That’s why, since being elected, we have made a number of changes to ensure that no child gets left behind.

Parents in Rotorua will know about the B4 School Checks, a government initiative provided by the Lakes DHB. The B4 School Checks are important as they help to identify and address health or developmental problems at an early age. Early detection of any potential issues means that parents are able to link up with additional support services for their child before starting school.

More Rotorua children than ever are benefiting from the free health check, with 97 per cent of local children having a B4 check before heading off to school. Tests are conducted on hearing, eyesight, weight and oral health, and parents are asked to fill out a comprehensive health and development questionnaire. Over 2,000 Rotorua children have had a check-up, giving their parents extra peace of mind that they are healthy and ready to start school.

The Lakes DHB has done a fantastic job to make sure Rotorua families have access to this important programme. Our health professionals deserve particular recognition. I encourage all parents to find out how to make an appointment for a B4 School Check and take advantage of the opportunity. It would be great to see 100 per cent of children having it done.

Another important Government initiative is the Breakfasts in Schools programme.  Last week, the KickStart breakfast in schools programme served up its five millionth breakfast, after an investment of $9.5 million two years ago to expand the programme.

Parents are ultimately responsible for the care of their children, but we can’t ignore the fact that some children turn up to school hungry, which makes learning difficult. That is why the Government teamed up with companies like Fonterra and Sanitarium to boost the programme. Every school in Rotorua who want to provide breakfasts to their students are able to under this programme.

When a student has a good breakfast they're happier and healthier and learn better. Children are better off because of breakfast clubs at school. And the stats back this up, with 85 per cent of schools around the country reporting that general health and well-being has improved among students.

These programmes help families to give their children the best start in life.

I support these policies, and I’m glad to see them making a difference in people’s lives and children’s education.