The Better Funding Heartland Tour, 2017
The Better Funding Heartland Tour took in regional towns all over New Zealand in one amazing campervan tour. On our trip, we got to hear some amazing stories from families and educators about what they're doing in their communities, as well as seeing the real-world impact of the last few years of funding decisions.
See our tour diaries below.
Teacher aides and other support staff are bearing the brunt of the school funding freeze – and it’s the kids they work with who will miss out. Is that fair?
Support staff are currently attending paid union meetings all over the country, and attracting a lot of attention. The Nelson Mail went along to meet support staff who were supported by their principal Helen Taylor-Young and deputy principal Glenda Rapley at Victory School in Nelson, read here.
The Better Funding Better Learning camper van was there to meet and get signatures for the national petition to end the funding freeze. There was a huge response at Victory School, where parents could really relate to the effect of underfunding on support staff.
The Northern Advocate newspaper in Whangarei reported here that an increase in funding was needed to pay support staff more. Paid union meets roll out across Northland this week during the Northland leg of the national Heartland Better Funding campaign.
On Tuesday the #Heartland Tour camper van took a pause Hamilton and headed north Huntly. It was a great day
“We got massive support,” says Field Officer Maxine Oosten. “The campaign was welcomed wherever we went, whether it was at schools, kindergarten, or in the street. Everyone was keen to offer their support.”
Lots of signatures were collected on postcards to the new Minister of Education, asking that the freeze the of operations grant to schools be ended and that Early Childhood be better funded.
Principals in particular were welcoming of the campaign van to their schools and staff at several sites posed for photos expressing their support for an injection of funding. They expressed particular concern about the pressure to reduce the hours of support staff and teacher aides who are vital to the education of children.
“A lot of people don’t realise how stretched the Early Childhood and Primary education sectors are due to chronic underfunding. However, this tour is getting the word out. And when we talk to people about the issues facing education, they are appalled at the way the Government has failed to fund schools.”
He shared the message via video: “Help us keep pressure on the Government to do what is right and invest in our children.”
“Very few people turned us down,” says Donovan Primary School principal Peter Hopwood who spent most of two days campaigning in and around Invercargill as well as releasing staff to join the Better Funding Better Learning van.
“On the contrary, many people we spoke to were highly supportive. They didn’t think twice about getting better and more appropriate funding into learning.” Peter is chair of the Principals’ Council NZEI.
There’s been no argument from principals of kindergartens and schools, boards of trustees, early childhood centre owners or teachers and none from the communities big and small along the way.
Southland released a sizeable contingent of volunteers to staff the van over the four days it was in the area – at least one principal and three teachers were on board at any time, as well as volunteer van driver, retired principal Murray Smeaton and local field officers and other activists turning up at a full itinerary of schools, plus the Southern Institute of Technology and Southern Farmers Market on the weekend.
Hundreds of signatures are being collected each day for the national petition and on postcards, indicating the strength of popular support as the campaign increases momentum. Every day, even in tiny communities, two hundred plus singed postcards are bundled up and posted from those small communities to reinforce the message to local MPs, with multiple mail drops in Prime Minister Bill English’s Southland electorate.
Five hundred school principals signed an open letter published in the Sunday Star-Times yesterday to the Government asking for an increase in funding.
Principal Nigel Bioletti and support staffer Nicole Young at Birkenhead Primary say their school will struggle to pay support staff.
This week the Better Funding Better Learning campaign travels to Kaitaia, Taipa, Kaikohe, Kerikeri and Whangarei and many small communities between. The big colourful camper van stops at schools and community meeting places to meet and talk about why teachers want an end to what is effectively a funding freeze. Some of those visits coincide with paid union meetings for school support staff who are bearing the brunt of school budget deficits as their hours are cut and jobs threatened.
Monday March 20:
12.00 PM Umawera School
01.00 PM Mangamuka School
02.00 PM Mission Place Kindergarten
03.00 PM Mussel Rock Café, Kaitaia
Tuesday March 21:
08.30 AM Kaitaia Intermediate School – principal Sue Arrell
09.30 AM Paid union meeting, Kaitaia Intermediate
10.00 AM Ahipara School
11.00 AM Pukepoto School
12.00 PM Kaitaia main street
01.00 PM Paid union meeting, Kaitaia Intermediate
02.00 PM Doubtless Bay Kindergarten
02.30 PM Taipa Area School
06.00 PM Paid union meeting, Beachcomber Restaurant, 222 Commerce St, Kaitaia
Wednesday March 22:
08.15 AM Kerikeri Primary School
09.30 AM Paid union meeting, Kerikeri Primary
10.00 AM Lindvart Park, Kaikohe – inter-school hockey tournament
01.00 PM Paid union meeting, Kerikeri Primary
05.00 PM Paid union meeting, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe
Thursday March 23:
08.15 AM Opua School
10.00 AM Bay of Islands College
11.00 AM Kawakawa Primary School
12.00 PM Maromaku School
01.00 PM Hukerenui School
Friday March 24:
08:00 AM Kamo Primary School
10.50 AM Whau Valley School
02.30 PM Hora Hora Primary School
Last year, thousands of educators from throughout the primary, early childhood and secondary sectors came together with their communities to win the battle against bulk funding in schools. This year, we’re coming together again to fight to restore funding for early childhood and increase funding for schools, so every young New Zealander has the best start in life.
This is the fifth week of the Heartland campaign which has been touring communities big and small through the South Island and is now covering the North Island. Hundreds of people every day are signing a national petition and hundreds of signed postcards are being sent to local MPs at Parliament from their electorate.
The colourful campervan will have visited almost every corner of the country (click to itinerary) from Bluff to the Far North finishing at Parliament at the end of June.
TV host Tamati Coffey (on left) the Labour candidate for Waiariki, went roving with the Better Funding, Better Learning camper van on Friday, hooking up with kids and staff in Whakatane and Opotiki.
He met up with (from left) Louisa Wall MP (Labour Manurewa East), Kiri Allan (Labour candidate East Coast). Paeone Goonan (Mangai/head for the Mataatua area Te Reo Areare) and NZEI field officer Daryl Watene were on board.
The photo was taken at an Opotiki sports ground where there was a primary school rippa rugby tournament.
Tamati was the host of New Zealand’s Got Talent and the roving weather presenter for Television New Zealand’s breakfast television.
Working at a small rural school can be very different from a larger urban one, says Wainuioru principal Karen Goodall. “… your costs are spread out among fewer kids, so there are things that just cost more per student — it means the kids miss out,” she said.
“You want things that enhance kids’ learning in school . . . when we go through the bills every month, I look at it all and there’s not much that is actually for kids’ learning.
“Most of it goes into just running the school. It’s just hard.”
Wainuioru principal Karen Goodall, and New Zealand Educational Institute staff Viv Nicol, Michelle Maguren, and Katrina Ford, Labour candidate Kieran McAnulty, and NZEI member Mike Meehan. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN