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Education changes: bigger classes, performance pay

Wednesday 16 May 2012 8:41 a.m.

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By 3 News online staff

Performance pay for teachers and bigger class sizes have been mooted by the Government this morning in a pre-Budget announcement.

New teachers will also need post-graduate qualifications and new principals will have to take a ‘pre-principalship’ course.

Education Minister Hekia Parata says the teacher appraisal system will be implemented and performance pay is one of the variables in that system.

“We will collaborate in the development of an appraisal system focusing on driving up quality teaching and quality professional leadership. Performance pay is but one of a basket of options to reward and recognise that,” says the Minister.

Ms Parata says the system is not just about rewarding good teachers though.

"It will at the other extreme of the continuum also be able to identify those who are not performing and there are appropriate processes for that."

Class sizes will be bigger with a higher ratio of students to teachers which will free up around $43 million every year for four years.

These “trade offs” means the teacher-to-student ratio at primary school and in the early years of high school will be 1:27.5 and in the last three years of secondary school will be 1:17.3.

The Government funds each school depending on how many students it has – but how many pupils are in each class is left to the schools themselves.

“About 90 percent of schools will either gain, or have a net loss of less than one full-time teacher equivalent,” says Ms Parata.

The ratio changes will be implemented over the next five years.

The announcement today also included the requirement for all new teachers to have a post-graduate qualification and principals will be required to have a ‘pre-principalship’ qualification.


Ms Parata says almost $512 million of new funding would be spent over the next four years and says it will be the fourth consecutive year they've increased overall spending on education.

“We have an education system that is amongst the best in the world," says Ms Parata. "Four out of five kids are successfully getting the qualifications they need from school and we must celebrate their success and the professionals in the education system who make that possible every day.

“But our education plan is about getting five out of five.”

To achieve this, the Government says it will invest an extra $60 million over the next four years to boost teacher recruitment and training.

 “We want to create a flexible, skilled, culturally intelligent and professional workforce through these initiatives to support the development of teachers and principals," she says.


The union representing primary school teachers, NZEI, says Ms Parata is “living in a fantasy would” and her plans are contradictory.

Their national president Ian Leckie says it is ironic Ms Parata talks about New Zealand having one of the world’s best education systems yet her policy will undermine that claim.

“It is outrageous that the Government talks about improving education quality, especially for those in the bottom 20 percent, while at the same time adopting policies that will do the exact opposite.

“How does a reduction in the number of teachers in our schools and the creation of bigger class sizes result in better outcomes? It won’t happen. Sadly the Minister is living in a fantasy world.

“What’s most distressing is that this will have the biggest impact on the most vulnerable children - the 20 percent underachieving tail,” he says.


The Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) says the Education Minister is “spinning” numbers in order sell her plans for the education sector.

Angela Robert, PPTA junior vice president says the changes will make vulnerable students even more vulnerable because class sizes are larger.

She says increasing class sizes in years 9 and 10 is incredibly dangerous because those are the years where students are most at risk of disengagement.

“It’s very difficult to unpick those numbers that Ms Parata is spinning but she’s essentially saying it’s going to save $43 million in front-line teachers. That is the impact – classes will get bigger.

“Our most vulnerable students are even more vulnerable because teachers don’t have opportunities to work with kids. Increasing class sizes means teachers will be less able to engage with kids,” she says.


Tha Labour Party says the Government’s plans are being driven by Treasury rather than “evidence-based policy”.

Education spokesperson Nanaia Mahuta says the Government’s ‘more for less’ philosophy has been applied to the education sector.

“How very predictable. Who would have thought that when National promised more for less it meant larger class sizes and fewer teachers?

“These cuts are a consequence of skewed priorities and National's failure to properly manage the economy or create growth.”

She says Ms Parata has not thought of the teacher redundancies which Labour estimates would be around 600 positions.


The Green Party says the proposed changes are all about cost-cutting and will have a negative effect for both teachers and students.

Their education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty says already-struggling kids will be hit the hardest because class sizes will be increased.

“This policy has nothing whatsoever to do with improving educational outcomes.  It is purely aimed at cutting costs and ultimately teacher numbers,” she says.

Ms Delahunty says the $40 million that will be saved by increase in class sizes and the funding for performance pay would be better spent maintaining smaller class sizes.

She also says recent tertiary education changes will be a barrier to all new teachers getting a post-graduate qualification.


Business NZ has praised Ms Parata’s announcement saying an appraisal system for teachers is urgently needed to “support, recognise and reward” teaching and professional school leadership.

BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly says the new plans will help “engender” confidence in the school sector and make teachers earn their keep.

“Seeing teacher numbers and salary budgets increasing substantially over the last decade without substantial learning improvements indicates a real need for performance measures and better information for families and communities to monitor progress and the effectiveness of our schools,” he says.

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