Nelson College headmaster Richard Dykes is looking at removing some programmes because of the downturn in international students. Photo: Charles Anderson.

Jobs at risk as international students dry up

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Secondary schools in Nelson may need to cut staff and classes in 2021, due to a “significant” decrease in international students.

Nelson College headmaster Richard Dykes told Nelson Weekly that he expects their international student numbers to be running at 50 per cent next year.

“The reduced numbers will reduce our 2021 budget. This impacts on our staffing and ability to fund some programmes around the school,” he says.

“It’s premature to specify what that will look like. It may be that some staff’s hours are reduced, or some positions are cut. Similarly, we may pare back some programmes, or possibly remove them.”

Cathy Ewing, principal of Nelson College for Girls, says their international numbers will be down by 75 per cent, unless the borders open early in 2021.

“This is a significant decrease. We have many students applying to come to our school from various overseas locations, but we can only offer them a provisional place.”

Nayland College will be down from 80 international students to just six next year.

“[This] will certainly have an impact on our school,” says principal Daniel Wilson.

He says the school is “determined” to not cut domestic programmes or resources.

“Our goal is to ensure that we do not jeopardise the quality of education for our domestic students.”

He says ways they are looking at reducing costs could be by not replacing departing staff, reducing administration support and staff taking voluntary leave.

Scott Haines, who is the vice president of the Secondary Principals Association (SPANZ) and also the principal of Waimea College, says while local schools have stable rolls, all principals are having to consider budgets and staffing for 2021.

He says that SPANZ is working with the Ministry of Education closely to address the issue.

“We’re working to get consideration of a further financial relief package for 2021 in the same way that the Government allocated $20 million to support staffing, and that was welcome news.

He says that having the borders reopened safely is the long-term answer, but “now is not the time to do that”.

Scott also says a funding package would help keep specialist teachers to stay connected with work, and without one many teachers may move into new careers.

“There are experienced specialist staff who have a lot to offer, and once they’re disconnected from the work force it is difficult to reengage.”

Beyond staffing, Scott says that international students and the revenue they bring directly impacts domestic students.

“The resource that the revenue brings in provides the rich curriculum experience that parents have come to expect, like lower class sizes, and subjects the ministry doesn’t fund.

Principals around the country are vexing about how to provide a world-class programme with a hugely-reduced level of resourcing.”

Meanwhile, Richard says Nelson College has developed a programme to support international students over the summer holidays, as they aren’t able to fly home and return to Nelson.

“We’ve arranged a combination of staying in the hostel, some time with local families and a trip around the South Island (to give them and our staff a well-earned holiday) and then back to the hostel to do some extra English language learning.”

Some international students at Nelson College for Girls are also staying on over the Christmas vacation to keep their places open.