7 Dec 2017

Some polytechnics are at risk - briefing warns

5:55 pm on 7 December 2017

Some polytechnics are at risk of tipping over and more needs to be done for children with special needs, government agencies are warning the Education Minister, Chris Hipkins.

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Education Minister, Chris Hipkins. Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

The warnings were included in briefings to the incoming minister published today.

The Education Ministry's briefing said the usual approaches might not be enough to deal with education disparities and the scale of growth in some areas and decline in others.

It cited "great concern" about the proportion of Māori, Pasifika, and poor students and children with special needs who were not fully benefiting from education.

The briefing made almost no mention of the national standards in reading, writing and maths which the government is moving to scrap.

However, it said ongoing data about the performance of individual students from early childhood through to tertiary education helped with good decision-making

The Disability Rights Commissioner told the minister too many young disabled people were not in education, training or work.

While the Children's Commissioner said the government should double the $90 million Ongoing Resourcing Scheme for the most disabled children, and stop schools from excluding and expelling students.

And the Tertiary Education Commission's briefing said some polytechnics were at risk because they had no buffer against a downturn in income or increase in costs and some were susceptible to external shocks.

"Many ITPs [Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics] - especially outside the big metropolitan centres - have no buffer against a downturn in revenue or increase in costs, and little or no money to invest in capital works or operational improvements.

"Over time, unless something changes, these ITPs will experience an event that tips them over the edge, or will gradually become less capable of delivering high-quality and attractive offerings to students," the commission said.

The commission said it wanted parity of outcomes for Māori and Pasifika students within five years but universities' response to ethnic disparities over the past decade had been "weak", while wananga needed to deliver more courses that improved their students' socio-economic well-being.

"Over the next three years, we want to leverage our investment in and partnerships with wānanga to help more learners transition from culture-focused foundation courses to higher levels and fields of study that are likely to deliver good post-study outcomes," the commission's briefing said.

The report said tertiary education was critical to helping New Zealand meet technology-driven economic and employment changes.

"Technological change is destroying old jobs and creating new ones, and driving demand for new skill-sets, including employability skills," it said.

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