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All our region’s students should be back at school this week, hopefully refreshed after the summer holidays. While for many parents and pupils it will be a case of re-establishing existing routines, for those starting at a new school, it can often be a bigger process of adjustment.

In the broader context, our entire school system looks set for a major overhaul following the release late last year of a report by an independent taskforce into New Zealand’s education system. This report recommended radical changes to the way our schools are run including removing most of the powers currently held by school boards of trustees. Under the proposed reforms, the Ministry of Education’s 10 regional offices would be replaced with 20 education hubs, each responsible for around 125 schools. Each of these hubs would take over responsibility for schools’ property, funding and student achievement and the hiring of school principals, as well as coordinating pools of relief teachers and teacher aides for the schools in the hub area.

I know from my own experience as a Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the local primary school my children were attending at the time that these boards do have a lot of responsibilities and challenges to navigate. However, being a board member is also a very rewarding opportunity for those that choose to take it on. Being a board member enables parents to give back to their communities in a meaningful way and to develop a broader understanding of the context of their children’s education.

While some school boards do struggle with managing their responsibilities currently, many are working extremely well. It is therefore important that parents understand the impact of these changes would which remove a lot of decision-making abilities from school communities.

It is proposed under the new system that schools would get less funding for students from outside their enrolment zone and the number of out-of-zone students would be capped at each school. A significant change for integrated schools would be that they would no longer be allowed to select out-of-zone or non-preference students and would instead have to hold a ballot in the same manner as state schools. This change may have affect some families living in Selwyn wanting to send their children to integrated schools in Christchurch.

The report also recommends a major redistribution of resources so that priority is first given to meeting the needs of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. This follows on from work that the previous National Government had initiated to replace the current decile system with funding targeted towards students with specific risk factors.

Public consultation on the recommendations of the Tomorrow's Schools Review taskforce is open until April 7th this year. You can read the full report at https://conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/tomorrows-schools-review/. I will also be hosting a public information evening on the proposals in Rolleston during March for those who would like to find out more or share their views on how the proposed reforms may affect schooling here in our region.

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