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Back to the future…NO WAY, says trustees

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Back to the future…NO WAY, says trustees

New Zealand School Trustees Association says any move to fund school support staff through a centralised system is a step backwards – and also undermines the importance of community-led schools.

Instead the association says the solution to the shortfall is for the Government to fund schools at a more realistic level.

The comments follow a suggestion from the New Zealand Educational Institute that some form of centralising support staff staffing/funding is needed because of shortages in operational grant funding.

President Chris France says school operational grants have been stretched beyond their limits, due to the Government agreeing to increase support staff salaries, without providing additional funding.

“Boards made it very clear to the Government that the additional costs incurred by the settlements were well in excess of what boards could afford. The Government did not provide additional funding and now boards’ operation grants are under pressure.”

He says more than 100,000 New Zealanders have shown a commitment to trusteeship and the concept of self-managed schools since the Tomorrows Schools reforms in 1989. NZSTA opposes any undermining or weakening of the role.

“The issue is a simple one for trustees, who have shown they are prepared to give generously of their own time to provide strategic governance of their school. In turn they expect the Government to be committed to providing adequate levels of operational grant funding to enable the board and principal to run the school.”

Chris France says any suggestion that shortages in operational grant funding can be remedied by pulling support staff out of the operational grant mix is misguided.

“A move to centralise this funding does not provide any magic solution to the basic issue of lack of commitment by the Government to top up grants to reflect these additional cost pressures.

“Any return to a centralised system strikes right at the heart of self governance/management. It will remove significant flexibility from those charged with the accountability for improving education, and will take New Zealand’s educational system a giant step back to the future”.

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2/NZSTA

Chris France says in the lead up to the 2004 budget, hundreds of boards of trustees made their concerns at the shortfall in operational grant funding known to the Minister. They also expressed strong opposition to any prospect of support staff being pulled back under government control.

“And of course any talk of pulling back into some centralised staffing runs totally counter to the basic tenets of the Tomorrows Schools philosophy- that the best decision making occurs at the point closest to the point of impact.”

He says centralisation of the funding for support staff will actually increase the risk of underfunding – not solve the problem.

“If we were to see support staff funding partially or completely under the direct control of the Government, boards of trustees and principals will still be left to make up the shortfall in staffing/funding from their much reduced operational grant or by locally raised funds. “

Chris France says it is clear that NZEI’s interest in pulling all or some of the support staff out of the operations grant is focussed on trying to protect the conditions of its members.

“It is important to remember that support staff are only one aspect of the overall operations grant, and there is little cognisance of the bigger picture of the inadequacy of board funding.”

ENDS



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