Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Education Budget Has Rotten Core


NZEI Te Riu Roa President, Ian Leckie, puts the apparent increases in education funding into perspective in this press release.

Early Childhood Education appears to be getting a substantial boost with an increase of $550 million, but when the $400 cuts from the previous budget are taken into account it will hardly restore the damage done. The fact that we still substantially fund ECE below the level in most OECD countries (.6% of GDP compared to the average of over 1%) means we are still disadvantaging our youngest children. There is a desperate need for high quality ECE in our communities and when New Zealand has one of the highest percentages of working mothers in the OECD our funding needs to reflect that.

The 2.9% increase to schools operational funding is also a disappointment as it is well below inflation rates (4.9% this year) and will restrict further a school's ability to pay the wages of already underpaid school support staff. The refusal to centrally fund core support staff continues to provide an uncertain employment environment for these essential education workers and schools regularly have to lay off staff if funding is inadequate.

The ongoing funding to support National Standards is a disgraceful waste. Few schools now find them practical or useful and they are taking up an immense level of resourcing that could be used in areas that would make a difference to our struggling learners. New Zealand is ranked in the top four internationally for our education achievement but when so much money is directed away from the work and initiatives that got us there our current high standing will most certainly drop. Already an unhealthy narrowing of curriculum focus has seen our achievement in Science drop. Surely it is through learning domains such as Science and Technology that will best determine our future economic success.

The only positive is the increased provision for ultra-fast broadband and, while this is useful, it is only a tool and without the staffing to support it and a useful context for its use the impact to learning will be minimal.

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