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Targeted funding ‘a mystery’

South Wairarapa Principals Cluster president Craig Nelson. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE

By Chelsea Boyle

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As the school year rolls on, Wairarapa schools are trying to make the most of a tight operations grant while most of the mysterious targeted operational grant funding is funnelled into areas such as Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

The targeted funding was allocated to schools purely based on information about pupils who are from families on long term welfare, dishing out a collective $12.3m nationwide specifically for these youngsters.

But because of the Privacy Act, schools were not told which pupils have been targeted.

Fifteen of the smallest schools in New Zealand, including Tuturumuri which is South of Martinborough, received none of the targeted funding.

South Wairarapa Principals Cluster president Craig Nelson said it was too soon to say how effective the targeted funding scheme would be.

Some schools would win and some would lose out under the scheme, he said.

More generally, schools were being asked to do more with less, all the while feeling the pressure to produce well-rounded citizens, he said.

“We should be investing more in education.

“We should be investing in our future.”

Due to the level of funding, schools were often forced to have bigger classrooms, he said.

Mr Nelson said he wanted to see teachers granted better access to the experts that cater to specific needs, so all children have the best support possible to succeed.

“It [teaching] has the potential to be a very effective profession.

“That’s what the community of learning is trying to achieve.”

Schools often go “over and above” but were ultimately underfunded, he said.

Mr Nelson’s Masterton counterpart Sue Walters said the targeted funding scheme was a bit of a “mystery”.

“You just have to look at it as a block amount,” she said.

“You can’t look at it as money to help specific children because you don’t know which specific children are the targeted children.”

The way funding was traditionally assigned under the decile system was easier to predict, she said.

“You knew pretty much from year to year what was going to be happening as far as much money was coming into the school, how much money you had to run your business.”

Targeted funding could vary a lot year by year, and this put pressure on budgeting, she said.

Although things had improved over the years, “they could improve further but somebody has to fund it”.

Ministry of Education head of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said teachers and principals knew their students well, and were in a good position to make effective use of the extra funding received this year in the targeted increase.

“For some schools, that will be a small amount, for others it will be a sizeable amount,” she said.

“School leaders have been informed how many students they have from a background of long term welfare dependency.

“In terms of the actual names of those children, there’s several good reasons those haven’t been passed on to teachers and principals.

“It would be potentially stigmatising for those children, it would invade those families’ privacy, and wouldn’t be permitted legally.”

She said it was not an obstacle to making good use of the funding.

“Teachers and principals do know which of their students most need extra support to do well at school.”

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