NZ Police says supporting a literacy programme at a Gisborne primary school is reaping rewards for all involved.
Each week the Tairāwhiti Police Youth Services team head to Te Wharau School to spend time reading with students who need extra support with their literacy.
The idea came about when Senior Constable Marcus Rudge moved from PST to Youth Services and asked his supervisor Sergeant Cath Jones if he could take an hour’s leave each week to continue to help with the reading programme while in his new role.
Sergeant Jones saw it as a positive prevention activity in line with the team’s kaupapa. So after discussions with the school, including Marcus’ wife Jonette and Margie Ricards who help run the programme, it was decided all the Youth Services team, including Senior Constables Tess Brownlie, Scott Pitkethley and Craig Lister would join Marcus in the mahi.
She says not only do her staff love sitting down and reading with the children, but it has created a wonderful relationship between Police,the students and staff at the school.
“Our regular visits are a really positive way for us to connect with the school and its students and develop a strong meaningful relationship,” says Sergeant Jones.
She says her staff understand the importance of children staying positively engaged in school and connecting with the students through reading is just one way of supporting that kaupapa.
“We know children who stay in school have better social connections, they learn better and form better relationships, and long term are less likely to end up in the youth justice system. If we can help with that we are helping everyone.”
Te Wharau School Deputy Principal Senior Department, Sharelle Donaldson says the literacy programme has been running in the school for a long time with exceptional results, thanks to the dedicated team behind it.
She says the opportunity to have Police come in and create positive relationships with the students is fantastic.
“Seeing Police in our school on a regular basis has had a really positive impact on our students,” says Ms Donaldson. “It has become the norm and taken away any negative connotations some may have towards Police.”
As for Senior Constable Rudge, she describes he and his wife as the “dream team”.
“Marcus has a wonderful way of speaking with the students, softly at their level. Jonette has been working with us for more than 20 years and is so passionate about the work she does, and it shows in the results,” Ms Donaldson said.