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Tough decisions ahead

AMY MCGILLIVRAY
Last updated 05:00 06/06/2012
Art Teachers
CUTTING CLASSES: Remuera Intermediate principal Janet Exon, left, and visual art teacher Billie Sturgiss say classes will have to be dropped to cope with funding cuts announced in the Budget.

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Remuera Intermediate will now only lose two teachers instead of six but that comes as little relief to principal Janet Exon.

Education Minister Hekia Parata announced last week that teacher losses due to school funding changes made in the latest Budget will be capped at two per school.

Mrs Exon says losing two teachers next year will still mean big changes but she fears it is only a matter of time before further cuts are made.

"Will they use the contingency fund for three years to pay the extra teachers and then get rid of them?" she says. "Two teachers next year, that is still a lot that needs to be cut.

"Is that just covering up for a few years? Is it the end of intermediates as we know them?"

The teacher to student funding ratio for intermediate students was decreased in the Budget but technology funding has been axed altogether which effectively increases the ratio from 1:23.4 to 1:27.5.

Mrs Exon has already spoken to the board of trustees and the PTA, sent a letter home with students and spoken to National's Epsom MP Paul Goldsmith.

The new ratio would mean the school of 931 students, which will be the only intermediate in the east and bays when Tamaki Intermediate closes at the end of this year, would lose funding for 6.2 teachers were it not for the cap.

"I honestly don't know what we would do," Mrs Exon says.

She says the school would have no choice but to get rid of many of their extra programmes such as art, hard and soft technology, media studies, languages, bio-tech, help for students with special needs, a gifted and talented extension programme, extra music tutors and extra ESOL classes.

"Basically what we would have is a school of 28 classes and not a lot more to offer."

The future of all of these extra subjects will have to be reassessed if the school loses even two teachers, Mrs Exon says.

"It's just a really sad thing. I think that kids in year 7 and 8 need that. They still want to come to school because there is something they can do well."

The Education Ministry is stressing that it does not necessarily mean the end of technology as it is up to schools how they use the funding that is allocated.

With 32 or 33 students already in each homeroom class at Remuera Intermediate, Mrs Exon says it is not possible to increase class sizes further.

"They are already at their limit. We have to cut things."

She says school management chose to have larger class sizes to free up more funding in order to offer the extra subjects.

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MP Paul Goldsmith is concerned about the impact the change would have on intermediates and spoke to the minister about it.

He says the cap is a positive move although he supports the effort to decrease teacher numbers.

"Teacher numbers really have increased about 12.5 per cent over the last 10 years and at the same time student numbers have increased by only 2.5 per cent. The idea was to invest additional money in teacher quality and professional development and as a trade-off a slight drop in teacher numbers is a sensible arrangement," he says.

- East And Bays Courier

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