School cuts deeper, say unions

Last updated 09:13 06/06/2012

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A union says more than 2000 schools will lose funding for teachers next year - double the number suggested by the Government.

School funding changes announced in the Budget will shift the teacher/pupil ratio funding rates at every year level except for new entrants.

Figures provided by Education Minister Hekia Parata project that while 245 schools will lose funding for more than one teacher as a result of the changes, 213 will have no change, 962 will gain up to one and 251 will gain more than one. There would also be 765 schools losing funding for less than one teacher.

But the Post-Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) has rejected those figures, saying funding will actually be cut to 2067 schools.

About 200 secondary schools would be the only ones to gain staff and a further 100 would lose staff unless they had enough roll growth.

The PPTA joined the primary teachers union, NZEI, as well as the school trustees association and principal groups in speaking out against the changes after a meeting yesterday.

CCS Disability Action warned that the cuts could have a negative impact on many disabled students, including those with learning needs and behavioural issues.

CCS Disability Action's acting chief executive Kate Cosgriff said many children with disabilities and those with unique educational needs required alternative education strategies and one-on-one time with teachers.

Its own recent research had found some schools were still not welcoming enough for children with disabilities.

"We are really concerned that increased class sizes will undo some of the progress that has been made in including disabled children in regular classes," Cosgriff said.

Chairman of the Wellington Wairarapa School Trustees Association Chris Toa said the changes had created uncertainty about how reduced staffing would look in individual schools, which was stressful for boards.

"Their current goals and targets may need revising, their aspirations for their students refocusing, their employer-employee relationship is perilous, and the ability to financially manage their school is at risk," Toa said.

"A board has to ensure delivery of every aspect of the New Zealand curriculum. Reduced funding has to limit the ways in which you can do that."

Parents may be reluctant to stand for school boards under such pressure, he said.

"Either prospective trustees will shy away from the responsibility and increased pressure and choose not to stand, or parents will come out in their droves to stand to preserve the right of their children to a quality education," Toa said.

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Parata last night declined to meet with the education collective until later on and indicated calling off the reforms was "not on the table". However, she suggested there may be changes address issues over technology teacher funding.

Parata this morning told Radio New Zealand the changes had been decided after last year's election.

Class size funding changes were attempted by Parata's predecessor Anne Tolley, in 2009, but aborted days before they were to be announced in the Budget.

Tolley signed off on a plan that would have seen the funding ratio for new entrants bumped up from 1:15 to 1:18.

Just days before it was to be announced, Tolley backed out when she realised there would be forced redundancies of teachers.

- Stuff

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