NZEI Te Riu Roa: Budget education spending a missed opportunity to address inequities for tamariki and educators

20 May 2021

NZEI Te Riu Roa says more must be done to address decades of underspending that have compounded the impacts of inequality on tamariki and people working in education.

Key education spending in the Budget includes over $630m toward new classrooms and schools, but only a small increase in operational funding for schools over and above inflation. The Budget also includes welcome significant steps towards pay parity in early childhood education, announced last week - but this funding won't reach the most experienced teachers.

President Liam Rutherford says that many educators will have hoped for more.

"People working in schools will be disappointed to see little in the way of new funding for staffing. For years, our members have made it clear that they feel overstretched in the classroom and experience burnout - they worry that our tamariki aren't getting the time and support they deserve. The 1.6% funding increase in this Budget is slightly better than inflation, but it's still just not enough to support our teachers to meet our children's needs.

"If we are to lift learning for all children and make teaching sustainable, principals need more leadership support, we need smaller class sizes and more secure jobs that are centrally funded for teacher aides, and we need more school counsellors and social workers to take on some of the volume of pastoral work teachers are struggling with - especially with the new and additional impacts of COVID-19. 

"We'd have liked to see more funding for learning support for tamariki with additional needs in particular - equity in this area is something we'll continue to push for.

"Next month we'll know the true extent of the issues around primary staffing when the independent report we've commissioned, Pūaotanga, is released. Challenges around staffing are certainly something our members are saying they want to see prioritised in their next collective agreement negotiations, which commence later this year.

"New infrastructure is definitely needed too, and we welcome that. But many schools, especially in lower income areas, have existing classrooms that are mouldy and in disrepair. Today's new funding won't address these problems, so we'll be watching closely to see that these urgent fixes are prioritised by the new Education Service Agency as they take on the role of coordinating the ongoing maintenance of our schools.

"While this Budget has given us a good next step towards early childhood education pay parity, our most experienced teachers are still missing out and many will not receive any additional pay despite years of experience and service. The Government needs to accelerate full parity to retain these amazing teachers and address the severe shortage were seeing in ECE. The progress we're seeing is promising but we need to maintain this momentum."

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