Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ refusal to commit to reducing class sizes is at odds with commitments made by Labour MPs at the election and adds to the long list of broken promises in education, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Labour talked about reducing class sizes for years in Opposition, but has been silent on the issue since coming into Government and last weekend Mr Hipkins went as far as saying the Government hasn’t committed to it.
“That’s a major turnaround on what Mr Hipkins had previously said, which was that reducing class sizes remained a goal for Labour.
“Labour MPs like Ginny Andersen also handed out pamphlets during the election campaign which made clear that she believed class sizes were too high and would invest in smaller class sizes.
“Less than one year and some 18 broken promises later, Mr Hipkins is ruling out changes to class sizes citing the cost of making modest changes.
“What is clear is that the Government’s $2.8 billion fees-free policy has left little cash for anything else in education. There’s no fiscal room for reducing class sizes or the many other promises Labour made in education.
“At the same time, primary teachers are preparing to go on strike for the first time in 24 years. And that’s because Labour created high expectations and has failed to meet them. The strike is not just about pay, it’s also about better work conditions.
“Backtracking on reducing class sizes is just the latest consequence of the Government’s decision to prioritise tertiary students over primary and secondary students and teachers.
“News today that secondary teachers have lodged a claim for a 15 per cent pay increase adds to the pressure on the Government with potentially more strikes ahead. Mr Hipkins has inflamed the situation, criticising the union’s proposal as unreasonable.
“What is truly unreasonable is creating high expectations among teachers, failing to meet those expectations, and then slamming teachers for asking for too much.”