The Government has set aside a contingency fund to help the schools that are worst affected by changes to class sizes.
Education Minister Hekia Parata has confirmed a contingency fund between $10 and $20 million was set aside in Budget 2012 to fund a transition for ten per cent of middle and intermediate schools worst affected by changes to class sizes.
Ms Parata announced yesterday the Government would cap the impact on teacher losses to schools by two full time equivalent teacher positions.
Today Ms Parata said the contingency fund had been set aside prior to the Budget and the exact cost of the teacher cuts would not be known until school roll counts were received in September.
She said the contingency fund had been accumulating over time and had been earmarked in the Budget to cover the cost of teacher cuts to 10 per cent of schools.
"We knew that in this Budget that there would be some impact that was greater than some schools would be asked to bear and from the outset. This is a contingency fund that we put aside specifically because we knew that there would be some transition costs, so this fund it specifically for this purpose,'' Ms Parata said.
"Some of it is technically is base line and some of it is new,'' she said.
"We are only estimating the cost of the protection we have put in - we can't be absolutely accurate about that because it will depend on what the actual rolls are in September,'' she said.
Earlier today Ms Parata was heckled as she spoke about new class sizes in a roomful of intermediate and middle school principals.
Speaking at the New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling in Auckland this morning, Ms Parata was heckled when she said schools would be able to make their own decisions on implementing the ratios.
"Rubbish. You made the decision for us,'' one man shouted out.
The minister spoke of the need for a "system-wide lift'' in the country's schools.
She was at pains to stress the excellent job New Zealand teachers did but said that despite a five-fold increase in teacher numbers in the last 10 years, there was not a corresponding improvement in student achievement.
Media were asked to leave the conference while the minister hosted a question and answer session.
The $43 million a year the Government had anticipated would be saved and diverted to improve teaching quality as a result of the increase in class sizes will be cut because of the new cap on teaching losses but yesterday Ms Parata did not know by how much.
Neither she nor Prime Minister John Key have admitted that mistakes were made in calculating the effects of the new policy and yesterday she announced the cap as "good news''.
Gary Sweeney, principal of Pukekohe Intermediate School and president of NZAIMS, said the questions had kept coming back to staffing cuts.
"As a group of intermediate principals and teachers we kept coming back to the fact that we're not happy with that.''
There was still a great deal of uncertainty around the changes.
"Nobody's actually been told how it's going to work. We've been told no more than two positions over two years: Does that mean one position next year and one position in three years time? Does it mean two in three years time? People are saying `what happens after three years?' There's just a lot of questions around this.''
The Government has agreed to set up a working party to look at the effect of the new ratio formulas.
Mr Sweeney was unsure exactly how they would be implemented at his school.
"We're going to look at maybe a bit of that job, and a bit of that job, and a bit of that job - a bit of a pick and mix approach to it - and I've got some staff who might actually want to work part time.
"Other schools may not have that luxury. They may have to say 'guys we're closing down the woodwork room, lock the door'.''
Mr Sweeney hoped the Government would still be willing to compromise on its stance.
Speaking to journalists after the conference, Ms Parata said she was "very sorry'' about the anxiety caused to some schools who had calculated they could lose up to seven teachers.
The Government had considered this and it was never a possible outcome.By Kate Shuttleworth @K8Shuttleworth Email Kate, Matthew Theunissen Email Matthew