If you have school-aged children you may find you are no longer pressured to pay a ‘donation’, and will see an increased focus in schools on health interventions focusing especially on child obesity and mental health

The Government has set aside $265.6 million across four years to provide extra funding for decile 1-7 schools that opt to no longer ask parents for donations. The schools will receive $150 a year per student from the Government instead.

About 63 percent of New Zealand’s school students attend schools that fall in that decile range, and the funding begins from the start of the 2020 school year.

The Ministry of Education will be monitoring schools that opt in to make sure they aren’t double-dipping by still approaching parents for money. Legislation will be introduced so that schools that do so can be forced to return the funding.

The announcement follows a pre-Budget announcement that NCEA exam fees will be dropped.

Meanwhile, schools are increasingly being used by the Government to deliver initiatives to improve children’s health, with new funding for programmes to fight child obesity and to intervene when children are suffering mental health issues.

New Zealand has one of the worst rates of child obesity in the OECD, with 12 percent of children aged 2-14 years classed as obese.

A $47.6 million programme will promote healthier eating and more physical activity amongst schoolchildren.

The joint Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Sport New Zealand initiative will see all schools and early learning centres receive new resources and guidance, and will fund health promotion staff, and school physical activity advisors.

As part of the Budget’s focus on mental health services, the nurses in schools programme will be expanded at a cost of $19.6m over four years. The programme will be extended to a further 5600 secondary school students by commencing the roll-out to decile 5 secondary schools and enhancing existing services in decile 1-4 schools.

This takes the number of secondary school students with access to school-based health services to around 83,600.

Many of the issues raised with nurses in schools relate to mental wellbeing, and the Government says it wants to “provide our young people with support and early intervention as they learn to cope with the pressures that come with becoming a young adult”.

In addition, primary and intermediate teachers will also be provided with new resources to build the “mental resilience” of their students, at a cost of $2.2m over four years.

Under a new ‘Creatives in Schools’ programme, professional artists and other “creatives” will partner with schools to share their specialist artistic knowledge and creative practice with students, with $7.2m funding over four years provided by the Government.

You may see new classrooms and improved facilities at your child’s school, with the Government trumpeting “the latest ever investment in school property by a New Zealand government”.

As part of a shift to multi-year capital allowances, $1.2 billion has been allocated for a 10-year School Property Programme. The first wave of new school and classroom building is being funded in Budget 2019 to a tune of $286.8m, and the Government is making the promise of a further $913.3m “to allow the Ministry of Education, as well as schools and communities, to better plan for growth over the next 10 years”.

To staff those new classrooms, extra funding (announced before Budget day) has been set aside to address the teacher shortage.

But with teachers angry and disappointed that their hopes for a significant pay increase under a Labour-led Government have been dashed, and continuing high-profile industrial action planned by the teacher unions, the question remains whether enough quality entrants to the profession can be found.

Budget 2019: Read more

A budget of knotty contradictions

Real Budget delivered under ‘hack’ shadow

Pin the tail on the donkey with gun buyback costs

Devil’s in the detail for big water plan

Rod Oram: Long on rhetoric, short on transformational funding

What the Wellbeing Budget should have said

Mental health gets long-overdue cash injection

Transport spend-up, housing flat

Rail infrastructure gets a boost

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