Education Department plans to cut teacher funding due to declining enrollment

Elementary and middle schools are expected to lose funding for 355 teachers.
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A projected drop in the number of schoolchildren could cost hundreds of teachers their jobs next year.

The Department of Education has told schools it expects to fund 45,118.4 full-time equivalent (FTE) teachers next year, down 351.5 from this year.

Sean Teddy, the ministry’s senior operations and integration manager, said the figure was based on student enrollment forecasts for 2023.

Most of the drop would be for elementary and middle schools, which would lose funding for 355 teachers.

Secondary schools would lose 18.5 FTE positions, but special schools would gain 16 and coeducational schools that teach both primary and secondary students would gain six.

Teddy said a reduction in school staffing might not mean a school cut teachers.

“In practice, schools often do not employ all the teachers they are funded for, for a variety of reasons. Some schools may not be able to fill positions, and some may choose to bank funding and spend it on other things if they are convinced it is in the best interests of their students,” he said.

The department tended to overestimate staff so schools could manage large cuts over several years, Teddy said.

The decline in primary schools was largely due to large birth cohorts leaving that sector to enter secondary schools, he said.

Primary principals had warned of potential cuts and some wanted this year’s staff frozen to help schools cope with pandemic pressures.

Headmasters’ Federation president Cherie Taylor-Patel said the downsizing was disappointing and would have a big effect on schools losing teachers.

“We are really disappointed that we had to lose teachers from the system,” she said.

“The NZPF has been advocating since term one that staffing for 2023 should remain the same so schools can support pupils who have lost learning time.”

Taylor-Patel said schools in growing neighborhoods are likely to lose teachers early next year to rehire them as more families move into new homes in their area.

Schools could ask the ministry for a review of their staffing estimates, she said.