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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