Double Standards: Private schools receive Government funding while state schools are left scrounging

The National-led Government’s proposed cuts in teacher staffing numbers and increased class sizes in public schools reeks of hypocrisy and double standards. Their proposals are informed in part by New Zealand Treasury’s briefing paper recommendations, which suggested increasing student-teacher ratios for reasons of cost effectiveness. The Government’s savings will amount to $43m a year as a result.

Meanwhile, private schools received over $57m of Government funding in 2011 to be kept afloat, with small class sizes being their draw-card for paying parents. Clearly, the Government is not saving after all.

On the one hand, John Key, along with his Government, is arguing that increasing class sizes in the state sector will not affect standards of education. They say their savings will go towards improving teacher training, which they claim is a more important factor in educational achievement than class size.

On the other hand, last week saw Key publicly embarrassed by his past admission that he sent his own children to private schools because of smaller classes and better resources. This was exposed in the republication of a 2005 Listener article, which has left a bad aftertaste in many New Zealanders’ mouths.

To make matters worse for Key, his Government has ensured small class sizes stay intact in private schools while public schools are deprived of the same luxury. Private school Wanganui Collegiate, for instance, has boasted low class sizes in paid advertisements. These have come off the backs of the New Zealand taxpayer, who has subsidised the school by almost $3m in the past three years, which is a premium on top of Collegiate’s fees. The school will receive $1.52m for 2012/13, as it moves towards being an integrated school. To put this in perspective, Wanganui City College, its public school neighbour, operates on a budget of $1m.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has tried to placate angry parents and educators by promising that no public school will lose more than two teachers over a three-year period (though she has refused to make any promises as to what would happen after the three years are up). Yet, private schools can keep all of their teachers, according to the Government.

So, why then are there double standards between class sizes in public schools versus private schools? Is Key saying that public school students should be sacrificial lambs for the sake of the privately educated students, even where their private schools are bolstered by taxpayers’ money?

National’s double standards between private and public education are another giant leap towards inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand. There are demonstrable benefits of retaining small class sizes: students receive valuable and individualised teacher attention, leading to greater gains in their achievement. Small class sizes are especially crucial for lower attaining students who may otherwise disengage from learning. Teachers also need a manageable workload. Shame on John Key, for his obvious double standards.

65 Comments Posted

  1. Most of you clearly don’t realise that private schools save the government money, as if there weren’t any private schools those students would end up in state schools like Auckland Grammar. It’s must cheaper to subsidise them at $2000 per pupil than $10000 per pupil a year in private schools.


    Agreed that the standards are most definitely double, but now that this has come up, over a year after we tried so hard to bring it up, the context and presentation of this argument effectively obfuscate the facts concerning children’s welfare at private schools.

    The situation is, at this moment, following Anne Tolley’s botched Education Amendment Bill 2, that the 33,000 children at private schools have ZERO welfare protection under NZ law. The education Act does not cover them, nor the Health and Safety Act, and as for ERO being interested, forget it.

    I realise that’s not the issue here, but look at it this way; state schools lose money whilst private schools gain, and that means that the kinds of abuses that made us follow the law change and peruse the matter as far as Human Rights, are all being funded by you, the tax payer.

    Whilst anticipating a response of ‘oh well, who gives a damn’ because it’s private schools, let’s remember that several MPs, including Catherine Delahunty, Trevor Mallard and Kelvin Davies spoke in the summing up before the Bill was passed in December 2010, all in agreement that the lack of welfare protection for children at private schools is an issue of import.

    What a shame the Government’s mean-handedness and stupidity is now leading to a situation in which those welfare issues concerning children, eclipsed by financial concerns, will probably take a back seat for another 100 years resulting in a total lack of accountability = damage.

    That is the High Trust Model that is NZ private education.

  3. “Sprout – I see more hatred on your blog towards Longstaff, not because how you rate her ability, but because of her nationality.”

    Oh, LORDY! The irony! Oh, photonz1, I just wish I could tell you! I can’t and I certainly hope sprout doesn’t either. I hope he lets it lie there. Unwittingly, you’ve made the stupidest statement I’ve read in many a long time.

  4. Sprout – I see more hatred on your blog towards Longstaff, not because how you rate her ability, but because of her nationality.

    Do you teach your kids such hate particular people because of their nationality as well?

    Does the teachers union support your dislike of people in education because they are English?

  5. Thank you, Robert, I’m prepared to admit that I was in error and I will make every effort not to make the same mistake again.

    I do have problems with those who are blatantly wrong but will never admit to being so. Such people are dangerous when in positions of power and are doomed to repeating the same mistakes over and over….

  6. What ‘do’, sprout. Or ‘what does Photonz1 have in common with Chicken Little?’
    Photonz1 will ping you for that. But I’ll take the credit.
    Is it ‘they both have tiny, thin legs’?
    ‘Neither of them grasps the concept of democracy’?
    ‘One is as scatty as the other’?
    I dunno – what?

  7. sprout says “The latest OECD report on education still ranks New Zealand near the top …”

    Not hard to look good in statistics when you have the worst school drop out rate in the first world (second worst if you count Turkey).

    We have a massive drop out rate – not far from DOUBLE the OECD average.

    Add the drop-outs back into the system like most other countries, and you’d find we are deluding ourselves about our “top” results.

  8. Yeah… well I don’t see that particular bit of testing happening. Near’s I can tell if I want it for my Daughter I have to find one and administer it myself.

  9. bj says “The kids do NOT get any information about themselves to help THEM decide what to work at… and that’s a problem.”

    Exactly. And info about job prospects. When high school students are making the huge decision of what degree they will do, few are given information on what their chance of a job is when they come out after years of study and a huge loan.

    Some are virtually guaranteed a job but thousands of students are virtually guaranteed to be unemployed.

    That info would be useful BEFORE they waste years of their life and tens of thousands of dollars.

  10. SPC says “:The idea of the country with the highest number of its population working abroad trying to match university places with labour demand in the domestic economy is ridiculous.”

    Your singlemindedness to fail even more than were are now by spending millions of dollars and years and years of study on irrelevant qualifications is very telling.

  11. The thing I do not see, anywhere in the system, is a testing of aptitudes. That was, when I was young, done in my 7th year of schooling.

    It was not a small test, took hours to complete, a psychometric that compared your responses to those of people who were successful in different fields, and no “right” answers. It gave answers to what you’d be likely to be good at, and to enjoy, and among those answers were clues as to what you should do to earn your daily crust most effectively FOR YOU.

    Which allowed all of us to prepare ourselves as best we could through our High School ( here it is often called a a college) years.

    That was something like 50 years ago in another place. The kids do NOT get any information about themselves to help THEM decide what to work at… and that’s a problem.

  12. The idea of the country with the highest number of its population working abroad trying to match university places with labour demand in the domestic economy is ridiculous.

    Besides some employers pick arts graduates over business graduates because of their ability to think and many lawyers and accountants etc do not work in those professions (here or overseas).

  13. Lets not forget that National cut funding for night classes during their first term.

    So they hack and cut public education while giving more money to private schools.

    Tax cuts for the rich …… standard of living cuts for everyone else.

    National to the core ………..

  14. We need to use differential funding, entrance tests and capped numbers to stop students wasting years of their time and tens of thousands of dollars of their money and taxpayers money doing courses that will never get them a job.

    Careful photonz1. We’re getting into “government picking winners” territory here! 😉

    In all seriousness though, I agree with some of your sentiments on this issue.

    We have managed to develop an unfortunate system whereby a tertiary qualification supported by at least 3 years of ‘study’, is a mandatory entry criteria for even the most straightforward of vocations.

    It’s an enormous rort where in effect, while all boats sink on the receding tide as the value of a degree becomes debased, an entire generation is being levied an additional 10% tax to pay for thousands of dollars of unnecessary educational over-investment.

    The ‘degree factory’ system of undergrad qualification in NZ is flawed and based on spurious assumption that a poorly managed, commodities based economy will magically be transformed by virtue of thousands of highly qualified (though not necessarily well educated) graduates entering the job market, and furthermore, fuels an unrealistic expectation in those graduates that a degree rather than experience and a solid work ethic entitles you to a well paid job.

  15. sprout says “Smile and wave John Keys ….. while your screwing Nz.”

    Thanks for the wee English lesson Photonz1, but I wasn’t the author of that last line, which you would have realized if you had actually read the link. It was written by nznative and he was careful to put quotation marks around what he credited to me so there would be no confusion (my little lesson for you Photonz1 😉 ).

    While nznative may have needed a little more proofreading, I totally support his sentiment.

  16. SPC says “There is no country in the world doing what you suggest.”

    What utter nonsense.

    All over the world different courses are funded at different rates in the same country, including here. Do you think the taxpayer in NZ puts the same amount of funds into a 6 Otago medical degree as a course at the Auckkland school of floristry? Many courses have capped numbers, others are capped by entrance tests etc.

    People are free to study what they want but if we need more radiographers and engineers, we fund a higher percentage of those courses, and in courses where 99% won’t get work, they can still do them if they fund themselves.

    We need to use differential funding, entrance tests and capped numbers to stop students wasting years of their time and tens of thousands of dollars of their money and taxpayers money doing courses that will never get them a job.

  17. There is no country in the world doing what you suggest. Why?

    Control over what people can study is a limitation on their civil liberties, no less than on where they can work when they graduate.

    People are not just functions of the labour market to be exploited for profit.

  18. SPC says “not even the arch state control collectivist would consider something so impractical.”

    Yeah right – it’s so practical to spend millions of taxpayer dollars and thousands of study-years training people in degrees where there is no work.

    SPC says “It also confuses education with vocational training for employment.”

    Yeah right again – a photography certificate, years of study and a huge student loan are so essential for a sharemilker or a nurse.

    And now you’ll probably complain about money being wasted and not spent on the right things – what a joke.

  19. bsprout’s teachers, those responsible for his language skills, will have taught during those ‘golden years’ of teaching you yearn for, photonz1. Students would have been crammed, Parata-like, into classrooms, spelling would have been learned by rote and failure punished with a crack on the knuckles with a wooden ruler (I hear you sigh wistfully, photonz1), the cane or the ‘waddy’ would have sorted out any frustrations the teacher might have had. Oh for those days, photonz1. Oh for those days, eh, what!! But wait, those happy days are here again, under Jonny Key and his granite-faced harridans, Bennett, Colins, Tolley and Parata! How, photonz1, can you sleep! The thrill of it all! I fear it’ll be too much for you!

  20. sprout never said …” “Smile and wave John Keys ….. while your screwing Nz. I did 🙂 .

    But here’s a good post on the topic from norightturn. showing how the Nats cut public education while looking after the rich.

    ” A case in point is Wanganui Collegiate, which is getting $1.5 million a year for the next two years to subsidize its fees – half a million more than neighbouring (but lower decile) Wanganui City College, despite having a hundred fewer students.”

    “, its one education system for the rich, and another for the rest of us. And guess which one Ministers send their kids to?”

  21. The problem is not just the cutting of technical teacher numbers, it is the cutting of all teacher positions.

    As for the idea of trying to regulate positions at universitites to the labour market – not even the arch state control collectivist would consider something so impractical. It would require a ban on emigration for one and a fixed state economy on the other with a unchanging labour demand.

    It also confuses education with vocational training for employment.

  22. “the education system is in trouble”
    I no! If we got rid of all the teaches except the best 2, our kidz wood have the best, and the 2nd best. The South Island can have the 2nd best.

  23. sprout says “Smile and wave John Keys ….. while your screwing Nz.”

    When someone who teaches our children..

    1/ doesn’t even know the difference between “your” and “you’re” , and

    2/ doesn’t even know the name of the leader of their own country

    you know the education system is in trouble.

  24. “There is currently an insane waste of money and years and years of students time where we have thousands of people doing courses that won’t get them jobs.”

    University is about learning to learn and to think, not just about getting jobs. It is about using your brain in many different ways, including understanding other languages and cultures, literature, arts and philosophy and many other challenging things. It is about research into the myriad ways that people behave, into science and maths. All of these will equip students with the means for productive work in many sectors.

    I think you are confusing university with trade training, which is about getting jobs.

  25. nznative quotes sprout “Employed a Ministry of Education CEO from a country ranked behind New Zealand in educational achievement.”

    Using such screwed up logic, the Green Party have a leader from a coutnry that mines and drills more than us.

    So we are now supposed to judge people not on their abilities, but on their nationality?

    That’s screwed up.

  26. See, Photonz1, I disagree with almost everything you said but you still make more sense than our Minister and head of the Ministry!

  27. Sprout says “Such is the state of education in New Zealand that if we replaced Lesley Longstone with Photonz1 we may even achieve better outcomes”

    It would be easy to save hundreds of millions of dollars in the education budget simply by aligning the university courses people do with the qualifications that are needed.

    There is currently an insane waste of money and years and years of students time where we have thousands of people doing courses that won’t get them jobs.

    Meanwhile there’s a serious issue of the govt cutting technical teachers, and Catherine has gone off on some irrelevant tangent with a red herring about the 5% of students who go to private schools getting funded at a rate that is 75% less than the average student, with a total spend of less than 1% of education funding.

    All that does is highlight what good value taxpayers get from kids going to private schools (less than 1% of funding for around 5% of students)and how much everyone will lose if they go back in the state system

  28. ….. The content of sprouts link deserves to be posted in this thread, so here it is ,

    …..’ The National Government is so determined to lift the “quality” of teaching in our public schools that they have:

    “Sent their own children to private schools that received $35 million in extra funding.

    Gave the rich over $2 billion in tax cuts while allowing a huge increase in child poverty.

    Cut $25 million from the Ministry of Education budget.

    Sacked advisors for science and technology

    Spent $60 million on implementing the flawed National Standards, without a trial and against advice.

    Employed a Ministry of Education CEO from a country ranked behind New Zealand in educational achievement.

    Closed our residential schools for children with behavioural needs.

    Refused to pay school support staff a living wage.

    Refused to increase school operations grants to reflect the true costs of running a school.

    Bullied and berated teachers so that moral is low and many of our best teachers are considering leaving the profession.

    Planned to increase class sizes to 1:27 when the OECD average is 1:21.

    Dropped the qualified early childhood teachers target from 100% to 80%

    Under a National Government we have seen our OECD ranking for water quality (the Yale report) drop from 2nd to 43rd and New Zealand was in the top 5 for education when National took office but we have already seen a drop in science achievement.”…………

    Smile and wave John Keys ….. while your screwing Nz.

  29. Such is the state of education in New Zealand that if we replaced Lesley Longstone with Photonz1 we may even achieve better outcomes…

  30. If you had taught on a school recently you would know that “attitude adjustment” and “cowed, regimented” kids are far from the norm. Though sometimes that would make teachers lives easier.

    We leave that to private schools.

  31. I’m with Gerrit here.

    Going back to school/University at 50 was even more of a buzz. All that stuff to learn and so little time to do it.

    We, had, a new curriculum which was designed to individualise learning and make it ,more interesting challenging and relevant. Emphasizing thinking, research and lifetime learning.

    Unfortunately National wants to bring us forward to the 50’s, when most left school at 14, with rigid summative testing and classes of 45.

    My only quarrel with it is the emphasis on academic learning to the detriment of practical skills and, still, keeping all the, unnecessary, and educationally dysfunctional, summative tests.

  32. Gerrit:

    I am not against learning – just the institutionalisation of child development.

    I don’t know BJ – I know what kids are like (generally) in school.

    ps: “attitude adjustment” is people who don’t know neither possess their own minds. Save is for “brave new world”.

  33. Andrew,

    Your assertion is a romantic but totally unrealistic memory of your past.

    You seem to know BJ very well indeed to know his intimate memories of school being unrealistic.

    If those memories are real to BJ they are totally realistic.

    It is your attitude towards the learning process that did not fit the mould the schooling system tried to teach you. It fitted BJs’ by the sound of it very well.

    Maybe it is not too late for you to start your own “learning process” attitude adjustment.

    I too loved schooling AND every opportunity to learn more throughout my life.

    Now on my fourth paying career and still learning more and more (vacuum bagging composite components is my latest learning curve) even at the tender age of 3 score years plus.

    It is the “learning process” that need to be taught at schools.

    Maybe you could ask yourself what that entails for you?

  34. bjchip:

    I remember school very well. I remember being 5 years old and wanting to express to this group of boys I was with, while doing some typically horrible work, and say “isn’t this horrible”. I could see on their faces and their manner that there was no natural pleasure or interest – at all. But I notice they had a deep acceptance that they had to do their work, and I knew I could not express what I felt to them because they just ‘weren’t there’ – they were like broken-in prisoners who had totally accepted their sentence. They were fundamentally depressed. So was the teacher (a deeply repressed woman). I knew that these kids were already scewed over by their parents because I could see it. I even remember saying to myself…”my god – you’ve actually got one [a schoolteacher] for a mother!”.

    I remember school so well from beginning to end. Yeah right those kids “loved it”. GET REAL. Your assertion is a romantic but totally unrealistic memory of your past. Some kids do like school but they are usually only the “dotty” ones.

  35. No Andrew, all students disengage from SOME subject, but most I;ve known including myself, loved learning.

    School did NOTHING to that.

    I’d love to go back too.

    Your experience, whatever it was, is not universal. Not sure it is even common.

  36. All students disengage from learning. That’s what schools are all about. The bullshit they do at school is not learning – it’s crude memory training (mostly) and institutionalisation. Every kid at school learns to prostitute their mind out to “corptopia”.

    You wanna know what they real “strain” of schooling is? Not the work – that’s easy if not pathetic. It’s forcing your brain to go somewhere it doesn’t want to go. It’s the INHIBITION of development that is so hard for a child to tolerate.

  37. Lets be clear, the Nats are making cuts to state education.

    The kids of the rich wont feel any cuts to their education. The only cuts National gives the rich is tax cuts …..

    Business as usual from the nats ……….

  38. greenfly says “Just look at the latest polls – tumbling a-tumbling a’tumbling down…”

    All the way down to what they got on election night.

    The cuts to technology teachers is really dumb. But unfortunately it’s going to take more than a drop to what they got in the election to make them change their minds.

  39. Kerry says “If their kids went to State schools, ….”

    If their kids went to state schools, we would have to increase funding by 400% (FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT) for every child that changes over.

    As there is no more emoney, your solution means LESS funding for everyone else, and BIGGER class sizes.

    Which is really stupid because that’s exactly what’s being complained about

  40. No Photo.

    We get less for schools because the ones that send their kids to private schools keep supporting Governments who cut funding to State schools.

    If their kids went to State schools, and they paid their fair share of taxes to pay for it, we would have better and cheaper schooling overall.

    Private schools are more expensive to run, and on the whole, do not deliver better education, considering the hand picked clientele.
    National is trying to change that as soon as possible, of course. Dumbing down State schools to ensure everyone else’s children are unable to compete with theirs.
    Those who can escape to the top tier of a two tier system no longer care about public education.

  41. We’re just seeing the results of what John Keys and the National party believe …….. The rich deserve more and so they shall have it.

    Its no accident that the rich are much better off and everyone else has gone backwards under Keys and the Nats.

  42. We get FOUR TIMES more education for the same dollar by encouraging private education, and that means MORE money – not less – left for state schools.

    Does this encourage many more parents to put their children into private schools, or had the majority of parents who could afford it done so already?

  43. Couldn’t agree more. Double standards! I would love to send my kids to private school, but I can’t afford the fees without sacrificing food on the table. So my kids have to go to public school. They go to a great school, but how long will it be great if there are cuts?

    No I don’t buy luxury coffee (make it at home), have Sky or drink or smoke, we have takeaways once a month and a shop at Pak ‘n’ Save, we rent a house in South Auckland. I work, my husband works and we run a side business. I think it’s fair to say we have made as many cuts as we can and if we did pay for private school fees I don’t know what we could cut anything out. (Just a preemptive strike for those who will say that if only we would cut back on luxuries we could afford private school).

  44. No photo, we don’t get more educational value from private schools as raising snobs contradicts the values and principles of the New Zealand Curriculum.

  45. Key & Parata are taking their queues from the last Howard Govt. in Aust. (when I was over there).. user pays & promoting privatisation of all govt. agencies.. including schools, which got higher funding per student than the public ones (despite Howard constantly denying it !)

    Wake up Aotearoa.. the Key-party is intent on the same strategy here !!

    Privatise, sell off & user pays for everything & probably bigger tax cuts for the top 50% so they can ALL afford it & keep voting Nat.
    The rest of us are just staring down the barrel… LOOK OUT


  46. Spot on, Catherine. The public recognise this discrepancy and will punish National. Just look at the latest polls – tumbling a-tumbling a’tumbling down…

  47. Well, if the government did not subsidise the private schools at all, then there would be no need to cut back money for state schools – not a problem then.

  48. So in your world the taxpayer is better to fork out $6000 per child for state schooling, rather than 75% saving the taxpayer gets if parents put their kids into a private school.

    We get FOUR TIMES more education for the same dollar by encouraging private education, and that means MORE money – not less – left for state schools.

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