Tech centres will close, say schools

JOB LOSSES: Mt Cook School technology teacher Simon Depree teaches plane skills.
JOB LOSSES: Mt Cook School technology teacher Simon Depree teaches plane skills.

Three Wellington technology centres say they will be forced to close if changes announced in the Budget go ahead.

More than 2400 year 7 and 8 pupils in the Wellington region travel to technology centres at Mt Cook School, Karori West School, Plimmerton School, Raumati Beach School and Featherston School each week.

Each centre is given technology staff funding directly from the ministry, but this will be scrapped under the Budget changes.

The Education Ministry says funding has now been spread more evenly from years 2 to 10, and given to each school directly.

Minister Hekia Parata has said the impact will be minimal, as most schools are expected to continue sending their pupils to the technology centres and pay from their own staffing allowances.

But Mt Cook School principal Sandra McCallum said many of the 17 primary schools that sent more than 700 pupils to their technology centre were already dealing with their own staff losses.

Principals had told her that, while they would love to keep sending their pupils, it was unlikely they could afford it.

"They are just devastated because they think the programme is great, but they need to use their staff funding at their own school."

The ministry had also paid to bus the pupils from surrounding schools to the centre, which would now be stopped.

Five teachers at Mt Cook would lose their jobs, and the centre would close unless the Government reversed its decision, Ms McCallum said.

Te Aro School principal Sue Clements, who sends her pupils to technology classes at Mt Cook, said the school would have to reconsider using the centre because it was losing funding for the equivalent of 0.4 of a teacher.

"We are seriously going to have to look at what we can afford, and weigh it up against other support programmes, like reading recovery.

"Tech is the highlight of the week for our seniors and it would be terrible if they didn't have that opportunity - we shouldn't be having to make this choice."

Karori West School principal Janice Shramka said her school was also in an impossible position. "We can't expect schools that are losing staffing to give us money - that is never going to work. It's appalling, absolutely appalling."

Their centre would have to close, even with the Government offering to cap staff losses at two teachers, because that was still significant or schools, she said.

Raumati Beach School principal Mike Farrelly said there was no way client schools could pay for Raumati Beach's six technology teachers.

"We've put a lot of time and effort into developing our curriculum, invested money in professional development, and now it's just like, what's the point? No matter what way you look at it, it impacts on opportunities for kids."

Ms Parata and Education Secretary Lesley Longstone were unavailable for comment yesterday.

A ministry spokesman said the impact of staffing ratio changes on individual schools would not be known until the 2013 provisional rolls were set.

The Dominion Post