Budget brings 'national disaster' for schools

At least 1000 primary and intermediate school technology teachers throughout the country could lose their jobs thanks to changes buried deep in the Budget, according to teachers.

In yesterday's Budget, the education vote was boosted to $12.4 billion. But while education was touted as one of the big winners, teachers and teachers' unions are saying the changes will be a "national disaster".

It is not known exactly how many teachers across the country would be affected, but the Post Primary Teacher's Association (PPTA) has calculated up to 1122 teachers would lose their jobs across primary and intermediate schools, with intermediates schools being the worst hit.

Despite this, Education Minister Hekia Parata said she expected the changes to be minimal.

"We are anticipating very little impact. As part of the changes to teacher-student ratios, technology staff for year 7 and 8 learners will be incorporated into the years 2-10 curriculum staff ratios."

She said many schools with years 7 and 8 children sent those students to other schools with "technology centres" for instruction in cookery, woodwork and similar technology subjects. Despite policy changes, schools were still expected to teach technology subjects to students.

"At present, the provider school with the technology centre automatically receives the technology staffing from their client schools for these learners. The policy change means that the funding will be directed to the school the students come from.

"We believe most schools will want to continue their relationships with provider schools. The curriculum has not changed, and technology remains a valued part of it. All classes are required by the curriculum to teach technology.

It is an anomaly that only years 7 and 8 are funded specifically for it."

An email from Lesley Longstone, the education secretary, to primary and intermediate school principals throughout the country, refers to "tradeoffs" being made to pay for investments such as "strengthening leadership of the profession".

The PPTA said those tradeoffs spelled the "end of manual" training and would see technology centres in many schools closed.

"Currently, in addition to curriculum staffing, years 7 and 8 learners generate staffing for the delivery of the technology curriculum at a ratio of 1:120 [one teacher to 120 students]," Longstone said.

"As part of the changes to teacher, student ratios, technology staffing for year 7 and 8 learners is now incorporated into the years 2 - 10 curriculum staffing ratios for English-medium schools and in the years 7 to 8 staffing ratio for Maori-medium schools."

Longstone said this meant each school would have to then include the teaching of technology subjects within their own ratios, or fund other schools' technology centres themselves.

"Provider schools with a technology centre will no longer automatically receive technology staffing resource for those learners that come from client schools.

"However, most client schools have service agreements with technology centres and we anticipate they will want to continue and fund their relationship with their provider school," she said.

Parata said the changes were meant to give technology staffing funding back to all schools, not just ones with technology centres.

But some schools were already saying this would mean many students would no longer be able to learn technology subjects.

Upper Hutt's Fergusson Intermediate School principal Paul Patterson said the changes would see them lose at least three teaching positions - "probably more".

"It's terrible. It's going to have very severe consequences, and while the ministry have told us this will only affect about 10 per cent of schools across New Zealand, we've done the figures and it comes to those 10 per cent being all the intermediate age schools.

"A few people in [the Ministry of Education] should be ashamed of themselves that we haven't been openly told of this."

In her email to Patterson, Longstone said the impact of changes to staffing ratios and projected roll changes meant that around 90 per cent of schools would either gain, or have a net loss of less than one full-time teacher equivalent.

"Our initial analysis suggests that your school is one of the 10 per cent where we expect the change to be more significant, although this could change once provisional rolls are set. We will write to you with your 2013 staffing entitlement in September."

Post Primary Teacher's Association  (PPTA) president Robin Duff said specialist technology staffing was being stripped from year 7 and 8 students, while the Government put money into the Youth Guarantee scheme.

"Three thousand more places in the Government's youth guarantee scheme over the next four years will further rip staffing from the most vulnerable secondary schools as senior students leave for polytechnics, wananga and private training establishments, taking their funding with them."

He said it would not just be the lower decile schools that would suffer, "although they would undoubtedly suffer the most".

"It is the low decile schools - the very ones Parata has promised to support - that will suffer the most and there is a very real danger some will become non-viable," he said.

New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling (NZAIMS) president and principal of Pukekohe Intermediate School, Gary Sweeney said more than 300 intermediate school teachers could be taken out of the school system next year.

"That will have a huge impact on our schools and it means that school principals will be faced with some very hard decisions about whether they can adequately resource these subjects," he said.

"It is becoming clear that the focus on national standards will be at the detriment of other very important aspects of learning and opportunities that generations of New Zealand children have enjoyed."