New vetting charges to hurt schoolsSave
By Stephanie Arthur-Worsop
Educators say a new charge for police vetting staff and volunteers will see schools breaking the law, more cuts to outdoor activities and roll-on charges for parents.
Ministry of Education says the charge - almost $10 per person - will be applied later this year, with confirmation of timing to come after July 1.
A law change last year cleared the way for police to recover costs for certain "demand" services, including the 500,000 security vetting applications received each year.
The Government says the fee is much lower than overseas, which is more than $50 in Australia.
There will be exemptions for organisations - including schools - making 20 or fewer vetting request per year. Charitable trusts will not be charged.
St Michael's Catholic Primary School principal Shelley Fitness said the new charge felt like schools were being penalised.
"Charities are exempt and we're not, that's not fair - how are we any different, we are a non-profit making organisation who do it for the good of our children - it feels like we are being penalised for looking after them.
"We're being backed into a corner where we have to pay but still want to be able to provide our children with outdoor activities."
Mokoia Intermediate School principal Deb Epp said imposing the charges was a real shame and in her view "short-sighted for the wellbeing of our children".
"We are very diligent about the safety of our students but $10 per person adds up to a substantial amount. Already we have police-vetted more than 100 parents this year. It's frustrating being told we will now have to pay - it really is a retrograde step.
"Our board will discuss what it means but we will either have to take money out of curriculum delivery, limit support staff or pass the charges on to the family.
"My fear is that we will start to see more schools saying they just won't offer outdoor activities anymore."
Westbrook School principal Colin Watkins said he believed the charge and processing time would lead to more schools inadvertently breaking the law.
"For excursions like camp it's okay because we know about it months in advance, the vetting process can take up to eight weeks to get back to us. It's excursions like walking in the Redwoods or going down to the lakefront where we don't have eight weeks to wait for the vetting forms to be returned to us," he said.
"We vet around 50 parents a year so it's going to cost us at least $400 a year which is $400 not budgeted for.
"We are very careful about putting costs back on to parents so we are just going to have to find the money somewhere else, whether that's fundraising or relocating money that was going towards the children."
Rotorua Principals' Association president and Rotokawa School principal Briar Stewart said the impact would be significant.
"Our highest priority is the safety of our children but this new cost is something we're going to have to be really conscious of.
"I think we're going to see more learning outside the classroom opportunities close down as educators weigh up the implications."
But not all principals believed the new charges would pose problems for schools.
Malfroy School principal Nicky Brell said he knew the charges were coming and budgeted for them.
"We would go over the cap every year. It's a service we haven't had to pay for but now that we do we just have to deal with it."
Rotorua Boys' High School principal Chris Grinter said the charges would have no impact on his school.
New vetting charges:
- Schools and early childhood centres charged nearly $10 for every person they're required to vet.
- Schools and centres which need less than 20 people vetted will be exempt.
- Charitable trusts will be exempt from any charges
- The charges will be applied later this year
- Charges can be waived for organisations facing "extreme hardship"