Classroom builds too costly - principal

By Jordan Bond

1 comment

The value of building consents in schools rose 50 per cent in the Bay last year, but one principal says schools simply can't afford to construct the classrooms the Government expects.

Education building consents were valued at $16.89 million last year, an increase from $11.26 million in 2014.

But Hastings Boys' High School principal Robert Sturch said the five-yearly funding allocations that schools received from the Ministry of Education only covered necessary work - not upgrades.

"It's essentially a repairs and maintenance budget, I think. What the money does is, it maintains buildings to a reasonable standard.

"But in terms of any development into a modern learning environment, or anything outside the normal repairs and maintenance schedule, you'd have to find that yourself," Mr Sturch said.

Schools were expected to upgrade classrooms to become "flexible learning spaces" - open-plan learning areas of varying sizes to "encourage and support many different types of learning".

Schools must pay for these upgrades using their five-yearly allocation, known as five-year agreements.

Mr Sturch said some schools were satisfied with traditional classrooms despite the Ministry's expectations for schools to transform their teaching spaces.

"I know of schools where modern learning environments aren't the flavour at all, and this is in very well-to-do schools. They still appreciate and value a traditional learning environment.

"Some schools in Auckland advertise that they don't have modern learning environments."

Mr Sturch said different types of learning required different environments, and Hastings Boys' used a mixture of traditional and modern areas.

In a written response, Ministry of Education spokesperson Jerome Sheppard said the ministry expected to spend twice as much on school property this year as it did three years ago.

He said the ministry asked schools to prioritise property funding to make sure buildings were healthy and safe.

"If a school had health and safety issues, we would help them use their funding to address those. If they didn't have sufficient funds, we would step in immediately.

"The safety of the students and staff is our first concern," he said.

Mr Sheppard said the Government had allocated $300 million over the next six years to assist schools with "complex property issues" which can't be fixed from their regular budget.

The value of consents for education buildings rose 58 per cent in 2015, up $404 million to $1.1 billion.

Tertiary buildings accounted for more than half of the increase.NZME

- Hawkes Bay Today

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