Education budget moves called 'big punt in the dark'

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:58 16/05/2014

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Nelson schools says there were no surprises in yesterday's budget for them, and call some initiatives "a big punt in the dark."

Total spending on early childhood, primary and secondary education would be at $10.1 billion in 2014/15.

$857.8m extra had been put to the education sector over the next four years, including $359m for the leadership and quality teaching programmes and $85.3m for schools' operational grants.

Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea said "this is a drop in the bucket, when you think of how many thousands of schools there are."

He was disappointed that nearly half of the education increase was going to the government's new leadership and quality teaching programmes.

The Investing in Educational Success programme announced by the Prime Minister in January, aimed to strengthen leadership and quality teaching across schools. It would establish new principal and teacher roles, offering a new allowance to get the "best principals" to the schools with the highest needs, and a $10 million teacher-led innovation fund.

Teaching staff and principals recognised as "highly-capable" will be offered incentives to work in other schools in a bid to raise students' achievements.

The government had said new roles will help recognise highly capable teachers and principals with proven track records, keep good teachers in classrooms, share expertise across schools and among teachers and principals, and raise achievement for all students.

‘O'Shea said this investment was "a big punt in the dark to improve schools that way."

He said there was no proof or detail on how the programme would work.

"I would rather have that money put into developing teachers in schools when they first begin, than picking a few so called stars and then thinking their skills will be transferable."

Tapawera Area School principal Kelvin Woodley said while any increase in funding to schools was welcome, he believed the increase in operational grants "just doesn't cut it, [it's] real smoke and mirrors because of other costs which continue to be increased."

He said the increase would only cover inflation, so increases in running costs beyond that simply meant they were "going backwards".

He was also disappointed about compliance costs for schools.

"We have increases in building costs due to the new Building Consent regime, increased requirements around implementation of proven failed initiatives such as National Standards, increases in costs associated with professional development, because all school advisory has been contracted out to private providers."

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He felt public schools were being marginalised as there was a focus on charter schools, and agreed with O'Shea that the funds put towards the Investing in Educational Success programme could be better spent.

"Public schools are gradually being marginalised and under funded as the government sets out to implement another layer of bureaucracy spending $359 million dollars that could be far better spent supporting our highest needs students."

NZEI Te Riu Roa president Judith Nowotarski said there was no priority education spending in areas identified by parents and teachers.

"Increases in education spending are more or less in line with inflation, although not keeping up with the increasing cost of delivering the 21st century education that parents expect."

"This government is basically telling schools to carry on driving our children's education on the smell of an oily rag.

"As usual, parental donations and fundraising will be crucial to keep schools running."

Other sectors of the Nelson community were more pleased.

Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dot Kettle said the budget recognised the importance of small and medium enterprises (SME) growth and investment. "Local businesses have consistently called for more support for research and development and the provisions in this budget for tax breaks for loss making start ups will really help innovative SMEs", she said.

- The Nelson Mail

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