Labour says student learning will suffer and parents will be asked to fork out more money due to the government "underfunding" schools.

The party's education spokesman Chris Hipkins made the comments following a Herald on Sunday article that exposed how financially-strapped secondary schools are cutting back on classroom activities, field trips, science experiments and even removing courses after a crackdown on parent donation rules.

School are no longer able to ask parents for money for activities considered part of the national curriculum. A New Zealand Secondary Principals' Council survey into the guidelines set by the Ministry of Education in 2013 revealed that two-thirds of schools reported a reduction in school finances.

Mr Hipkins, who also challenged Education Minister Hekia Parata over school funding in Parliament this morning, said that situation was due to get worse.

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He said education was underfunded by $40 million.

Mr Hipkins said core Crown spending for the sector needed to reach $13.17 billion in the 2015/16 financial year just to keep pace with inflation and demographic changes. However, the sector only received $13.13 billion.

"This is a funding cut in real terms - no matter how you dice it," Mr Hipkins said.

"High schools are trapped between a rock and a hard place after a crack-down by the Ministry of Education on schools asking parents for donations for curriculum activities."

In the house this morning, Mr Hipkins asked the minister about a school that was forced to cancel a biology field trip, resulting in the teacher having to get special permission from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority to alter data collection requirements so the students would not fail their National Certificate of Educational Achievement. This was because the school could not afford to deliver the learning the curriculum requires.

In response, the minister said she was "surprised" by that because funding had gone up every year since National was in Government.

" Operational grants, which are fully at the discretion of the school, have been at or ahead of inflation. I would be a bit worried about the management by that school," she said.
The government made a 1 per cent increase in schools' operation grants this year.

The survey also revealed that:

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• NCEA assessments have been affected by donation changes

• Students now go on "in-school" field trips

• Pupils are not as "engaged" in scaled-back activities and

• Some principals have "chosen" to ignore funding guidelines.

The guidelines were introduced to tackle the long-contentious issue between parents who cannot afford donations and schools who say they need them to make ends meet.

Schools can still solicit donations for voluntary activities such as cultural and sporting trips.