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Trustees to research school running costs

Media Release

Trustees to research school running costs

The New Zealand School Trustees Association wants to find out the true cost to schools of meeting new government educational targets.

NZSTA general manager Ray Newport says the association has commissioned research to determine the costs incurred by schools in delivering educational outcomes to the standards determined by government policy.

Conducted by the New Zealand Council of Educational Research, the research aims to provide an insight into the funding decisions made in New Zealand schools. It will look at the factors that influence funding decisions, and how operational funding and locally-raised funds are used to meet perceived needs.

Ray Newport says the research will include the increasing trend for schools to increase their revenue through such initiatives as foreign fee paying students.

“The funding issues faced by schools are well documented and should not be underestimated, yet there has been little formal research in this area.

“As a community, we need to have a much better understanding of these issues, so that boards of trustees, schools and school communities can have confidence they will have the resources to meet our students’ high educational expectations.”

Ray Newport says the traditional arguments have been that the school’s operational grant has not kept up with inflation or that other additional costs have not been met with a corresponding increase in funds.

“While these debates have some validity, NZSTA believes they are not particularly useful because there is no research that establishes that the operational grant was formulated in a way to meet the needs of schools. If the base point was not tied to educational outcomes, then arguing about increases is not helpful,” he says.

“What we need to find out is whether the size and decile of the school leads to different options and tensions in financial decision-making and this research is an important step towards achieving that.”

Ray Newport says it is also important to understand how different schools respond to changes in educational priorities and whether their existing resources are sufficient to meet those changes.

The proposed research has been designed to give some clear indications of how self-managing schools currently manage their funds, how they make resource allocations, what the competing priorities are, and how these priorities change.

“The current focus on improving reading, writing and arithmetic is a good example. There is wide agreement on the initiatives aimed at improving children’s literary and numeracy, but there is a cost to our schools in achieving these results.

“The costs of carrying out these initiatives need to be established and then funded. And if additional funding is not forthcoming, then we need to know what impact reallocating funds to literacy and numeracy initiatives has on other areas of the school,” he says.

The research will be an in-depth qualitative study covering a total of 18 primary and secondary schools throughout New Zealand. It will run from late 2003 until mid-2006, with progress reports annually, to enable changes in the way the schools deal with funding issues to be tracked over a period of time.

[ends]

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