Night classes available at price

BY CHARLIE ANDERSON
Last updated 13:00 16/01/2010

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Adult and Community Education is still alive in Nelson city and the only two outlets providing it are hopeful the demand is still there for night classes even if it means paying more for it.

In last May's Budget, funding for ACE was cut from $16 million to $3m, with the Government saying it did not want to pay for hobby courses.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has repeatedly said with New Zealand in a recession, the Government is focusing on foundation skills such as literacy, numeracy and language courses.

Enrolments for Nayland College and Waimea College's courses have recently opened. Nayland College is still offering the same number of courses as last year but there has been an increase in price.

However, the school has managed to keep the cost down by offering sponsorship opportunities to local businesses. Community education co-ordinator Kathryn Sclater said the move was to help mitigate the inevitable fee rise.

"The school board felt it was an important part of the community to keep the classes going but we still don't know how price sensitive it is going to be so it is very much a try-and-see thing. If we don't get the numbers then we will know we have read it wrongly."

She said it was early days but the initial response was good. If it went well the school might look to offer some courses in areas that have lost their ACE classes such as Motueka, Golden Bay and Murchison.

Waimea College ACE community liaison Barbara Smith said the school's night classes had doubled in cost and the number being held had been reduced. "We just haven't got the funding to justify it."

Despite most classes now costing more than $100, Ms Smith said there had been interest particularly from those who had previously used the courses.

Nelson-based list MP Maryan Street, who tabled a petition of 53,344 signatures, including 776 from the Nelson region protesting the funding cuts, said now was not the time to ease up on pressure on the education minister.

She said Budget decisions were being made and thought the Government did not expect the extent of negative reaction to the cuts.

"I think [the Government] thinks it will go away but I don't think it will."

She said when people looked around for lower cost accessible education and found out what was or was not available and what they had to pay, "people will be really annoyed by it".

Ms Street is presenting the issue to a select committee next month. It will then go before Parliament.

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