24 Apr 2024

Education Ministry cuts: Roles providing support for disabled kids among those proposed to be axed

8:22 pm on 24 April 2024
New Zealand has failed disabled children and their families, the Disability Commissioner says.

One of the ministry's biggest divisions, Te Pae Aronui, proposes cutting more than 200 roles, some of which support schools with disabled pupils. Photo: 123rf

Leaked documents show which divisions will bear the brunt of hundreds of proposed job cuts at the Ministry of Education.

The change proposals sent to RNZ covered divisions including the Curriculum Centre, school property, and school transport.

The documents said the proposed job losses were in addition to reduced spending on contractors, consultants, travel, and meetings and pausing non-critical recruitment.

They showed the proposed loss of nearly 600 roles at the ministry in response to the government's order for a 7.5 percent spending cut will not fall evenly across the ministry's (MOE) divisions.

Among the hardest hit would be the Curriculum Change team, where nearly all jobs would be cut, and the division in charge of the Māori curriculum and te reo Māori, where most staff would have to reapply for a smaller number of roles.

In many cases, new roles would be ring-fenced so staff losing their jobs would have the first chance to apply.

The MOE told RNZ in a statement it would be premature to speculate on the number of positions that might be cut and what those positions were, as proposals and consultation processes were not yet finalised.

One of the biggest divisions, Te Pae Aronui, proposed cutting more than 200 roles, saving $19 million a year.

It said it had 705 positions and could disestablish 247, including 106 that were vacant, and after creating new positions would have a total of 489 staff.

That would cut its salary spend from $74.3 million to $55.4m a year, a drop of 25 percent.

The disestablished roles included people involved in work that helps schools with children with disabilities and with projects such as free school lunches that tackle inequities for Māori and Pacific children.

The cuts included all seven nutritionists or nutrition advisers and one food safety advisor understood to be involved in the free school lunch scheme, Ka Ora Ka Ako.

The proposed new structure did not appear to include any nutrition or food safety roles.

The System Delivery team charged with funding and supporting schools and early learning services would drop from 177 to 106 roles with some jobs moved to other divisions and only 30 occupied roles axed.

In the Learning Support division which supports children with disabilities, seven occupied and 11 vacant positions, most of them advisers, would be cut and two created.

Ministry of Education leader Zoe Griffiths said it rejected any assertion that services provided directly to children, and those with learning support needs, would be impacted by cuts.

"This is not true," Griffiths said in a statement.

"The change proposals have been designed so that services provided directly to children will not be impacted. Children receiving services will continue to receive them.

"Speculation to the contrary causes unnecessary concern and worry for parents and caregivers and the wider education sector, especially for those with children who have learning support needs."

NCEA postponement drives most Curriculum Centre cuts

The MOE Curriculum Centre proposed a net loss of nearly 100 occupied jobs plus others that were vacant.

But its change proposal said most of the cuts were due to the postponement of NCEA changes and were not part of the government's savings drive.

"The government's decision to rephase the NCEA Change Programme will see the most significant number of roles disestablished as we move to a smaller NCEA team focused on progressing high-level design and resequencing work," the proposal said.

"Currently there are 313 occupied roles across Te Poutāhū | Curriculum Centre. In the proposed future state, there would be 215 roles in total."

It said once the creation of new roles was taken into account there would be a net loss of 91 occupied NCEA Change Programme or programme-funded roles, and seven occupied roles in other areas of the Curriculum Centre.

The NCEA-related cuts would save $12m in salary spending and the other cuts amounted to nearly $5m.

The paper showed that for about 148 roles in the Curriculum and Assessment Change Group, nearly all the jobs in that group would be cut, and 40 new jobs created.

The Secondary-Tertiary group would lose 31 roles, not all of which were occupied, and gain five roles.

The group in charge of the school and early childhood curriculums would lose 27 roles and gain three, while many of the remaining jobs would change significantly .

In Te Uepū Reo Māori, responsible for the Māori curriculum and te reo Māori, 32 of 42 jobs would be cut, and 20 new roles created.

Regional office and policy cuts

The MOE's three regional offices would disestablish 207 roles, including 34 that were vacant, and create 107.

Its change proposal said that would save about $4.4m in salary spending.

The axed roles included 12 staff involved in evaluating applications for new early childhood education (ECE) centres, 30 introducing NCEA changes to schools, and 34 staff who helped schools improve student achievement.

A further 33 roles involved in learning support for children with special needs would be disestablished and 11 new roles created.

Te Pou Kaupapahere, responsible for education policy and advice to ministers, proposed a net reduction of 18 fulltime equivalents saving $2.7m a year.

Five policy director roles would be reduced to one, and 27 chief policy analyst and adviser roles would be reduced to 18.

The MOE's property division proposed a cut of 39 FTE, bringing savings of 11 percent or $4.6m.

Its Education Workforce division proposed a $3m cut, including staff who worked on the school payroll and monitoring the supply of teachers.

It proposed disestablishing about 44 roles from a staff of more than 150, while creating 14 new roles for a net loss of about 30 jobs.

The MOE's School Transport division proposed disestablishing 19 positions, some of which were vacant, and creating two more roles.

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