Intermediate school teachers are considering strike action in response to the increased class sizes.
Education Minister Hekia Parata today no school would lose more than two full time teachers.
The Government has brought forward plans to announce a “transition” for schools most affected by funding reforms – with Prime Minister John Key suggesting there will be news for the schools within hours.
A number of schools have reacted with horror to funding changes announced in last week’s Budget, which Key has admitted have created “some hard edges” for those schools where a “a significant number of teachers” would have to leave.
Raroa Normal Intermediate principal said he had spoken to teachers from other intermediate schools who were very concerned about the effect of Thursday’s Budget.
“Many of them are prepared to take some sort of action,” he said.
“I have heard that some staff are prepared to strike, but I don’t know how universal that is.”
President Ian Leckie said principals and teachers would be asked to put class sizes on the agenda for contract negotiations starting in August after an “emergency summit” of primary teachers’ union the NZEI was held.
“Parents and teachers are rightly concerned at the impact this decision will have on children’s learning.”
Parata today admitted that some schools would be “affected more than we would accept.”
Although around 90 per cent will gain or not lose out, officials have had to examine the impact on the other 10 per cent.
“Schools will be given a guarantee that their staffing entitlement will not be reduced by more than two FTTEs over the next three years as a result of the policy changes.”
She said the policy was not intended to undermine special technology teaching at levels 7 and 8, which has been a focus for concern
“The Ministry of Education, together with the sector working group to be established by the Ministry, will ensure that technology provision continues.”
The cost will be met from a contingency set aside to pay for the transition to new ratios.
Raroa Normal Intermediate principal Kevin Ryan has suggested the changes could lead to the “demise of intermediates”.
Education officials had hoped to map out a plan over some weeks that eased teacher numbers back at the most affected schools.
But the Government has come under heavy fire from teacher unions and Labour over the plan.
Parata this morning had refused to answer questions about the issue, with Key seemingly preferred to front the matter. Key became personally involved in the issue yesterday and this morning said the plan to ease teacher numbers down at the most affected schools had been “speeded up”.
“Rather than sit down and consult with the sector at length, we’re likely to be in a position to give some assurance earlier than that,” he said.
“Our preference was probably to sit down with them [the schools] and work through some of the logic a little bit more clearly directly with them and we will continue to do but in the interests of making sure that people feel comfortable, we’re likely to act a little bit faster.”
Pressed for details of what might be announced, Key said: “I can’t now, but I might have a bit more to say about that later today.”
The changes were being implemented as a shift in funding away from quantity of teachers and on to higher quality, he said.
Over the last ten years, the number of teachers in schools had increased “massively” while the roll growth had been modest and teaching outcomes “plateaued”.
“It’s actually an improvement in front-line services. The number of teachers will stay the same over four years, but what will happen is the quality of teaching will improve.”
Labour leader David Shearer this morning pledged he would reverse the changes if elected in 2014.
“There are hundreds of thousands of parents out there working hard and raising their kids the best they can. All they want is a fair deal,” Shearer said.
“National is knowingly undermining the ability of schools to give their students a high-quality education by increasing class sizes. I have never heard of a government arguing in support of increased class sizes as part of improving a child’s learning. It is short-sighted and it will damage our children’s ability to learn.”
Shearer visited Fergusson Intermediate in Upper Hutt this morning, where the principal had suggested children could end up in classes of up to 38 pupils.
President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation, Paul Drummond said the funding ratio changes for all schools.
“The Treasury got this whole policy wrong,” Drummond said.
“They misread the research, failed to check with the professionals and completely ignored the parents.”
* At the moment year 7-8 students are funded at a rate of 1:29 plus 1:120 for technology which equates to 1:23.36.
* The changes to staffing ratios now place year 7-8 learners in a new consistent year 2-10 block with a staffing ratio of 1:27.5
* As part of the changes to teacher: student ratios, technology staffing for year 7 and 8 learners will be incorporated into the Years 2 – 10 curriculum staffing ratios.
* Many schools with years 7 and 8 learners send those pupils to a technology centre for instruction in cookery, woodwork and similar technology subjects.
* At the moment, the provider school with the technology centre automatically receives the technology staffing from their client schools for these learners. Under the changes, the funding will be directed to the school the students come from.
* The Government thinks most schools will want to continue their relationships with provider schools so there affect will not be dramatic.
* Technology remains a part of the school curriculum and all classes are required by the curriculum to teach it.
* Intermediate schools which cater to only years 7 and 8 are hardest hit because the schools do not have the ability to manage increases and decreases across different year groups.
* Also because there is no roll growth over the next few years there is less scope to absorb the effects over time.