The Ministry of Education has been funded to set up a new agency taking back control of school property from 2500 community-elected boards

When the Blenheim community is presented with designs for Marlborough Girls’ and Boys’ Colleges to be brought together on one site, the $6 million project won’t just be significant for the families there.

It will be one of the last school building projects on which the community takes a lead. And so, it will set the groundwork for the move to a new era in which a restructured and bolstered Ministry of Education begins to take back control of the country’s school buildings, grounds and – ultimately more aspects of the curriculum, teaching and learning.

The Government has budgeted an initial $30.9 million operating expenditure and $1 million capital to enable Secretary of Education Iona Holsted to launch the new education service agency this year, overseeing all state schools and early learning centres.

It is a signal that, as in health and local government, the Government believes the 30-year experiment in devolution to elected community governance bodies is all but over.

“It hasn’t delivered,” he told Newsroom. “To say it has failed puts it into a context that’s a bit unfair on the people who work in that system.

“It has not delivered the outcomes that New Zealanders would have wanted, or New Zealanders would have hoped for.”

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Education Minister Chris Hipkins had earlier said there was a postcode lottery across schools and district health boards, and Robertson echoed that today.

“What the health system review is about, for example, is ensuring that wherever you live in New Zealand you can access good quality services, and that services are delivered that are appropriate to the community receiving them.

“We’ve done as good as we could with the model that we had, but we can have a much better model.”

Alongside the education service agency will be a curriculum centre to implement planned curriculum changes, beginning this year with the New Zealand history curriculum.

The Government is committing $52m to set it up and $110m operating expenditure over the next four years.

And continuing on from the new buildings for the two Marlborough colleges and the nearby Bohally Intermediate will be $634m capital to bring forward the construction or redevelopment of 25 schools, and to help prevent overcrowding in other schools.

The Budget says these projects are forecast to generate up to $400m worth of work, approximately 8000 employment opportunities, and provide learners with access to quality facilities.

There will be $56m operating spending to keep the Christchurch Schools Rebuild programme on track, and $52.8 million in a a one-off funding package to upgrade and maintain Catholic colleges and other integrated schools.

The spending would allow education officials to “get cracking to begin to reform our system of support for schools and early learning”, said Education Minister Chris Hipkins.

There is little, however, to reassure those concerned about the public sector pay freeze. School and early childhood teachers, who had hoped for more, will be disappointed to see only $170m set aside over four years to continue to move towards pay parity and a little more to improve pay at kōhanga reo.

Newsroom Pro managing editor Jonathan Milne covers business, politics and the economy.

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