Wanganui Collegiate: getting more than state schools

It turns out that Hekia Parata recommended that Wanganui Collegiate be closed down. It was a failing private school, unable to attract enough pupils to make ends meet. But Ms Parata was overruled by Cabinet, and Collegiate was able to become an integrated school. That means that the state will fund its on-going operations costs and teachers’ salaries, and the school will charge fees to cover its buildings and so on. It has to have a special character, and it will only be able to accept a limited number of students who don’t fit that special character.

What it means is that over the next few years, even though there are plenty of places available in state schools in Wanganui, this school which charges $10,900 per year per student, excluding boarding fees, will get an extra $7,750 per student from government. That’s the amount of funding to be provided by government – $3.1m – divided by the number of pupils on the roll – 400. The school roll is officially capped at 430, but their own advertising suggests that the roll at present is about 400. I’ve taken a screen grab of that advertisement, for the sake of posterity.

How many students are there at Wanganui Collegiate?

How many students are there at Wanganui Collegiate?

So what does government provide by way of operational and salary funding for other students?

It’s a little hard to track down funding per student for students in the state system. I can’t find a breakdown per decile anywhere. However, the Education Counts website run by the Ministry of Education provides a spreadsheet with per student funding for operational and salaries costs.

Here’s a screen grab of that spreadsheet, slightly edited to get the relevant columns into the shot. It shows that in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, the government funded state and other integrated secondary schools to the tune of $7,151 per student.

Funding per student

Funding per student

That means that Wanganui Collegiate is collecting $599 more per student from the government, or something in the order of $240,000.

Those figures are a couple of years old now, and the operational and salaries grants will have gone up since then. However, bear in mind that the figures in that spreadsheet are an average across all deciles. Decile 1 schools get higher government funding than decile 10 schools. According to Wanganui Collegiate’s latest report from the Education Review Office, it is a decile 10 school. That means that the figure of $7,141 per student will be overstated (in comparison to decile 10 schools). The two errors almost certainly balance out.

Hekia Parata made a good call with respect to Wanganui Collegiate. There are plenty of places available in other schools in the region, so it’s not as if Wanganui Collegiate was satisfying an unmet demand for education.

So why did Cabinet overrule her? Shoring up the local man, perhaps? Or satisfying their own customer base?

And while we’re thinking about stinky things, take another look at the breakdown of the fees that Wanganui Collegiate charges.

Lunch money at Wanganui Collegiate

Lunch money at Wanganui Collegiate

Integrated schools are not supposed to increase their fees above the level needed to manage their property, but with some sneaky add-ons, Collegiate manages to charge a whole lot more than that. As well as the base fees of $2,760, they ask for a “donation” of $2,940, and $5,200 for meals, house activities and supervision. I thought that schools were supposed to supervise their students no matter what, so I don’t understand the fee for supervision. I certainly don’t pay extra for my daughters to be supervised at their schools. Nor do we have to pay extra for house activities: they’re just part of the deal. So that makes it $26 per day for lunch ($5,200 divided by 200 days in the school year). Those must be some very fancy school lunches.

It points to a loophole in the system that some integrated schools appear to be exploiting. Perhaps the National party could spend a little time investigating this.

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One Response to Wanganui Collegiate: getting more than state schools

  1. Malcolm says:

    We often hear the argument that philanthropic activities and charities can replace the government support. This seems like an excellent test case. It is hard to imagine a better philanthropic base than the old boys of Wanganui Collegiate – yet they could not raise an endowment sufficient to avoid a government bailout.

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