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PPTA slams school housing changes

PPTA slams school housing changes

Rural secondary schools will face a crisis if the Education Ministry proceeds with proposed changes to school housing, according to the PPTA.

PPTA’s submission on the Ministry’s proposed new education housing policy says rural education is already in a fragile state and selling off school housing will further demoralise schools, boards of trustees, teachers and communities.

PPTA president Phil Smith said the union was amazed that the Ministry was proposing to raise rents and sell off schools houses at a time when secondary schools – particularly in rural areas – were facing their worst shortages in decades.

The economics-driven nature of the proposed changes also suggested the Ministry hadn’t been near a rural school or talked to rural principals and teachers.

“Though it is clear the Ministry can save itself considerable sums of money by transferring school housing costs to boards and teachers, the impact on educational quality and student safety of its proposed changes will be disastrous.

“It is frustrating that some areas of the Ministry are undermining the work that other areas are doing to recruit and retain teachers and improve educational quality.”

Phil Smith said the Ministry also seemed misinformed by a view that teachers in towns with high property values were excessively advantaged because rents in school houses were low.

“It is clear from the responses of boards and teachers that without school houses, the buoyant property market in coastal and lakes resort areas will make recruiting staff to, and keeping them in schools in these areas even more difficult.”

PPTA’s submission recommends the Ministry commission independent research on the significance of school housing for recruiting and retaining secondary teachers and principals and for rural education in general. The association also calls on the Ministry to conduct an audit on the quality of school houses and to bring them up to a national minimum acceptable standard.

Mr Smith said in comments to PPTA, teachers made it clear that not all school houses were maintained to an acceptable standard.

“It seems as though Opus, in much the same way Trans Rail has operated our rail network, has been contracted by the Ministry to ensure the value of school houses continues to decline.

“We have heard from a teacher who encountered vermin and rodents, a teacher still waiting for electricity to be connected to his garage after more than a year and a teacher whose school house has ingrained soot and mould in the wallpaper, no locks and no ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom.

“That is appalling and should not be allowed to happen.”

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