Education Review takes a look at what this year's Budget means for the ECE, schooling and tertiary education sectors.
Education was labelled one of the “winners” emerging from this year’s Budget, with additional investment in early childhood education, children with special needs, and new schools and classrooms taking annual education spending above $11 billion for the first time.
The additional education investment of $1.44 billion includes:
- - $43.2 million over the next four years for schools educating students most at risk of educational under-achievement. The increase will be targeted at schools, regardless of decile, based on how many materially disadvantaged students are on their rolls.
- - $42.1 million over the next four years for students with high and special educational needs.
- - $882.5 million investment in school property with 480 new classrooms, nine new schools, two school expansions and the relocation and rebuilding of three schools and a kura. This consists of $155.2 million of operating over the next four years and $727.3 million of capital.
- - No general increase in school operations grants.
Educators are pleased to see an increase in targeted funding for at-risk students and for students with special educational needs, but disappointed in the funding freeze for schools’ operational grants.
“We agree with targeted funding, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of overall funding, which was already inadequate,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa president Louise Green.
Green said this would have an adverse effect on teacher aides and non-teaching staff, who were paid out of schools’ operational grants.
Many were concerned that the operational funding freeze would lead schools to lean more heavily on parents to make donations to schools.
Many are also anxious to see the money pegged for at-risk students directly reach these students. Among them is Rotorua Principals' Association president and Ngakuru School principal Grant Henderson.
"The $43 million for schools to target the most at-risk students is good, but only if it goes straight to the kids. I am worried we will see that money go to the adults facilitating, organising and creating criteria for the programmes designed to help the children," Henderson told the Rotorua Daily Post.
Early Childhood Education sector
An extra $396.9 million over the next four years, plus $39.2 million in 2015/16, has been earmarked for ECE. By 2019/20, this will provide funding for a further 14,000 children.
Many in the sector say that the $397m increase will only allow for extra places to keep up with roll growth.
Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand (ECNZ) described the Budget as the “annual slap in the face”.
John Diggins, acting chief executive said the ECE sector was struggling to provide high quality learning due to years of under investment.
“On the face of it, it looks like more money is being pumped into ECE. Increases in funding only reflect the increases in numbers of children attending ECE but don’t begin to touch on quality. The reality is that funding has actually decreased per child over successive years.”
The Innovative New Zealand programme is a series of 25 initiatives that will see $761.4 million invested over the next four years in science, skills, tertiary education and regional development initiatives. The package includes:
- $410.5 million for science and innovation funding, which includes increases in contestable funding such as Endeavour Fund, HRC and Marsden.
- $256.5 million for more tertiary education and apprenticeship programmes. This includes an estimated $30.4m to increase tuition subsidies for science, agriculture and veterinary science students and to fund additional places in engineering and medicine. It also includes $35m for new innovation initiatives in the university sector.
Universities New Zealand has welcomed the investment. Executive director Chris Whelan says the announcement follows more than a decade where funding has declined in real terms for universities.
The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) is pleased to see additional support for investigator-led (Marsden Fund) and health research. NZAS president Craig Stevens says he hopes the Innovative New Zealand programme will stick with the National Statement of Science Investment (NSSI) and support the impact in the environment and society sectors, and not just research with direct immediate economic return.
The Industry Training Federation (ITF) has also welcomed the Budget. Chief executive Josh Williams says as well as sorely needed boosts to apprenticeships and Maori and Pasifika Trades Training, the ITF is pleased to see more investment in workplace literacy, which will support 600 more places in 2016 and 900 additional places each year.
"Low literacy is a challenge across the education system and in the end the issue comes to roost in our workplaces. The need is great, and workplace literacy programmes are making a huge difference in many businesses, as well as wider benefits in homes and communities,” says Williams.
However, New Zealand Union of Student Associations (NZUSA) says the small increases in funding to areas such as apprenticeships and low-level qualifications, do not make up for the harm overall funding cuts are doing to tertiary education.
NZUSA president Linsey Higgins says students are currently living in poverty.
“These cuts will force students to work more hours. It will stretch them at every point and they will continue to flood counselling services because they are exhausted from trying to make it all work.”
Tertiary Education Union (TEU) president Sandra Grey says the increase in students and the cut in funding will be borne by staff having to do more with less.
"Tertiary education staff have been papering over the gaps caused by underfunding since 2009, they can't keep making up the shortfall in funding."