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Mallard Speech To School Exec. Officers Assoc.

Minister of Education
Speech to the Wellington Secondary Schools' Executive Officers Association

Wellington High School
Tuesday 29 March 2000

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

It's a timely meeting because this afternoon I will be releasing details of a one-off payment for schools which did not opt for bulk funding. It does not amount to the same level your school will receive next year when there will be a new funding formula. But it is recognition that schools that are not bulk funded should not have to wait until next year to receive a share of extra money that was allocated for schools this financial year. There is $15.1 million available that under National's rules would have gone back to Treasury. I wasn't prepared to let money that could be spent on children go in that direction.

For secondary schools in the Wellington region which are not bulk funded, there will be a one-off payment in your bank accounts next week of between $10,000 and $48,000 depending on your roll and decile ranking. The payment to most schools is between $16,000 and $25,000.

It is a one-off payment. Ministry officials are currently working on the new funding formula that will replace the dual system in time to come into effect at the start of next year. That will be announced by the end of August.

For many schools, the funding increase next year is going to be significant. The current minimum staffing levels will stay in place. I have gone against the very concerted lobbying effort by teacher unions to put extra funding into increasing staffing levels. I do want to improve staff-student ratios, but I think that needs to be achieved through a more comprehensive strategic approach. In the meantime, I know schools have a lot of ideas on how they would use extra funding and I want to make that funding available to them as soon as possible. In some cases, that will mean extra staffing. In others it will mean extra spending on resources like information technology. I expect most will end up with a mixture.

But I will be asking schools to let us know what they plan to do with the extra funding. Following the August announcement, I will be asking boards to make a formal decision as to the use of the extra money and to communicate that decision to the Ministry of Education.

In preparation for that, boards should start thinking how to work through that process, and where the priorities in your school lie.

The funding will continue to be weighted towards lower decile schools. Those of you who have worked in schools at both ends of socio-economic spectrum will understand first hand the disparities that exist in schools' abilities to raise funds. One school may raise a few hundred dollars in a school gala; another may raise thousands of dollars in an auction of goods donated by supporters of their school community. The difference in funds raised does not reflect the difference in the effort by either school community.

So the funding you will receive next year will still partly depend on your decile ranking. I have confidence that schools in low decile areas will be able to help meet the Government's wider objective of closing some of the social and economic gaps that have developed in our society.

I know many of you act as secretary to your school boards and I hope that you will be able to use this information to help with your forward planning.

We are moving quickly on these issues. Legislation was introduced to Parliament just yesterday which moves to formally end bulk funding and I do want to work to make the transition for both centrally-resourced and bulk funded schools go as smoothly as possible.

Also included in that legislation was our policy to strengthen school enrolment laws and to enhance some school governance issues.

The school governance changes provide some flexibility within the school board structure including the right to staggered elections. It will also see a return to 'as right' membership for student trustees. I think students have a valuable contribution to make into the running of schools. As well as being part of my party's pre-election education policy, it was also an important aspect of our youth policy that focused on investing in young people and giving them independence and a sense of identity.

The enrolment changes enshrine into the law the Government's belief that parents have a right to send their child to their neighbourhood school. If they wish to go elsewhere they can, but local children will always have priority. Where there are more outside-zone children wishing to attend a school than there are places available, ballots will decide who gets to attend - with siblings given priority.

We will never be able to satisfy everyone. If two students from outside a school zone want to go to a particular state school but there is only one place available, one student is going to miss out. But those children should be given an equal chance through a ballot system rather than schools choosing which child they want.

And while we will be working to upgrade school facilities and improve buildings, we won't be adding more and more facilities to one school while down the road another school has spare empty classrooms.

On the wider issue of school maintenance, I am working through some of the problems that exist. For example, there has been some lack of communication. Some boards have paid for the repainting of a building, which is then replaced as part of a capital works programme they didn't know existed. That's just a ridiculous waste of money and I support your view that schools need to know in advance what is planned.

Before I answer any specific questions, I'd like to respond to the issue of support staff.

Support staff are essential in providing a high quality education. Some of these members of staff get no training, low pay, are not paid during school holidays, and are under threat of being replaced by community wage workers.

The Government intends to consult with their unions to get proper pay scales, decent conditions of service, training programmes and some kind of career structure. They are essential staff and play an important role in the maintenance of the safe environment the school must provide.

There are some problems we are sorting out with respect to teacher registration, but we also need to make sure that police and character checks are carried out on any staff employed regularly in or around schools.


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