Kirsty Johnston is an investigative reporter at the New Zealand Herald.

Treasury warned against targeting at-risk students

Eduaction Minister Hekia Parata under fire during question time at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Eduaction Minister Hekia Parata under fire during question time at Parliament, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Treasury officials disagreed with a decision to target schools' operational funding to at-risk students, an initiative eventually announced by education minister Hekia Parata.

Budget 2016 documents released this afternoon show officials warned that the decision may appear like the Government was pre-empting the outcome of its school funding review - an initiative currently underway with heavy involvement from the education sector.

Advice to Finance Minister Bill English in early 2016 said Treasury would not recommend targeting the operational grant to children with long-term beneficiary parents until progress on the review had been made.

"A key judgement is whether agreeing this change would be interpreted by the sector as the Government pre-empting the outcome of the review, or just signalling its commitment to change," it said.

The policy will give schools $12 million per year for about 150,000 at-risk students, defined as those from long-term welfare-dependent families.

The traditional increase across all schools' operational funding will be frozen to make the changes.

It will freeze operations funding to make the changes. The funding works out at around $4 per week per student affected.

The policy has been read as further evidence the government does want to shift education funding to a more targeted approach, with documents leaked to the Herald earlier this year showing it planned to fund on students' risk of failure, rather than decile rankings.

The documents show treasury twice told Mr English it would not recommended the targeted funding for next year, the first time on March 1, and again on March 17.

The second time, after it had more detail, it felt the policy was " implementable from 2017" but said "depending on the outcome of the Funding Review, you would likely need to transition to a different targeting mechanism post-2017."

It again warned about how the decision would be interpreted.

Further paragraphs in the document were redacted, however it's unclear if they related to the same decision, or other budget advice.

Treasury officials also warned there was "weak evidence" of the impact of additional teacher aides on student outcomes. However it said their effectiveness was dependent on implementation and practice decisions.

The Government went on to fund support for an extra 1250 students with a $15.3 million increase for in-class support.

The documents can be viewed here.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 22 Oct 2016 19:44:46 Processing Time: 823ms