Parents and teachers will be expecting a lot from the Budget following Labour’s many big promises, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“After spending the last few years criticising everything the National Government achieved in education while talking up its ability to do more, Labour has created very high expectations.
“Among its many big promises, Labour committed to ensuring every school in New Zealand has modern learning environments by 2030 which could cost anywhere between $10 billion and $15 billion.
“Along with the funding needed for the Canterbury schools rebuild programme that Labour did not include a line item for in its fiscal plan, there will be an expectation that there will be a significant injection of funds going into school infrastructure.
“On top of that, Labour also promised to provide $150 incentive payments to try to end school donations, provide free iPads or devices for every child in every school, boost early childhood education funding by $193 million, put in place Te Reo lessons for all early childhood and primary school teachers, remove caps on the number of children accessing the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme, and introduce a School Leavers’ Toolkit – just to name a few.
“It also built up expectations around big pay increases for teachers and support staff. With pay talks underway and teachers seeking a 16 per cent pay rise, Labour will need to have plenty of money tucked away to cover a significant increase. Not to mention pay equity settlements.
“And there will be plenty of business-as-usual spending, for things like school growth and existing programmes, which Labour will attempt to present as shiny and new.
“National increased education funding every year we were in office, all while dealing with the GFC and major earthquakes. Labour inherited a strong economy and will be taxing people more and borrowing more.
“In fact, before new taxes this Government is already predicted to get an extra $20 billion in tax revenue by 2022 as the economy grows.
“That means that the Government has choices. It will have some serious explaining to do if it fails to meet its lofty promises or presents watered down versions of its commitments.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins has engaged in a terrible process over partnership schools, ruling out changes to allow the schools to maintain aspects of the partnership school model that enable the success of their students before the Select Committee has deliberated on the matter, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“A letter released by a partnership school reveals that Mr Hipkins several weeks ago dismissed any possibility of changes to improve provisions for partnership schools as he forces them to become designated character or state integrated schools, including requested changes around governance, funding, and staff employment agreements.
“And this is all while the Select Committee is mid-way through hearing submissions on the Government’s policy to scrap the partnership school model. What’s the point of the Select Committee hearing submissions if the submissions are just going to be ignored?
“It is also clear that he is signing off some partnership schools under new models ahead of the Select Committee deliberations, with his announcement today that all schools have received termination notices, which makes a mockery of the Select Committee process.
“He has confirmed that three schools’ contracts have ended. Mr Hipkins needs to confirm all funding and compensation paid so far, including if any legal action is expected.
“It’s highly unusual for a Minister to circumvent the Select Committee process, but not surprising given Mr Hipkins’ arrogant and close-minded approach to the matter so far.
“Last week he tried to celebrate that schools had applied to become either designated character schools or state integrated schools. Several schools pointed out that this was done under duress, given the legislation in Parliament to axe the partnership school model.
“The partnership school that released the letter has confirmed that it has asked that the Select Committee considers public hearings to be held at the school. Many of the families can’t afford flights to Wellington, and even getting across Auckland may be difficult for them.
“National will be supporting the push by the school and their students and families to have their voices heard. We hope Labour, NZ First and the Greens listen and ensure the school has the opportunity to directly speak to the committee.”
The Government’s $21.5 million investment in early intervention is a positive step for children and families who need additional learning support, but there is a need to focus on reforming the system, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye and Early Childhood Education Spokesperson Nicola Willis say.
“Labour inherited a strong economy and is awash with cash, so it’s good that it is building on National’s solid investment in education and directing more money into learning support for young children – even if it’s borrowing more and taxing people more to do so,” Ms Kaye says.
“We must continue to invest in the early years which has been a large part of our of social investment approach. That’s why last year National invested additional funding for the Incredible Years programme which assists children with autism aged two to five.
“We also provided more than $34 million in specialist behaviour services for an extra 1,000 children, and $6 million to support young children with difficulties talking and listening.
“Despite the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes, National increased the education budget from $8 billion to $11 billion, including record amounts into learning support – around $658 million a year by the time we left Government, a 30 per cent increase since 2008.
“But we recognised that the learning support system wasn’t working well enough for the children, parents and teachers who needed it. We knew we had to do more than simply pour extra money in – we needed to reform the system itself.
“That’s why we kicked off an update of learning support which included testing a new model that aims to make accessing learning support much simpler and quicker for all involved.”
Ms Willis says the Government must continue this work to ensure that young children with complex needs get support as early as possible and for as long as they need it.
“Parents and teachers will welcome this boost to learning support. The Government must now ensure all ECE services make the most of these resources for children in need.
“There is also a need to invest in the learning support workforce so that young children who may have additional learning needs, like dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism, have the right support they need from specialists, teachers and teacher aides, now and into the future.”
“The Government must also build on our Budget 2016 investment of $16.5 million for the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme, which significantly increased the number of children getting access, as well as the investments we made to lift the number of teacher aide hours by 550,000,” Ms Kaye says.
“But most importantly, we need to get the system right so that we can give children the best opportunities to help improve their lives – that should be the focus.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins is struggling to keep up with his ever-changing story about so-called funding ‘holes’ in the Christchurch schools rebuild programme, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Last week, Mr Hipkins told The Press newspaper that he only found out in October last year that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was funded through tranches and that there was further funding required in the programme.
“This week, he is denying he ever said it despite the story reporting his assertions that there was a $215 million ‘hole’ in the programme.
“What’s clear is that Labour’s story is rapidly changing and that it failed to account for some business-as-usual spending and existing programmes like the Christchurch schools rebuild.
“Mr Hipkins has realised it is not credible to claim he didn’t know that the Christchurch schools rebuild programme was being appropriated in tranches over successive years – there were Cabinet papers, business papers, press releases, and news stories explaining this approach.
“He now appears to be backing down, admitting that he knew about the tranche funding for the rebuild – even stating today in Parliament that he believes Labour accounted for this in its pre-election costings.
“But the fact is, there was no line item for the rest of the Christchurch schools rebuild programme in Labour’s Fiscal Plan.
“Labour has previously manufactured ‘holes’ by labelling spending for business-as-usual or existing programmes as such, so now we have this farcical situation where Labour’s own policies, that it claims to have costed, are ‘holes’.
“Mr Hipkins has a bit of digging to do to get himself out of this one.”
The cracks in the Coalition Government are deepening by the day, with the Prime Minister at odds with not only the Greens, but members of her own caucus who have since been threatened by the Deputy Prime Minister if they don’t back down on compulsory Te Reo.
“Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta has made it clear she wants to see the Green Party’s policy to make Te Reo compulsory taken up,” National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“That puts her at odds with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, but she’s not the only one.
“Associate Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson has said he doesn’t see any difference between compulsory and universally available, and he considers the Government’s policy to mean Te Reo is compulsory.
“And now we have Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters threatening that Nanaia and Willie should be out of government if they don’t back down.
“National’s policy is for Te Reo to be universally available. We announced at the last election that we would invest $160 million over four years to ensure all children have the opportunity to learn a second language at primary school, if they choose to. That policy is currently being progressed as a Members’ Bill.
“My Members’ Bill currently in the ballot ensures that all children in years 1-8 have universal access to learn a second language, including Te Reo. It makes it clear that Te Reo is to be a national priority language and that resources must be available to any school that wants teach it and any child that wants to learn it.
“The number of students learning Te Reo increased around 30,000 between 2010 and 2016. However, there is more to do and one of the key issues we need to address is access to Te Reo teachers and resourcing.
“I am happy to work with the Government to support my Members’ Bill to Select Committee so that the public can have their say on the importance of increasing the number of young people learning Te Reo and other languages.”
The withdrawal of the Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill is a big win for hardworking swimming teachers, music teachers, ballet teachers and other teachers affected by the bill, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“It’s clear that National’s campaign against this flawed bill has succeeded. The lack of work on the bill to determine the number of people affected, the costings, and the general impact that the bill would have had meant that it was destined to fail.
“The bill’s misguided attempt to raise the status of the teaching profession by stopping those who have not gained recognised teaching qualifications from calling themselves ‘teachers’ was not even supported by the teaching profession.
“It’s extraordinary that it got to Select Committee with the support of Labour and the Greens despite opposition from the Government’s own Attorney-General David Parker.
“It’s good that Jenny Marcroft has recognised the overwhelming opposition to the bill she inherited from Tracey Martin and made the right call to drop it. Her heart was in the right place but the bill was not well thought-through.
“People who teach swimming, music, dance or art make a significant contribution in our communities and should have every right to call themselves teachers. Fining them for using that title would have done nothing to raise the status of qualified school teachers.
“There are far better ways to raise the status of teachers. We need to make sure we have high quality graduates choosing teaching as a career and investing in professional learning and development opportunities.
“This bill was severely flawed from the start and I hope this the last we’ll see of it.”
Labour is struggling to deliver on their wild campaign promises because they ignored the basic capital pressures of business-as-usual government, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The chickens have come home to roost. Despite billions of additional funding from new revenue and borrowed money, Labour is admitting they failed to budget for business-as-usual spending and are now crying poverty,” Ms Kaye says.
“Chris Hipkins says he has identified a ‘surprise’ $1.1 billion of school property projects that need funding. This is embarrassing for the Minister, because the projects are just part of business-as-usual that the Government needs to fund each and every Budget.
“Over the last three Budgets, for example, National set aside an extra $1.7 billion for school property – taking the total funding available for school infrastructure over the next four years to $4.8 billion.
“It is clear the Government is trying to cover up its negligence with a two-step spin programme. Step one: pretend existing programmes like the Canterbury schools rebuild and population growth funding are holes in the Budget that they never knew about. Step two: relabel initiatives National funded as their own.
“The reality is that investing in school property to get ahead of growth was a priority for National, and is part of the business-as-usual spend of any government.
“We were on track to deliver the 17,000 extra student places needed in Auckland by 2019, and were finalising the Auckland Education Growth Plan to strategically manage the increasing pressure on Auckland’s schooling network.
“We knew that growth was continuing and would need further funding each year.
“The funding for the Canterbury schools rebuild was always through a tranche process – that has always been clear publicly. It is laughable that Chris Hipkins failed to understand this.
“If it is really a surprise to Mr Hipkins that there is a need for continued investment in these areas, he clearly wasn’t across his portfolio. It is more likely that he is trying to find any excuse at all to cover up his failure to deliver on his extravagant promise to modernise every one of New Zealand’s 30,000 schools.
“These areas need investment every Budget and to try and dress that up as something new and unforeseen is spin at its worst,” Ms Kaye says.
Auckland Council and the Government must prioritise Auckland’s sporting infrastructure to ensure that community sport is not put at risk, National’s Sport and Recreation Spokesperson Nikki Kaye and Local Government (Auckland) Spokesperson Denise Lee say.
“Auckland Council’s draft long-term plan for youth sport and recreation infrastructure is inadequate. The current plan contains a capital shortfall of at least $500 million over the next ten years and does not sufficiently satisfy local demand,” Ms Kaye says.
“There are between 90 and 150 sports fields and courts needed in Auckland right now. These sports facilities are vital to the survival of organisations that provide sport and recreational opportunities and employ more than 25,000 Aucklanders.
“This deficiency is exacerbated by the Government moving to scrap Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). PPPs are an innovative way to spend taxpayer money efficiently, and are crucial to ensuring sport and recreation remains accessible for all Aucklanders.
“Scrapping PPPs will hold Auckland and other parts of New Zealand back in terms of sporting infrastructure. Even if the Government doesn’t support PPPs then it could consider partnerships that harness central, local and community funding.
“With intensification there will be a growing need to utilise space better. With over $4.85 billion allocated to school infrastructure by the last Government, a large amount of which was destined for Auckland, there are huge opportunities for greater partnerships.”
Ms Lee says National will be holding a series of meetings over the next six months with the community and sporting organisations to help progress projects across Auckland to ensure more young people and their families have access to sport and recreation facilities.
“We know there are councillors and local board representatives who feel strongly about this so we plan to work closely with them.
“While we are focusing on Auckland, we will also be working with local MPs to identify other areas of New Zealand where projects can be progressed.
“The economic ramifications of poor sporting infrastructure are huge, with the sector contributing at least $1.9 billion to Auckland’s economy each year.
“Physical inactivity cost New Zealand’s health care system over $200 million in 2013 and some research indicates that around 20 per cent of young Auckland children are overweight.
“The Education Minister needs to continue the Auckland Education Growth Plan which was being worked on by the previous Government and was due to be considered by Cabinet last November. It is important to look at the work done so far to factor in potential opportunities around sport and recreational infrastructure.
“We must prioritise sport and recreation in our communities and Auckland Council and the Government must front up with more funding to support Auckland’s sporting infrastructure.”
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye has launched a Member’s Bill to ensure that the Youth Court has greater access to education officers to help reduce the risk of reoffending.
“We know that getting qualifications reduces the risk of a young person reoffending and that education officers therefore have a big part to play in steering young offenders away from crime,” Ms Kaye says.
“While there are education officers at some of the Youth Court locations, they are not universally available. The Oranga Tamariki (Youth Justice Education Officers) Amendment Bill will strengthen the role of education officers and provide access to these officers in all Youth Court locations.
“This bill is about giving the Youth Court access to a young person’s educational status, addressing the young person’s educational needs, better supporting the young person’s family where needed and assisting the young person to re-engage in education or training.
“It enables education officers to attend family group conferences and provide education reports to the conferences.
“It also requires the Secretary of Education to sufficiently resource the Youth Court with officers and empowers the Secretary to provide financial assistance to give effect to education aspects of decisions and recommendations of family group conferences.
“Data shows that in 2015, more than two-thirds of offenders in Youth Court had prior involvement with Child, Youth and Family. And of all young people who had experienced CYF care, 80 per cent had left school with only NCEA Level One or less.
“This indicates that many of those going through the Youth Court have almost no qualifications. Despite this, only a small number of education orders are made by judges which may be because they don’t have all the information on a young person’s education status or there isn’t the resource to support the young person to get reengaged in education.
“It’s well known that a large number of people in our prisons lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. While it’s important to invest in education programmes in prisons, this bill is about helping to ensure young offenders never make it to prison.
“I have spoken to lawyers and others working on the frontline with young offenders who support this bill. They know the importance of greater education resource and support for these young people.
“This bill puts education outcomes of young people at the heart of our youth justice system.”
The Government needs to explain why it has put the Auckland Education Growth Plan on hold, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Cabinet was due to consider the final Auckland Education Growth Plan last November. It’s now been six months and we’ve had no word from the Government on how it plans to manage the increasing pressure on Auckland’s schools.
“In May last year as Education Minister, I put through a Cabinet paper outlining progress in the development of the plan. We were awaiting updated population forecasts from Statistics NZ before considering the final plan.
“Those forecasts have since been released, but we’re yet to hear anything from the Government about the final plan.
“It’s clear that adding capacity to Auckland’s schooling network is not a priority for the new Government like it was for National.
“In 2014, we announced a plan to build nine new schools and additional classrooms in order to deliver the extra 17,000 student places needed in Auckland by 2019. By June 2017, we had delivered 9,000 extra places and were on-track to deliver all 17,000 by 2019.
“We knew that at the rate Auckland was growing, we needed to do more. That’s why we set aside $4.85 billion for school property over four years in Budget 2017.
“That included $240 million just for Auckland in the first year. This money would deliver four new schools, one major school expansion, the relocation of two special education schools, new and replacement classrooms, and additional special education satellite units.
“Auckland urgently needs greater capacity in its school network. Students, parents and teachers deserve better than having to wait six months for the Government to get going.
“The Minister must release the Auckland Education Growth Plan and assure Aucklanders that the money National set aside for adding capacity will be used to do so, and won’t just be eaten up by the $2.8 billion fees free policy for tertiary students.”