Principals say children at risk in fund squeeze

Many donations funnelled into technology

LAUREN HAYES
Last updated 05:00 18/02/2013
Tisbury School pupils, clockwise from bottom, Johannes Boersen 8, Chaneise Morgan-Fletcher, 10, Zahn Leti, 8, Geoffrey Perriam, 10, Chaise Hill, 10, and Brie Scott, 10, using computers in class. Many schools are struggling to afford technology and rely on school donations.
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ
DIGITAL AGE: Tisbury School pupils, clockwise from bottom, Johannes Boersen 8, Chaneise Morgan-Fletcher, 10, Zahn Leti, 8, Geoffrey Perriam, 10, Chaise Hill, 10, and Brie Scott, 10, using computers in class. Many schools are struggling to afford technology and rely on school donations.

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Extra government funding is needed to keep Southland's school pupils technology-literate, principals say.

They believe the region's children are at risk of missing out because school costs are increasing at a faster rate than government funding.

While primary and secondary education in New Zealand was "free", many Southland schools requested financial donations from families to help pay for extras such as technology.

In Southland, many of the parent donations were funnelled into technology as schools juggled funds to afford curriculum essentials on extremely limited budgets, the principals said.

Invercargill Middle School principal Stan Tiatia said his school was not getting enough funding for the likes of teacher aides and learning support so was redistributing technology funds to those areas.

The Government allocated $40,000 to the school annually to pay for teacher aides but $70,000 was needed, he said.

Parent donations had to cover the technology shortfall and were even used to buy materials for core subjects such as maths, he added.

Mr Tiatia said the day-to-day cost of running a school was increasing at a faster rate than government funding and children were at risk of missing out.

"You can't run a school without power. You can't run a school without heating. What is spent on the curriculum is actually a low percentage."

Longford Intermediate principal Shona Hewlett said broadband internet, digital cameras, and interactive whiteboards were indispensable to a modern classroom, but placed further pressure on stretched school budgets and the community.

"A lot of families are struggling and those things are something extra they can't afford. You're constantly trying to juggle your budget at the school just to provide the resources necessary for each student."

Tisbury School principal Andrea Joyce believed technology was essential, but it drained school budgets as it had to be replaced more often than traditional tools.

"It is advancing so fast and . . . [what] you bought three years ago is obsolete."

Southland Girls' High School principal Yvonne Browning acknowledged the economy did not allow for major funding increases, but said at present there was no room for extras.

"The struggle that schools are facing is the Government does provide for an education, but we're looking at providing a quality education."

However, the Ministry of Education said schools already received enough government funding to operate successfully.

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Although technology was essential to education, it was the responsibility of schools to budget for it, a ministry spokesman said.

Donations were a legal way for schools to bring in extra money, but should not be forced upon parents, he said.

Ministry of Education figures show school donations totalled $103 million nationwide in 2011.

 

FAMILIES HELP OUT

What donations pay for:

Southland schools use parent-caregiver donations for the likes of bus trips, sports uniforms, art paper, maths equipment, school magazines, swimming tutors and IT equipment.

What some southern schools ask for:

Aurora College: $40 donation per pupil, $60 maximum per family. 67 per cent of parents pay.

Central Southland College: $75 donation. More than 75 per cent of families pay.

Gore High School: $80 donation per pupil, $120 per family. 90-95 per cent pay.

Southland Girls' High School: $75 school fee per pupil. 80 per cent pay.

Wakatipu High School: $150 donation for one pupil, $230 for two, or $275 for a family. 60 per cent pay.

Longford Intermediate: $50 donation per pupil, $75 per family. 70 per cent pay.

Tisbury School: Activity fee, not a donation, of about $30, although this had not been finalised for 2013. About 70 per cent pay.

New River Primary: $0 – no donation is requested by the school.

Invercargill Middle School: $40 donation per pupil. Fewer than 50 per cent pay.

Waihopai School: $145 donation per child, 50 per cent reduction on second child in family. 90 per cent pay.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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