Schools Plus could be a scheme too far for principals

The New Zealand Principals Federation (NZPF) has challenged Education Minister Chris Carter over comments he made last week urging schools to take part in consultation for the Schools Plus programme.

Mr Carter's comments followed a boycott of discussion on the scheme by 15 North Shore principals.

NZPF president and Balclutha School principal Paddy Ford said principals were concerned about "a host of funding issues", not just Schools Plus - a scheme to keep all pupils in formal education until the age of 18.

"Over the last 12 months, the NZPF has been involved in consultation with the Government on special needs, behavioural issues, administrative support, principal development and the level of compliance we face, yet we have seen little or no change since then.

"There may be more lobbying, but it could get to a stage where principals, who are already very passionate about high quality education, may look to boycott new schemes," he said.

Schools were already dealing with more than 20 new programmes, including the new NZ Curriculum, an Assessment Strategy, Better Outcomes for Children (Special Education), Education for Enterprise, Ka Hikitia, the Pasifika Education Plan and the School Improvement Initiative, he said.

Mr Ford believed these programmes were under-resourced.

"A very minor example is that the resource teachers of learning and behaviour fuel allowance has stayed the same since the programme started over five years ago."

Funding pressure had increased "considerably" in recent years, causing schools to rely increasingly on locally raised funds to pay for contestable funding initiatives, such as information and communication technology "clusters".

Mr Ford said his criticism was of government funding - it was not directed at the Schools Plus programme.

"[It] could be a good programme, but it will cost yet more money. The sentiment [among principals] is we have to decide what's important and put energy into those initiatives before moving on to new ones," he said.

Primary school leaders within the federation had indicated support for secondary school members, and may also end up boycotting new initiatives until the ministry addressed the issues highlighted, he said.

The NZPF represents 2300 principals nationwide.


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