Opinion: investment in schools vital

Taieri MP Ingrid Leary has challenged the government about slashed funding for a planned building...
Taieri MP Ingrid Leary has challenged the government about slashed funding for a planned building programme at Andersons Bay School and other schools. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
I’ve observed with sympathy Andersons Bay School make local and then national headlines as media seized on a publicly-released list of schools impacted by "updated" funding decisions which meant they would no longer get what they were promised.

Andersons Bay School has somehow become the meat in a political sandwich that saw other local schools get upgrades and new facilities, most ahead of the General Election, including Kaikorai Primary, Arthur Street School and Grants Braes School.

Last August, I had the pleasure and privilege of cutting the ribbon on two new classrooms at Musselburgh School, which, like Anderson’s Bay, had endured decades of lessons in 1970s dilapidated prefab buildings that had more than sweated their value.

The immediate benefit of warm, dry classrooms and new shared spaces to the students of now and the future was obvious.

Then this year, Anderson’s Bay School had its building programme slashed in half.

No doubt the Andersons Bay principal would rather have remained focused on providing her pupils with a good education than appear in newsfeeds.

But that’s hard to do when you don’t have fit-for-purpose classrooms and it has been publicly announced that the promised building programme would go back to the drawing board, after five years of planning and $750,000 of sunk costs.

It’s likely George St Normal School — which also made headlines — would have preferred anonymity too, when what seems to be new Ministry of Education value-for-money calculations applied a template that didn’t calculate correctly the true number of pupils who fall "out-of-zone".

So what’s happened?

Official documents show that both schools’ misfortune was part of a nationwide cost-cutting exercise that recalculated the cost of delivery, changing roll growth forecasts and reprioritisations.

For Andersons Bay School, this came after community consultation, numerous engineering reports, compliance with local council and Ministry of Education planning approvals, and even final consents.

The sheer wastefulness of the cuts prompted me to ask questions in the House last week to Minister of Education Erica Stanford.

Answering on her behalf, David Seymour’s flippant response about fiscal discipline left us none the wiser.

Children’s education should never be a political football. The fact is that the previous Labour government worked to rebuild school property, with 4500 school upgrades completed with more in the pipeline.

There’s no need for an expensive government review to prove that schools need a continued government investment over time. Andersons Bay School is no different — regardless of the politics.