Review of intervention

Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced the school intervention system will be reviewed, following claims some limited statutory managers (LSM) are charging ''exorbitant'' amounts of money which could be better spent on pupil education.

Otago Primary Principals' Association president Whetu Cormick raised the issue in the Otago Daily Times last month.

Under the Education Act 1989, the ministry can intervene in the management of a school when it believes there is risk to the operation of the school, or the welfare or educational performance of the pupils.

One form of intervention the ministry uses is a limited statutory manager, who can be appointed by the Secretary for Education, to work on particular aspects of boards of trustees' governance roles, while the board remains in existence.

However, he said schools had to pay for LSMs from their own funding, and schools were being ''charged through the roof'' for their services. He believed they charged up to $100 an hour and some annual invoices were nearing $90,000.

Many principals said $90,000 would be better spent on pupils' education, particularly pupils with learning difficulties.

Last month, their concerns were echoed by the New Zealand Principals' Federation (NZPF), the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI), New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) and the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA).

Ms Parata said she had asked Secretary for Education Peter Hughes to review how the ministry helped schools in difficulty move back into full self-governance.

''This has been an area of discussion for us and it is timely to see if we can improve this function, as we constantly strive to provide system support to our schools,'' Ms Parata said.

''My officials tell me there is a great deal of common ground around the issues and that a working party across key sector groups could very usefully guide the review.''

Ms Parata said the terms of reference and a timeline for the working party would be worked through during the next couple of weeks.

NZEI national secretary Paul Goulter welcomed the review, saying there appeared to have been a significant number of cases where ridiculously high costs had been placed on schools as a result of intervention.

''We have been concerned for some time that there has been a lack of oversight by the Ministry of Education and schools have been left financially crippled by the costs of these interventions. We have been concerned that the system incentivises commissioners or LSMs to draw the intervention process out and some have been in place for questionable lengths of time.''

There are interventions in place at 72 of nearly 2600 schools across the country. Only one, a limited statutory manager, is working in Otago.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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