Integrated schools are not happy about the $11.5million funding move by the Government for a private school in Taranaki as a “shovel–ready” project.
New Zealand Catholic Education Office chief executive officer Paul Ferris said that the Green Party-backed move “is a mistake, and it has caused great concern at a time when anxiety and tension are elevated”.
Mr Ferris, who is also chief executive officer of the Association of Proprietors of Integrated Schools (APIS), made the comment in NZCEO’s Lighting New Fires newsletter sent out this month.
“It is especially hard to accept, when the Government has been unwilling to provide Policy 2 funding for state–integrated schools, which are being built to contribute to the state network provision of schools, at no capital cost to the Government,” he said.
Policy 2 funding may be provided by the Ministry of Education towards the costs of building new classrooms in an existing integrated school (usually related to roll growth), or in a new integrated school.
“APIS will continue to work with Government to address the maintenance challenges for state–integrated schools, and to see a more realistic response regarding Policy 2 funding in the future,” Mr Ferris said.
This year, he said, there are five new integrated schools, with a range of special characters, in the process of being added to the state–integrated network.
These schools are Hamilton Christian, Iqra School (Auckland), Suzanne Aubert Catholic School (Papamoa), St Ignatius of Loyola Catholic College (Drury), and Motueka Steiner.
“The combined capital value of these schools would be in excess of $200million given to the state to support their network,” he said.
Mr Ferris added that, as of last year, by NZCEO’s calculations, “$2.6billion dollars of assets are given to the state to use, free–of–charge each year, to educate 60,000 students”.
“It is not surprising, then, that state and state–integrated schools reacted angrily to the announcement of the Green Party leader, that they had found $11.5million for a single private school,” he said.
Earlier, Green Party co-leader James Shaw announced a plan to expand Oakura’s privately-owned Green School with $11.5million from the shovel-ready fund. The school said only 25 per cent of the fund is in the form of grant. The rest is a loan that the school would have to repay.
Mr Shaw subsequently apologised for an error of judgement on his part over the funding.
Kim Shannon, head of Education Infrastructure Services at the Ministry of Education, told NZ Catholic that Policy 2 funding is being made available by the ministry.
“In 2019/20, the ministry provided Policy 2 funding totalling $1,154,948 to two state-integrated schools (Our Lady of the Assumption School, Christchurch, and Hastings Christian School, Hastings) to fund two classrooms at each school. In the current 2020/21 financial year, funding of $577,474 is being provided to KingsWay School, Auckland, to fund two classrooms,” Ms Shannon said.
“Additional Policy 2 funding is available, and will be distributed if applications from proprietors are received and meet the relevant criteria.”
According to the ministry’s website, criteria for “classroom only” Policy 2 funding include current demand for enrolment in the school’s “network” being over 85 per cent of its capacity, and that projected demand will go beyond the network’s current capacity within 10 years.
For Policy 2 funding to establish an entire new school, the above criteria must be met, and a new state school is likely to be needed within 10 years if the integrated school isn’t built.
The approval process involves an “in principle” decision, and then funding is sought from the Government through the Budget process. Funding is then allocated based on the amount of funding that comes from Government.
In a note sent to NZ Catholic by the ministry, it was stated that the proprietors of state-integrated schools have the main responsibility for providing spaces at their schools.
“This is because it’s their decision to establish a school and apply for it to be integrated, and increase the capacity of the school by applying for a maximum roll increase.
“The Ministry of Education may help with the costs of building new accommodation at a state-integrated school, when we would otherwise have to build state school facilities. Because proprietors have the main responsibility for providing the land and buildings, Policy 2 funding is not an automatic entitlement.”
Responding to the ministry’s comment and note, Mr Ferris said the Policy 2 funding allocation for the past two years has been $1.4 million per year, but “this is hardly enough to get a new school off the ground”.
“For a lot of proprietors, the biggest cost by far is for new builds. And there has been no help for that at all.”
Mr Ferris added that the Catholic education sector is still waiting to find out the outcome of negotiations for equity in funding for maintenance between the state and state-integrated sectors.
NZ Catholic understands that the St Ignatius project was included in a list of shovel-ready projects provided to the Economic Development minister earlier this year.
It was one of several hundred projects forwarded to the Government for consideration. No timeframe was given for any final decision.
It was announced earlier this year that the Government would be putting $8.5million towards the restoration and strengthening of the Wellington Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. This came from a $3billion infrastructure fund announced in the Budget.