New Zealand / Politics

PM Chris Hipkins, Education Minister Jan Tinetti confirm 300 new classrooms, 'up to' four new schools in Budget funding

12:01 pm on 15 May 2023

This year's Budget will include funding for 300 new classrooms and "up to four" new schools, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Education Minister Jan Tinetti have announced.

Hipkins said the funding would mean 6600 more student spaces - 2200 of those taking effect immediately - and at the current rate of building the 100,000 extra student spaces estimated in 2017 to be needed would have been halved by the end of 2024.

He said about 60,000 of that 100,000 had already been funded - equating to about 2700 classrooms - and "that then leaves us with another six years to finish the remaining school buildings that we know will be required."

The Budget would add funding for another 300 new classrooms, he said, through a $300m package with $100m going towards addressing short-term pressures and $200m focused on permanent roll growth.

Tinetti announced a further $100m would also be put towards "up to" four new schools, adding to the 16 opened since Labour came into government.

The first two new schools would be in Auckland and Papamoa, with the remaining two yet to be announced. Tinetti said they would be located "in those roll-growth areas, and where the need is for those new schools", as determined through the National Growth Plan.

Hipkins said they would need to secure the land first, because announcing the location would otherwise inflate the price the government paid for it.

The announcement was made at Ridgway School in Wellington where Hipkins, education minister at the time, formally opened new buildings a year ago.

This morning he began by asking the children what they thought of the old buildings - one said they were "old and crusty" - and got a show of hands for those who liked the new classrooms.

"Everyone's got their hands up, including some of the teachers, that's pretty cool," he said.

"We're gonna be building, because of the money that we're putting in, in addition to the money that we've already got, 3000 new classrooms around the country. So that's a lot of new classrooms, this year's Budget funds 300 of those."

Tinetti then stepped away from the microphones to address the children, saying it was fantastic the kids were in "such wonderful buildings, but we want to see every young person in this country learning in warm, dry, beautiful buildings just like this".

Hipkins told reporters schools were overcrowded, with children being had been taught in gyms and libraries, when Labour came into government in 2017.

He said the funding announced today would maintain the momentum of the government's funding of about 4000 student places every three months.

While it was not the ultimate solution to literacy and numeracy, the government needed to do both, he said.

"Teaching and learning will be better if the spaces that teachers and students or young people are in are of higher quality. When they've got buckets on the floor because the roof is leaking, that's a huge distraction from teaching and learning.

"The quality of teaching and the quality of learning is going to be the thing that's going to turn around literacy and numeracy, and the minister can speak at great length around the work that we're doing in that area, but I'm not going to say that we should just ignore the state of our school buildings while we focus on literacy and numeracy."

Tinetti said today's announcement added to the $2.1 billion the government had invested into school property since the 2017 election, plus $400m in the Schools Investment Package and $150m in the National School Redevelopment Programme.

"I have seen some of our ageing, damp and cold classrooms up close, in fact I've taught in them, and it's frankly not good enough. Previous governments may have been okay with that but we're not."

She also signalled further Budget announcements for Kaupapa Māori and Māori medium school infrastructure.

Hipkins said building new classrooms was often associated with other work like redevelopment, which could mean it took a bit longer, and in some cases relocatable classrooms were used in the short term while redesign and rebuild work was being planned.

"We do occasionally have to make use of relocatable classrooms to make sure that we've got the classrooms there when they're needed, for the growth of the population."

He said schools were very involved in the design of the spaces, which helped them meet the style of teaching they want to do.

They routinely did not have air conditioning, but Hipkins said the priority was to avoid having non-teaching spaces like gyms and libraries used as teaching spaces.

Hipkins has signalled a "no-frills Budget" on Thursday focused on "funding the things most important to New Zealanders, like support with the cost of living and cyclone recovery".

  • National Party leader Christopher Luxon announces education policy
  • Watch: Finance Minister Grant Robertson makes pre-Budget speech
  • National, ACT pour scorn on Robertson's $1b-a-year savings
  • University of Otago proposes cutting 'several hundred' jobs
  • 'Over-worked, over-stressed, under-paid': Striking teachers make voices heard