Anyone visiting or going past public schools in this part of Auckland, or indeed anywhere in Auckland, will notice building work going on. Locally, I think of the work underway at Remuera School for new classrooms, an $8.7 million project approved for Newmarket School. In recent years we’ve seen lovely new classes opened at Mt Eden Normal School, Auckland Normal Intermediate and Parnell District School, fully equipped with ultra-fast broadband and modern equipment. The list goes on in many other schools, often with government funds augmented by generous contributions from the local community.
Giving young people the best possible start to their lives through high-quality education is one of the most important investments we can make as a Government, and as a community. This year, the government investment will be at its highest ever – more than $11 billion (without counting tertiary education). Since 2008/09, the National-led Government has increased education funding by 35 per cent while student numbers have increased by only 3.6 per cent. This, in the context of tight government spending and a return to a budget surplus.
The facts are these: no previous Government has made bigger investments in educating Kiwi kids and no other OECD country spends a higher proportion of its public spending on education than New Zealand does.
Along with the right funding, schools need the right infrastructure. Since 2008/09, our investment in school property has exceeded $5 billion including around 50 new schools or school expansions, over 30 major redevelopments and hundreds of additional classrooms. These projects are allowing schools across New Zealand to accommodate roll growth and make sure kids are learning in warm, modern classrooms.
Of course, getting the most from our education system is not just about how much we spend – it’s about making sure the system provides Kiwi kids with an education that gives them the opportunity to foot it with the best in the world. It’s also important that appropriate resources are channelled to those who need it the most. This is why we have taken a more student-focused approach to operational funding. Instead of distributing operational grants to every school, the fund is being targeted to schools with students most at risk of underachievement.
Our Government owes it to parents, taxpayers and young people to make sure everyone is getting the most out of our education system and – like the rest of the public sector – every school needs to think smarter about how to use their funding. We are very fortunate locally to have school board members and PTA members who so generously give their time and money to help guide that investment and to demand the best from their principals. I want to take the opportunity, once again, to thank them for their efforts.
The Government is prepared to make the investment; together with the school staff and our communities we can and will equip the next generation with the skills they need to succeed.