The education sector’s high expectations for Budget 2018 have been largely unmet, with unions expressing their disappointment that the education budget did not address the sector’s underfunding and teacher shortage issues.

While Education Minister Chris Hipkins described the education budget as “a solid start in the fight-back against the failed approach of recent years”, the unions saw it differently, with the NZEI Te Riu Roa describing the new spending as a “minimal patch up” and the PPTA as a “missed opportunity”.

While funding boosts for learning support were welcomed, schools’ operational funding fell short of the 4 per cent increase hoped for by the unions; instead Hipkins announced an increase of 1.6 per cent.

New capital investment of $394.9 million was also pegged to fund new schools and “hundreds of additional classrooms” over the next few years.

NZEI president Lynda Stuart was critical of this allocation.

“There’s little point in spending hundreds of millions on new schools and buildings if we haven’t even got the groundwork in place to ensure we have enough teachers to fill them,” said NZEI president Lynda Stuart.

The $370.0 million allocation to fund 1,500 new teacher places by 2021, a $20 million teacher supply package, and a $6.4 million voluntary bonding scheme allocation, did little to impress the unions, who felt there needed to be more emphasis on attracting teachers to the profession.

 “There is nothing in this budget that will make teaching a more appealing career choice and turn the growing teacher shortage around,” said Stuart.

PPTA president Jack Boyle agreed.

“It’s great the government is planning for future roll growth but we were hoping for more action to fix the twin crisis of declining numbers of teacher graduates and high levels of attrition in the profession.”

Hipkins acknowledged that the Budget was a good start rather than a final solution.

“This Government is starting off in catch-up mode, but this is a significant first step,” he said.

New Zealand Principals’ Federation president Whetu Cormick agrees and is optimistic that future Budgets will address the issues raised by the sector.

“I have called this Budget a good first step and expect that next year and the following year we will see more expansive Budgets to fund substantial increases in salaries and lift the status of our profession,” he said.

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