|Network of schools|
There is no evidence that any one school structure is any better than another for students. What is more critical is the socio-economic status of the students and the quality of teaching. Some structures, however, may be preferred nationally for historical or financial reasons.
Recommendations to Government
- That a review of schools be undertaken to identify schools essential-to-the-network and funding for those schools so identified be increased.
- That the Private Schools’ Conditional Integration Act be repealed and s.156 of the 1989 Education Act be used to establish any future “designated special character” schools.
- That the Correspondence School Board be expanded to include parental, staff and student representation.
In New Zealand we have traditionally organised education in primary schools from 1 to 6 or 1 to 8 and secondary schools after that which means that teacher education, curriculum, assessment sports and other extra-curricular
activities are organised to reflect these structures. This is probably why neither intermediates nor the middle schools/junior high structure have succeeded in endearing themselves to New Zealand parents.
PPTA’s view is that students’ interests are best served by the whanau structure provided by year 7-13 schools. This structure allows schools to provide students with a managed transition from a generalist to a specialist programme and can provide specialist teachers and facilities when required. As transitions between school types affect student’s progress, they should be minimised and managed. PPTA believes that making the change at the end of year 10 so students have to cope with a new school in their first year of NCEA assessment is educationally unsound.
In areas of low population, this structure may be expanded into an area school i.e. a school with students from years 1-13. The number of area schools has increased over recent years as it represents a sensible consolidation of scarce resources. Unfortunately, the funding and staffing model for area schools, while somewhat improved, is insufficient to take account of the lack of economies of scale and the costs of isolation.
Too Many Small schools
In spite of the much publicised network reviews of the early 2000s, there has been very little change in the number of schools in New Zealand because there have been constant additions to the network as a result of new schools established under s.155 and s.156, from private schools integrating or from primary schools changing class to area or secondary schools and from kura kaupapa Māori becoming whare kura. Every time a new school is added to the network significant costs are added for property, base operations funding and staffing. As these schools are often very small the additional staffing generated is proportionately very expensive – for example a single student in year 9 and one in year 10 (in a school that already has 200 year 1-8 students) will generate two full-time positions and some additional guidance and management time.
Extra costs are also generated by the free transport entitlement students at integrated schools have.
In effect, the pie is having to be cut into smaller pieces every year because, politically, New Zealanders are not prepared to face up to the need to rationalise the number of schools and governments are not prepared to challenge the notion that parents have an absolute right to choice of school regardless of the effect on other students and the cost to the taxpayer.
PPTA policy since 1982 has been that the Private Schools’ Conditional Integration Act should be repealed as s156 of the 1989 Education Act allows the establishment of designated special character schools.
PPTA believes that zoning and the management of maximum rolls at integrated schools, while sometimes seen as an unreasonable imposition on individual choice, is an entirely defensible and necessary protection of taxpayer’s money. Given the scarcity of the education dollar it is not unreasonable to refuse to invest in additional facilities and buildings when there are surplus places in surrounding schools. Moreover, experience tells us that a school that is popular one year may not be so the following year, meaning under-utilised facilities.
It is unreasonable and impractical to expect the taxpayer to fund a limitness number of secondary schools of choice particularly when they are small, expensive to operate and restricted in the range of subject options they are able to offer students. At the same time, there are a number of secondary schools that have no choice about their small size; they are either small because of their isolated location or small because of the socio-economic status of their intake.
They struggle to meet the needs of their students under the current funding arrangements partly because so much money goes into providing expanded choices elsewhere.
There is a need to conduct a review of the school network to identify those that are essential-to-the-network and then to adjust the funding mechanism to better reflect the reality that these schools are responsible for educating students for whom choice does not exist.
The Correspondence School
The Correspondence School has a central role to play in supporting the network of schools, particularly via dual enrolments so secondary students get access to a reasonable range of options. Funding restrictions and constant restructuring over the last few years have impacted on the capacity of the School to provide curriculum support. A period of stability is required for the Correspondence School. At the very least it ought to have a democratically-elected board.