Focus change, job cuts announced for Ministry of Education

Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley

A $25 million budget cut at the Ministry of Education has come in for criticism hours after it was announced.

Education Minister Anne Tolley revealed this morning that there would be an as-yet unspecified number of jobs cut at the Ministry as it looks for $25m worth of savings.

Mrs Tolley said in a statement that the ministry would be reshaping its role, size and focus.

The Ministry would "take a good, hard look at how it can deliver the best and cost efficient use of resources."

"There will be staff reductions in areas of lower priority," Mrs Tolley said.

The Ministry of Education had a departmental operating budget of $441 million in 2009/10, and had to find $25 million in savings by 2012/13, she said.

"Government has asked the Ministry to focus more on frontline regional support for schools and ECE services, with less National Office bureaucracy," Mrs Tolley said.

"This will mean staff can concentrate on relationships at a local level, to help schools and education providers lift student achievement."

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said she was concerned about the impact the cuts would have on the delivery of education services.

Ms Pilott said Ministry staff had been told this morning that it would have to cut at least $10 million in the next financial year starting June 1.

"The Ministry of Education has a huge job that is critical to our success as a country," Ms Pilott said.

"We have serious concerns about the impact this cut in spending will have on the Ministry's ability to do this critical work.

"Our concern is that in cutting $25 million the Ministry will end up eroding the support network it has for its frontline services."

Staff in frontline roles would become increasingly tied up in doing administrative work, Ms Pilott said.

The primary teacher's union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, is worried the money cut from the Ministry will be redirected towards the controversial National Standards in literacy and numeracy.

"Why would you take money out of proven things and put it in to unproven things?" a spokeswoman said.

The NZEI is on a national protest tour against the new standards, which have been made a priority by the Government this year.

New Zealand Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld said some Ministry staff did valuable work supporting schools.

Secretary of Education Karen Sewell said there may be a "scaling down" of some activities, and "working in new ways" on others.

This may have an impact on Ministry staffing levels but the extent of that was not yet known, Ms Sewell said.

The "organisational change programme" would cover all activities and groups within the Ministry.

Mrs Tolley said there would be a greater focus on services like property, payroll and ICT.

"It's expected that staff will be bolstered in areas of high priority, while there will be staff reductions in areas of lower priority," Mrs Tolley said.

"Savings will be reinvested in delivering better frontline services to ensure our education system supports every child in achieving their potential."

Prime Minister John Key this week said there would be some changes in the state sector. The changes are expected to merge the Ministry of Research Science and Technology with the Foundation of Research Science and Technology.

Mr Key said the Government was focused on making larger scale savings where possible.