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Summary of key points from QPEC Summit

Summary of key points from QPEC Summit on Resourcing for Quality Public Education held on 22 November in Auckland

General Points:

• Affirm the birthright of all New Zealanders to free, high quality public education as a right of citizenship from early childhood to adult and community education.

• The summit identified the extent of the gaps between the birthright and the reality.

• The gap is frighteningly large and even more alarming it is increasing across all sectors.

• As these gaps increase the quality of education increasingly depends on the ability of parents to pay.

• There is an increasing and wasteful cost of compliance – “complexity and compliance” – as education moves to a “low trust” model rather than one based on the professionalism of the people working in education.

• Despite the increasing gaps and a $10 billion surplus the government is talking about tax cuts for businesses and high to middle income earners rather than addressing the gaps.

• There is a desperate need for substantial investment in public education. The government must look first, second and third at funding the next generation’s education as their first priority.

Early childhood sector:

• There has been a large increase in funding over recent years although this is from a relatively small base and also reflects the government’s policy of increasing participation in early childhood education.

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• Government policy has blurred the line between community and private providers as the government operates a “market model” which has serious implications for quality choices for parents.

• Public/community institutions are struggling for funding as the government forces a “user pays” model onto parents.

§ Some kindergartens are putting in EFTPOS machines so parents can pay fees.

§ Playcentres are in dire straits – they need funding for upgrades of buildings etc but have been sidelined in funding mechanisms.

• Australian based multi-national private providers (Kiddicorp, ABC and Macquarrie Bank) are “creaming” large profits from New Zealand government subsidies and parent fees.

• Grave concern was expressed at the back-down by Trevor Mallard during the 2005 election campaign whereby he agreed the government would give 20 free hours per week for 3 and 4 year olds attending private providers. This will siphon off more government funding into profits which instead should be invested in early childhood education.

• Kohanga Reo and Playcentre groups have been denied access to funding for the 20 free hours early childhood education per week because they are not “teacher-led” despite being community based and offering a quality choice for parents.

• The outcome of government policy is that increasingly the quality of early childhood education a child receives will depend on the ability of parents to “top up” government funding.

Tertiary education:

• Overall institutional funding is inadequate resulting in high and increasing fees, decreasing quality, increasing student/staff ratios and underpaid staff.

• An NZVCC/AUS report showed that in Australian Universities, their Government contributes 46% of an institution’s funding, while in New Zealand the Government contributes only 38%. In addition, fees in Australia contribute only 19% of an institutions income, while in New Zealand fees contribute 31% of an institutions income.

• “Fiscal stress” is rife across public tertiary institutions.

• Regional polytechs continue to struggle financially while universities are often “technically bankrupt” with many frequently having a “working capital deficit” in recent years.

• New Zealand’s public investment per full time student is only $5480, whilst Australian Universities receive $6990 and United Kingdom Universities receive $7410.

• An OECD report showed that NZ spends 0.9% of GDP on our tertiary education institutions, behind the OECD average of 1.1% and countries such as Canada who spend 1.6%.

• Tertiary fees are continuing to increase alarmingly since the freeze on fees was lifted. For every year since then the average fee increase has been much greater than the rate of inflation.

• The government “fees maxima” of 5% has more often than not become the minimum.

• While interest on student loans has been wiped the benefits of this are being lost through rapidly rising fees.

• Typical fees are around $4000 per year, student debt stands at $8.7 billion and the average owed to IRD by students who have loans is $15,883. New Zealand repayment threshold stands at $17,160 while in Australia it stands at $37,335 – this is particularly harsh on low income earners.

• Students from low-income communities increasingly see tertiary education as a burden and a source of debt rather than as a way forward to better opportunities.

• A feature of tertiary education is “compliance and complexity” – epitomised by the bureaucratic swamp Te Wananga O Aotearoa is struggling through at present.

• The savage government attacks on Te Wananga reflect it being used as a scapegoat for the ills created by government market-led funding policies.


• Government funding has been decreasing as a percentage of school income over recent years.

1995 2005 2005 percentage from parents/community
Primary 90.5% 88.9% 11.1%
Secondary 85.8% 82.8% 17.2%

• “Local fundraising” (School fees/“voluntary donations”, fundraising and foreign fee-payers) has increased significantly under the Labour government

1999 2005
Primary (per child) $301 $474
Secondary (per child) $750 $987

• From 1995 to 2004 government funding of schools rose by 36.7% in real terms while local funding increased by a gross amount of 88.7%

• The government review of the school Operations Grant is based on the current funding model which is seriously flawed by being based too heavily on student numbers rather than educational need.

• There have been large increases (300%) in support staff employed in schools since 1989 which have been paid from the Operations Grant and locally raised funds. There is no specific government funding to support these staff increases.

• Operations Grant increases have borne no relation to inflation. The increase announced in 2006 was 2.3% while inflation is running at 3.5% – 4.0%

• Schools are facing large financial pressures from parent expectations while costs of such things as support staff and ICT have mushroomed.

• Boards have had to meet 100% of the costs of ICT (computers etc) until recent times, and even now, 75% is paid by schools/parents and only 25% is paid by government funding. Some of this 25% is of an “in-kind” nature. (eg. Microsoft deal for schools to access software)

• Research shows that the ability of schools to raise funds by way of school donations has plateaued.

• Many schools now report that parents are resisting paying school “donations”.

• Extra community pressures are now on schools with the expectation for “personalised learning” for students. This generates huge pressure on staff to become “super-teachers”.

• Special needs funding has decreased by 3.49% from 2001 to 2006.

• There is research evidence that suggests that many schools cannot support existing programmes on Operations Grant funding alone.

• There is research that suggests that schools are having to make trade offs that impact on student learning in order to make ends meet.

• There is evidence to suggest that despite the additional funding received by schools in low income communities from the government they are still well behind schools in high income communities in available per student funding.

John Minto

National Chairperson

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