A cut to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) funding by the Ministry of Education has left school principals angry and scrambling to find ways to fund ESOL teachers they have already employed for 2019.
The principal of Carisbrook School in Dunedin, Ben Sincock, said he was notified only two weeks ago that ESOL funding support for pupils in primary, intermediate and secondary schools had changed.
He said previously ESOL funding for refugee students was more than for migrant students and New Zealand-born children of migrants. But now the ministry was averaging out the funding and everyone got the same amount.
Carisbrook had 34 pupils who were Middle Eastern refugees, and the changes equated to an $18,750 funding cut to their ESOL educational support next year, he said.
"My gripe is that making an announcement so late in the year, when many schools have already appointed staff to provide the ESOL support for students, is extremely frustrating.
"And secondly, and more majorly, the Government has talked about increasing support for students with learning needs and special needs, and here they are actually cutting the support for individual students yet again.
"What's being said at Government level just isn't filtering down to schools. And to have 34 of our students next year losing $18,750 of support is dramatic."
Sincock said the funding was important because many of the refugee pupils arriving in the country had limited, if any, spoken English: "For them to be engaged in education, the idea is that we give them as much support as possible to bring them to a level where they can start learning in the classroom ... I've already made the appointments for next year for the ESOL support. I'm not sure how I'm going to fund that now."
The Government had announced schools could now apply for contestable funding for extra ESOL support, but schools were "maximising" that avenue each year already.
"The fact is, it's contestable. Before this, it was a guaranteed amount ..."
Ministry sector enablement and support deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the recent changes were made to better reflect the ways schools used ESOL support.
"The funding available to support refugee students is still available - we have adjusted how it is allocated.
"Previous funding rates were complex to calculate as they differed based on whether students were migrants, New Zealand-born, or refugee background, and the length of time they had been in school.
"The new rates are simpler for schools to budget and plan for, as there is one funding rate for all primary and intermediate students and one for all secondary students."