Education Minister Chris Hipkins confronted by students over Budget announcement

The Education Minister has been confronted by students after announcing $95 million to boost the number of teachers in New Zealand. 

A group of students approached Chris Hipkins, the Education Minister, after the announcement at the Faculty of Education at Victoria University in Wellington. 

Hipkins told the students the announcement was about "breaking down the financial barriers at every level", adding that "as money becomes available, we'll keep doing more". 

But a student told Hipkins his statement was "kind of ironic, though" because, she said, "a fair amount of us" are still relying on the Work and Income benefit to get by. 

"We're going into a crazy amount of debt, we're on Work and Income and then we come out of it and it's just... the pay inequality in teaching is an issue of its own."

Hipkins told the student he understood, adding that it's a "very longstanding issue that was an issue when I was a student and it's still an issue now". 

He added: "It's one of those thornier longer-term challenges the Government grapples with. We will, but we haven't got there yet."

Another student confronted Hipkins about the "mental health crisis" and asked how the Government plans to support teachers who feel overworked. 

"I know there was something mentioned in the run-up to the last election about having more support staff in schools - youth works, social workers, counsellors, nurses - people supporting the teachers," she said. 

"In terms of preparing them for life in the real world and resilience in our young people across this country, is there anything in this Budget or anything that you're looking at, at the moment, about supporting those support staff roles in schools?"

Hipkins told the student: "Ask me again in three weeks."

He said the only part of the Budget he could discuss was what the Government announced that day, with the full Budget 2019 announcement still several weeks away. 

"I think the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister have already both made it very clear that mental health is going to be a big focus of the Budget."

Earlier this year, 225 foreign teachers were brought in by the Government to fill a record teacher shortage following 43 percent slump in the six years to 2016. 

The recruitment drive came as primary teachers and principals continued to negotiate with the Government for better pay and working conditions, with the latest offer rejected

As for mental health, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern earlier this week defended delaying the Government's response to the mental health inquiry for a second time.

She said mental health has been a "significant" priority in the Government's planning for the Wellbeing Budget set to be released later this month. 


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