17 May 2013

Principals puzzled by 'contradictory' school spend

9:44 am on 17 May 2013

The Principals Federation says the Government has given schools a contradictory Budget.

Spokesperson Paul Drummond says increases to operations grants and behaviour programmes are welcome but appear to have come at the cost of other areas of spending.

"It seems it's come at the cost of some of the other programmes that are successful at schools that we should be expanding across the country rather than stopping," he says. "Te Kotahitanga seems to be one of those.

"We have a contradiction that we have extra spending in board of trustees training, yet at the same time we seem to be taking away some of their discretion and some of their autonomy."

Mr Drummond says there is also a contradiction in funding partnership or charter schools instead of using that money in the public sector.

$164m to cover cost of abandoned policy

The Budget delivered on Thursday cuts about $300 million from school and early-childhood spending over the next four years but reallocates that money within Vote Education, along with $700 million of new spending.

A big chunk of that - $164 million - is being used to cover the cost of abandoning the Government's class size policy in 2012.

A contingency fund of $19 million has been allocated for setting up the first partnership schools.

The biggest increases are $80.5 million over four years to pay for an expected increase in the number of children enrolled in early-childhood education and $79 million for a 1.9% increase in school operations grants.

Early-childhood services get 2% more funding but only to the non-salary portion of their subsidies; that will cost the Government $39 million over four years.

An extra $41 million over four years goes to the equity funding that pays early-childhood services to enrol the most vulnerable children.

More for teacher training and support

The Budget commits $37.5 million over four years to pay for more training and support for school teachers, and $12 million to support and retain teachers in Maori immersion education.

There is $92 million for the renewal of schools and early-childhood education in Christchurch and $73 million for schools' property costs.

The Budget includes capital funding of $134 million over the next four years to pay for modern learning environments for schools. The money is a contingency that will be drawn down later this year as the Government makes decisions.

It also includes previously announced spending of $64 million over four years to improve the behaviour of school students and $14.5 million to support school trustees.

The $300 million cuts include $70 million taken from scholarships for teacher trainees and $30 million from early-childhood grants and study awards.

Higher fees or lower quality predicted

The chief executive of the Childcare Association, Nancy Bell, says many early-childhood services will have to raise fees or cut quality as a result of the Budget.

She says most centres will get a funding increase of 0.69% after no increase at all last year.

"We're hearing that a lot of those services are struggling financially," she says, "and while they will welcome any movement it's not going to solve the problems that they face."

Ms Bell says 40% of centres will get an increase of more than 2% because they are in low-income communities.