$511.9m for initiatives, but principals wary

While some Otago school principals believe this year's Budget comes at the expense of New Zealand's education system, others are wary of its implications and are reserving judgement until more detail is known.

The Budget focuses on raising pupil achievement by investing $511.9 million of operating funding for new initiatives in education over the next four years, taking the Government's total investment in early childhood education and schooling to $9.6 billion for 2012-13.

Education Minister Hekia Parata wants to see 98% of all children participating in early childhood education, and at least 85% of 18-year-olds achieving NCEA level 2 or an equivalent qualification in 2016.

The bid to raise pupil achievement meant teaching quality needed to be improved, Ms Parata said.

So an extra $59.8 million over the next four years would be set aside to support the development of teachers and principals, in addition to the $304 million already being spent.

Budget 2012 also targets $82.6 million of operating funding over the next four years to schools' operational grants, giving them the flexibility to provide resources based on the needs of their pupils.

Ms Parata said $47.9 million in operating funding would be invested in Equity Funding over the next four years, for early childhood education services to increase participation of children from priority groups, by keeping fees low for vulnerable families, and supporting families to actively engage with the early learning outcomes of their children.

A further $19.1 million would be invested to support Maori medium ECE services.

While increased funding in the budget was welcomed by ECE services, Otago Primary Principals' Association president Brent Caldwell said the Budget appeared to reflect the Government's strict adherence to fiscal neutrality at the expense of New Zealand's education system.

PPTA president Robin Duff said the Budget delivered a "king hit" on state secondary schools, because on top of the frontline teacher staffing cuts already signalled, schools would have to make do with a small operations grant increase which failed to cover inflation.

A large amount of the Budget had also been pledged to private interests, leaving some in the education fraternity questioning the minister's commitment to the state schooling sector, he said

"It is the low decile schools - the very ones [Ms] Parata has promised to support - that will suffer the most, and there is a very real danger some will become non-viable."

Otago Secondary Principals' Association chairman Brent Russell was more pragmatic and believed any increase in operations funding would be welcomed by schools, many of which were struggling with rising costs.

However, he said the devil was in the detail, and reserved his judgement of the Budget until more was known about the figures.

Funding initiatives

$59.8m for teacher and principal development.

$82.6m to increase schools' operations grants.

$33.8m capital funding in 2012-13 and $16.8 million operating funding to upgrade schools' internal information communication technology infrastructure.

$47.9m in new ECE equity funding.

$59.4m for operational funding:

•$4.2m for assistive technology for learners with special education needs.

•$15m to fully implement positive behaviour for learning in 2012-13.

•$4m for extra parenting programmes and relationship education in schools.

•$15.4m for the Prime Minister's youth mental health initiatives.

•$8.5m for alignment of achievement standards to Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

•$3.1m for extra staffing for composite schools.

$19.1m to improve access to Maori immersion ECE services.

$33m in operating funding for initiatives to accelerate achievement for priority learners.



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