It is great news for Decile 1-7 schools to be allocated additional funding in place of requesting donations from parents. There is no doubt these schools, particularly Decile 1-4, need this funding to support families who cannot afford stationery, camps, trips, events, meals, and other such requirements. This will greatly improve educational opportunities for children, the core business of our work.
While this is good news for Decile 1-7 schools it is a massive ‘slap in the face’ for many Decile 8-10 primary schools. Oropi School is a Decile 9 semi-rural school of 320-330 students. If we were to receive this funding it would be worth about $48 000 compared to the $10 000 we actually receive in donations annually. This means we are missing out on $38 000 of additional new funding. This does not mean we will need to cut anything we currently do. What we offer will be retained. What it impacts on, is the ability for us to add any further value to our programmes for the benefit of our children. And, we will still need to request donations and contributions from our parent community.
In my view, this new idea is creating a new inequity. At Oropi School, we are still dealing with a growing range of behavioural and social needs, specialised support needs for students, and well-being needs amongst children. We have a range of socio-economic factors in our community and not all families reflect our “Decile 9 Status”. There is social and economic disadvantage in our community. To not provide Decile 8, 9, and 10 schools with any amount of this additional funding is to assume we do not have additional needs.
The Government has assumed all Decile 9 schools are one-in-the-same. However, as a semi-rural Y1-8 school, while we might be decile 9, this contributes to some inequities in terms of funding and competition. There are additional operational costs being a rural community. Also, we have to ‘fight’ to keep our Y7&8s in ‘competition’ with the local Intermediate. So actually, our school is already an ‘underdog’ in some ways. But this budget announcement makes an assumption that all Decile 9 schools are the ‘winners’. If we are a ‘winner school’, it is because of our hard work to be at the forefront of a lot of curriculum based initiatives that we are known for and what attracts people to our school, not because we are Decile 9.
A significant reason for teachers striking is because we have a lack of transparent strategic direction in education. The current direction is very messy. Everything is up for review with no clarity about what we are aiming for. I am concerned that any decisions that are made before we have a clear direction are just more ‘sticking plasters’. Where is the research for example that this budget announcement is in fact the best solution?
Mr Hipkins has reiterated to teachers and principals that we need to “expect to be disappointed”. The problem with such a response is “you get what you pay for”. In other words, the government is going to be disappointed and have an unmotivated, uninspired and disengaged sector of teachers. The pay issue and school resourcing has been neglected for the past 10 years and schools have needed to come up with their own creative solutions to do what we need to do. We need an alignment and collegiality between teachers, the Ministry of Education and our Government. At the moment this is as disconnected as ever. Communities will not get the best out of our education system until we are all strategically aligned.