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.”
It appears Chris Hipkins is taking advantage of his role of Leader of the House to avoid scrutiny in his Education portfolio, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“Leader of the House Chris Hipkins has engineered a situation which will see two education bills debated in the House at a time when committee members are obligated to attend Education and Workforce select committee hearings in Auckland.
“It is a sad day for Parliament when the Leader of the House uses his role to reduce scrutiny in his role as Education Minister. What’s worse is that these bills cover contentious issues such as the removal of partnership schools, National Standards and a bill replacing the Teachers Council.
“Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard criticised the process used to rush through the Education Amendment Bill this week when he spoke about the orchestrated clash and said ‘I do not think it is good practice for that to occur’.
“The select committee also applied for extensions to the process to account for late amendments by the Minister regarding partnership schools. However, Chris Hipkins blocked this extension and Government committee members forced a meeting.
“We acknowledge the courage of NZ First to support National letter to the Business Committee raising concerns about inadequate time for this Bill.
“Chris Hipkins has also come under increasing pressure from respected leaders such as Sir Toby Curtis and Lance O’Sullivan who urge him to listen regarding partnership schools.
“This is a Minister who from the outset has engaged in disrespectful parliamentary behaviour and has opened the Crown up to legal risk by terminating partnership schools prematurely and without contract termination, made late amendments to the legislation regarding schools without giving them adequate time to comment, refused to acknowledge the Waitangi Tribunal claim by iwi leaders despite legal papers being served months ago and was forced to correct Parliamentary answers admitting the Crown’s error.
“The Minister should remove provisions relating to partnership schools in the Education Amendment Bill until the Crown has met with iwi leaders to work through the Waitangi Tribunal claim. The members of the Education and Workforce Committee on both sides of the House deserve the opportunity to be in the Parliament for the full debate on the Bill.
“At the very least there should be an opportunity for all members of the select committee to speak on this legislation. The fact that there isn’t, shows a disregard for these schools, their students and basic parliamentary processes.”
Letter to Business Committee indicating majority support for an extension to Education Amendment Bill available here.
A Bill that will ensure every child in years 1-8 has the opportunity to learn a second language was drawn from the Ballot this week, National MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye says.
“Speaking more than one language has enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits. New Zealand is a diverse country where 160 languages are spoken, and it’s important that what’s being taught in schools reflects that.
“My Bill would require the Minister of Education to set at least ten national priority languages for schools following public consultation and places a requirement on the Crown to resource teaching these languages in primary and intermediate schools.
“It will be up to school boards to decide which of the priority languages will be taught at their school. Every school will be required to deliver at least one second language, but some may choose to offer more than one.
“The Bill makes it clear that Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Languages will, as the official languages of New Zealand, be on the final list of ten or more priority languages schools can choose from. I’d expect that other languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and potentially Hindi.
“There is widespread support for the Bill, with an Asia New Zealand Foundation survey showing 80 per cent of New Zealanders think that school children should learn a language other than English. It has also been great to see a number of language specialists and leaders call on MPs to send the Bill to select committee for wider public debate.
“Having the ability to speak a second language can be the difference in children being able to speak with their grandparents or young businesses leaders being able to better connect to markets like China and India. The Bill, with a comprehensive implementation plan, would also see a lot more young New Zealanders speaking Te Reo.
“I plan to meet with key political leaders from every Party in Parliament to discuss the Bill and ask for their support. I am optimistic that they will support the Bill because they understand the importance of second language learning.
“I do not underestimate the investment and careful planning required to deliver this policy. I am keen to work cross-party on an implementation plan, as this initiative will require the support of successive governments.
“My Bill presents an opportunity to invest in our country’s future. I am looking forward to a national conversation on how we can strengthen second language learning in schools and create smarter, more culturally aware students who are better equipped to succeed in New Zealand and overseas.”
The National Party is continuing to be the Party of ideas and leadership with four Members’ Bills being drawn from the Ballot today.
Members’ Bills from Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye, Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie, Northland MP Matt King and Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker will all be debated in Parliament.
“My Bill is focused on ensuring that all children in years 1-8 have universal access to learn a second language. It requires the Education Minister to set at least 10 priority languages following public consultation, and places a requirement on the Crown to fund these languages,” Ms Kaye says. “It will be up to school boards to decide which languages will be taught in schools but they will be required to offer at least one second language to their students. The Bill makes clear that NZ Sign and Te Reo must be national priority languages and funded by the crown. The benefits of speaking more than one language are huge for New Zealand from a social, economic and cultural perspective.
“The Shark Cage Diving (Permitting and Safety) Bill acknowledges and addresses the risk that is posed by shark cage diving that is carried out in close proximity to beaches. This risk is increased due to the nature of competing activities in coastal waters in the Stewart Island area, where shark cage diving is currently carried out. Water-users, residents and families on Stewart Island have felt endangered by shark cage diving operations that are carried out close to the shore. The decision is timely given yesterday’s Court of Appeal decision which would shut cage divers down,” Ms Dowie says.
National also continues to be the Party of law and order, with Bills increasing penalties for coward punches and high-power laser pointer offences.
“My Bill would create a new offence of Assault Causing Death, which would be easier to prove than manslaughter. It would apply to those who throw cowardly punches at unsuspecting victims who later die from their injuries and has a maximum penalty of 20-years imprisonment. This will send a clear message to offenders that thuggish and violent behaviour won’t be tolerated,” Mr King says.
“The High-Power Laser Pointer Bill will double the term of imprisonment available and the fines, up to six months and $4000. The safety of our pilots and their passengers is paramount and anyone who interferes with that should be punished appropriately,” Mr Walker says.
National is the Party of ideas and action – and these four Bills prove that.
Last night Chris Hipkins was forced to correct a Parliamentary answer which confirms the Crown was served papers regarding the Waitangi Tribunal partnership school claim (Wai 2770) back in early July, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“While it is embarrassing enough that for several months the Crown has failed to seriously consider the Tribunal claim, more questions remain regarding Crown Law’s ‘email error’ and the Government’s disrespectful treatment of the claimants over the last few months.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has been denying that a claim has been formally served against the Crown and using this as a reason to avoid responsibility for the matter. This has also caused the Education and Workforce select committee to have an incorrect view of the status of the claim.
“Mr Hipkins repeatedly claimed that ‘the Crown has not yet been formally served with the claim’ when, in fact, a Statement of Claim was served on the Crown by Sir Toby and Dame Iritana via its solicitors, Crown Law, on the 3rd of July.
“The select committee was forced by the Government to deliberate on the Education Amendment Bill during recess, despite repeated requests to extend the timeline. The day after the select committee met and deliberated on the Bill removing partnership schools from law, Crown law discovered their error in not formally recognising the claim.
“The Minister’s ignorance of the Waitangi Tribunal claim calls into question his decisions on this matter since the claim was lodged. Mr Hipkins has shown no leadership on this issue or any care for iwi leaders and other submitters who have genuine concerns about potential treaty breaches.
“The Minister now needs to seriously consider the Tribunal claim and reflect on the appropriateness of proceeding with legislation to remove the partnership school model at this time.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the serious issues of process and fairness surrounding the Government’s termination of partnership schools and their model.
“The Minister should remove provisions relating to partnership schools in the Education Amendment Bill until the Crown has done the decent thing and met with iwi leaders to work through the Waitangi Tribunal claim.
“If the Government continues to push ahead and pass legislation removing the partnership schools model it will be demonstrating its arrogance and further disregard for iwi leader’s concerns.”
The Minister of Education’s mishandling of partnership schools deserves a ‘not achieved’ and proves he needs to stop his ideological crusade, National’s Education spokespeople Nikki Kaye and Jo Hayes say.
In the latest in a series of blunders, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has denied being served with a claim his treatment of partnership schools breaches the Treaty of Waitangi, despite confirmation from Crown Law such a claim has indeed been filed and served.
“It is not credible that Mr Hipkins didn’t know a Waitangi Tribunal claim had been lodged and served. The Minister is so blinkered New Zealand First will be offering him his own all-weather track soon”, says Ms Kaye.
“This is just the latest example of the Minister’s mismanagement of partnership schools and contempt for the whole process - he has already terminated 10 out of 11 partnership schools, most of which are in a state of limbo about whether they can open next year under another model.
“The Villa Education Trust is still waiting on the Minister to make a decision about the future of its school. It is clear the Minister has received a report and he needs to act swiftly to ensure the school and the students certainty for the Future.
“Prominent Māori leader Sir Toby Curtis has reported schools are fearful of the Minister, saying they have been muzzled and have felt the Minister’s foot on their throats”, National’s spokesperson for Māori Education Jo Hayes says.
“He is arrogantly pressing ahead with legislation to axe partnership schools, tabling amendments to bypass the select committee process and remove the ability for the public and schools to have their say.
“And Kelvin Davis, the Minister responsible for protecting Māori education, has removed himself entirely from the process claiming a conflict of interest and abandoning his responsibilities to young Māori learners. In reality, the only conflict Minister Davis has is his promise to resign when those schools close.
“In the next fortnight it is likely Labour will be bringing this Bill to scrap the schools back to Parliament.”
“The Ministers response to my Parliamentary question indicates another level of incompetence by him and potentially other agencies. Mr Hipkins needs to seriously consider the Tribunal claim and reflect on the appropriateness of proceeding with the legislation to remove the partnership model,” Ms Kaye concludes.
The Government must settle pay negotiations and avoid a two day teacher strike to give teachers what they deserve, ensure learning is uninterrupted and that parents aren’t having to scramble for childcare cover, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Government has spent a large part of its ten months in office blaming National rather than focusing on the substantive issues in education. Now it must fount up and avoid a two day strike which would have a huge impact on teachers, students and families.
“With more than 13 reviews in education and misguided spending that focussed on a $2.8 billion fees-free package, $3 billion for Shane Jones’ slush fund and huge amounts of cash for diplomats there are a range of people that are asking why the Government hasn’t been able to prioritise teachers.
“Education has fallen victim to the prioritisation of the pet projects of the Governments coalition partners and the billions of dollars given to tertiary students.
“This year’s education budget covering the compulsory sector was quite extraordinary in that it actually saw a shrinking of the percentage of the vote compared to other areas.
“Questions remain about when Education Minister Chris Hipkins put bids in for funding for a range of areas such as reducing teacher ratios and a number of other promises he hasn’t delivered on and whether they failed or whether he neglected to put the case to Cabinet at all. This information has not been released.
“There will obviously be a negotiation around pay but National firmly believes that the Government would be more likely to resolve the standoff if it makes a clear statement that they will look to reduce child teacher ratios for years four to eight.
“Chris Hipkins has refused to commit to smaller class sizes despite Labour MPs campaigning on it during the election.
“The Government had very clear signals on the upcoming negotiations and changes for the education sector and instead it prioritised everything but. Now it must face up to this and avert further strike action before it hurts students and families.”
The Government’s failure to reach an agreement with primary teachers has caused massive disruption to children’s learning today and to parents who have struggled to sort childcare arrangements, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“During the election campaign, Labour built up high expectations around pay rises and working conditions for teachers. Now they won’t follow through, and as a result we have seen the first primary teachers’ strike in 24 years.
“When National was in Government, due to the Canterbury earthquakes and the Global Financial Crisis we did not have the same fiscal envelope that Labour has now.
“However, we still increased teacher pay and allocated $359 million on top of salaries for additional payments to teachers across Communities of Learning, as well as investing in initiatives to improve teacher supply.
“Labour have billions more than the previous National Government, but teachers have not been prioritised while the Government has decided instead to spend $2.8 billion on its fees-free package, $3 billion on Shane Jones’ slush fund and huge amounts of cash for diplomats.
“Thousands of teachers marched today demonstrating that teachers want and need more support. I have met with Union representatives and a number of teachers recently and over the coming weeks I will be encouraging my colleagues to continue to meet with teachers in their electorates to hear their concerns.
“I acknowledge the teachers who turned out today to have their voice heard. We also respect that it will have been a difficult day for parents trying to ensure that they have adequate supervision and care.
“My hope is that the Government prioritises teachers and reaches a settlement which raises teachers’ salaries and that parents and families do not experience further disruption. We realise some of the issues being negotiated are far wider than just pay but also cover teacher workload.
“We have serious concerns about the Minister’s hands-off approach in the lead up to the strike. Yesterday he was unable to say exactly how many of the 1945 primary schools would be open or closed today, and the Government did not offer any support to families who were dealing with school closures and didn’t have other options for childcare.
“This would have made planning very difficult for some families who struggled to afford childcare or get leave from work.
“The Government needs to get back to the table to reach a settlement urgently with teachers and prevent further disruption to students and their families.”
The Minister has taken a hands-off approach regarding tomorrow’s strikes. Despite having more than one month’s notice it is clear that neither the Ministry nor the Minister have got the full picture, on the eve of the strike, of exactly how many of the 1945 primary schools will be open or closed, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Minister said in Parliament today that there were 1264 primary schools which had notified the Ministry that they would close for tomorrow’s strike. He failed to answer the question regarding the status of the other 700 schools.
“The Government has failed to negotiate a settlement which has led to first primary teachers’ strike in almost 25 years, but now the Minister has also failed come up with a plan to support parents during the strike and has no clarity on how many schools are closing.
“With more than 500,000 children and their parents affected by the strike it seems a bit reckless to be leaving it to the last minute for hundreds of schools to confirm whether they are open for instruction or supervision, or closed.
“This begs the question of whether there could be some parents around the country who are either unaware if their child’s school is open or not or are being left in difficult situations at the last minute. These are the first primary teacher strikes in 24 years and it is important that parents have certainty around the arrangements for their children.
“I want to acknowledge that the vast majority of parents and schools will be rallying around to ensure the safety of children tomorrow. However, in my view, the Ministry and Minister do have a role to play to support those parents and schools that may be struggling.
“It does not appear that the Minister has offered any support to those families who are dealing with school closures and don’t have other options for childcare. It would have been a good precautionary step for the Government to provide some support in this area.
“The lack of support from the Government and late notice of some school closures makes planning very difficult for some families, particularly low-income families who cannot afford childcare and working parents who cannot get leave in order to look after their children.
“There are also reports of some schools discouraging after school providers to help parents. These reports need to be investigated. There also appears to have been issues around the adequacy of communication to boards about their responsibilities regarding strikes.
“Parents and students shouldn’t be disrupted because of the Government’s poor planning and management.”
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.”