Courage and initiative Education Generosity

Magic lift for education in Hutt Valley

Rangimarama Mariu uses her card to access library computers and the city’s public swimming pools

They’re called Magic Cards, not carpets, but they are taking young people places and providing more opportunities for Hutt Valley students to access learning at no cost.

Magic Cards provide free access to library computers, photocopying and swimming pools in the city of Lower Hutt for students at five schools in the city’s north east – Avalon Intermediate, St Michael’s (Taita), Taita Central, Pomare School and Taita College.

Across those schools 800 tamariki have been given Magic Cards by Hutt City Council through the Taka (Te Awa Kairangi Access) Trust.

The cards were given the name in the hope of “creating a bit of magic in their lives and for their futures,” says Taka Trust Chair, Matt Reid.

At Avalon Intermediate all 200 students have the cards.

Avalon Intermediate principal, Ian Hastie, says the Magic Cards are a privilege and it is important for parents to emphasis their value

Principal, Ian Hastie, says the cards came out of discussions several years ago when the Walter Nash Centre in nearby Taita was being planned.

Many children don’t have home internet access often needed for homework assignments.

The cards mean they have free use of computers in Lower Hutt libraries and the new community hubs at the Walter Nash Centre and in Stokes Valley.

Ian says the Magic Cards have “definitely made things easier for students . . . basically more opportunities to access learning at no cost.”

A major problem

At Avalon Intermediate some of the children estimate 50 percent of their peers don’t have a home computer.

Ian is full of praise for what the council and Taka Trust are doing.

Hutt City Council is really proactive and recognises the disenfranchised youth in the north east.”

But, in practical terms, he has to keep reminding students what the card can be used for.

Those who get the most use out of the cards are “kids from families who make a point of pushing their children to use them,” he says.

“It is a privilege to have a Magic Card and important for parents to emphasis its value,” Ian says.

Avalon Intermediate students, from left, Rangimarama Mariu (Year 8), Riana Shaw (Year 7), Isabella Candy (Year 8) and Elijah Opa (Year 7). All four can swim and make good use of the cards at city pools.

Free use of library computers is great, says one of the parents.

We have no internet at home and my child is able to spend time organising her learning in our local library at no cost to the family, it is just great.”

Room 1 teacher, Simon Flockton, says “My students are able to access learning online at Walter Nash free which they would not have been able to do previously – it is a great help for classroom learning.”

Empowering Tamariki

Behind the Magic Cards is the ambitious council-backed Empowering Tamariki programme for generational change that is based on hand-ups and not hand-outs.

Local government can make a huge difference to the lives of the people it serves and in Lower Hutt its city council is determined to give a hand up in areas of high deprivation.

Matt Reid is general manager of City and Community services at the council and also chair of the Taka Trust.

He says that values are essential and he talks of the values required for kids to enjoy the Magic Cards.

Printed on the back of the cards are those values:

We care for ourselves,

we care for places

and we care for each other.

The Magic Cards also get the children free into council-run pools throughout the city.

Matt says the cost to the council is minimal, if not neutral.

For many kids who use pools, for example, a parent might also attend and pay for entry. Often an entry fee we would otherwise not have got.”

Ian says he had concerns about the significant numbers of children, especially Maori and Pasifika, who could not swim.

The school has not had its own pool for decades so uses council-run public pools with Naenae the closest.

Avalon Intermediate subsidises its children to have swimming lessons.

Ian says that while the Magic Card does not include the cost of travel to the pools, the free pool access provided by the card has been great for his students.

Avalon Intermediate also takes its students on day trips to the outdoor Wainuiomata Summer pool which includes an open air waterslide surrounded by native bush.

As for schools in other communities, Matt Reid says there are no plans yet but over time it is hoped each of the city’s community hubs, libraries and pools will come up with their own solutions to assist our Tamariki.

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To read more about Empowering Tamariki click here


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  • What the story lacks is some substance about whether or not it’s making any difference in the lives of children in terms of educational / health / sport / etc achievement and well-being (i.e., is there a longitudinal evaluation of the programme in place or is it just a warm fuzzy PR stunt). It also fails to point out the paradox between a council expecting libraries to earn increasingly high income, largely through the reliance on computer use, and then handing out free cards to kids to claim it cares. Most libraries worldwide, including NZ do not charge for computer use and have not done so for many years now. Hutt City continues to do the opposite.

    • Thanks for your feedback and your points are well made. We contacted Matt Reid, General Manager, City and Community Services and he responds:
      The Magic Card initiative needs to be considered alongside all of our projects, initiatives and partnerships that aim to empower tamariki for brighter futures – specifically targeting tamariki in our highest deprivation communities. Your question on “what difference is this making” is a fair one. We have plenty of great stories and lots of data regarding increasing participation in our services and programmes (sports, literacy, arts, other). But what about outcomes? While our ultimate ambitions are for long-term generational change we recently engaged a group of independent experts to research the impact and outcomes of our concentrated efforts and investment to date in “Empowering Tamariki”. I’m pleased to report the results are extremely encouraging for tamariki, while also highlighting the broader and more significant challenges associated with growing inequalities across New Zealand which are less positive.
      Specifically regarding Magic Cards I’m extremely encouraged to hear that the motivation for kids to earn “magic points” on their cards has translated to better reading achievement at school. That has to be a great outcome from such a simple low cost initiative.
      You also raise a fair question regarding HCC libraries charging for internet use. We don’t charge for internet use in our new community hubs but there does remain a small charge at our stand alone libraries. We intend reviewing this arrangement in the coming months.
      Thanks again for your feedback. You can contact me at HCC if you’d like to discuss further in person.