Sunday, 19 July 2009

Education for all: Stop night class cuts

Schools and their communities are rallying to defend community education classes from Government funding cuts. In a clear sign of who they expect to pay the price of the recession, National has cut funding to night classes, by $13 million, while giving private schools a $30 million handout. As one post on the Stop Night Class Cuts Facebook page put it, it’s like “a reverse Robin Hood philosophy i.e. take from the poor to give to the rich!” It’s not as if National MPs are unaware of the value of these classes. An entry on the PPTA blog The Pigeonhole reveals that Finance minister Bill English “now brutally taking an axe to the night classes that, four years ago, he claimed gave a life-line to his own mother.” The post goes on to describe how in 2006 English criticised the then Labour government, claiming they were “destroying” night classes with “ridiculous bureaucracy”:
School night classes have been a cornerstone of community education for decades, providing opportunities for learning and companionship for thousands of people. The system has been cheap and flexible. The demise of night classes is bad for schools, for communities and for thousands of people who use them to learn something new.
The cuts have provoked a massive outcry from schools, community education groups and many of the hundreds of thousands of people who have enjoyed and benefited from night classes over the years. CLASS (Community Learning Association through Schools) have produced 125,000 postcards to be sent to National MPs and set up a campaign website. Many schools have included details of the cuts and the campaigns in the newsletters listing courses for the upcoming terms three and four (which may well be the last). The Labour Party has taken up the issue, with some Labour MPs organising public meetings. The Government says it won’t change its mind. In what is becoming a pattern for National ministers, Education Minister Anne Tolley wants us to believe her only concern is for the poor and underprivileged, while those who want to save community education are a misinformed, unreasonable elite, determined to pursue their personal interests at the expense of unskilled youth. I’m faced with demand to fund extra places for young people wanting skills training. Is it reasonable to deny them funding in favour of personal interest and hobby courses? Further reading The June edition of PPTA News gives an summery of the cuts ‘Will the sun go down on evening classes?’ The Herald article ‘Lights out at night school’ is a comprehensive report. Campaign links CLASS (Community Learning Association through Schools) have a campaign website: And a Fadebook group. To view this log in to Facebook and search for “Stop Night Class Cuts”. Stop nightclass cuts public meetings Glenfield, Auckland’s North Shore Stop nightclass cuts. Organised by community education co-ordinator Liz Godfrey. Join learners and tutors to discuss the proposed funding cuts - guest speaker, Darien Fenton MP. If you care about the future of lifelong learning in NZ please come and show your support. Email: Date: Monday, July 20 Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm Location: Kaipatiki Theatre, Glenfield College Ohariu, Wellington & Lower Hutt ‘Don't let a part of your community disappear overnight’ says meeting organizer, Labour MP Charles Chauvel. Email: Date: Thursday, July 30 Time: 6:00pm - 8:00pm Location: Newlands Community Centre, Batchelor Road Papanui, Christchurch Organised by Papanui High principal Denis Pyatt, on behalf of Christchurch schools. Date: Monday July 27 Time: 7:30pm Location: Papanui High School Hall

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