Some Bay of Plenty schools' spending habits have been laid bare.

New data sourced by the NZ Herald revealed that Bay of Plenty schools spent $368 million in 2017, the most recent year for which figures were available.

Along with this data, a breakdown of almost every Government-funded schools' spending in 2017 was provided.

The research followed growing controversy over how many schools would be better off if they agreed to drop parent donations in exchange for a $150 per student payment for decile one to seven schools.

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Some principals around the country told NZME they would have no choice but to can school camps and activities as they would not be able to ask parents to pay, leaving many mid-decile schools worse off.

The donations debate, while important, was a relatively small part of a much bigger picture on school spending.

In 2017, Bay of Plenty schools spent $368 million, including $332 million from the Government. Schools raised $31 million.

Of this, $169 million was in Tauranga, with $150 million Government-funded and $15 million raised locally.

Ministry of Education spokeswoman Katrina Casey said boards of trustees were responsible for making decisions on how schools spent their funds and the funding a school received varied from school to school.



In the Bay of Plenty data, it was clear secondary schools spent more than primary and intermediate schools.

Components in determining the amount of funding a school received were weighted by year level. As a result, secondary schools would often receive more per-student funding than primary and intermediate schools, said Casey.

Tauranga Intermediate, a decile 5 school, was highlighted as the largest intermediate school in the country with 1288 students. It had the biggest intermediate school spend of just over $8.5 million in 2017.

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Tauranga Intermediate principal Cameron Mitchell said the school was all about investing money into its students and with such a high number of them, the money spent correlated with this.

When asked if the school would be better off under the Government's school donation scheme, he said "absolutely", as they charged only a small amount and had only around a 50 per cent pay rate.

He confirmed school camps and activities would not be in jeopardy as he believed they were an integral part of the school curriculum, but said schools were not in a position to fully fund them alone.

Under the current system, schools cannot charge fees for the delivery of the curriculum.

Therefore if a camp was part of a school's curriculum then it cannot charge a compulsory fee but may request a donation, said Casey.

This was where the grey area came from in terms of scrapping school donations, as technically speaking, camp fees would fall under this umbrella.

Tauranga Intermediate School's principal Cameron Mitchell said the school's spending correlated with their large number of students. Photo / File
Tauranga Intermediate School's principal Cameron Mitchell said the school's spending correlated with their large number of students. Photo / File

Rotorua Boys' High School was highlighted in the data as one of the biggest and highest spending schools in Rotorua in 2017, with 958 students and $9.9 million spent.

Principal Chris Grinter said some of this extra spending came down to the large hostel on site where a number of students boarded.

He said the school would be happy to take up the Government offer, as about 60 per cent of families made the $160 voluntary contribution.

Tauranga Girls' College faced the biggest costs for textbook depreciation in the country - writing off $144,160 in 2017, well above the national average for secondary schools of about $7000.

Principal Tara Kanji said as she was not the principal of the school in 2017, it was hard to pinpoint a reason for this.

Tauranga Girls College principal Tara Kanji (centre) said she was skeptical of the Government's funding proposal. Photo / File
Tauranga Girls College principal Tara Kanji (centre) said she was skeptical of the Government's funding proposal. Photo / File

When it came to the Government funding proposal, she said it appeared the school may benefit but she was concerned about important activities like camps and how they may be impacted.

In 2017, Mount Maunganui College's property spending skyrocketed to $1.3 million, which was a lot more than many other similar-sized schools around the country.

Principal Alastair Sinton said the peak came from a Board of Trustees funded building project that was "above and beyond" normal expenditure that year.

The decile six school was waiting for more information from the Ministry before deciding whether to scrap donations.

"There may be a disconnect between what the Ministry announcement means for schools and what parents may be expecting as a result."

The Education (School Donations) Amendment Bill was currently before Parliament and The Ministry's guidelines on this would be updated to reflect any and all final decisions made on the Bill, said Katrina Casey.

All the data was provided to the NZ Herald by the Ministry of Education under the Official Information Act. As not all schools report their spending in exactly the same way some differences between schools are due to accounting practices.