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Monday, April 4, 2011

Christchurch schools face staff cuts

Christchurch schools face staff cuts

TINA LAW
Last updated 05:00 05/04/2011
 
Schools in eastern Christchurch will be forced to cut staff and slash budgets as rolls tumble by up to 40 per cent.

Avondale School principal Mark Scown said 30 to 40 per cent of pupils had yet to return to schools in the eastern suburbs after the February 22 earthquake and about 10 per cent had indicated they would never return.

He said money was allocated to schools based on their rolls, and a drop in pupil numbers would mean some schools would have to lay off staff.

Scown was not sure how many teachers would be affected across the 17 schools in the area.

Sixty children at his school would not be returning and had permanently enrolled in other schools around New Zealand and in Australia. That equated to funding for 2.5 teachers.

Before the quake Avondale had 424 pupils on its roll and it now had 300, but 40 families had indicated they would be returning.

"Many are dribbling in as the weeks go by," Scown said.

The school had not been able to locate 21 pupils who had left the area and had not enrolled in any schools in New Zealand, he said. "We're still trying to track them down."

Scown organised a meeting of 17 principals from eastern schools last week to determine the extent of the problem and found a similar story at many schools.

He said schools had some time before they had to make hard decisions because Secretary for Education Karen Sewell told them last month that the Government would continue to fund schools for their existing number of teachers until the end of the year. However, schools' operations grants would be reassessed based on roll numbers at the end of June.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said yesterday no decision had been made on funding for quake-hit schools.

She said she was focused on getting pupils back into school.

Scown said the cut in funding at Avondale could amount to tens of thousands of dollars. The operations grant also funded support staff, including teacher aides, office administration, caretakers and librarians. Scown said he was reluctant to cut staff but he would be forced to make some hard decisions.

Burwood School principal Doug Watkinson said the school had 400 pupils on the day of the quake, and about 40 pupils would not return. They had relocated permanently to Australia, Auckland and parts of the South Island.
The school's roll was now about 310, and many pupils had planned to return at the beginning of term two on May 2. Some parents had said their children would not return until next year.

Shirley Intermediate School principal Geoff Siave said 31 pupils out of 293 were not returning after relocating to other parts of the South Island. "It's going to have a dramatic impact on finances for this year. We've already made up our budget," he said. He was not sure how big the cut would be but it would be fairly drastic.

Siave and Scown said school rolls in eastern suburbs would probably increase once people gained confidence about living in the area again. "I think the population will come back, but it'll be two to three years," Scown said.

- The Press

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