Tauranga's teaching community turned out in force yesterday to vote on a controversial funding proposal that has sparked fears of possible job losses and major changes to New Zealand's decile system.
More than 1500 people gathered at AB Arena yesterday in a joint meeting between the education sector's biggest unions NZEI and PPTA.
The meeting was one of 54 across New Zealand.
The meeting was sparked by a Government-proposed "global budget", which could result in trade-offs between school boards paying for teachers or for non-teaching costs of running a school. There were also concerns the proposed funding system, often referred at the meeting as bulk funding, would lead to the increased casualisation of teacher jobs and pressure to hire cheaper, less experienced teachers, undermining the quality of teaching.
The gathering created gridlock at Bay Park and Te Maunga roundabouts as teachers and school staff flowed through the doors.
Speakers included Merivale School principal and NZEI's Jan Tinetti and Aquinas College teacher and PPTA representative Graeme Bridge. Support staff, early childhood educators, cleaners and caretakers were also represented.
"This is the first time in history this has happened, so you can see how important it is to our members," Ms Tinetti said.
Extra seating was opened up for the crowd, which overwhelmed original seating plans.
Ms Tinetti said if the proposed changes went through, it would have the single biggest negative impact on public education.
"It's huge, absolutely huge. That's why we are getting the turn-outs like this. People are really, really concerned.
"We are protecting the interests of the children. We are professionals. We have a very good understanding of what will be good for our children, This is not about us. It's about what we can put in place to ensure our children have quality education."
PPTA junior vice-president Jack Boyle, who travelled from Lower Hutt for the meeting, said the global budget was just bulk funding re-packaged with smoke and mirrors.
Mr Boyle said not a single person has stood up to question why they were there from all the meeting he had attended so far.
"There's a lot of heart about this which is a good thing. There are very real concerns about the damage that will be made if we do get this bulk funding."
In a written statement supplied by the Ministry of Education, deputy secretary Ellen MacGregor-Reid said it was still early days and any changes wouldn't be introduced until at least 2019.
"What's being forgotten in the rush to judge is that the funding review isn't primarily about a global budget. The [bigger] question is how the $11 billion that goes on early childhood education and schooling each year can best be provided to support children's learning."
Ms MacGregor-Reid said this meant focusing funding on learning and achievement, matching funding to the curriculum, aligning funding to the size of the education challenge, and getting the right resources to the right child at the right time.
Ms MacGregor-Reid said it did not have all the answers yet and was seeking input from the education sector.
Union members voted at yesterday's meeting, but the results of the vote won't be announced until after all the meetings have been held later this month.
Funding proposals from the Ministry of Education include:
- A per-child funding amount for schools and ECE service that reflects what is needed to deliver the curriculum to children.
- An additional amount for children and young people at most risk of educational under-achievement. Here, we want to see if we can replace the decile system with an alternative that gives extra support to our most vulnerable students, without unfairly stigmatising them or their schools.
- Supplementary funding for small and isolated schools and services to ensure these services are viable.
- A global budget for schools, for better flexibility and simplified administration.
- Clear expectations and better information on the link between funding and educational outcomes.
- Separating funding for property-related costs, for more clarity between property and learning costs.
- A direct link between the private school subsidy and the per-child funding amount provided to state schools.
Source - Minsitry of Education