Schools are trying to find additional teachers and tutors so they can spend their share of $20 million on remedial learning.
Principals told RNZ that some teenagers needed more help to get NCEA qualifications and were running out of time.
The Department for Education has recommended that schools use the money announced by the government last week to give pupils at least three one-hour catch-up sessions every week for 10 weeks in small groups.
However, some principals have rejected a special tutoring program offered to some schools with large numbers of Pacific students.
They said the program required 80% attendance, which was not a reasonable expectation for students already struggling with low attendance.
Kiri Turketo, principal of Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate, said she was delighted to get the funding, but it came a bit late in the year.
“It’s probably a bit too late in the sense that we’re now in week nine, so we’ve got about five weeks until the NCEA exams start. I would have appreciated the money probably earlier in the year so that we can plan for how we spend that money wisely,” she said.
She hoped to use the money for the homework clubs and NCEA workshops that her school normally runs, but she worried that some of the services the school might want to use were already full.
“Some of that money will be used to…bring in outside contractors to run the workshops for the overtired teachers, because let’s face it, we’re burnt out. But when you have a lot of schools all vying for the same needs, it’s is supply and demand.”
Porirua College principal Ragne Maxwell said absences and Covid-19 isolation had undermined the will of many students and the extra money was welcome.
“It’s not really about studying for the exams they already do with their teachers where they have exams or bringing in new credits; it’s largely about finishing the work they have in a situation where attendance is so low and students are so demoralized.
“For our Year 13 students, this is their third year of Covid as they try to get credit,” she said.
Maxwell said the school would use the money to bolster programs it had offered in the past, such as a credit catch-up program during exam time in November.
“We could put more teachers in the room who are known to the students and people who are substitute teachers for us … who might otherwise not work for us who know the students, know the school, know the assessments and can come in and deliver that bespoke, personalized service that is so important to our students.”
Major need for help for a quarter of final year students
Principal of James Cook Secondary School Grant McMillan said he was monitoring each pupil’s progress and around a third were on track with another third needing little support .
However, around a quarter of the school’s senior students were unlikely to graduate from NCEA this year without much more help.
“They could by March, April next year, but of course if we can do it this year, great and for our level three students, some of whom are going into higher education, they will need these qualifications sorted by the end of February next year either way it could be crucial for these students,” he said.
McMillan said the school will try to provide the appropriate help for each student.
“For some it will be extra teaching or extra tutoring. For some it will be more time when they would be on exam leave normally taught at school and those teachers are also being released so they can teach them directly into small groups or some of them could be an outside supplier,” he said.
Both Maxwell and McMillan said the department had offered their schools a tutoring program specifically designed for Pacific students, but they would not follow it.
They said there were too many conditions, such as the requirement that students attend 80% of sessions.
Albany Senior High School principal Claire Amos said the funding would be of limited use as schools would struggle to find additional teachers and tutors.
“I don’t know where these tutors will come from,” she said.
Amos said finding staff and making sure they could do the job was a big ask for schools that were already stretched by a range of demands.
“It’s too little, it’s too late, it feels ad hoc, it feels like a band aid and I don’t see how we’re going to use the money and the resources to do anything effective. “