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.
In its fourth week on the road in the South island, the Heartland tour is gathering supporters wherever it stops. The message is clear from NZEI members – end the funding freeze.
Sheffield Primary principal Nick Pratt says that reduced funding takes him off his main role, which is teaching and learning, and the school is increasingly using board funds to cover the shortfall.
He was out to meet the Heartland van when it stopped on March 10 in the rural Canterbury town nestled in the foothills of the Southern Alps. Sheffield children enter the school mainly from the Darfield Pre-school and Annabel’s Kindergarten, which were two other stops on the Heartland tour.
NZEI members like Nick Pratt are turning out in support of the campaign, with principals releasing staff to spend time on the camper van and joining teachers as they carry the “end the funding freeze” message to their communities.
It was World Book Day in the heartland when the Better Funding campaign visited Wanaka Primary School and discovered the staff had got into the spirit of things – as schools do!
Staff were also strongly into the spirit of the Better Funding Better Learning campaign to end the funding freeze. Principal Wendy Bamford, the genie, conjured up the wish list and NZEI national exec member Virginia Oakly spent time with teachers.
“As a school principal I believe that without increased funding it will be more difficult to provide quality staffing – teacher aids, education learning assistants, office staff – and resources,” Wendy told a reporter from the local Wanaka Sun newspaper.
Have you spotted the van in your local media? It’s been great to see newspapers, online media, and even TV cover the tour. Here are some of the highlights you might’ve missed.
Unions rally for higher school funding
Otago Daily Times, 21 February 2017
The New Zealand Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) and the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) are travelling around Otago and Southland in a colourful camper van this week, as part of the nationwide Heartland Tour which is campaigning against the increasing financial pressures being put on the regions’ schools and early childhood education centres.
South Canterbury schools voice support for support staff
Timaru Herald, 8 March 2017
A South Canterbury school would “struggle” to pay bills if it did not fundraise each year, its principal says.
Pleasant Point Primary School fundraises up to $40,000 each year to reach what it labels “a break-even budget”.
As other schools around the country consider cutting support staff hours and jobs, the school raises additional funding so it does not have to face that predicament.
Southland education needs campaigned for
Southland Times, 8 February 2017
Donovan Primary School principal Peter Hopwood said there was a need in Southland to lift funding to raise student achievement.
“Everything’s a priority when you’re dealing with children,” he said.
Schools in the region need to be maintained with building projects and resources, he said.
In Southland there was also more work that needed to be done with IT to keep students up with the rest of the country, he said.
Staff pay rates were also an issue, he said.
Hopwood said to get “adequate” staff, funding was a priority.
When Murray Smeaton volunteered for the first leg of the Heartland campaign he knew it would be a big undertaking but not quite how massive the response would be (photographed here in the Otago Daily Times).
“Having driven the Better Funding camper van for three weeks to a large number of schools, early childhood education centres, kindergartens and town centres, I have been overwhelmed by the support of parents, board of trustee members and the general public,” says Murray. “The common sentiment is, “Well, this is a no-brainer. Of course we want to have better funding for our kids.”
The van has been a highly visible mobile billboard all down the South Island’s West Coast, in Bluff, Fiordland, Queenstown, Wanaka, Central Otago, and all points in between.
“Thank you to NZEI members for the hospitality extended, and for the many hours put into collecting signatures on post cards and the petition,” says Murray.
“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.
“No person could argue that all schools and preschools would benefit from more funding and more flexibility in funding!” says Paula Bell, librarian at Wakatipu High School.
There was plenty of discussion as the NZEI met PPTA members at Wakatipu High School for morning tea and to hear from Virginia Oakly from NZEI national executive who was out on campaign.
But no argument. That’s been the experience of all the activists on the Better Funding Better Learning camper van in the past three weeks as it travels the heartland – from Christchurch to the West Coast, Dunedin, South Otago, Southland and Central Otago.The joint campaign by NZEI and PPTA links all teachers – from early childhood to post-primary – in their efforts to end the funding freeze.
Debbie Dickson, principal of Remarkables Primary School at Queenstown was only too happy to speak out for Better Funding in a story which lead the Southern Television broadcast on the day the campaign rolled through town.
Here’s Channel 39 news in the South with a story on the Better Funding tour – it’s clear that the funding freeze is hitting this school hard.
The story starts about a minute into this video and features some thoughts from principal Debbie Dickson and board chair Jane Hughes from Remarkables Primary, NZEI’s Paula Reynolds, and parent Simon Small. It’s clear that the funding freeze is hitting this school hard.
Well said by everyone! https://youtu.be/eHkGKGQLO-o
Thanks to Southern Television for this link.
What does it take to get an MP to step into the shoes of a teacher aide and work alongside them for a day? The power of persuasion from a passionate NZEI member, it turns out! Dana Turnbull, chair of the Hokonui branch, has got a pledge from local MP Todd Barclay to find out what it’s like to do essential — but low-paid and insecure work — supporting children’s learning. Thumbs up to Todd for being prepared to do it – the next step is to persuade him and his caucus colleagues that the Government needs to unfreeze school funding so that support staff can get a fair pay rise without their hours being cut! All along the route of the Better Funding tour, educators will be reminding MPs and aspiring political candidates that we need more investment in teaching and learning, not tax cuts, to ensure our kids get the education they deserve.
We’ve been lucky enough to pick up a copy of Tuesday’s interview on Coast FM with NZEI’s Una McNair and Barry Townrow. They talk about some of the issues facing educators in New Zealand today, and their plans for the van tour.
You can listen in below.
Thanks very much to Coast FM for letting us share this!
Local kindergarten kids staged a takeover of the Better Funding Heartland camper van when it visited Karoro Kidsfirst in Greymouth on Wednesday February 15.
“I looked in the bus and it was full of kids, they’d even done up their seat belts,” says local activist and retired primary principal Murray MacGibbon.
“It was a wonderful day with Te Whaea Ireland and a great group of activists. For me the highlight was going to the kindergarten, it was a lot of fun. We opened the door and they all piled in.”
He says Te Whaea, a teacher from Karoro School, knew people everywhere and sailed into shops and businesses where she knew parents. “It was very easy to get signatures, no one minds being shoulder-tapped.”
In Greymouth the day started with a phone call to local MP Damien O’Connor, who asked for petitions and postcards to be left at his office. The distinctive blue and yellow camper van called on three primary schools, two kindergartens and spent time downtown, again collecting over 200 signatures on the day and getting postcards signed. “We covered as much ground as possible,” says van driver Murray Smeaton .
He says community response has been 100% positive, and the campaign is getting a lot of great coverage. Schools are really supporting the tour, local media are very present and the van and activists are high visibility.
One Karoro kindergarten parent took away six petition forms and 50 postcards to get signed. Especially passionate are parents who have special needs children with teacher aids, or who were trying to get specific help. One parent who had made three attempts for ORS (Ongoing Resourcing Scheme) funding for their child, rounded up a lot of other parents to sign.