It’s not surprising that only a third of schools eligible for the Government’s school donations scheme have taken it up given how unfair and complicated the policy is, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Despite promising to end all school donations, the Government’s school donations policy only covers deciles one to seven, leaving disadvantaged families in schools with high decile ratings in the lurch.
“Principals are starting to see the fishhooks in the Government’s policy. As a result of the new definition and enforcement of guidance, which covers all schools, some schools will have to find funds for stationery, workbooks and day trips because the Ministry considers some of these to be core curriculum and others not.
“Schools in higher deciles feel as though they have been shafted. Not only did the Education Minister exclude them from the policy, but the Ministry is also enforcing new guidance around what schools can or cannot charge, which sees some schools predicting they will lose tens of thousands of dollars.
“One school has estimated it could be $150,000 worse off as a result of both being excluded from the scheme and the enforcement of new guidance on donations. National raised these issues in select committee but the Government refused to listen.
“It’s clear the policy is inequitable and difficult to implement, which is why it’s no surprise schools aren’t jumping to take up the scheme yet. Some schools are still working out how out of pocket they will be, and whether they will have to cut how they provide education in other areas.
“After two years of delays the Minister has admitted the decile system is flawed but is still proceeding with a donations policy based on the decile system.
“The Government has created a very difficult situation for principals and boards who are dealing with parents with high expectations, but the reality is a number of schools are working out they will be worse off as a result of enforcing the new rules and the payment not covering what they ask for now.”
The Government is misleading the public when it says City Rail Link Limited is negotiating with Albert Street businesses so they can receive support following ongoing disruptions from construction, Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye says.
“Last week Transport Minister Phil Twyford said ‘City Rail Link at my direction are working hand and hand with businesses of lower Albert Street to provide material support for them’, but this is contrary to what the businesses of Albert Street are telling Heart of the City and I.
“When the Prime Minister was asked what this means this morning, she said ‘it means negotiations’ and that the CRL is negotiating with some of the business owners.
“However the 16 businesses we have been liaising with have confirmed none have been approached by CRLL or have been involved in negotiations. CRLL have further confirmed today they have had only one conversation with only one retailer.
“This is quite different to what the Prime Minister implied this morning.
“There is a large group of businesses who have been impacted by ongoing disruptions that no one is negotiating with or having discussions with as implied by the Prime Minister.
“If one business has talked with CRLL then it is important all businesses are offered the same opportunity to have discussions. There needs to be a fair and transparent process.
“The businesses on Albert Street have faced extreme hardship due to ongoing delays with the project and misinformation put out by the Government only distresses them more.
“A petition was launched last week to call for assistance for the businesses and it so far has more than 300 signatures. The businesses will also be protesting in a variety of ways this week.”
The Government’s soft on crime approach has led to an increase in gang membership in the Auckland City area which is very concerning, MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye says.
“Since October 2017, the number of patched gang members in the Auckland City area has increase by 18 per cent. Across the country, almost 1400 more people have joined gangs.
“Police Minister Stuart Nash has said the Government is ‘winning the war on gangs’, but most people will find that very difficult to believe, especially when the number of gang members has rapidly increased in New Zealand.
“The Minister has also misled New Zealanders by claiming the huge increase is a result of criminals deported from Australia, when his own figures show only 22 people deported are gang members here.
“It’s very simple, an increase in gang membership means an increase in crime in our community and more victims.
“One of the concerning issues involving gangs is their involvement with spreading and profiting from methamphetamine. This drug wrecks lives and the gangs make money out of this and are then able to recruit more people. This drug is hugely harmful to families and communities in Auckland and other parts of New Zealand.
“Last year Police estimate methamphetamine cost the country an estimated $1 billion a year in social harm. With more gangs that means more methamphetamine and more social issues in Auckland.
“Gangs cause misery, are disrespectful and violent, and cause harm to families and communities. The Government doesn’t have a plan to ensure people are safer and to stop the increasing number of gang members. National is the party of law and order and we will release a comprehensive Gang Plan in 2020 that will crack down hard on gangs.”
A table outlining the increase in gang membership broken down by Police district can be found HERE.
A table showing 22 deported criminals are gang members can be found HERE.
Small school bus and van operators are worried they can’t compete with large operators and will be cut out of the Government’s new school transport tender system, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“While the Ministry regularly undertakes contract tenders for school transport providers, this tender covers the majority of daily school bus routes and it’s been many years since there was a tender this size.
“Instead of being clear with all operators on how these contracts will be allocated, the Government is keeping quiet. Small operators in some rural communities are worried they could be out of a job as they say the new system favours large operators.
“If these businesses fail then it could impact how children get to and from other community activities, like camps.
“There have been numerous instances where the Ministry of Education has got it wrong when it comes to transport as it just doesn’t seem to understand how school transport operates in isolated areas.
“Associate Minister of Education Jenny Salesa agreed to meet with industry representatives recently to discuss the issue but postponed twice before deciding she was not going to have a meeting.
“She has failed to communicate to providers on this issue. While it is important Ministers don’t get involved in the operational detail of a tender, they should still be able to discuss the general impact to services and schools and engage with industry on general policy issues.
“There are small operators who are very worried they will have to lose their businesses. The livelihoods of these people are at risk, and the Minister won’t talk to them.
“There is a big gap between the Government’s spin on this issue and what providers say is happening on the ground.
“The Minister needs to front up to school bus operators and answer their questions.”
Local businesses are petitioning Parliament to call for assistance after significant disruption and delays as a result of City Rail Link (CRL) construction, MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye says.
“It’s been around six months since I first met with Albert Street businesses impacted by CRL disruption.
“In that time we have had several meetings with councillors, City Rail Link Limited (CRLL) officials and council officers. A month ago I met with the Minister of Transport and I’ve also written to the Mayor and the Minister advocating for local businesses. There has been a lot of discussion but little action.
“Council has implied that they may have made a proposal to Government but if this exists it is not public.
“Businesses on Albert Street have faced extreme hardship as a result of significant delays with the project. In other jurisdictions the Ministry has acknowledged business disruption where there have been significant delays and supported businesses.
“Documents obtained under the Official Information Act reveal under the original design for the City Rail Link a plan was developed to reduce disruption which was in my view not adequately followed. CRLL has treated businesses poorly and at times failed to adequately communicate with them.
“The reality is, this is an extraordinary situation where the length of delay has ruined the lives of businesses owners in the area. I have worked closely with Heart of the City, who represent businesses in Auckland Central and who have now set up a petition which I will present to Parliament to consider these issues once we have obtained signatures.
“These people deserve much better. I encourage people to sign the petition and I hope that the Government and Council will act to provide greater support.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decile announcement is little more than political theatre, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“In 2017 National announced it was going to scrap the decile system within two years, so schools would have a new system by next year. Mr Hipkins changed that decision and delayed the implementation of a new system for a further two years.
“For the Minister to pretend this is a new announcement after he has effectively made schools wait an additional two years is extraordinary.
“National had proposed a Risk Index and had even drafted legislation, which Labour voted down last year, to implement the new system.
“The Government has now claimed the Equity Index is somehow dramatically different. We will need to see the detail of the Equity Index, but it appears to just be a variation of the Risk Index. Fundamentally, it would still be using IDI data and it shouldn’t have taken two years for the Government to announce a variation of how that data will be used.
“At the time National committed that no school would lose out but the Government has been light on the detail today around specific funding, which will leave some schools wanting greater guarantees around their future funding.
“This is a Government that has been slow to address issues of equity for some of our most disadvantaged students, in some areas it has embedded further inequity through donations policy and learning support facilitators.”
News that half the schools in Auckland are getting fewer teachers at a time of rapid population growth is unbelievable, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“To think we are in a time of swelling population growth, with teachers struggling to cope with workload and the Ministry’s response has been to decrease many schools teacher allocation is incompetent.
“It is clear that the issue may be wider than Auckland with principals across the country concerned about their staffing entitlement for next year and concerns about staffing entitlements for Communities of Learning.
“The Minister must review these processes as the situation is completely unsatisfactory.
"National knows that more teachers means more attention for our kids at a stage of life when they need it most. To achieve their potential and reach their dreams our kids need more face time with teachers.
“That’s why last year National announced that if elected in 2020, we will invest to reduce teacher ratios and class sizes.”
News that a principal was awarded contracts with the Ministry of Education worth hundreds of thousands of dollars while under investigation for sleeping naked with students needs an independent investigation, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Teaching Council Disciplinary Tribunal recently cancelled Principal Uenuku Fairhall’s practicing certificate after describing his conduct as ‘disgraceful’. The Tribunal found Fairhall slept in the same bed as a student while naked, asked a student to remove their underwear, and engaged in sexualised talk with students.
“Allegations against Fairhall go back to February 2017. On 31 March 2017, a Deputy Secretary, Katrina Casey confirmed to the Rotorua Daily Post that the Ministry had been made aware of the allegations on 15 March 2017.
“The Ministry previously defended using Fairhall’s company, for which he is the sole director, and said ‘we did not work with Mr Fairhall at any time’. However, his company was contracted to provide Māori medium learning resources for schools and the Ministry while he was under investigation by the Tribunal.
“Fairhall’s work for the Ministry included at least three videos that were uploaded to the Ministry of Education Vimeo page in July 2018, over a year after allegations were first made. Fairhall features in these videos and his name is included in the titles. These videos have now been taken down. The Ministry now claims this was an administrative error.
“Regardless of why this occurred it is insensitive to the children involved in this case and shows a sloppy approach. Natural justice is important, but the Ministry should not have been awarding contracts given the serious allegations.
“The Minister has taken a very relaxed approach, stating he was satisfied the Ministry had acted appropriately, and quickly enough, following the announcement of the Teaching Council decision. After further questioning by media in the last few days, the Minister has now said Fairhall should not have been contracted.
“While the Ministry has now agreed to strengthen its information sharing with the Teaching Council and review how contracts are commissioned, it should not have taken Newshub media inquiries for this to have happened.
“An independent investigation is needed to look into the Ministry’s processes given the changing nature of their statements and their systems around contracting people being investigated for serious allegations.
“I am calling on the Minister to establish an independent investigation into this issue.”
A high level timeline of Ministry of Education involvement is here.
The Government must halt the Learning Support Coordinator (LSC) roll out upon news that the New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) has deemed it flawed and unworkable, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“News that NZEI principals are consulting their members on requesting the Government to halt the roll out of Learning Support Coordinators is not surprising.
“I’ve been inundated with principals and schools claiming the roll out is inequitable.
“The Government has not been transparent as to how they allocated the LSC’s. Some allocations have been based on the Learning Support Model but it’s clear that this isn’t the full story behind the distribution.
“Proactively released documents show the Ministry indicated it would be difficult to fill rolls in certain parts of New Zealand due to teacher supply.
“The Associate Education Minister’s response to this concern was to suggest a possible reallocation of LSC roles so that other areas could get more LSC’s. This is a shambolic process.
“The Prime Minister and Tracey Martin announced these coordinators nine months ago but have failed to get the sector on board.
“In addition to the allocation concerns, there is a concern by some that the roll out will be too focussed on administration and not deliver enough front line support.
“The Government needs to listen to the sector who are arguing for the Minister to go back to the drawing board on this flawed policy.
“Children with complex needs are depending on the Minister to get it right.”
The Prime Minister’s announcement that around 120 primary schools will get access to universal free lunches is a well-meaning pilot but is badly designed and will leave thousands of children in early learning centres and high schools unable to get support for years to come, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National invested in the successful Kickstart programme which partners with Sanitarium and Fonterra to provide breakfast clubs to all schools who want it across all deciles one to ten. It reaches more than 1000 schools and kura and around 30,000 children. We also provided funding for the fruit in schools programme and KidsCan.
“Our approach was based on schools determining their need, rather than a one size fits all blanket approach. Some schools may choose to feed all of their children but many schools acknowledge not all children need food. The success and low cost of the programme we delivered is due to its work with partners who leverage existing infrastructure, suppliers and food distribution networks.
“The Government’s approach has failed to consider that most schools do not have the infrastructure such as kitchens for large scale food preparation and storage. There is minimal funding in this scheme for equipment. The scheme is designed with maximum work for the school unlike the majority of other successful schemes operating now.
“Taxpayer funding is being used for this policy which is ill thought through and lacks detail. National also understands that a significant sum of money will be spent on officials and evaluation rather than actual lunches.
“The intention of this universal policy is to reduce social stigma for children but it ignores the fact that many schools have developed approaches to ensure children are provided a free lunch in a sensitive and confidential way.
“If this is the beginning of a universal free lunch programme for all schools, this would cost hundreds of millions and take away the autonomy of parents to provide lunch for their children.
“This nanny state policy is putting a bandaid over an issue with no plan to address the fact that seven of nine child poverty indicators have worsened under this Government. National believes it is the responsibility of parents to feed their children, but through targeted support with trusted organisations we can help children in need.
“National would support a decision to invest more to ensure children in hardship get access to nutritious food. However, the Government could use the money more effectively to reach the tens of thousands of children in high schools and early childhood centres who will miss out under this scheme by working with organisations already doing this work.”