Intermediates face big teacher losses

GUIDING HAND: Tawa Intermediate technology teacher Ian Bunckenburg "Mr Bunks'' with 11-year-old pupil Alistein Tavila.
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
GUIDING HAND: Tawa Intermediate technology teacher Ian Bunckenburg "Mr Bunks'' with 11-year-old pupil Alistein Tavila.

Hundreds of technology teachers nationwide could lose their jobs, and aspiring builder Matt McAlpine, 11, only has two words to say: "I'm bummed."

At Tawa Intermediate School yesterday, Matt found out his hard materials teacher – that's woodwork, metalwork and electronics – might not be at the school next year. Technology time each week was likely to be halved, and might be taught by his regular classroom teacher.

Changes to funding for teaching staff announced in yesterday's Budget would alter the way technology teachers were funded at intermediate schools.

It is not known exactly how many teachers would be affected, but the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) has calculated up to 1122 teachers would lose their jobs across primary and intermediate schools.

But the Education Ministry says funding will now be more consistent across all year levels, and the changes had to be made in a "trade-off" between quantity and quality teachers.

Tawa Intermediate principal Carolyn Stuart said the 520-pupil school would have to bump class sizes from 28 to 32 pupils just to afford to keep two of their four technology teachers, who specialised in art, hard materials, food and music.

"It's just this push, push, push back to writing, reading and maths, and 21st-century learning isn't just about that."

Hard materials teacher Ian Bunckenburg, or "Mr Bunks", had been at the school for 20 years, and said for many pupils his class was the first time they had picked up a hammer. "I teach them practical skills ... that No8 wire mentality."

It also gave kids a chance to see the way maths worked in the real world. Busily screwing together wooden pencil boxes, Matt and his friend Troy Rhodes, 11, said they were "bummed."

"Spec is about making things and learning techniques and having fun," Troy said. "This could be our last year of Spec, so that's sad."

Raroa Normal Intermediate principal Kevin Ryan said the changes were shocking, and signalled the "demise of intermediates."

"This is going to have an enormous impact – since intermediates were set up in the 1930s they have always had specialist funding. My kids were gutted today, they were just devastated. It's a place they can find success that is outside the general academic areas."

His school would have to raise class sizes to 37 pupils or lose four teachers.

Hutt Intermediate School stood to lose six teachers, or bump classes up to 45 pupils, principal Mike Gillatt said.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the extra technology funding for Year 7 and 8 pupils had been a "historical anomaly," and had now been spread out to benefit all pupils from Years 2 to 10.

The funding formula was now more consistent, she said.

Education Secretary Lesley Longstone would head a working group that would discuss the way forward for the 10 per cent of schools that would feel the most impact, which were mostly intermediates.

The Dominion Post