Bay News column

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Last week I wrote about the significant investment the National-led Government has made in Health - one of the largest expenditures with a record $15.9 billion in the 2015/16 financial year.

Another significant portion of the Budget, and rightly so, is Education. We are increasing spending in 2015/16 by $680 million, taking the total amount for early childhood (ECE), primary, and secondary education to $10.8 billion.

Again, as with Health, we are spending the money where it has been proven to have the greatest benefit and achieve the best outcomes for New Zealanders.

This means $74.9 million more for ECE over the next four years so more children will be able to attend ECE from an earlier age, and for more hours.  The evidence shows there are significant benefits for children and their future learning outcomes from participating in ECE.

For students with special needs, a strong education increases the chance of them becoming more independent and better able to participate in, and contribute to, their community. So we’re investing an extra $62.9 million of operating funding over the next four years to better help children with special education needs to learn and achieve.  

Part of this investment is for extra in-class teacher’s aide support for 1,500 students who have special education needs such as dyslexia, autism spectrum disorder, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but who don’t qualify for Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) support.  ORS will receive more funding to support about 500 extra students, meaning about 9,000 children with the highest special education needs will be supported by the scheme.

We’re also increasing schools’ funding grants.  And, given the success of Trades Academies, about 300 extra places will be added each year for the next four years to help students achieve NCEA Level 2 while gaining industry-specific skills.

In our schools, the proportion of 18-year-olds achieving NCEA Level 2, the minimum level many employers are looking for before hiring, has risen from 68 per cent to an estimated 81 per cent since 2008.  These are great results, but we know we can always do more.

Ensuring every child gets a good education is one of the most important things National can do to raise living standards, and build a more competitive and productive economy.