A Tauranga principal who is set to lose five of her teachers says the Government's commitment to fully fund 600 learning support staff couldn't come soon enough.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Sunday that the Government will fund 600 learning support co-ordinator positions, with the first to be employed from as early as 2020. The four-year project is expected to cost $217 million.
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said her school had 27 Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funded students on its roll and a third of her pupils needed additional learning support.
"It can't come soon enough, 2020 is a long time to wait," she said. "But it is now that we really need it ... We need as many pairs of hands as we can get."
Mackintosh said the teacher shortage was evident in that five teachers had handed in their resignations. Four of them were not returning to the profession.
"We are losing good people," she said.
"For a teacher to support a family and a mortgage with what they get is next to impossible. It is not a 9am to 3pm job, it is a 40- to 50-hour job."
Mackintosh questioned if lower-decile schools or schools with a larger number of vulnerable pupils would be prioritised in getting a share of the 600 new co-ordinators.
"We have got 2500 primary schools across the country ... it will only cover about a quarter of the schools," she said.
"But it is a step in the right direction."
Tauranga Special School principal Barrie Wickens said the news was positive.
However, he said the announcement lacked details on how the Government would determine which schools would get a share of the 600 new co-ordinators.
"It is great we are going to get teachers, but that is another 600 the system is going to have to find," he said.
Wickens did not think special schools would be entitled to any of the new co-ordinators, but believed they should be.
Assistant principal Andrea Andresen said having a funded learning support co-ordinator position in every school was a core claim in the New Zealand Education Institute's campaign for collective agreement negotiations.
Otumoetai Primary School deputy principal Zara McIndoe also said the news hadn't come soon enough.
"I am concerned it might contribute more to the teacher shortage," she said. "But I am hopeful it will make a difference and take some pressure off schools."
The Government aimed to at least double the 600 new roles in order to have one in every urban school and access to one for every rural school.
The Government has yet to work out which schools will be the first to get the 600 co-ordinators. That will be the subject of discussion with the sector.
The boost to learning support in the 2018 Budget had funded around 1000 extra places for students with complex needs so they could get specialist support such as speech therapy.
Teacher-aide funding received an extra $59.3 million.
About 2900 deaf and hard-of-hearing students and about 1500 low-vision students got more help, and around 1900 more children with high needs in early childhood education would now receive support each year.
New Zealand Education Institute president Lynda Stuart said the announcement was a "big win" for teachers and principals.
"It is a constructive response from the Government to the fact that the number of children with complex needs is growing," she said.
"The learning support co-ordinator/SENCO job is currently being done on top of or squeezed in around the day job of principals, deputy principals and classroom teachers."
Additional reporting NZME
What is a learning support co-ordinator?
- Dedicated staff in primary and secondary schools support children with special learning needs such as dyslexia, autism, physical disabilities and behavioural problems.
- They work alongside teachers, parents and other professionals to give students individualised support.
- Currently, schools have special education needs co-ordinators but in many cases the role is just a few hours a week for an existing teacher and funding is allocated by the board of trustees.