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The Wellbeing Budget has brought the largest investment in school property in New Zealand education history, eliciting a firm nod of approval from Otago principals.
For the first time, the Budget makes a multi-year commitment to build new schools and classrooms by investing $286.8million for the first wave of a 10-year school property programme.
The programme will roll out in four waves. The first will start this year when three new schools are constructed, four schools are expanded and at least 150 new classrooms are built at existing schools.
An additional $913.3million will be invested to allow the Ministry of Education, schools and communities to plan further ahead, and set aside money now for future investments that will be needed over the next decade.
"This brings the total capital funding set aside in this Budget for new schools and classrooms to $1.2billion,'' Education Minister Chris Hipkins said.
In another first, the Government will soon release a national education growth plan, which will allow the sector to plan for and manage growth in the school-age population, school redevelopments and school builds over the next decade.
Otago Primary Principals' Association chairman Christopher McKinlay believed some of the funding might be directed to schools in Central Otago and the Lakes district.
"It's great to see this investment and forward planning. I'm enthusiastic about them allowing for the growth that's coming.''
Otago Secondary Principals' Association secretary Gavin Kidd was also impressed, saying it was "a positive step in the right direction''.
All decile 1-7 schools will be eligible to receive $150 per pupil per year if the school agrees to stop requesting donations from parents.
Starting in 2020 that is budgeted to cost $265.6million over the next four years.
Both Mr McKinlay and Mr Kidd liked the initiative because it was not compulsory for parents to pay school donations, and only about 10% to 20% of parents did so.
"For a large number of schools, they will be financially better off and it will allow them to budget better because they will know exactly how much money they will be getting,'' Mr McKinlay said.
However, both wanted to see the funding expanded to include decile 8-10 schools as well.
Overall, both said the Budget had positive aspects, but they were still concerned about how the Government would address teacher pay, work conditions and teacher shortages.
"You can have all these new classrooms, but if you haven't got teachers, none of this matters,'' Mr Kidd said.
- $286.8million for three new classrooms, four school expansions, and 150 new classrooms
- $913.3million for National Education Growth Plan
- $235million for rising costs of resources, services and staff
- $296million to meet the costs of additional children in the system
- $265.6million to make parent donations obsolete in decile 1-7 schools
- $3.5million for a school leavers’ toolkit.