Curriculums hit hard by cuts

CHILDREN and teenagers are often heard complaining that school is boring.

This year, they could probably be forgiven for saying it.

Tasmanian Principals Association president David Raw said students can expect to notice ``less colour''.

``The impacts for government schools are the removal of some of those programs that provide a bit of colour, a bit of difference, a bit of variation,'' Mr Raw said.

In the second half of last year schools were handed their smaller bucket of money: an estimated 10-14 per cent lighter on average compared to last year, according to the Australian Education Union.

Education Minister Nick McKim has left it to principals to divvy it up and he had this message for them: ``I urge you, and I'm not being glib about this because I know how hard it is to manage under decreased budgets, to prioritise what you do and engage with your stakeholders in forming your budgets for this, which most of you would have done already.''

Mr Raw said principals would have followed that advice.

``When schools are faced with budget cuts, the immediate response is to go back to their core base, to really clarify what the school is about,'' he said.

That will be different for each school, but Mr Raw named camps, excursions, music and arts classes as likely casualties.

To soften the blow, schools have tried to reduce the frequency, rather than getting rid of entire activities.

Mr Raw expected a strong reaction from the school community when they notice what's missing.

``School communities really value those extra bits and pieces.''

The principals association is one of many education groups, representing teachers, assistant staff, students and parents, which will be monitoring the impact of reduced budgets closely.

``It will vary from school to school, but I'm hearing that the tightening of the budget is around the extras, rather than core curriculum,'' Tasmanian State School Parents and Friends vice-president Jenny Eddington said.

Brooks High School has already axed its farm program and sport, although it has denied the decision was motivated by the need to find savings.

Ms Eddington expected the impact to become more noticeable as the year goes on.

Schools are unlikely to have a camp every year and fewer excursions.

``As opportunities arise throughout the year that's when schools decide to organise something. I imagine they won't be doing that this year because of the cost of hiring a bus,'' Ms Eddington said.

Australian Education Union Tasmanian president Terry Polglase said the full impact of the state government cuts would be masked by extra money from the federal government.

The national partnership funding was meant to enable schools to expand or improve certain programs, but now it will be used to simply keep them going.

The union is planning to lobby the government to restore school budgets as part of its negotiations for a new pay agreement.

Opposition education spokesman Michael Ferguson pointed to a Public Education Alliance survey of principals last year that found teacher aides, literacy and support programs, and music and drama programs as the most likely to suffer.

``This is not the fault of schools who work hard to stretch every dollar for the benefit of their students, this is the Minister's fault - he is the one who has slashed school resources,'' Mr Ferguson said.

However, not everyone agrees budget cuts will leave students worse off.

Australian Council of Educational Research Professor Geoff Masters said the amount of money spent on education did not directly relate to learning outcomes.

``The highest priority has to be on the core subjects, particularly in literacy and numeracy,'' Professor Masters said.

``There's a lot schools can do within their budgets.''

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