Reviews: Schools Squeezed by Pressure Points
School funding is not keeping up with the times in key areas, such as support staff and ICT (information and communication technology), according to two separate Government reports released today.
The two reports – the School Operations Grant Review and the Schools’ Use of Operational Funding (ERO) – both signal what NZEI has been saying for years: schools are finding it difficult to keep up with increasing costs of a modern education.
“We’re very pleased that the Ministry is acknowledging that there are specific areas of financial pressure, and we expect that the workstreams recommended in the Operations Grant Review will be carried out. The work on support staff and ICT are particularly urgent,” says Irene Cooper, National President of NZEI Te Riu Roa, the primary and early childhood education union.
“Support staff are essential to a quality education. Schools simply cannot function without quality support staff such as teacher aides, librarians, ICT support and office managers. Yet our funding system leaves this group with low pay and very little job security. Too many are leaving for the private sector,” says Irene.
“With ICT, it’s not news that computers cost more than chalk, and small increases in funding simply don’t cover costs. And that’s not even taking into account things like professional development or IT support.”
NZEI hopes that the support staff and ICT workstreams will result in improvements to both the funding levels and systems.
“The Operations Grant Review itself was very comprehensive,” says Irene. “There was a great consensus among education groups, and that shows in the report.”
“However, we are concerned that the Minister is not acknowledging essential parts of the report, such as the growing reliance on locally-raised funds. The report does say schools are managing their funds well, but the report also mentions on a number of occassions that there is a growing reliance on locally raised funds. This is also an issue raised in the report from the Education Review Office.”
“The Government should not turn a blind eye to these locally-raised funds and pretend that our public education system is still ‘free’.”
“These reviews have highlighted problem areas in the education system. But the real work is still to be done. Until we get those workstreams up and running, nothing is going to be fixed for New Zealand schools or children’s education. One starting point would be a comprehensive examination of what it costs to run schools in the 21st century. We expect that to be one of the outcomes of this review.”