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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in secondary schools

Posted by on in School funding

(Posted on behalf) Thoughts from a reader of the Ministry's Education Funding System Review

The issues of global funding and equity funding have been well canvassed publicly, but there are other background papers which contain some disturbing commentary from the Ministry.  Everyone with an interest in secondary schools should read the background papers to see how the Ministry views them.

Below are some snippets (and comments on those) from four of those papers.

Property Background paper

In explaining why the Ministry does not promote centralising funding for property they argue that it:

“Changes incentives at school-level (e.g. won’t accept substandard conditions that they may have under the status quo)” Page 9

“Requires total property maintenance funding Ministry receives to be adequate to cover maintenance outcomes sought – significant risk of cost escalation for Crown” P9

The implications are of major underfunding of property and the substandard conditions that students and teachers are required to put up with every day because of a deliberate choice to  underfund state schools by the government.

Isolation funding Background paper

The Ministry refers to supplementary isolation funding – but they are also saying that fewer, only the most isolated, schools would get isolation funding.  This would supplement the school’s general per student funding if the school is isolated, but their intention is that most schools currently receiving isolation funding would no longer have it.

Funding to support small schools Background paper

The Ministry is referring to small schools as those wb2ap3_thumbnail_closedschool.pnghich are 200 or fewer students.

Base staffing and base funding
“Overall, it would appear that secondary and composite schools are relatively generously treated as compared to primary schools across all roll sizes” (p5)
“… the base level of staffing provided … appears relatively generous compared to primary schools.” (p8)

And an issue for the ministry with respect to composite schools is “the appropriateness of the level of support provided through Base Curriculum Staffing and Additional Guidance Staffing where the secondary roll is very small.” (p8)

Their analysis is that there are “opportunities to reduce the level of funding that is provided through base funding arrangements.” (p8)

The suggestion is that primary and secondary schools should be treated similarly in terms of base staffing (and that means at the lowest denominator).

The clear implication of the Ministry’s thinking is the reduction of staffing and base funding in small secondary and composite (area) schools.

The problem here is that the Ministry does not appear to understand that base staffing in secondary schools supports a minimum option width for secondary students whereas base staffing in primary schools supports a manageable average class size, and that the costs of specialist education classes are higher, especially at senior level than are the costs of generalist  classes.

The base resourcing differences are not arbitrary – they represent real differences in costs of small specialist and generalist institutions.

Per student funding Background paper

The intention is to flatten out year level funding. The Ministry indicates that Victoria (Aus) is the model they would like to align with. The Victorian model transferred $65M from secondary schools. The equivalent model here would result in the loss of resourcing from secondary schools equivalent to an average of six FTTE teachers worth of resourcing per secondary school.

Again, the Ministry demonstrates no understanding of why the education costs of senior students are higher than those of junior students.

General comment
Implementing the Ministry’s proposals would collectively strip resourcing from secondary schools, but most particularly from small and remote schools.



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The Ministry of Education has finally released the background papers for the funding review so now we have further evidence (if it is still needed) of the existence of a comprehensive plan to use the opportunity provided by the review to undermine public education in New Zealand. 

Ministry of education proposes to reduce resourcing for small rural secondary schools

The most amazing of these papers is the one euphemistically entitled Funding to support small schools.  It does nothing of the sort. Instead it proposes the same failed answer that the ministry proffered recently for the funding of special education in New Zealand  - that is to take money out of schools to fund earlier intervention. This time, the ministry believes it has found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow called small rural secondary schools.

“Overall, it would appear that secondary and composite schools are relatively generously treated as compared to primary schools across all roll sizes.”

Ministry of education fails to understand why or how resourcing delivered to schools ... and fails to ask!

I am sure we are all delighted that the ministry of education which funds schools and prepares the staffing orders that deliver teachers to schools, and manages the processes whereby schools reduce staff, has finally noticed that funding and staffing formula are more generous for small schools. It is less delightful that they do not appear to understand why that it is.

Let me spell it out.  Small secondary schools are more generously funded and staffed in order that they may provide a range of senior subjects for students. The formulae are necessarily different for primary and secondary schools because of the difference in staffing a single teacher for each class at primary school and providing a range of teachers in order to offer students a variety of subjects at secondary levels.

It beggars belief, firstly that ministry staff don’t understand this and secondly that they did not think to either visit a rural secondary school or at least phone a principal and ask them what they did with the cornucopia of staffing and funding the ministry so generously provides.

Small rural secondary schools require staff to deliver specialist subjects at senior curriculum levels

Instead the ministry invents a straw man – two separate funding formulae (to serve two different purposes) must be questioned as to  “appropriateness”.   Actually it is entirely appropriate because these schools have a mix of primary and secondary students and must deliver generalist and specialist programmes. 

"The key question is the appropriateness of applying two different approaches to addressing the implications of small size to a single institution. Such schools are likely to view themselves, and operate as, a single institution – not a separate intermediate and secondary school." 1

It does not seem to understand either, that the formula operate as a transparent, national distribution mechanism and that it is most unlikely that a school would ever treat its staffing as anything other than a single package.  (Not wishing to overegg the pudding here – that would not have required much effort to find out.)

Convenient misunderstanding, when working within capped budget terms of reference

Perhaps the ministry was deliberate in not trying to find out what happens on the ground; given the capped budget for this review it may have preferred not to know about the serious equity problem rural secondary schools face.  It certainly would not like to hear that they are more likely to be underfunded than suffering from the embarrassment of riches that the ministry presupposes.

A secondary student in an urban area will not only have a choice of schools but also a large menu (probably 50) of subject options from which to choose. The choices are much narrower in a small rural school because they are necessarily small.  This provides something of a challenge for keeping students engaged so rural schools supplement the narrow curriculum by drawing on the resources of Te Kura and by actively supporting the Virtual Learning Network (VLN)   - but they still wouldn’t get anywhere near 50 subjects.

So when the ministry muses that,

"The justification for linking the level of Base Curriculum Staffing and Additional Guidance Staffing to the number of year levels is unclear"

it is either being disingenuous, deliberately misleading or completely ignorant. 

Having completely failed to understand why small rural schools need more support than large urban schools, the ministry is able to leap to a convenient solution:

"The analysis indicates there are opportunities to reduce the level of funding that is provided through base funding arrangements. This would allow more funding to be delivered on a per-student basis."

COOLs to save the day - senior curriculum not required in rural schools

So the ministry is proposing to change the staffing and funding formula to make it almost impossible for rural secondary schools to operate a programme much past year 8.  It doesn’t see this as a problem because it anticipates that the money saved from not providing senior subjects can be diverted into COOLs and because ministry staff don’t live in rural areas. (From this paper it appears they don’t visit or phone either…) 

Whether rural communities want the choice about face-to-face senior curriculum delivery removed entirely and replaced with a model that is not even out of its beta phase, is not clear.   Given the central role secondary schools play in rural communities and the difficulty of attracting people to towns where there is no secondary school, one suspects rural communities will not take this lying down. 

Secrecy of process, lack of consultation with rural communities

Parents and students in rural areas who have very few educational choices will not be impressed with a proposal to decapitate their local school in order to fund a rich menu of choices in urban areas.  That would be why the ministry carefully avoided putting this plan out for testing in its recent consultation meetings – better to keep everything secret and avoid unpleasantness.

Small rural schools closed to fund charter schools

The most disgraceful part of this exercise is that there would be no need to hold up rural schools up at gun point if the government insistence on opening small schools and charter schools in urban areas where there is absolutely no demographic demand, were to cease. 

1. The ministry adds that this causes problems when staffing junior and senior highs to which we might respond that is not the fault of rural secondary schools but a failure on the part of the ministry to consider the staffing implications at the point these schools were on the drawing board. 

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With employees becoming "workers" and employers now "persons conducting a business or undertaking" (PCBUs) I have received a lot of questions about the new Health and Safety at Work Act:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q    Am I now liable for accidents/incidents that happen in my teaching area?

A    No more than you have been since HSE 1992, and only when you have been negligent or failed in a duty of care so no change

Q    Does this mean the end of Education Outside the classroom (EOTC)?

   The intent is not to curtail any EOTC, what it means is that qualifications/experience etc are current for staff who run trips and external providers need to be consulted and have their qualifications etc confirmed. You should have been doing this anyway so no change.

Q    Will we have to close access to school facilities after hours?

A    No, the requirement is for the facilities to be fit for purpose at all times, if the facilities are safe during the day, then public use outside of school hours is fine. Case law has prosecuted boards when facilities have been deficient causing serious harm or death outside of school hours but this should have no effect on staff, it is a  board issue.

Q    What about school pools and access?

A    Provided that the pool is properly fenced and locked when not in authorised use, processes are in place for supervised out of hours use and these processes are signposted then there are no issues.  The school cannot be held responsible if someone scales a fence with a locked gate and harms themselves in unauthorised use of a pool (or any other facility).
There is no liability for anyone on site for illegal purposes.

Q    Am I personally liable for Health and Safety of my outdoor education classes?

   No it is the duty of the board to ensure the safety of all workers and others ( this is where students fall under the new Act) this would include practices and processes for staff to follow that ensure Health and Safety for all in its care, however if the policies and processes are ignored then the liability may fall on the teacher.
This has been the case previously, no change.

Q    Do I need to have risk analysis and managment systems (RAMs) for all experiments that I do every time I do them?

A    No, they should have been verified before they go into the management doc/scheme/planner or whatever you call your existing planning programme. This is best practice and should be currently being done so no change.

Q    Should we let kids climb trees?

   Do you let them already? Yes then no change. It has to be contextual, 50m tall Norfolk Pine probably not, 6m Apple tree probably, just apply common sense.

Q    Will I need to close or limit my hard materials workshop classes?

A    If you have sound teaching practice regarding machinery use then there is nothing to worry about. It may be advisable to update your record keeping of when and how you have approved students to use certain machines. It would pay to have a record of what machines were demonstrated and the safe use of them and when this took place.

Q    Am I now financially liable for incidents?

A    No you are not suddenly now liable. You have been liable since the 1992 Health and safety in Employment Act introduced 3 tiers of fine with a maximum of $500k for death or    serious harm, interestingly nobody batted an eyelid at this figure which is now inflation adjusted to $808k but now the $600k has been announced everyone is up in arms and talking houses in trust etc. Nobody in the Education sector has been prosecuted since the 1992 Act was introduced and unless you are negligent and fail in your duty of care leading to serious harm or death then nobody will be fined this amount in the education sector. This has been the case previously so no change.

Q    What responsibilities as a Teacher do I now have?

A    Teachers must:

Take reasonable care for their health and safety

Take reasonable care that their behaviour does not adversely affect the health and safety of others       

Report any incident, risk or hazard to an officer or health and safety representative   

Comply with any reasonable instruction form the PCBU* (Board) to allow the PCBU to comply with the Act               

Cooperate with the PCBU’s health and safety policies or procedures inform visitors etc of any known hazards or risks in the workplace (*A PCBU is a ‘person conducting a business or undertaking’. )

Q    What is the role of a Health and Safety Rep?

A    A Health and Safety Representative (HSR) performs a number of functions including:

Representing school workers generally on health and safety matters

Investigating complaints from school workers about health and safety issues at the school

Representing a school worker on a specific health and safety matter (including a complaint) if asked to do so by that worker

Monitoring health and safety measures taken by the Board of Trustees and providing feedback to the Board about health and safety compliance

Inquiring into anything that appears to be a health and safety risk to school workers arising from the activities of the school and making recommendations to the Board of Trustees on work health and safety 

Promoting the interests of school workers who have been harmed at work, including arrangements for rehabilitation and return to work

Issuing provisional improvement notices in the school workplace 

Being able to direct workgroup members (school workers the HSR represents) to cease work. 

Q    What is the role of a Health and Safety Committee?

A    A Health and Safety Committee:

Facilitates co-operation between the Board of Trustees and school workers in instigating, developing, and carrying out measures designed to ensure the school workers’ health and safety at work

Assists in developing any standards, rules, policies, or procedures relating to health and safety that are to be followed or complied with at the school 

Makes recommendations to the Board of Trustees about work health and safety.

Q    How many Health and Safety reps (HSRs) may we have?

A    The prescribed minimum ratio of HSRs for a work group is 1 representative for every 19     workers. If the number of workers divided by 19 does not equal a whole number, the number of health and safety representatives to be elected is increased to the next whole number. e.g. 10 workers = 1 HSR,   23 workers = 2 HSRs

Q    How do we get the Health and Safety reps?

   Any 1 worker may request elections for Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) or the PCBU may decide to call for elections (regulations apply as to how this happens)
Q    How do we get a Health and Safety Committee?

A    Any 5 workers or 1 HSR may call for formation of a Health and Safety Committee (HSC) or the PCBU may decide to appoint one (regulations apply as to how this happens)

Any other questions email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



More information:

STCA Part 12 Health and Safety

ASTCA Part 10 Health and Safety

Better provision for due diligence: Health and Safety at Work Act (page from PPTA News April 2016)

New legislation raises the stakes (Health and Safety Act 2015) (page from PPTA News October 2015)

weblink Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

weblink Ministry of Education health and safety resources

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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There are not many New Zealand books specifically about secondary education, and even fewer by people with the wealth of experience that this author has. Bold and challenging, Bali Haque’s ‘Changing our Secondary Schools’ is in many ways a timely and important book. It’s also very flawed, both in its analysis of the problems facing the sector and in regards to the proposals for change.


An example of this is the solution he proposes to the issue of teacher workload.  While it’s very welcome to see someone taking this problem seriously, there are major flaws with his solution, which is that if teachers worked through the school holidays and had the same amount of actual leave as other employees, then teaching would be a much more manageable and desirable job.  The issues of all teachers being forced to take much less leave at the same time, that many teachers choose to go teaching for the family friendly holidays, and that teacher remuneration would have to increase significantly to offset this loss, are all ignored.

Haque was a secondary teacher, member of the PPTA executive, principal at three schools and most prominently lead the secondary assessment section of NZQA during the mid to late 2000s. He knows the education sector well, and is thoughtful and not easily pigeonholed.

Many of the problems that Haque identifies in this book will be familiar; unsurprisingly the main one is the ‘achievement gap’. What is a bit more surprising is that he’s adamant that schools and teachers can’t solve this problem on their own, and that a wider government programme to address poverty and inequality must occur if this ‘gap’ is to be closed. This is welcome realism from someone who in many ways speaks the language, and is a member, of the educational policy elite. In one section he is scathing of Graham Stoop, current head of the Education Council, for suggesting that “all schools, regardless of their decile rating should be expected to perform equally well”.

The main strengths of this book are the explanations of some of the existing features of secondary schooling – in particular what NCEA data shows and doesn’t, and why comparisons between schools are fraught, how decile ratings work and the problems with them, and the strengths and weaknesses of the ERO model.

Haque explores four main policies, Tomorrow’s Schools, NCEA, the New Zealand Curriculum, and National Standards in some depth, coming to the conclusion that all of them were poorly implemented, something that anyone who is familiar with PPTA’s critiques over the years will have heard before. He also lays into the Ministry of Education, PPTA and secondary principals for a range of sins, some of which are probably right, as well, of course, as the politicians.

The inconsistencies in his analysis are perhaps most clearly revealed in his views on Tomorrow’s Schools. While he rails against the competitive, fractured model of schooling that it introduced, and includes an interesting ‘mea culpa’ about his time as principal at Rosehill when he deliberately undermined a neighbouring college, he is also critical that the full Tomorrow’s Schools vision has not been realised, claiming “If we are to retain the philosophy of Tomorrow’s Schools, then bulk funding is a necessary part of that philosophy.”

Similar to this, while he says that principals are encouraged to behave badly by Tomorrow’s Schools, and that their current appointment and management processes by Boards are woefully lacking, despite this we should also give them far more discretion over teacher pay, both in regards to progression up the scale and extra ‘Excellence Units’ to reward top performers.


It will be interesting to see what, if any, influence it has on the policy debate; he certainly doesn’t sugar coat things to try and make them more acceptable to the current government,  for example he is very dismissive of Investing in Educational Success (“…it is abundantly clear already that the chances of success of the new scheme are low…”). Despite all the problems, I welcome an honest vent from someone with many years of experience in and around schools. Haque’s views won’t be widely palatable, which is what makes this a courageous book.


Changing our Secondary Schools, by Bali Haque, published by NZCER Press, 2014. You can order a copy here . 

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