Principals cynical over changes

23:42, May 16 2012
LEARNING TIME: Sienna Moore and Timothy Carter, both 3,   play with tumaki Tere Gilbert and  Des Tipene a Pouwhakahaere  at Te Kohanga Reo O Nga Kuaka.
LEARNING TIME: Sienna Moore and Timothy Carter, both 3, play with tumaki Tere Gilbert and Des Tipene a Pouwhakahaere at Te Kohanga Reo O Nga Kuaka.

Waikato principals have mixed reactions to the Government's move to introduce larger class sizes and performance pay for teachers, but there are fears it will have an "extremely negative effect" on pupils' learning.

Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday announced the funding formula for schools would change, with primary schools facing a significant increase in class numbers.

Schools will have the power to decide their own class sizes, but changes from the Government mean pupils aged 6 to 7 would move from a funding ratio of 1:23 up to 1:27.5, and children in years 9 or 10 would face a near-identical increase.

Ms Parata said about 90 per cent of schools would either gain or have a net loss of fewer than one fulltime equivalent teacher as a result of the changes.

However, Waikato principals say the move will inevitably result in fewer teachers, and the quality of pupils' learning will suffer.

Hamilton's Glenview Primary School principal Tony Mangan said the most at-risk children would be worst hit because teachers would have less time to provide one-on-one tuition during class time.


Fairfield Intermediate principal Barry Roberts said there was "no chance" larger class sizes could have a positive influence on learning.

Ms Parata said there would be a two-year programme working on a range of measures to lift teacher quality, including an extra $60 million invested during four years for boosting teacher recruitment and training.

A postgraduate qualification would be introduced as the minimum for all trainee teachers, and there would be a new pre-principalship qualification for school leaders. Performance pay for teachers would also be developed, but the move has been slammed by most Waikato schools.

"The devil is always in the detail and I'm extremely wary until I see what it is," Mr Roberts said.

Morrinsville College principal John Inger was "absolutely convinced" it would be a step back in education, and could create a rift between principals and staff.

"We will be in a position where we will have to say `you will get less money and you will get more', which will create animosity.

"There is absolutely no such model in the world that measures a difference that a teacher makes," Mr Inger said.

However, Rhode Street School principal Shane Ngatai said he had an open mind about performance pay, but it would have to be based on a "robust and transparent" appraisal system.

Although preschools were not included in the package, the tumuaki of Hamilton's Te Kohanga Reo o Nga Kuaka, Tere Gilbert, said the results of better ratios in early-childhood education flowed through to subsequent levels.

Mrs Gilbert said the 67 children who attended the kohanga reo would benefit if the teacher ratio for the youngest children were improved to one teacher per three children.

It is currently one teacher per five children in the classroom.

Mrs Gilbert said 2-to-3-year-olds were currently staffed at a ratio of one teacher to six children, or two teachers to 20 children, with three teachers for 21 to 30 children.


Schools decide own class sizes, but the changes from the Government mean children aged 6 to 7 would move from a funding ratio of one teacher to 23 pupils up to 1:27.5.

Children in year 9 or 10 (usually aged 13 or 14) would move from 1:23.5 up to 1:27.5.

The ratio for year 13 pupils will increase from 1:17 up to 1:17.3.

The standardising of ratios means pupils in years 4 to 8 and years 11 and 12 will have funding for smaller classes.

Class sizes for years 4 to 8 drop from 29 to 27.5; year 11 from 23 to 17.3; and year 12 from 18 to 17.3. 

Waikato Times