26 May 2012

Intermediate schools angry at technology staff cuts

10:20 am on 26 May 2012

There is growing anger among intermediate schools and others with children in Years 7 and 8 over big cuts to staffing for technology teachers.

Principals say they have learned that the National Government's Budget, delivered on Thursday, has done away with ratios used to allocate teachers for subjects such as woodwork, metalwork and food technology.

The Budget has improved the teacher to student ratio, which is used to allocate their teacher funding, but axed a separate allocation for technology teachers.

Intermediate school principals says that leaves them worse off overall. They say they will have to make big increases in the number of children in other classes in order to maintain technology classes.

Gary Sweeney, the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling president, says the funding cut could prevent schools offering the subjects.

Mr Sweeney, who is also principal of Pukekohe Middle School, says schools will have to choose whether to drop the subjects or increase class sizes and take on more international students to save enough money to fund them.

He says in the worst-case scenario, up to 330 of the staff who teach those subjects could lose their jobs in the next few years.

Principals' Federation chairman Paul Drummond says schools face a difficult decision between narrowing the curriculum or increasing class sizes, and it is children who will pay the cost.

Industry Training Federation chief executive Mark Oldershaw says it is at Years 7 and 8 eight that pupils start to think about their career, and losing technology classes could take away potential career options.

Education Minister Hekia Parata could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Early childhood education fee rises predicted

The Early Childhood Council says thousands of families will have to pay more for early childhood education due to measures in the Budget.

The Budget increases spending on early childhood education by more than $110 million over the next four years, but provides no inflation-linked increase for the subsidies paid to early childhood centres.

The Early Childhood Council says the Government has frozen the subsidies paid to early childhood centres in order to pay for initiatives aimed at increasing participation among priority groups such as Maori and Pasifika children.

The council says the investment in priority groups will have life-changing consequences for large numbers of children.

However it says the freezing of subsidies is a cut by stealth, and many early childhood centres are likely to raise their fees or reduce the quality of the education they provide.

Childcare Association chief executive Nancy Bell said with two-thirds of the industry having no increase at all she is concerned there will be a lowering of standards, because services won't be able to afford to invest in professional development for teachers.

NZEI education union president Ian Leckie says static early childhood subsidies and a $70 million a year cut in staffing for schools will result in higher class sizes.

"Every school, every child, is going to feel the impact of this Budget," he said, describing it as a lost opportunity.

Tertiary Education Union president Sandra Grey says tertiary institutions will struggle as a result of the Budget as funding for most courses will not increase and that will squeeze institutions' budgets.