Chris Hipkins’ latest piece of legislation is yet another attempt to dismantle reforms made by the previous National Government, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“National established Communities of Online Learning (COOLs) to harness rapidly evolving digital technologies and provide more learning options for young people.

“COOLs would have provided huge opportunity for students to learn subjects that teachers in their local area may be unable to teach, but now the Minister has put up legislation that will repeal the system with nothing in its place. At the very least the Minister should provide an alternative regulatory framework for sustainable quality online learning and content.

“This will impact organisations like the Virtual Learning Network who have been so successful that they have grown the number of students accessing their programmes by five times where they were several years ago. At the very least the Minister should be providing a decent replacement system.

“The new bill also makes changes to cohort entry which will see an effective change to the school starting age. For decades, kids in New Zealand have been able to start school at the age of five.

“Now there will likely be thousands of children at schools with cohort entry who will be delayed the opportunity to start school until weeks after their fifth birthday. This is not good enough.

“The Minister has also put up proposals around requiring private schools to be safe physical and emotional places for students. Of course we support ensuring students have access to a safe environment.

“However, the detail and the driver for these changes are completely unclear. While we support this being a criteria for registration – the powers to cancel the registration of a private school appear to be very wide.

“These changes are on the back of other ideological moves such as scrapping partnership schools and National Standards. The Government has not progressed its own agenda because it’s tied up in paperwork and has been immersed in at least 16 Education reviews.

“The Bill also enables the Minister to issue Government policy directions relating to the Education Council’s functions. It requires the Education Council to consult with the Minister prior to making changes to teacher qualification requirements or registration criteria.

“Mr Hipkins is trying to bring the profession under his control, which is hypocritical and contrary to the Government’s wider policy position of a ‘high-trust’ profession.

“The Regulatory Impact Statement by the Ministry of Education notes the ‘risk’ involved and the perceived conflict. The Ministry also acknowledges that this may be seen by the sector as limiting the council’s independence.

“The National Party will oppose the Education Amendment Bill (No 2). The Government is on an ideological crusade to get rid of anything brought in by National, rather than putting up a positive agenda of change.”

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