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Call for Budget to meet children’s needs

Parents and teachers call for Budget to meet children’s needs

A majority of teachers and parents want this week’s budget to focus on smaller class sizes and ensuring that children most in need get targeted assistance.

NZEI Te Riu Roa is releasing a plan for alternative spending priorities ahead of the Government’s pre-election Budget this week. The Budget will include the controversial $359 million “Investing in Educational Success” initiative announced by the Prime Minister in January.

Targeting the funding to where it is most needed has the strong backing of the majority of teachers as well as parents, according to polling by NZEI.

“While out-of-school factors such as poverty are the biggest influencers of child’s success, there are some things that can be done within schools to help mitigate those disadvantages,” said NZEI President Judith Nowotarski.

“Smaller class sizes and more individualised learning benefits struggling children the most and that’s why we advocate increasing investment by at least $50 million a year in order to reduce class sizes.

“Likewise quality early childhood education is hugely beneficial particularly for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“That’s why we propose a return to the target of 100 per cent qualified and registered early childhood teachers.”

The government dropped that target four years ago and now ECE services are only required to have 50 percent qualified and registered teachers and are only funded to a maximum of 80 percent qualified teachers.

“That was a very short-sighted move. The government’s focus has been on high participation rates at the expense of quality education. Our proposal is estimated to cost another $32 million a year.

Around three percent of students (around 30,000 children) have high special education needs but funding is rationed to only one percent of students. On top of this there are another 40-60,000 students with moderate special learning needs.

Sadly, without a little extra help, many of these children are at risk of failing at school.

NZEI proposes increasing the high level funding to three percent at a cost of $180 million a year to support 20,000 more kids.

NZEI also wants to see sustainable funding for support staff so that teachers can focus on teaching and learning. Currently schools are forced to fund teacher aides out of Operational Grants.

“Schools should not be forced to make a decision between buying computers and employing teacher aides to help vulnerable students.”

Ms Nowotarski says what’s interesting is that NZEI polling shows that parents as well as teachers support targeting extra funding at the areas that will make the biggest difference.

NZEI’s plan would amount to an extra investment of $320 million annually in quality public education. Ms Nowotarski said New Zealand currently invested less than the OECD average on education but there was strong public support for it being a top priority for public funding.

The increased investment could be partly offset by cutting funding from the government’s more radical and experimental policies, such as new tiers of management, charter schools and National Standards, she said.

Ms Nowotarski says this clearly shows that $133.4 million could be saved from experimental and dubious initiatives in order to help fund NZEI’s targeted plan.

NZEI’s Budget proposal

Smaller class sizes $50m
100% qualified early childhood teachers $32m
Increased special needs funding $180m
Living wage for school support staff $58m
Total $320m

The cost of government’s experimental initiatives

New teacher management tiers (IES) $90m (per year for four years)
Charter schools $14m (establishment + 2014 operational payment)
National Standards $29.4m (budget est. 2013/14)
Total $133.4m

Ends

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