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Mallard's Speech To School Trustees

14 June 2000
Minister Of Education Trevor Mallard
Speech Notes

School Trustees Association Conference - Wellington

Thank you for the invitation to be here today.

It's actually a big relief to be able to speak here today and know that I don't run the risk of breaching Budget secrecy. At events in the last few weeks I've sometimes had to either had to bite my tongue or turn around to make sure Michael Cullen is nowhere near by.

The School Trustees Association decided the date for this conference a long time before Cabinet settled on a Budget date. But as far as I'm concerned it has turned out to be ideal timing.

Because I do regard this as an incredibly important forum and your organisation as one of the key education sector groups.

I remember the first school trustee elections back in 1989 when I was a father of school aged children and a spouse of a trustee. One of the best things about that period was the excitement that the Tomorrow's Schools changes generated in communities throughout New Zealand.

I see no need to change the fundamentals of school administration. What I am interested in though is a more collaborative approach among schools rather than a competitive approach. There are parallels within one of my other jobs as Minister of State Services with responsibility for the public service.

Ultimately schools are largely funded from the same source – taxpayers. As Minister for Education, I have a responsibility for ensuring that taxpayers get value for money from every dollar spent on education. I think that money should be spent efficiently, and wisely, and in a way that maximises the amount that is spent directly on children and on resources for children's learning.

A good example of the difference in attitude between my Government and the previous administration is our attitude towards the professional development of teachers. Let me say here that I regard funding for professional development of teachers as crucial to children's learning. There is nothing within a school that is more integral to the quality of learning than the quality of the teacher.

The previous Government wanted to hand the responsibility over to you as board members. They would have given you a bit of money and said 'go for it.'

Why don't I like that approach?

Because I think access to professional development is an important basic facet of good teaching in schools and I think that through economies of scale, I can provide it more cheaply. I also see a responsibility for making sure that teachers in a small two teacher school in an isolated area can access good professional development as well as teachers in a large urban school. Bulk funding of such a service would not allow that. The transaction costs of each board arranging all development would have been crippling.

I also endorse the calls for training and professional development for principals and board of trustee members. There are some important initiatives in the Budget for this.

We've allocated $200,000 for the policy work required to enhance principals' leadership and management. In my view, work in this area is long overdue and I hope the results are reflected in future Budgets.

We are also increasing the funding available for boards of trustees in at-risk areas to $8 million over the next four years. That will help us provide more in depth support for boards who require a bit of extra support to help them run their schools more effectively. Boards all share a common desire to provide a good education for their schools. But it is a fact of life that the skill level among parental communities varies greatly and the Government has a responsibility to help those communities more. It might be that we need to offer help to develop financial management expertise, run meetings more efficiently, or consult with their communities more effectively. Work that is ongoing in this area in the East Coast and Northland is showing some really good results already.

A new initiative included in this Budget is training for new boards of trustees. Your president mentioned that there is about a fifty per cent roll over of trustees at election. You know that it is not always an easy job and I think there should be more help available when a person is first elected. $1.3 million has been set aside for this to occur after your elections next year.

On a related note I would like to mention the Education Amendment Bill and the changes within that which allow for staggered elections of boards of trustees. This is by no means something that all school communities will feel a need for. Indeed it is optional. But in some areas and school types where there is a history of a totally new board after each election, I hope that it is an option that will be seriously considered here.

It is appropriate to acknowledge now the presence of a large number of student trustees who have registered for this conference. The Government has reintroduced the 'as right' membership of students on secondary and area boards. It was an important aspect of the Labour Youth manifesto as well as the education policy. We believe that young people can offer a lot to their boards and while a majority of schools do have a student trustee representative, we do not believe that adult members of a community should have the ability to shut off that right.

I'd like to put in a plug for the Government's attempt to ensure tertiary fees are frozen next year as part of a series of initiatives being taken to improve access to tertiary education. This is on top of the policy already in place to remove the interest on student loans for full time and other low-income students while they are still studying.

Moving now to the issue of bulk funding. It is both an important aspect of the bill which is currently working its way through the Parliamentary process and the Budget announcements yesterday.

Let me first promote the fact that there will be significantly more money in schools, to run schools, next year.

You cannot discount that. Yesterday's Budget allowed for $60 million dollars more. That is money that is made up of an increase in the base operational funding as well as the money that was never taken up through bulk funding.

It is on top of the bulk funding money that has been in schools this year. Many of you may remember my promise to deliver the full $106 million set aside by National for schools that opted for bulk-funding.

In previous years, too much money that could have been spent on schools was sent back to Treasury. I will not allow it to go back to Treasury again – it will be given to schools and it will stay in schools. Even as Associate Minister of Finance, I think it is put to better use in schools than in the Government's coffers.

As well as using up the money that could have been spent on bulk funding there is another $15 million that is the base increase to operational funding – about 1.8 per cent.

To put it simply – we are putting more money into schools and we are spreading it more fairly across all schools.

On average it is about a 7.4 per cent increase in school operational funding. Next year, we will again keep our commitment to adjust it further in line with inflation.

We are introducing a lot of the flexibility that bulk funded schools have found positive but we will retain responsibility for paying for the minimum staffing entitlements. To put that into perspective, let's focus on how that affects your ability to employ.

When you advertise for a new teacher, you do the interviewing and you decide who is the best person for that job. We then pay that person's salary. I don’t think that the decision you make should impact on what other learning and teaching resources are available for the children in your school. So after the core entitlement staffing is decided, schools will be funded on an equitable basis determined by their roll and decile ranking.

With that funding, you decide your school's priorities. You might decide in favour of extra staff to make classes smaller, special programmes to cater for particular needs in your communities, or a modified form of management units.

I have read many of the written submissions and newspaper reports of the oral submissions made to the Education and Science select committee about bulk funding. They talked in length about the extra teachers bulk funding provided them, the extra programmes they were able to implement, the special help for children with particular needs. I have not seen any evidence from schools on how they could have achieved all of that without the extra money. Every 'extra' they have provided their children with will be possible under the centrally resourced model, with the same amount of money.

Funding formulas will be available in about a couple of months.

Just over a month ago the staffing review team met for the first time. Their work is still in its infancy and they will report back to me with a long term plan to improve staffing levels with a phased plan. Implementation of the plan will then take into account issues such as affordability and teacher supply.

But I am a bit impatient in this area and I didn’t want to wait until 2002 to introduce better staffing ratios in areas where I think there is a crucial need.

So we have set aside $8.6 million for some extra staff next year. Details will be announced shortly and it will be used to make a difference for small rural schools.

I've always said it was madness to think that if your school has twenty students, the administrative work takes five per cent of the time that it takes in a school with 400 students.

I also want the review team to take into account the needs of low decile schools. The staffing review team will complete the full report by the end of February 2001, with recommendations on a long term staffing formula for schools.

The Budget also included a further capital injection of $160 million next year to ensure the largest boost to school property funding ever.

Over the next two years, the Government we will spend $638 million on school property – an $88 million increase on last year's funding. It will provide for 220 new classrooms, as well as funding to buy 16 new sites for schools and pay for 12 new schools to be opened by 2004.

As we no longer have deferred maintenance to fund we will be able to make real progress on modernisation.

Related to this is my announcement last week of new 5-year property programmes for schools.

It will give schools the certainty they presently lack to get on with the job of self managing their property and meeting the expectations of their communities.

Each school will work with the Ministry of Education to decide their priorities for capital works within assured funding levels that are fair and equitable for all schools.

This system will be progressively rolled out to all schools by 2005 starting with sixty this year. These have been selected to give a mix of decile ranking, location, school type and size. Until the other schools enter the scheme regular property funding programmes will remain.

You've probably all heard that this Government has set itself a major challenge to help close the social and economic gaps between Maori, Pacific people and other New Zealanders. This focus is strongly reflected in the education aspects of the Budget.

There is funding for homework centres to give children good study habits and access to resources they might not have in their homes before they reach the more demanding secondary school level.

There is a focus on literacy with 121 resource teachers of literacy working in clusters of schools from next year and other literacy initiatives.

We have quite a distinct emphasis on early childhood education. Funding for this sector will increase by $10 million next year and I see that as just a start. Included in there is funding for a strategic plan which will guide future policy development and funding decisions. While your organisation is involved in the school sector you will appreciate that quality early childhood education gives a child a good start that will serve them well throughout their school and later life.

Later this year we will be holding a hui taumata to look carefully at a long-term strategy for Maori education. But already we have allocated more than $50 million for specific Mäori education initiatives over the next four years. They include funding for Mäori language education, Mäori teacher supply both in mainstream and kura kaupapa schools, and Mäori responsiveness initiatives.

There are also specific Pacific initiatives which I will be releasing more details about in a couple of weeks.

In conclusion, I'd like to finish with a few comments about some great educationalists.

The partnership between Education Minister Peter Fraser and Director of Education Clarence Beeby was one of immense importance. More than any government before them, they saw the need and the right of all New Zealanders to a good quality education. They believed that no matter what their family background, all New Zealand children deserved a chance to reach their full potential in education.

There are many people of my generation who utilised that chance and who, despite coming from modest or poor backgrounds, are leaders in our country today in all sorts of areas.

The Labour Alliance Government wants to give today's children the same chance in life through the education system. We need to revisit the vision that Fraser and Beeby had for education and update it for the new Millennium. We need to utilise the wonders of modern technology. We need to recognise the severe social problems that have developed in many communities and compensate the schools and other education providers that serve those communities.

I look forward to working with you to develop that vision.

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