Across the Board Room Table
Renovations to B4
2002 has seen a large rise in numbers of new enrolments to the school; so much so that we are now needing to change the structure of one of our existing classrooms from a dedicated fixed computer room suite, to a more flexible teaching space, able to accommodate the increasing role. The Diocese has agreed to pay for these alterations which is great and will give the school the capacity it now needs.
New Learning Support Co-ordinator roles
The Government has provided $217 million for the first tranche of Learning Support Co-ordinator positions across the country. As a Community of Learning or COL (13 schools of which St Peter’s is a part), we receive 4 full time positions. The role is to help facilitate access to outside agencies, testing and identification of student needs, in terms of extra support for their learning and success in education. At St Peter’s, we have the opportunity to be the ‘employing school’ for 1 of these co-ordinators, who would also be based here at the school. Applications have gone out for these positions and the appointment process begun, and we as a potential employing school, will likely be on the appointment panel for the positions. These positions will begin in 2020.
Proposed Donations and Contributions community release
Since 1989 it has been written into law that education in New Zealand is to be free for “every person who is not an international student”. The Ministry of Education (MOE) has recently reissued guidelines that reiterate that schools do not have the right to charge any extra costs to provide this education. At the same time the MOE requires schools to provide a curriculum which allows access to ‘the very best in educational opportunities’ (NZ curriculum document).
Funding for schools comes in the form of an ‘Operations Grant’ (money the government provides for running of the school). Because this grant has never been enough to provide the quality curriculum we all want for our children, schools have had to rely on additional funding by requiring parents to pay to ensure they can offer enhanced educational experiences such as camps, field trips, materials for foods and technology, etc. Generally, the school community has accepted these costs as just part of what schools need.
This year our St Peter’s College Operations Grant covered approximately 86% of the total running costs of the school, with 14% coming from parents to cover the costs of their children’s particular programmes.
Minister Hipkins has instructed schools (and you may hear this in the media in the months to come) that they cannot insist parents pay for anything related to the curriculum and if parents choose to pay, it is to be considered a ‘Donation or Contribution’, not a requirement to pay. Importantly, the Minister has not increased the school grant at all for St Peter’s. Schools at decile 7 or below are given an extra $150 per student grant increase (about half of what the average student at this school will use); however as we are decile 8, we are not entitled to any increase what so ever.
(Please note, this description of a donation applies to ‘curriculum-based’ costs only and does not relate to Attendance Dues charged by the Diocese, nor any optional weekend activities such as ski trips, sports tournaments etc.)
Our response as a school
We, along with many other schools, have made plain our feelings to the Minister at a recent Principals’ Conference and suggested if the government wanted a top-quality free education for all NZ children (and we all want that), it needed to pay for it.
We are making sure that our community is aware of the issue so that when they do hear media reports, they have the full picture in which to form an opinion.
While we are concerned that if parents choose not to pay any ‘donations’ towards their children’s course costs next year, the school would begin to accrue some considerable debt due to the shortfall in government funding, we believe we still have a duty to continue to offer every St Peter’s College student the very best in educational excellence.
We believe our community stands behind us. That parents have sent their children to St Peter’s because they want for them an education with opportunities and access to experiences that will grow their learning and support their development to be the best they can be. Parents do not want a school that is restricted to the classroom, where teachers cannot access resources and opportunities for their students and where potential is not realised due to an inability to offer the curriculum their child deserves.
For this reason, we will continue to offer the same successful opportunities, access and experiences we have always done, and we expect that parents will continue to contribute financially where their children require it for their learning.
The significant upside – there is one!
Because all costs related to school curriculum and learning (ie compulsory, and in-school time activities) will now be known and considered as ‘Donations’, the school office will be able to receipt this as such, and for many of you, a portion of these costs may be claimed back using the IRD Tax Credit Claim Form IR526. (This may differ depending on individual circumstances, so professional tax advise is advised). (The Attendance Dues charged by the Diocese is a legal obligation and not a donation so are not usually tax deductible).
This Government has recently completed a major Review of the NCEA. Essentially there will be fewer ‘Standards’ (the units of work which are assessed and earn students’ credits), but they will be larger in order to cover a similar curriculum. Given that these new standards will need to be re-written (a process which will take 2 – 3 years), the Ministry of Education has included two additional Teacher Only Days, set aside for this purpose. So if you are starting to wonder ‘why so many days off?’, this is the reason.
As always, the support extended to St Peter’s by its community is one of the things that makes our school a very special place to be a part of, and on behalf of the Staff and Board of Trustees, I would like to thank you and take a moment to congratulate you on another very successful year.
St Peter’s College