By Geoff Vause
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The board and principal of a little Wairarapa school are determined to find a way round funding cuts expected to impact on small schools throughout the country.

Tana Klaricich is principal at South Featherston School, with 60 pupils in her care.

Losing almost $1000 with the Targeted At Risk funding for 2017 may not sound like much, but Mrs Klaricich says it will hurt.

“Instead of a one per cent increase in our school operating grant to cover inflation, it was announced in this year’s budget that schools would be allocated $92 per child for those identified as ‘at risk’ under a new set of criteria,” she said.

‘At risk’ children fit one of four criteria: a parent who has been to prison; the child or a sibling has suffered child abuse; their family has been on a benefit for a long time; or the child’s mother has no formal qualifications.

“The one per cent increase for inflation would have meant an extra $1088 in the school budget for next year. With the new targeted funding system, the school will receive an extra $278 only.

“According to the government’s calculations, we have only three children fitting one or more of the criteria. That’s a difference of $809.47, which might not seem like much, but it has a huge impact on a small school of just 60 pupils,” Mrs Klaricich said.

“The extra $278 we will be receiving under the new funding equates to only $2.27 per week, per identified ‘at risk’ child – this will cover roughly 15 hours of teacher aide support over the period of the 40-week school year.”

The school has about 65 hours under its existing funding. It loses around 50 hours.

“Through online discussion with other principals this week I’ve only heard of schools losing funds,” Mrs Klaricich said.

There have been media reports, though, that some schools would be better or worse off by up to $100,000.

Last week Education Minister Hekia Parata said 2421 schools would receive a share of an extra $12.3 million for students at risk of under-achieving.

Working with the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Education had identified around 133,000 students in the ‘at risk’ criteria.

Some schools would get a few hundred dollars, others almost $60,000 and one school $109,000.

For South Featherston Primary, the devil is in the detail of the ‘at risk’ criteria. The little school loses money.

“The reality is our schools are not funded adequately now to meet the learning needs of all our children, not just those that the government defines as being at risk,” Mrs Klaricich said.

“But our board and I are determined to find a solution so our students don’t miss out.”