Today’s Budget shows the Government is more focused on handing out cash than making sure all New Zealanders have the skills to compete in our workforce, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The education sector has not secured an adequate proportion of funding needed to rebuild, which suggests the Government does not see it at the centre of our country’s recovery.
“We should be seeing more support for young people to catch up on their education after it was impact by Covid-19, but we’re not.
“The Government should be getting rid of its ideological vocational reforms, which will make it hard to deliver trades and apprenticeships, but it’s not.
“By the Government’s own figures we need billions to get ahead of growth and upgrade classrooms. We should be seeing more invested in school infrastructure, but we’re not.
“The Government has failed to deliver business-as-usual investment, let alone a major education infrastructure stimulus package. It has managed to deliver Fees Free but with fewer students.
“The Government’s one-size-fits-all food assistance scheme is poorly targeted and does not partner with organisations that have the infrastructure to be able to deliver this.
“National knows the impact Covid-19 has had on our students, parents, schools and the tertiary sector. In today’s Budget the Government should have:
- Adequately addressed the financial viability of schools, ECE and tertiary institutions
- Demonstrated a plan for providing opportunities to re-train and upskill for people who have lost their job, and backed it with adequate investment
- Ditched its ideological vocational reforms that will distract from our rebuild, such as the hugely disruptive polytechnic mega-merger
- Partnered with the private sector to deliver the skills we’ll need to grow our way back to prosperity
“We need to be intensely focused on powering up our education system and targeting support where it’s needed, not pushing an ideological agenda at the expense of the taxpayer.
“Many New Zealanders have lost their jobs and will need to re-train. A focused and stable education system will be key in this. National is the only team with the track record of delivering. We will get New Zealand working again.”
There have been massive issues raised around the Government’s handling of sport and recreation by the sector and the Minister responsible needs to address them, National’s Sport and Recreation spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Athletes Federation has been critical around the lack of direct engagement by Sport NZ with athletes and has described the entity as ‘incommunicative and lacking transparency’.
“This is a time when we need athletes, through their representative bodies, working in partnership with Sport NZ to drive and lead our recovery. The Minister needs to act to resolve these relationship issues immediately.
“The Government has also failed to adequately recognise the ability of outdoor sporting events to operate in a safe way. Not all events should be considered large gatherings depending on the way they are managed.
“Outdoor sporting events such as running events have developed policies and procedures that are incredibly stringent and would not actually involve large congregations of people. They involve vast landscapes, enforcing social distancing, technology for online entries and electronic tracking which would allow staggered start times and stringent contact tracing.
“There are already more than 2500 people who have signed a petition on this issue and the Government should hear their proposals out.
“Sports clubs are caught up in the stringent hospitality rules and it will be impossible for many of them to operate under level 2.
“Many do not have the facilities and staff/volunteers available to undertake the table service requirement as they only have walk up facilities related to their bar and restaurant. The additional funding provided for clubs to operate is inadequate as well and equates to another blow to the viability of community sports clubs in New Zealand.
“National has advocated for the Government to provide a larger financial recovery funding package for the sport and recreation sector and a comprehensive plan to address community sport funding and funding for women in sport. If we don’t see this investment soon then sport and recreation will not recover for years to come.
“Sport NZ are dropping the ball. We need the Minister to urgently step up to resolve these issues for the sport and recreation sector.”
National believes New Zealand is facing a crisis in sport and recreation as a result of Covid-19 and the Government needs to work with the sector to prevent this, National’s Sport and Recreation spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Epidemic Response Committee today heard from members of the sport and recreation sector who highlighted the massive challenges they’re facing, with women’s sport and community sport most at risk.
“The Government has announced some funding but $25 million is not enough. Sporting organisations are being hit with a drop in sponsorship, community trust funding and broadcasting revenue. There are also questions about whether the funding is being targeted to the right place.
“These organisations are serious about health and safety and are changing the way they operate to respond to Covid-19. The Exercise Association of New Zealand has developed comprehensive safety frameworks that in some cases are even more stringent than the Governments, yet their members still have no idea when they will be able to open their businesses again.
“It is also totally unacceptable that the New Zealand Athletes Federation has not been adequately consulted by Sports NZ. Athletes have experienced huge changes to their livelihoods with the challenges of trying to train and dealing with the psychological impact and uncertainty of Covid-19.
“This is a sector that desperately needs certainty. National believes the Government needs to do the following:
- Provide a much larger recovery funding package for the sport and recreation sector
- Provide a plan that clearly sets out how sport and recreation can operate under the different levels for the next 12 months
- Ensure athletes are being directly engaged by Sports NZ
- Address the vulnerabilities and discrimination for women in sport
- Deliver a plan to consider maximum innovation for professional sport
- Ensure there is more direct funding for national sporting organisations and clubs so children’s and community sport survives
“Sport and recreation in New Zealand is facing enormous challenges and the Government needs to step up. Otherwise we will be a less active nation and could lose part of the fabric of New Zealand and potentially a generation of athletes.”
As we move towards Level 2 the Government needs to ensure it does more to get the confidence of educators and parents for all schools and Early Childhood Education services to open their doors, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Less than five per cent of children are attending schools and Early Childhood Education (ECE) services right now. It’s clear this is in part due to the Government requesting attendance only if needed, but also because educators have voiced their concern that the Government was moving too fast.
“National has raised a range of questions this week focused on ensuring parents and educators can feel confident about opening their doors to children when the Government says it is safe to do so. Right now many don’t have that confidence.
“The Government needs to improve the guidance to schools and ECE services relating to risk and management. For instance, there is conflicting information around the world on transmission. Both the Education and Health Ministries should work with lead scientists to provide an analysis of this.
“Some other areas the Government needs to focus on so educators and parents can have confidence include:
- Greater confidence of rapid contact tracing for education providers if an incident occurs in the future
- Additional funding for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and greater support for schools and ECE services to access appropriate PPE in a timely manner
- Immediate information on where and how flu jabs for educators can be accessed quickly
- Expansion of the Health analysis of Marist to include all of the school Covid-19 incidents and release of high level findings
- Better information for educators and parents on the risks and management of Covid-19 in schools and ECE services
- Greater psychosocial support for children
“National remains concerned about years 11-13 students. These young people need greater support at this time and we don’t agree with the blanket ban on them attending school. The Government needs to announce additional support for students who need greater assistance.
“The reality is that some schools will be working through arrangements for Level 2 and they may want some flexibility in different year groups in order to meet health and safety. We have reiterated the need for the Government to take a pragmatic approach rather than a top down approach.
“Many schools and ECE services are raising additional financial viability issues due to a loss of international students and fundraising in schools, or dropping rolls in ECE.
“We want to work in a constructive way to ensure schools and ECE services are up and running safely, but they need the Government to work harder to give parents and educators the confidence that when they do open their doors, it’s safe to do so.”
We are concerned the Government’s poor communication, shifting position and lack of consultation with the education sector while responding to Covid-19 has meant trust has been lost with educators and some parents, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“It’s clear the Government does not have a significant part of the Education sector on board with the Level 3 arrangements given the criticism by some educators and the open letter to the Prime Minister by the Early Childhood Council arguing for all centres to remain closed.
“The Government needs to release its health and scientific advice around education institutions opening at different levels as this is important for public confidence. The feedback from some parents and principals is that the blanket stay at home for years 11-13 doesn’t make sense. These young people are at a crucial stage in their studies trying to gain qualifications. Some schools are also questioning the wisdom of a teacher only day next week.
“Parents and educators are concerned about the challenges around physical distancing for young children and in schools that have spaces like modern learning environments. A number of educators are also raising issues of access to PPE. It’s important for the Government to be clear about this and any additional support in this area.
“It is important to pragmatic and flexible for both parents and teachers in different situations. While some ECE centres and schools may choose to open, if others don’t want to they should not be forced to do so. ECE centres shouldn’t be financially penalised for remaining closed at Level 3 and the Government needs to ensure this doesn’t happen.
“We expect schools and principals will work through a plan with their communities for those children who have no one to care for them at home. However, there will be a huge variation across schools as to what may work for some in terms of staffing and attendance.
“We are still concerned about the lack of support for some tertiary students who are facing hardship and a number of tertiary institutions and early learning services are in difficult financial situations. The Government needs to start coming up with a comprehensive plan to address these issues.”
National supports the initial investment in remote learning measures parents and schools can help ensure children continue to learn during lockdown, but there is a lot more to do, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“We want to see children back in school as soon as safely possible, which is why quarantining arrivals at the border, increasing the number of people tested and tracing all contacts are critical.
“The Government has focused on devices, connectivity and some teacher professional development, which is a good first step. It’s important to ensure disadvantaged children or children in remote areas are connected where possible and there is more to be done to address the significant cost to teachers and parents around internet connection.
“However, the message from a range of educators is there are still significant financial challenges and we need to make sure we are not just focused on technology but also on ensuring high quality learning experiences in an online environment.
“Home learning television has been provided in other jurisdictions and while this will be positive for some, we should not see this as a substitute for long term remote learning given the need for interactive experiences in learning.
“Some issues we believe the Government needs to be urgently addressing include:
- The viability of some education institutions, such as the tertiary sector, early learning centres, independent schools and schools who have financial challenges due to a lack of fundraising;
- Greater support for parents who are taking an active role in their child’s education
- Greater support for other education workers including support staff, relief teachers, and those working with children with additional learning needs during this time;
- A clear plan around psychosocial/mental health support for children and teachers impacted by Covid-19;
- A package of vocational and upskilling opportunities for people who are displaced as a result of Covid-19.
“The reality is we would have been further ahead in lockdown if the Government had implemented more of the 21st Century Learning Reference Group’s recommendations, implemented a framework for communities of online learning and properly rolled out the digital technologies curriculum.
“National will continue to support the Government around our education system to ensure people are safe, children are receiving quality teaching and learning despite disruptions and that we take the opportunity to transform our education system.”
National is calling on the Government to give parents, students and education providers certainty about what the criteria is for school closures as we continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“We know that it’s a difficult time for a number of students, parents and educators. I have written to the Minister of Education asking for information about the criteria for education providers to close. I have also requested an urgent briefing on the situation around education institutions and I have had confirmation that I will get that this afternoon.
“It is important we urgently get clarity and have transparency about what factors are being taken into account. Parents want as much certainty as can be given around what arrangements they will need to make for their children and teachers deserve to know what will happen with their jobs.
“There are a range of factors that need to be taken into account including the effectiveness of stemming the spread of coronavirus and the impact of closure on the health workforce and older people who may be needed to care for younger children.
“There will be a need to be innovative if there are closures to ensure there are adequate childcare options for health workers. We also need to see the Government’s plan for large scale remote learning.
“If the Government decides to keep education providers open, we believe there are additional measures the Government should implement such as:
- Greater financial support for those schools, early learning services and tertiary providers impacted by Covid-19.
- Additional funds for schools, early learning centres and tertiary providers for hygiene, cleaning and disinfection.
- Greater flexibility around school and early learning funding due to potential staff and student absences.
- Funding to ensure schools do not lose support staff.
“National will continue to work constructively with the Government as we have over the past six weeks raising a range of issues about the preparedness of our education system for coronavirus.
“National will support the Government around our education system to take whatever measures are necessary to keep students, educators and the public safe and key decisions around our education system are crucial in the fight against coronavirus.”
The Government needs to step up and provide better support and communication to schools and tertiary providers who are dealing with unexpected extra costs and losses due to coronavirus, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Our thoughts are with the schools dealing with additional coronavirus risks. We are concerned to hear a report about a school that felt they were not able to inform their parents prior to media notification of additional risks.
“It is important to ensure information is accurate but parents have a right to be informed in a timely manner and before the wider public where possible.
“Due to the travel restrictions brought about by the coronavirus outbreak, many current and prospective students are unable to come to New Zealand to study. Ensuring these students are still able to continue their studies via distance learning has become a significant and unexpected cost.
“A number of schools and education providers across the country have spent thousands in costs and some tertiary providers are estimating tens of millions in losses. Providers have been dealing with costs covering alternative student accommodation, supervision, isolation, refunds and a reduction in students.
“International students play an incredibly important part in our economy, contributing about $5 billion a year. The Government needs to step up and show their support.
“The Government has been silent over what support it will offer to our schools and education providers. The Government needs to urgently work with schools and tertiary providers to ensure they have adequate financial support to be able to deal with the effects of coronavirus.”
Another of the Prime Minister’s promises to New Zealanders has rung hollow as her Government fails to deliver 623 learning support coordinators in schools by 2020, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Ministry of Education has confirmed just 68 per cent of the 623 learning support coordinator roles have been appointed and started in schools. Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin now says the number is 505 but this falls well short of the Government’s promise.
“The National Party has regularly raised concerns around the delay of delivering on this promise, finalising the job description, the Government’s inability to be clear to schools on who is going to get the allocated roles and unfairness around the allocation.
“The Government has dragged its heels and has not been clear to schools in time for them to recruit roles for this school year. It’s unfair that schools who have higher needs children and who should’ve received a role have missed out.
“New Zealanders should be sceptical of the Prime Minister’s commitment to provide a role in every school given the Government has been unable to fulfil its promise to deliver 623 roles.
“Ministers have been clear that this was only the first tranche, however officials at Select Committee last week have been unable to confirm a timeline of any second tranche, raising further questions about the Government’s promises.
“National has recently released its Education Discussion Document which proposes supporting children with complex needs both through additional investment and reform of the system to ensure those children get the support they need.
“Unlike Labour, National will deliver on its promises.”
The Education and Health Ministers need to act urgently to ensure precautionary measures, response and contingency plans are in place for education providers, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“New Zealand has a large number of international students who study in schools and tertiary institutions from affected countries.
“I have concerns about cases of students being unwell, some who are from Hubei province, who are being discharged to accommodation in close proximity with other students.
“These young people may not have coronavirus but this is about ensuring we can mitigate the risk. This could be through alternative options for accommodation or isolation beds. The Government should not just be leaving this up to schools or tertiary institutions. Greater financial and practical support should be in place.
“In one case reported in the media an accommodation provider refused to accommodate a student who is waiting for test results. It’s clear there will be students who are unwell and waiting for test results. There is an urgent for more support where providers are not able or do want to house them.
“I have written to both Chris Hipkins and David Clark to ask for urgent additional support.”