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The Otago Community Trust yesterday launched the new Learning Impact Fund, which will be available to Otago schools from April to the end of March 2020.
Dunedin principals yesterday hailed the announcement, saying it would ease some of the financial pressure of having to provide the best education possible with limited funds.
Tainui School principal Shelley Wilde said operating under limited resources meant there were a lot of "if onlys".
"If only we had that much money or if only we had that resource or that person," she said.
The fund meant some of those "if onlys" would turn into real projects which helped schools give a more "holistic" education to their children.
An area where schools sometimes struggled for funding was helping special needs children.
She was pleased the fund was flexible, which showed the trust had confidence in schools to "do the best thing by our children and our families".
"It’s awesome, because it allows us to be innovative and flexible around what the needs are as opposed to be so tightly ring-fenced you have got to try to make it work."
The dollar-for-dollar condition meant schools needed to be sure about an idea before applying for funding, which would help ensure it was not wasted.
Anderson’s Bay School principal Hamish McDonald said it was "always difficult" operating with limited funds and yesterday’s announcement was a "very nice surprise".
"We are really excited. It’s a fantastic opportunity for us as schools."
All nine Dunedin primary school principals at yesterday’s announcement made it clear they wanted to offer thanks to the community trust.
Otago Community Trust Trust chief executive Barbara Bridger said the fund, which was for primary and secondary schools, had been deliberately kept broad in its scope.This was because it recognised schools themselves were best placed to determine the needs of their pupils.
"We wish to offer a fund to schools that provides them with the flexibility to respond to the needs of their students," Ms Bridger said.
The fund would be delivered in two tranches, the first being a dollar-for-dollar fund which the trust had allocated $1.5million, she said.
"Improved educational outcomes for all students is the main objective of this fund," she said.
The second tranche was an innovation fund, available to schools which had an innovative project they were unable to fund through the dollar-for-dollar fund, Ms Bridger said.
"We are looking to encourage new thinking and also collaboration, it will be exciting to see what comes forward."
The innovation fund had no cap, because it did not want schools’ imaginations to be limited by a dollar figure.
Schools would still be able to apply for assistance for other projects under its general application process, separate from the Learning Impact Fund.
The amalgamation of the regional savings banks resulted in the establishment of the trust.
The fund fitted in with the trust’s priority on youth health and wellbeing.
"It’s a good time for the trust to do this. We’ve had some pretty good returns for the last couple of years."
The trust had gone grown from the $131million it gained from selling shares in Trust Bank New Zealand in the mid-1990s to around $275million.
Since its inception it has given more than $150million to the Otago region.