4 Dec 2009

Private sector to build and maintain schools?

8:30 pm on 4 December 2009

Education Minister Anne Tolley says an investigation into the idea of using the private sector to build and maintain new schools is only at a very early stage.

Earlier on Friday, Mrs Tolley issued a media release saying that Treasury and the Ministry of Education are investigating whether public/private partnerships (PPPs) should be used for building and maintaining new schools.

Under a PPP agreement, a private-sector partner would build a new school and be responsible for maintaining the buildings for the term of its contract.

The media release says that in times of economic constraint it's important the Government looks at the range of options available for school property.

It says PPPs have been successful overseas but would only be acceptable if they gave better value for money and freed up schools to focus more on teaching.

A school's operation would still be the responsibility of its board of trustees, the media release says, and the land would still be owned by the Government.

Teachers' union warns of higher cost

Mrs Tolley conceded to Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint, however, that the experience overseas with the model has been mixed.

The head of the primary school teachers' union has warned that involving the private sector in school property could be more costly than the status quo.

NZEI president Frances Nelson says private businesses inevitably - and quite rightly - have their eye on their shareholders, and that could be a problem for the schooling sector.