Bill to end 'unfair funding' welcomed

21st July 2000 at 01:00

A government Bill spells the end to the two-tier system of staff funding, Sarah Catherall reports.

THE Labour government has abolished the system of bulk funding, under which schools could opt out of central state funding and control their own budget.

The measure, passed last week, was applauded by the largest teacher union which said bulk funding had divided communities and created "winner" and "loser" schools.

At the end of this year, about 860 state schools - one-third of the national total - will return to being centrally-funded after being paid teacher salaries in a bulk grant every four weeks based on pupil numbers.

Bulk-funded schools were given an extra NZ$45 million (pound;13.8m) to spend on teachers and school programmes.

Labour pledged in opposition to abolish the scheme. The National party had tried unsuccessfully to shift all schools on to the scheme before losing office last November.

The primary teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute, says abolition will end the divide between bulk-funded and centrally-funded schools.

The institute's national secretary, Joanna Beresford, said: "Bulk funding was an example of excessive deregulation. They were using funding to drive through particular ideology. The marketisation of education promoted competition between schools and individuals - grasping what you can of the national pie and bugger everybody else."

However, the Association of Bulk-Funded Schools is lobbying MPs to oppose the Bill.

An executive member of the association, Terry Hemmingsen, the principal of Koputaroa school in the lower North Island, said that 40 per cent of teachers are in bulk-funded schools and some now face losing their jobs. He said small rural schools with fewer than 160 pupils stand to suffer the biggest blow as they have been able to hire more staff than normal staffing ratios allow.

His own 154-pupil school will lose $20,000 (10 per cent of the budget), a full-time teacher and a part-time teacher next year.

But a spokeswoman for the education minister, Trevor Mallard, said the government will be spending an extra $8.6m on staffing. In addition, the extra millions pumped into bulk-funded schools would be spread across all schools, with a further $60m on top.

"Half the bulk-funded schools will get about the same money, if not more, about half will get less - and some of those will get significantly less, those that made huge amounts from bulk funding," she said.

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