Western Leader 26 June
Council cash saves schools’ green scheme
A council cash injection of $90,000 will keep the Enviroschools programme going in Waitakere city for another two years.
Twenty-six west Auckland schools take part in the nationwide scheme funded by councils and the government.
But the scheme, set up to promote recycling, sustainable living and to teach how to grow food, looked set to falter after the Education Ministry announced plans to slash funding.
The ministry says the programme doesn’t teach core skills like literacy or numeracy.
“Naturally we were concerned that without our support the programme may well fall over,” Waitakere deputy mayor Penny Hulse says.
The council will give the EcoMatters Environment Trust, which delivers the programme, $30,000 in 2009/10 and another $60,000 in 2010/11.
That’s on top of the $30,000 it already pumps into the scheme.
“Obviously we hope the government will see sense and reconsider its decision but we want to ensure the programme’s survival in the west for the next two years at least,” Mrs Hulse says.
Whether it extends beyond that is up to the new Auckland Council to decide, she says.
Education Ministry spokeswoman Mary Chamberlain says the programme is worthy but the ministry has to focus its resources where they will make the most difference.
She says raising achievement, particularly among Maori students, lifting literacy and numeracy levels and reducing the number of young people who leave school without worthwhile qualifications, are priorities.
The ministry would continue to provide support materials for schools that looked at topics such as sustainability.
2 July 2009 Taranaki Daily News
TARANAKI’S environmental watchdog won’t provide funding for a leading educational green scheme because it is fearful of ‘‘double-dipping’’.
Regional council chief executive Basil Chamberlain told a council meeting on Tuesday that it needed to be mindful of giving money to programmes already supported by the district councils.
The Ministry of Education announced last month an early withdrawal from its $4.6 million contract with the nationwide enviroschools programme.
The New Plymouth District Council has provided $15,000 over each of the past three years while councils in South Taranaki and Stratford allocate $7000 and $2500 respectively. The ministry had been giving the local programme $32,500.
The three district councils are not committing themselves to a funding boost for enviroschools, and say the programme will need to apply for extra money and its application will be considered.
Councillor Neil Walker said he would like to see the TRC support the scheme.
‘‘We do have a particular interest in this area.
‘‘It’s a valuable programme – it teaches students about the environment, the kids work in the community and do practical things like growing fruit trees and looking after waste,’’ Mr Walker said.
‘‘We need to make an effort to get the Government to look at this again.’’
Mr Chamberlain argued that education was the role of central government and the TRC needed to be mindful of the Government’s decision to cut the programme.
‘‘If the Government has decided to cut this, for whatever reason, does this mean the council authorities should stand up? ‘‘We’re all aware of double dipping.’’ Council chairman David MacLeod said the council had sent a letter in support of the scheme to central government and was happy to support them in that way.
A quarter of the country’s schools belong to enviroschools. In Taranaki 19 schools take part.
The programme sees students taught environmental sustainability and ecological issues in practical lessons often held outside the classrooms.
Schools say it will be harder to educate students about sustainability issues without the external support.
Meanwhile, national enviroschools representatives met with the ministry last Monday to thrash out details of the transitional funding between now and December. Negotiations were continuing.
Waikato Times 1 July 2009 (Editorial)
By any standards the Enviroschools programme has been a stunning success. Started in the Waikato over a decade ago, it now boasts a quarter of New Zealand schools as part of its network with hundreds more waiting to join. No-one makes them do that – they can see the merit in the scheme and the benefit to pupils. Enviroschools has met none of the resistance and angst associated with introducing the likes of new assessment standards or a new curriculum. Instead it has grown organically – and is now even being exported.
The Enviroschools Foundation, which is based in Hamilton, also makes the point that for every dollar of government funding, it secures another two dollars from regional partners and supporters.
That’s not good enough, according to Education Minister Anne Tolley, who has abruptly pulled next year’s funding, apparently without warning, leaving a shortfall of more than $1 million annually which the foundation must scramble to replace if it is to continue functioning at the same level.
If it can’t, 16 jobs may be lost, seven of them based in Hamilton, but that is not the point. The point is the pupils. The foundation assists schools in providing education that suits students who don’t flourish in a classroom environment, and stretches those who do. The innovative programme is based on the children themselves identifying what they want and going about getting it. That may involve working with budgets, making presentations, writing funding applications and so forth, along with the practical aspect of perhaps digging and maintaining a vege garden if that is what the school has decided it wants. The minister has put the spotlight on standards of numeracy and literacy – she should be able to see just how valuable the Enviroschools programme would be in contributing to that. The scheme will also be setting up students for the future in other ways. As we bemoan the loss of traditional values, it doesn’t get much more traditional than learning how to grow vegetables or plant trees or conserve energy. But these are not just skills of the past, as our future is about to develop a much greener tinge. The eco sector is set to be one of the major growth industries of the next 20 years, and those who are well schooled in it will have a head start.
Enviroschools is likely to be able to find alternative funding sources, since the government only started chipping in 21⁄2 years ago. Going cap in hand to possible
2 funders will be difficult during a recession, though, and there is another problem around the corner. Councils have been happy to continue their funding, but Local Government Minister Rodney Hide’s planned scaling back of council activities may put a squeeze on them and at that stage the programme really does face uncertainty.
To diminish the programme’s effectiveness would be a shame; to lose it altogether would be disastrous.
The Government’s axing of funding is short-sighted and mean spirited. It should reconsider.
Waikato Times 27 June
Enviroschools’ staff are lobbying the Government in an effort to stop their funding being cut and save 16 jobs – seven of them in Hamilton.
Photo: IAIN McGREGOR.
Education Minister Anne Tolley announced this month the Government would no longer contribute $1.6 million a year to the popular Enviroschools programme.
The programme, in which dozens of Waikato schools are involved, sees students taught environmental sustainability and ecological issues in practical lessons often held outside the classrooms.
The concept, developed in the Waikato in the 1990s, has since been extended to schools across New Zealand.
Heidi Mardon, Enviroschools Foundation’s Hamilton-based national director, has been in Wellington this week lobbying the Education Ministry to continue the Enviroschools funding.
Enviroschools directly employs 16 people, seven of them based in Hamilton.
‘‘We’d all be gone if the cut goes through,’’ Ms Mardon said.
They would know next week if their lobbying had been successful.
Ms Mardon said that through local councils, funding at grassroots level remained secure, but the Government’s funding cut would affect facilitator training and development work and presented the programme with a major problem.
‘‘We didn’t see it coming quite as quickly [as this]. We had a contract until mid next year, and we expected that contract to be honoured . . . we did not expect to be cut right now.
‘‘It’s very hard to understand why they’re doing it.’’
The cut in funding has been called shortsighted by Waikato principals, who have hailed the benefits of the scheme.
Most schools have specific Enviroschool teachers and are regularly visited by Enviroschools co-ordinators.
Tirau School principal Leo Spaans was ‘‘fairly much devastated’’ by the ‘‘shortsighted’’ funding cut announcement which, he felt, was not well thought through.
‘‘I was quite disappointed. As part of the new curriculum, we’re looking at giving back to the community, sustainability, environmental issues, etc, and then funding gets cut – it doesn’t make things any easier for the school.’’
He believed the Government’s decision to cut Enviroschools funding was at odds with its
Te Miro School’s flourishing vegetable garden is a product of the newly-pruned Enviroschools programme which has had its funding axed as part of Government cost-cutting because it is not a ‘‘core spending’’ priority. messages about New Zealand’s Te Aroha Primary School prinneed to plan for a more cipal Kevin Johnson was sustainable future. unhappy about the funding cut,
Enviroschools had engaged the and felt it was strange for the entire community. Government to promote sustain
‘‘We’ve done quite a bit in the ability in the curriculum when it two years we’ve been involved in was pulling money from the the project – we’ve got sustainEnviroschools programme which able gardens which provide food helped achieve the sustainability for the foodbanks, we’ve planted goal. ‘‘It has come as a shock. the native gardens throughout There are all kinds of programthe schools with the support of mes which have been axed, and the Enviroschools team, and this is just another cost-saving we’re working to replant bush. measure.’’
‘‘It’s a big initiative. The imMr Johnson said Te Aroha Pripact (of funding cuts) will be mary was a very keen Envirohuge in small rural schools.’’ school, and he pledged to press ahead with the school’s environmental work because it benefited the wider community.
Enviroschools lessons were particularly beneficial for students who struggled with conventional learning, or had special needs, a point also made by Nick Quinn, principal at Hamilton’s St Peter’s Chanel Catholic School.
‘‘It’s absolutely practical learning at its best,’’ Mr Johnson said. ‘‘It’s not a one-off learning thing, we’re teaching kids a way of life.’’
Teachers and students thrived on the Enviroschools learning, Mr Johnson said, praising a ‘‘wonderful’’ Enviroschools coordinator who regularly visited Te Aroha Primary.
Education Minister Anne Tolley did not respond to specific Times questions, but a statement from her office said: ‘‘The decision was taken because in tough economic times, the Government is focusing on its core spending priorities for the education system of raising literacy and numeracy and increasing the numbers of pupils leaving school with educational qualifications. This programme does not contribute directly to these priorities.’’
Prime Minister John Key, who visited the lower Coromandel this week, also defended the decision to cut the Enviroschools funding, saying his administration had redirected the money to literacy and numeracy.
‘‘Obviously, no-one likes cutting programmes,’’ Mr Key said.
He said he believed a lot of what was taught in the Enviroschools programme would be picked up by teachers, and said its website would continue to offer on-line learning.