Bigger class sizes announced

JOHN HARTEVELT
Last updated 11:02 16/05/2012
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HEKIA PARATA: Teacher - student ratios in the mid-years of education would be increased.

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The Government's move to increase class sizes has sparked immediate controversy, with accusations it will have a ''severe impact'' on the quality of primary school teaching.

Education Minister Hekia Parata this morning announced the schools funding formula would change, with the student ratios in the mid-years of education changed.

Instead of the existing range of anywhere between one to 23 up to one to 29, there would be a single ratio of one to 27.5, in a change that would save about $43m per year.

Parata said about 90 per cent of schools would either gain or have a net loss of less than one full time equivalent teacher as a result of the combined effect of the changes.

"These more consistent ratios will give schools greater certainty over their resourcing from year to year,'' she said.

In the last 10 years, student numbers had grown by 2.52 per cent, but teacher numbers had grown 12.76 per cent over the same period.

''The reality is that we are in a tight economic environment. In order to make new investment in quality teaching and leading, we have to make some trade-offs. ... We are opting for quality not quantity, better teaching not more teachers.''

There would be a two-year programme working on a range of measures to lift teacher quality including an extra $60m invested over four years for boosting teacher recruitment and training.

A post-graduate qualification would also be introduced as the minimum for all trainee teachers and there would be a new pre-principalship qualification for school leaders.

A new ''appraisal system'' for teachers would also be developed, she said.

''Performance pay is but one of a basket of options to reward and recognise that," Parata said.

"We are not investing in more teachers, we are investing in better teaching."

Education union NZEI said increased class sizes would have a ''severe impact'' on the quality of education in primary schools.

''It is outrageous that the government talks about improving education quality, especially for those in the bottom 20 per cent, while at the same time adopting policies that will do the exact opposite,'' president Ian Leckie said.

"What parent is going to be happy with the prospect of their six year old going into a large class at the very time they need good quality time with teachers?

"The government has once again not listened to the education sector and instead been getting its education policy advice straight from Treasury."

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Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty agreed the changes would ''hit struggling kids the worst''.

''Research shows that class size matters most to those who struggle most,'' Delahunty said.

''This policy has nothing whatsoever to do with improving educational outcomes. It is purely aimed at cutting costs and ultimately teacher numbers.''

Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said focusing on quality teaching and ''not just teacher numbers'' would ''gain a big tick from those who care about learning outcomes''.

"Seeing teacher numbers and salary budgets increasing substantially over the last decade without substantial learning improvements indicates a real need for performance measures and better information for families and communities to monitor progress and the effectiveness of our schools,'' O'Reilly said.

"The need to develop an appraisal system to support, recognise and reward quality teaching and professional school leadership - whether with or without performance pay - is now urgent.  We call on the Government to facilitate such a system with relevant partners as a matter of priority."

HOW IT WORKS

Schools decide their own class sizes, but the changes from the Government mean children aged six to seven would move from a funding ratio of one to 23 up to one to 27.5. Children in years nine or 10 (usually aged 13 or 14) would move from one to 23.5 up to one to 27.5.

The ratio for Year 13 students also increases from one to 17 up to one to 17.3.

The standardising of ratios means pupils in year four to eight and years 11 and 12 will have funding for smaller classes. Years four to eight drop from 29 down to 27.5; year 11 from 23 down to 17.3 and year 12 from 18 to 17.3.

- Comments on this story have been closed.

- Stuff

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