14 May 2024

Public sector cuts: Education ministry prepares to use consultants

9:20 am on 14 May 2024
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Education Ministry staff being made redundant are being asked by consultancy firms to work for them, meaning they would be doing the same work, but for firms that would charge double what they were being paid. File photo. Photo: 123RF

The Ministry of Education is preparing consultants to do the work of the people it is laying off, say staff.

The ministry has proposed cutting a total of 755 positions, of which 316 are currently vacant, to meet government cost-cutting targets.

RNZ has seen a message alerting firms offering professional learning and development (PLD) for teachers to likely future training contracts.

The message said the initial "contract opportunity" would be in teaching teachers to use the government-mandated "structured literacy" approach for teaching children to read.

But it also said "over time" there would also be opportunities in areas including assessment, NCEA implementation, NCEA co-requisite standards (the literacy and numeracy requirements), and support for updates to the curriculum as those were rolled out.

Ministry staff told RNZ that helping schools with assessment, NCEA changes and the NCEA co-requisite standards were currently covered by ministry staff, but they were losing their jobs.

They said consulting firms were already asking some of the staff being made redundant to work for them, meaning they would be doing the same work, but for firms that would charge double what they were being paid.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon told Morning Report there was a need for consultants to achieve the required changes to the country's education system, particularly in the roll out of structured literacy.

"We've got almost 9000 teachers to train before the end of the year, we want every teacher year zero to six to be able to teach structured literature in the same way... all across the country."

He was not aware of anyone being made redundant and then re-hired as a consultant, he said.

RNZ previously reported that the ministry had proposed cutting 30 NCEA roles from its regional offices and 91 occupied roles in its NCEA change programme due to the government's decision to delay changes to NCEA levels 2 and 3.

RNZ asked the ministry if it would be hiring contractors to do the same work as the people it had proposed laying off, but did not receive a direct answer.

"The focus of PLD shifts over time to reflect teacher needs and government priorities. The ministry has always contracted PLD providers to undertake the in depth professional learning with teachers," it said.

"These providers are organisations outside of the ministry such as universities or private companies."

The ministry said it would brief firms on Tuesday about contracts for teaching structured literacy and it had nothing to do with its cost-saving programme or proposed restructure.

In a statement, the ministry's curriculum centre leader Ellen MacGregor-Reid said it was still considering proposed job cuts.

"No decisions about impacted jobs in the curriculum centre have been made. Consultation documents are being considered. To report that people have lost their jobs is premature and inaccurate."

She said the ministry's professional learning panel would today brief providers on upcoming requests for propsals (RFPs) for professional learning and development (PLD) in structured literacy.

"This PLD provision is not work done by NCEA staff nor NCEA implementation facilitators and is not related to the ministry's cost savings programme or proposed restructure. As we said in our statement yesterday the two should not be conflated," she said.

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