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SunLive – Government plans to cut 3,000 teaching jobs

In a surprise move, the government wants to cut a nationwide senior teaching post to cover a hole in its budget.

He wants to let 3,119 fixed-term “in-school teacher” contracts expire to avoid a “funding cliff” of $12 million a year at the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The $8,000-a-year contracts are part of the Communities of Learning/Kāhui Ako program which involves 1,800 schools and costs more than $100 million a year.

Budget documents showed the government had previously reprioritized the scheme due to repeated underspending and a 2019 moratorium that prevented more schools from joining.

But since then costs have risen, creating a revenue shortfall that the government only covered in this year’s budget until the end of June 2023.

The documents state that the Ministry of Education would “explore the option of reducing the number of Kāhui Ako – Learning Communities – roles. The likely impact would be not to renew fixed-term agreements for Kāhui roles. Ako within the school. This would reduce future funding pressure.”

The roles were part of teachers’ collective agreements, so the ministry must negotiate any changes with the teachers’ unions, the Institute of Education and the Association of Post-Primary Teachers.

Principals contacted by RNZ said they were unaware of the ministry’s plan and warned that the roles within the school were essential to their work.

One Nelson Kāhui Ako’s principal, Nayland College principal Daniel Wilson, told RNZ the proposal was “very concerning”.

“We would have significant problems pursuing Kāhui Ako in any form without the teaching positions available within the school.

“Our WSTs play a coaching role which is central to our strategy of improving student outcomes. It would fall completely without these positions and the work of the Kahui Ako would need to be significantly reviewed and possibly disbanded.”

Principal of a Dunedin Kāhui Ako, Principal of Northeast Valley Normal School, John McKenzie, said the role within the school was an integral part of the overall curriculum.

“School teachers lead the school staff to achieve the overall goals of Kāhui Ako in a school setting. If the school component is removed, the structure is at risk of collapsing at worst and being diluted the best.”

However, Wilson says that not all Kāhui Ako were functioning well, and if they were disbanded, he hoped funding for the program would be retained and redistributed so that successful projects could continue.

Post Primary Teachers Association president Melanie Webber said she was unhappy the proposal was made without any consultation.

Melanie Webber, president of the Association of Post-Primary Teachers. Photo: RNZ/Rebekah Parsons-King.

“These roles are highly valued at Kāhui Ako and are central to them. It would be a short-sighted cost-cutting exercise.”

Webber says it was agreed in 2014 that the number of roles would be reviewed to ensure they keep pace with the changing number of children in schools.

“Since 2014, rolls have increased by nearly 8%, so any changes to the number should reflect that increase,” she says.

The Pedagogical Institute says: “The future of the roles is up to collective bargaining which is currently underway and will ultimately be up to the members to decide.

“However, our focus from the beginning of Kāhui Ako’s policy has been to advocate for greater local flexibility in the use of Kāhui Ako’s resources and for a greater focus on time (rather than pay) than teachers (including early childhood education teachers) need to engage together in professional learning and development.”

The Department for Education said any outcome of collective bargaining negotiations beyond June 2023 would be funded.

He did not explain why the roles within the school were selected for a cut and what effect it would have on Kāhui Ako.

Despite the decision to end the role of teachers within the school, a briefing paper from July last year showed the government wanted to expand the scheme.

It says Education Minister Chris Hipkins was of the view that “ideally Kāhui Ako should be expanded and become more flexible to allow the 23% of schools that are not in a Kāhui Ako to form clusters, as well as to allow schools already in a Kāhui Ako to reorganize if they wish.”

The document said the ministry would discuss with education sector groups possible changes to the rules of the scheme, such as what goals they could set and how they were organised.

“The Ministry supports the goal of finding flexibility in these areas of the Kāhui Ako model so that participation in a collaborative network becomes the norm for all education

providers in the education system,” he says.

The document showed that investing in educational success was expected to cost about $153 million per year, but underspending and a 2019 moratorium on schools joining the program helped reduce that figure to $103 million per year. .

“If there was interest in lifting the moratorium and returning to the original 250 Kāhui Ako, preliminary estimates suggest the cost of the program could increase to as much as $184 million per year,” the report said.

– John Gerritsen/RNZ.

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