What would it take to preserve public education in New Zealand?

Every child in New Zealand should have the support they need to learn. But years of underfunding to our education system means that our schools, ECE centres, and kindergartens are enormously stressed, and it's kids who miss out.

NZEI members have been telling us what it'll take to preserve quality public education -- to restore the funding that's been lost over the years, and address some of the unmet needs in our schools, kindergartens, and ECE centres. 

What we need

We commissioned independent economists Infometrics to cost out these key issues. Here's what they came up with:

  • A $50 million increase (or about 4%) to the school operational grants, to make up for a freeze in funding in last year's budget and pay for growing education costs -- including pay rises for school support staff.

  • $282 million to improve ratios for babies and toddlers under two from one teacher to five kids to one teacher to three kids. The National Party pledged to do this in the 2008 election, but it has never been implemented.

  • $56 million to restore funding for 100% qualified and certificated ECE teachers - axed by the Government in 2009 - to ensure our youngest children get high quality learning

  • $210 million to restore ECE funding rates to 2009 levels, adjusted for inflation

  • $73 million for smaller class sizes for years 4-8 (where classes are currently the largest) so that teacher:student ratios fall from 1:29 to 1:25

  • $425 million so that more children with special needs can access support. This would extend the number of students supported through the ongoing resource scheme (ORS) fund from roughly one percent of students now to three percent.

All this adds up to about a billion dollars.

It sounds big, and it is big. But we need a bigger investment in education. We need to do more than just catch up on what's been lost. We need a real boost to public education funding if we want our kids to get the opportunity to learn and grow.

Get the figures

We asked Infometrics, independent economists, to cost up the key issues that NZEI members identified as the ones that would have the most positive impact on New Zealand's education system.

Download the full report
(307 KB PDF)

What the Government's come up with

Early childhood education funding—For years now the Government has underfunded early childhood education. The funding for new places that they've announced really only covers the growth in New Zealand's population. It's the eighth year of a per-child funding freeze.

Inclusive education—The number of kids in New Zealand who need additional learning support has been growing, but with limited access to ORS funding and a freeze on the specialist staff who can help, thousands of kids are already missing out. Today's Budget announcements don't seem to offer much to relieve the pressure on support staff, and only 30-60 additional kids are likely to get ORS funding.

Operations grant funding—For almost a year now we've been asking the Government to take the pressure off schools and unfreeze the operations grant. The Budget includes a small increase that barely keeps up with Treasury's own projections for inflation and doesn't make up for last year's freeze.

Targeted funding—The Government's still focusing on targeted funding, but their announcement works out to an increase of just $2 per child for the whole year.


Our verdict: it's time for the Government to stop making excuses

"This is a devastating blow to a sector that has been struggling to make ends meet and give our children a quality public education."

—Lynda Stuart
President/Te Manukura, NZEI Te Riu Roa

See Lynda's media release »

Our kids deserve the very best education. But we can't get there without a real investment in the people and resources that make a great education system.

With all of Bill English's talk of pies in Budget week, we were hoping it was a sign of something good to come.  But if this budget was a pie, it'd be one that's been hanging around in the back of the freezer from last year, and hasn't even been defrosted. In other words, it was much worse than we expected. In schools, the increase in funding for the operations grant doesn't cover inflation, let alone make up for the shortfalls that schools have been facing this year. And it's hard to see how they'll accommodate the wage increase that support staff have been asking for in this year's collective agreement negotiations. In ECE the per-child funding freeze is continuing for an eighth straight year. Funding increases in ECE only just cover population growth. They don't do anything to fix what's been missing ever since they froze funding. The best they have to offer is $2 a year for the most disadvantaged learners in New Zealand. (You can't even buy a petrol station pie with that.) Nikki Kaye's press release calls it a boost. But it's not a boost. It's not even a catch-up. This year's Budget could have gone a long way to restoring a lot of the issues in our education system. But this Budget shows that the Government's still happy to continue with the same old approaches that just aren't working.

There's no excuse for that.