The Budget boost to education has been dubbed as "vast improvement" for a Tauranga primary school currently struggling with financial woes.
Thursday's Budget included an extra $1.6 billion over the next four years in operating funding and $334m in capital funding to address rising demand, fund 1500 more teachers and raise teacher-aide funding.
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh hoped the Budget boost would relieve the school's struggles under increasing financial pressure. Mackintosh told the Bay of Plenty Times the funding model meant to help with its large number of high-needs students was "broken".
"It is a start. I mean it will never be enough but it certainly is a vast improvement. It is very encouraging, it is a step in the right direction," she said.
"It depends when it [the budget] is initiated whether it will be in time to help us in our current situation," she said.
Mackintosh said the $370m to fund 1500 new teacher places by 2021 was also encouraging to help ease the "desperate need" for teachers.
A total of $272m was also announced for learning support such as teacher aides, Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) and early intervention.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey's seven-year-old autistic daughter attends Greerton Village School and was pleased the Budget included an extra 10 per cent in ORS funding.
However, Harvey was concerned how the $272m was allocated and hoped there were major structural changes being made to support children's learning to broaden the criteria.
Harvey had written an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about funding woes at the school and will meet education representatives at the school next week.
Te Puke mother-of-three Monique Lints was pleased to see funding put into crucial services that were important in providing children a better future.
"Especially being a mother of a special needs child it is good to know I can send him off to school and know he is going to be taken care of," she said.
The Ministry funding rate for teacher aides will increase from an hourly rate of $16-$18 in 2019/2020 to $20 an hour by 2022.
Associate Minister for education Tracey Martin said the additional amount will bring the government contribution up to at least the minimum wage and reduces the pressure on schools.
Inspired Kindergartens principal Peter Monteith would have liked to see a bigger increase in "backline funding" for early education centres.
Monteith said the government had signalled an additional 1500 teachers for schools, but nothing to address the critical shortage of qualified teachers in the early childhood sector.
Monteith's said if three new centres were to be built in Tauranga "we could fill them".
Additional reporting NZME
BUDGET 2018: EDUCATION
• $1.6 billion more in operating funding and $334 million in capital funding.
• Education budget will be $12.26b, up from $11.85b last year.
• $395m to build new schools and classrooms. Includes $62m for Christchurch schools rebuild and $332m nationwide.
• $204m for a 1.6 per cent increase to schools' operational funding and to cover school roll growth.
• $370m to fund 1500 new teacher places by 2021 ($70m more than National funded).
• Early childhood education: $590m to fund more places and a 1.6 per cent funding increase for ECE centres from January 2019.
• $272.8m for learning support such as teacher aides, ORS and early intervention.
A Budget increase for preschoolers with extra learning needs has been welcomed by two education leaders in Tauranga, but they are both hoping for more support come Thursday.
So is one local mother who says the new funding is "hardly a drop in the bucket".
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Thursday's Budget would include an extra $21.5 million for the early intervention service over the next four years, about $5.4m a year.
The service provides early intervention in behaviour, learning, and speech and language support for children under 5.
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the increase would halve the current waiting list of preschoolers needing additional learning support.
Peter Monteith, principal of Inspired Kindergartens (formerly known as Tauranga Region Kindergartens), said he was pleased the early childhood sector was "finally getting some traction".
"Hopefully this is just a first step, but it's good that early childhood is being recognised because we've been the Cinderella of the education sector. As the Prime Minister says, the earlier you intervene, the better the options are for children."
Monteith said it would be interesting to see what impact the extra funding would have in kindergartens, as the number of available hours of learning support had been significantly reduced in the past.
"If there is more staff and that reduces waiting times, that's all good, and if there are more resources for teacher aide support, that's all good too. It's all very positive, but we'll be reserving judgement to see how it actually delivers on the ground.
"Given the policies of the three parties in Government, there's an expectation that there will be something reasonably significant for early childhood in the Budget."
Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh said she was "over the moon" about the preschool budget boost announced on Sunday.
"It is such a great start. Putting in additional funding and support in the early years will have huge rollout benefits for all."
Greerton Village School is struggling under increasing financial pressure and says the funding model meant to help with its large number of high-needs students is "broken".
Ministry experts are travelling to Tauranga this month to meet with the primary school over its concerns.
"Being the eternal optimist, I am very hopeful that there will be additional support for all treasures across our country and that a fair and positive outcome will also result from our meeting with the Ministry of Education on May 25," Mackintosh said.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey, whose autistic daughter Piper, 7, attends Greerton Village School, said the $21.5m boost was "hardly a drop in the bucket".
"I am hopeful that broader support is announced Thursday so schools (like Greerton Village) aren't punished for being inclusive and instead are rewarded with the funding they need to continue."
She said the funding model for learning support was broken and structural changes were needed.
"Not all disabilities are physical, so the model needs to change to stop so many who are already falling through the cracks. We've got to do better."
Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin said the Budget increase would see an extra 1750 children receive help this coming year and contracted early intervention service providers would support an additional 150 children with the highest needs.
"Within two years this number will increase to an additional 200 children."
However, the numbers are small when compared with more than 13,000 preschool children who received an early intervention service in 2015-16 for reasons such as speech delays and autism.
Ardern said on Sunday that this week's Budget would contain a major funding boost for a significant package of learning support initiatives.
The extra money for early intervention was only "one of the components of the package".
A longer-term "action plan" for learning support is also due to be taken to the Cabinet in October.
- Additional reporting: NZ Herald
By: Scott Yeoman - Bay of Plenty Times
Ministry of Education experts will travel to Tauranga this month to meet with Greerton Village School over its funding concerns.
The decile-two primary school is struggling under increasing financial pressure and says the funding model meant to help with its high-needs students is "broken".
The Bay of Plenty Times reported just over a week ago that the school would have to "top up" a funding shortfall of $118,482.26 this year, according to principal Anne Mackintosh and board of trustees chairwoman Desiree Burborough.
The money would have to come from the school board's operational grant, the pair said.
They said the hours of support for high-needs students had to be increased over and above what was funded because of their extreme needs and health and safety issues.
The ministry has now asked to meet Mackintosh on May 25.
Its deputy secretary of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said it had been working with the school for some time and would continue to do so.
Casey said the meeting would include subject-matter experts from the ministry's regional and national offices.
"It's really important that we are all on the same page about the situation at the school and are giving the school all the information they need."
The ministry provides Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) funding for special and high-needs students to help pay for teacher aides whose support is decided according to a child's learning needs.
Greerton Village School has 24 ORS-funded students, 10 more than 2016, and at least five other students have "challenging behavioural needs". More high-needs students are expected to join the school before 2019.
Having 24 ORS-funded students at one school has been described as "incredibly high" by another school leader and the ministry has said it is a "relatively high number" for a primary school of its size.
Mackintosh said having a meeting planned with the ministry was "really encouraging".
"I'm really delighted that they're going to come and visit and have a meeting with us and they're coming to see our school in operation and all the wonderful things we do for our kids," she said.
"They'll be able to see first-hand what our situation is with our treasures."
"I really feel more supported, and I really believe that they are genuine in their efforts to try and come to some solution for our issues."
At a meeting with local ministry staff late last month it was suggested Greerton Village School would have to slash $100,000 off its wages, Mackintosh said.
And if the school could not do that, the ministry said it would help them do it, she said.
Business consultant and parent Erika Harvey, whose autistic daughter Piper, 7, attends Greerton Village School, was at that meeting.
"It was almost like: Too bad, if you don't do it, we're going to do it, that's the only solution, end of story," Harvey said of the wage-cut suggestion.
She said making those cuts could lead to health and safety problems because some of the children need the teacher aide support to stay safe at school.
It could also mean the school would have to turn away children who needed extra support because they would not be able to afford it, Harvey said.
The Bay of Plenty Times asked the ministry about the $100,000 wage-cut suggestion and whether that was still its position.
"As the meeting hasn't yet happened we're not in a position to be able to talk about possible outcomes that might fall out of it," Casey said.
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