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Correspondence School job losses a disaster

5 May 2005

Correspondence School job losses a disaster for NZ: Greens

The firing of at least thirty Correspondence School staff will critically damage the quality of education it provides to 18,000 students.

The Green Party has learned that Chief Executive Debbie Francis has told affected staff today that they are being let go, with more sackings yet to be confirmed. It is understood that 30 staff members - nine deans, 19 regional advisors and two legally required careers-advice teachers - have already been fired today.

"This decision will destroy a taonga, a valuable resource to the whole country, not just rural communities. It is an outrage," Green Party Education Spokesperson Metiria Turei said.

The Correspondence School was originally established for geographically isolated students, but they now make up only about 1500 of the 18,000 students on its roll.

"This has come about because the Government has allowed the School to be overwhelmed by kids that other schools don't want, which has diverted it from its core mission of serving isolated families. This has been exacerbated by dual enrolments, where kids wanting to do subjects their schools can't provide get flicked on to the Correspondence School. An inevitable consequence of this move is that the traditional students, such as country kids, will not get the high-quality education they need and deserve.

"Chronic under-funding by the Government is also a factor. The school runs on a budget of about $45 million a year and has a deficit of around $5.5 million. Poor spending decisions at the school itself have exacerbated the chronic under-funding from Government. Critical teaching staff and students are now paying the price.

The sackings were also evidence that Ms Francis is trying to de-unionise the Correspondence School, Mrs Turei said.

"Staff believe that many of the regional positions will be re-appointed with new people in an attempt to de-unionise the School. Ms Francis has described the high number of union members at the school as 'an organisational challenge'.

"The Correspondence School is an expert e-learning education provider that as recently as 2003 was praised by the ERO, but Ms Francis has today stripped it of much of its value and capacity. Many of those fired are senior staff with years of experience, so the school is about to lose much of its institutional knowledge, expertise that cannot be replaced."


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