Home > The Body Politic > If size doesn’t matter…

If size doesn’t matter…

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Well, it seems that we’re about to witness yet another broken promise from this shabby government. It seems that after three years, John Key, Bill English, and their mates were hoping we had forgotten their pledge “that National will not cut spending to education“.

Because now we have this,

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It occurs to me that…

“I can tell you categorically that National will not cut spending to education,” the party’s education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said in a statement today.” – Anne Tolley, 5 August 2008

conflicts with…

Finance Minister Bill English is not ruling out an increase in class sizes, saying all Government departments are tasked with finding ways to save money, and staff costs are one of them.” – Bill English, 3 February 2012

Bill English’s comments that “there is clear evidence that class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” is all rubbish, of course. Common sense will tell us that a teacher can give more attention to each child in a class of 20 – than s/he can in a class of 40. Especially if there are children with disabilities; special needs; or just plain disruptive kids in the room.

Professional studies confirm this common sense approach.

But even if it were true that  “class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” – can that  rule-of-thumb be applied elsewhere?

What about… the government Cabinet?

New Zealand reportedly has one of the biggest Cabinets (ministers, and suchlike) for a country the size of ours,

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New Zealand Cabinet:  28

Population: 4.4 million

Ratio: 1/157,142

British Cabinet: 23 (currently)

Population: 62.2 million

Ratio: 1/2.7 million

Australian Cabinet (Federal only – excluding State Cabinets): 21

Population: 22.8 million

Ratio: 1/1.08 million

Irish Cabinet: 20

Population: 6.2 million

Ration: 1/310,000

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We have more Cabinet minister per head of population than Britain, Australia (Federal Parliament), and Ireland.

And it’s costing us truckloads of cash. Ministers of the Crown don’t come cheap these days,

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How They’re Paid

Prime Minister –  New salary (backdated to July 1): $411,510. Was: $400,500.

Deputy Prime Minister –  New salary: $291,800. Was: $282,500.

Cabinet Minister –  New salary: $257,800. Was: $249,100.

Minister Outside Cabinet –  New salary: $217,200. Was: $209,100.

Speaker and Opposition Leader – New salary: $257,800. Was: $249,100.

Backbenchers – New salary: $141,800. Was: $134,800.

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So, excluding the Prime Minister, 27 cabinet ministers is costing the tax-payer;

Deputy PM: 1 X $291,800 (p/a) = $291,800

Cabinet Ministers: 18 X $257,800  (p/a)  = $4,640,400

Ministers Outside Cabinet: 8 X $217,200 = 1,737,600

Total cost of Cabinet, per annum (ex Prime Minister) = 6,669,800

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Six point six million dollars each year. Throw in one smile & wave Prime Minister at $411,510 p/a, and the wages bill for that talkfest comes to over $7 million a year.

And that figure does not include allowances such as housing, superannuation, etc.

If we followed the Irish ratio, we would have fourteen ministers (including the PM), or, one Minister per 314,285 people (approximately). That would roughly halve the cost of Cabinet minister salaries.

And if a Minister needed assistance, there are another 106 or 108 (depending on over-hangs) MPs in Parliament who could assist with Ministerial duties (but still be paid a Back-bencher’s salary).

So what about it, Mr English?

If “class size does not significantly affect the quality of students’ education” then obviously, we should be able to apply precisely the same rule to Cabinet,

Cabinet size does not significantly affect the quality of  Ministers’ performance.

And we could plow the $3.5 million (approximately)  saved, plus ministerial perks, into training and hiring more teachers to educate our children.

Brilliant!

We can start on Monday.

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  1. 6 February 2012 at 3:49 am

    Bloody brilliant!! How about halving their salaries at the same time? They sit in parliament and act like kids! And if anyone out in the real world acted like that in their jobs, they would be shown the door pretty quick smart!!

    • 6 February 2012 at 9:25 am

      A “performance-based” review and salary-setting?

      Why not, Allyson? They’re advocating it for teachers as well. So, for example, when certain economic and social indicators (unemployment, imprisonment levels, wage gap, surgical waiting lists, etc) go bad – their salaries are docked. And made public, so we know who has been performing well or badly.

      Oh, I can imagine a dozen diffferent reasons that politicians would come up with saying that it couldn’t be done… :-/

  2. 6 February 2012 at 9:34 am

    Oh, I can imagine a dozen diffferent reasons that politicians would come up with saying that it couldn’t be done… :-/

    Oh yes they would come up with a lot of reasons!! I think the first “class” politicians take when learning to be a politician, is “How to save your own ass – 101”!

    If any of them were given a salary based on their performance, they would be running screaming for the door!

    • 6 February 2012 at 10:39 am

      Or be shown the door for their poor performance, I’d say… 😀

  3. 6 February 2012 at 11:41 pm

    There is already an oversupply of new teacher graduates, especially secondary teachers. Anecdotally that figure could be as high as 1800 – maybe the Teachers Council or PPTA could supply figures. And out of the ones that do get jobs, half don’t make it past five years because they can’t hack it. If class numbers get jacked up to 30 average – that’s around 150 students per teacher per year. 150 students that a teacher is supposed to make meaningful, useful relationships with and secure their academic achievement and positive personal development. *Sure*.

    Cut that number in half and teachers have got a fighting chance to make a difference.

    The squeeze is being put on education in other ways to try and casualise teaching – funding is so tight that permanent jobs are pared to the bone and part-time, short term contracts increased. Some schools hire unqualified day-relievers (pay them less) to make the relief budget go further. Won’t those teachers have fun in maxi-sized classrooms!

  4. 6 February 2012 at 11:57 pm

    “If class numbers get jacked up to 30 average – that’s around 150 students per teacher per year. “

    The burn-out rate will be horrific! What a total waste of investment in training good people who want to offer the best for our children.

    “Some schools hire unqualified day-relievers (pay them less) to make the relief budget go further. Won’t those teachers have fun in maxi-sized classrooms!”

    Indeed, Kerry. I experienced that sort of thing when I was at a High School in my youth. It was not a happy time for unqualified day-relievers, who didn’t have a clue what they were doing…

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