The Government needs to stop complaining and start getting on with its job, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Labour inherited a strong economy from the previous National Government, but it over promised during the election campaign and now it’s learning that its budget is too tight.
“In order to manage expectations about the meagre Budget the Government is about to deliver, it appears Education Minister Chris Hipkins is trying to rewrite history.
“But the fact is, under National the education budget increased every year we were in office and the overall education budget went from $8 billion to over $11 billion.
“When we came into government, we inherited a property portfolio with an average age of 40 years. There was no complete picture of the state of school property.
“We invested more than $5 billion in school property alone – the largest ever. This included more than 30 big projects including the $1.1 billion Christchurch schools rebuild, the $79 million Western Springs College rebuild and the $22 million upgrade for The Gardens School.
“The Auditor-General last year stated that during the time National was in Government, the management of the school property portfolio strengthened significantly.
“But we knew there was still more work to be done. That’s why a further $4.85 billion had been set aside over four years for education infrastructure, like school property.
“We were also investing in high-growth areas. Once Budget 2017 is taken into account, we were on track to deliver around 21,000 extra student places needed in Auckland by 2027.
“Mr Hipkins should release evidence to back up his claim of $200 million worth of unusable buildings. If he is suggesting school buildings are unsafe, there are potential legal consequences under health and safety laws.
“This is a government in spin mode. It allocated almost all its money to the fees free bribe, and none to the business-as-usual expenditure that always comes up in education. It just needs to get on with the job.”
The Government needs to put ideology aside and be open about its intentions for the future of children and young people attending partnership schools who just want to know that the schools they love can stay open, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National supports both the existing charter schools and the schools that were set to open in 2019.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has made it clear that he has no interest in allowing partnership schools to flourish under the current model, but the entire process for terminating the model has been flawed from the start.
“Mr Hipkins said during a press conference this week that partnership schools that become designated character schools will get funding comparable to what they currently get, which is surprising given the fuss he’s kicked up in the past about these schools being overfunded.
“However, with negotiations being held behind closed doors it is not clear how much funding each school is likely to get. It has become clear that a number of schools have received establishment grant funding at a time when the Government has been proceeding to try and shut down the partnership school model.
“We also know the costs of scrapping the partnership school model could be around $15 million due to potential compensation payments. But Mr Hipkins has failed to front up about the potential cost implications for the partnership schools’ property.
“He’s also failed to mention that he has considered merging partnership schools with state schools. These schools want to stay open under the existing partnership school model, not be integrated into a state school or forced to become a designated character school.
“The schools are being asked to get applications to transition to a different model in before May, prior to the legislation being progressed through Parliament which can provide an alternative constitution for partnership schools.
“It has also come to light that while the Government has scrapped National Standards, it has recently told some partnership schools they must still report to National Standards. The inconsistent approach begs the question why partnership schools are being to a higher standard than other schools.
“And we’re still waiting for the release of the latest Martin Jenkins report which I understand shows partnership schools are achieving positive results. Schools provided data for this report in September, so the Government needs to explain why it is hiding this report.
“I have made a complaint to the Auditor-General regarding the process around scrapping the partnership school model and potential perceived conflicts of interests or preferential treatment by several ministers.
“These recent developments build an even stronger picture of a confused, ideological Government that puts politics ahead of what’s right for children with very complex needs.”
The Government is taking New Zealand’s education system back to the dark ages with the announcement that it is scrapping Communities of Online Learning (COOL) and increasing its control over the Education Council, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Digital technologies have rapidly evolved in the decade since Labour was last in Government and it’s important our education system reflects that.
“That’s why National established COOLs, with the intention of harnessing digital technology to provide more learning options for children and young people.
“For instance, parents who home-schooled their children could have enrolled them in a COOL which would have opened them up to subjects that the parent might not be able to teach. Or a rural school that doesn’t have the capacity to teach languages might have allowed its students to use a COOL to learn Mandarin or Te Reo Māori.
“Scrapping COOLs takes these possibilities away from children and young people, all because Labour is ideologically allergic to privately delivered services.
“At the same time as the Government is taking opportunities away from kids, Education Minister Chris Hipkins is giving himself more control over the Education Council.
“Despite the spin from Mr Hipkins that allowing teachers to elect most members to the Education Council gives the sector more control, the changes proposed in the Education Amendment Bill actually hand the power of decision-making over to the Minister.
“The Council will be required to consult with the Minister on decisions relating to teacher training and registration. Changes will also enable the Minister to issue a policy statement which will essentially tell the Council what to do and how to do it.
“What’s the point of telling teachers they can elect members to the Council when the Minister is just going to tell them what to do anyway?
“The sooner Mr Hipkins realises that the Government doesn’t have all the answers, the better.”
The Government must be clear about its policy on free to air sport, given NZ First has promised to implement it while Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran has said it is not a priority, National’s Sport and Recreation Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National has always recognised that the money from selling broadcasting rights is important to the sporting codes. The minute the Government tries to force greater access to coverage, it must pay for it.
“While National did not campaign on a free to air sport policy, NZ First promised it would be a non-negotiable demand in its coalition discussions.
“But shortly after becoming Minister, Clare Curran said it was not a priority for the Government.
“This issue is further confused with today’s news that Sky TV is not the preferred bidder to broadcast the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
“It’s important to respect the tender process, however Ms Curran must be clear about whether the Government will provide additional funding to ensure greater access to either Rugby World Cup coverage or free to air sport as promised by Labour’s coalition partner.
“Labour has promised additional funds for broadcasting so they need to be clear whether any of these funds will be used for greater access to sporting matches.
“Taxpayers deserve transparency from this Government, but if recent events are anything to go by I wouldn’t hold my breath.”
A petition to improve the quality of school and parental reporting has been launched today by National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye.
“Labour’s dismantling of National Standards without having a system of standardised reporting to replace it with demonstrates a complete disregard for parents and the needs of children across the country,” Ms Kaye says.
“National believes that parents should be able to see how their kids are doing at school and that schools should be accountable for lifting achievement.
“National Standards were a key part of ensuring that. Scrapping National Standards without a replacement system means that parents will be left in the dark about where their child is at in their learning and children will have at least a year’s gap in their achievement records.
“That’s not good enough and that’s why National is launching this petition today.
“In August last year, National announced a policy to develop National Standards to report across more of the curriculum beyond the core competencies. However, we recognised this would require years of investment and implementation. That would mean we’d have to retain National Standards in the meantime so parents could still track their child’s progress.
“In scrapping National Standards without having a replacement, the Government changed the National Administration Guidelines to remove the requirement for schools to report achievement information to the Ministry of Education.
“This means that schools can use any system they choose for reporting to parents and, while there are international reports to compare to, there will be no nationwide picture of achievement.
“That will make it much more difficult for parents to challenge a school if they have concerns about how the school has assessed their child, because there’s less ability to compare against other schools.
“The petition also calls for investment in online tools to ensure parents and teachers can have confidence in the data that’s being reported, but also have greater frequency of reporting in the future.
“We are confident that thousands of New Zealanders will come on board to restore the basic concept that parents have the right to frequent and reliable school reports.”
The petition can be signed here.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ unilateral decision to prevent parents from sending their children to school before the age of five as part of cohort entry could cost taxpayers up to $42 million more a year, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye has revealed.
“Yet again Mr Hipkins has rushed through an ideological policy without working through the detail or potential cost to taxpayers, and it’s come back to bite him,” Ms Kaye says.
“Last year he announced that he would be changing the law around cohort entry to stop parents being able to send their kids to school prior to their fifth birthday, before receiving any briefings on the issue and without going through the proper Cabinet process.
“Information released under the OIA shows Mr Hipkins only received a memo about the costs of his new policy after he had already announced his decision. It is clear he didn’t give his Cabinet colleagues the full picture of potential costs, which could add up to hundreds of millions over the next few years.
“The memo shows that the Ministry of Education estimates there will be between $5 million and $50 million each year in costs to pay for kids to be in early childhood education for longer, given they will no longer be able to start school early. This is up to $42 million more than it would cost to implement the current policy.
“While it is unlikely that costs will reach $50 million each year because this would require 100 per cent uptake of cohort entry, it is reasonable to assume they could be tens of millions of dollars given the support shown by schools and parents for cohort entry – and that’s without counting the cost to parents of forcing them to keep kids in early childhood education for longer.
“The irresponsible and arrogant manner in which Mr Hipkins made his decision meant that his colleagues weren’t made aware of the potential $42 million annual cost before he announced it.
“This follows his Government’s decision to give $2.8 billion to students for free tertiary education before doing the work needed to ensure that the money would be spent wisely. Now we have a situation where $38 million will be wasted on university dropouts.
“I suspect Mr Hipkins will be steering clear of Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who has the unenviable task of trying to balance the books while his colleagues are out spending money behind his back.
“This is a Government with a very tight budget. It cannot afford to be wasting more money because of ideologies and rushed decisions.”
Labour will need to come up with more cash if it is to go ahead with its unrealistic plan to end school donations, with data showing that over $130 million in donations was paid in 2016 – almost twice the estimated cost of Labour’s policy, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Labour estimated the policy would cost $70 million, apparently based on 450,000 students being covered by the policy, with no detail as to how they estimated this uptake.
“Given Labour made big promises about ending school donations, it’s clear it’ll need to find more money in its already-tight budget or admit that the policy is too expensive and unrealistic.
“The fact is the Government has little ability to force schools not to ask for donations and in order to really incentivise them, it could cost twice as much as what it budgeted for.
“Giving schools that scrap donations an extra $150 per student will not be near enough. In 2016, the number of donations reported to Inland Revenue that were $150 and under made up just 21.5 per cent of all donations. What incentive will the Government offer to counter the 78.5 per cent of donations over $150?
“While the IRD data is only a snapshot of all donations made, because many parents are not claiming tax rebates, it is still a strong indication that the $150 promised by the Government will only incentivise a small proportion of schools.
“The Government needs to work better with schools and parents to ensure that they know that they could be eligible to claim back up to a third of their voluntary school donations.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins will be under huge pressure after spending $2.8 billion on tertiary education students, leaving little money left for the rest of the education sector.
“What’s disappointing is that the Ministry of Education has withheld two key pieces of advice which would likely provide the actual costings of the policy.
“We all want to make education to be more affordable for parents but that process requires transparency and robust costings so that education priorities can be properly weighed up.”
Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye says there needs to be greater transparency, collaboration and better communication to ensure New Zealand doesn’t lose the opportunity to host the America’s Cup and that we get the best plan for developing the base in Auckland.
“We know from history that the development of the America’s Cup base has the potential to create an enduring legacy for the city. Hosting this event is a huge opportunity so it’s important that we get it right for the future of Auckland.
“Auckland Council is currently accepting submissions on the original Wynyard Basin proposal. A number of stakeholders have concerns about this option.
“There have been a range of other options put forward by the Government, Council, Team New Zealand, landowners, urban Auckland and Stop Stealing Our Harbour whose option has the support of some key community groups
“Public submissions for the original proposal close next Wednesday. There is a need for the Government and the Council to be open about what process is followed once submissions close given the other options on the table. The public deserves complete transparency.
“It’s important to try to implement an option that will have the least impact on our harbour while ensuring that the event has the facilities it needs.
“I understand that Team New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Yacht squadron have certain requirements that they believe need to occur to ensure the event goes ahead. They are focused on boat logistics and event facilities.
“As it’s also unclear at this stage how many syndicates there will be, a phased approach should be considered properly so that we don’t build bases that don’t need to be used.
“There is also limited time to deliver the new facilities due to pre-Cup events. Each month that there isn’t clarity has the potential to see less activity building up to the Cup.
“We need the Minister and the Mayor to provide clarity on the process and funding, and a clear timeline of when we can expect the build to start and the village to be delivered.”
National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye is saddened that the current members of the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board have all decided not to make themselves available for reappointment on 1 March and wishes to thank them for their hard work.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ treatment of partnership schools has been appalling so it’s not surprising that the current Board members have effectively decided to walk out en masse.
“It is my understanding that under the Government’s policy there needs to be an advisory board so Hipkins is going to have to work very hard within the next week to find people to make up that board.
“In making their decision, the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board members have made it very clear that they do not wish to contribute to dismantling an initiative that they know is achieving so much for students.
“While I am very sad about their decision, I fully understand and respect the reasons behind it.
“The Board has made a huge contribution to the success of partnership schools. I want to acknowledge the leadership of Chair Catherine Isaac and other members for their work to support the schools to provide an alternative to mainstream education. It was a heavyweight board made up of a number of well-known principals and leading Māori educators.
“All members past and present accepted appointment to the Board because they were committed to providing opportunities for vulnerable children to be successful at school.
“The Board believes that the interests of partnership school students and their families have not been taken into account by the Government which is dead set on shutting down the school they love.
“I have to say, I agree. We’ve heard countless stories of kids who were failing in mainstream education and have since found success and enjoyment at a partnership school so it’s sad that the Government will be taking this away.
“Every past and present Board member can be proud of the work they did. I thank them and wish them well.”
Just when everyone thought the Government had run out of things to review it has announced a review of the education system, complete with more taskforces and summits but scant of any real detail, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye and Tertiary Education spokesperson Paul Goldsmith say.
“It is concerning that this major review will be led by a Minister who has a track record for being big on ideology but bad at process, as demonstrated by the partnership schools and National Standards debacles,” Ms Kaye says.
“It is unfair and disruptive to students, parents and teachers that every time there is a new Government, there are major changes to the education system which is why National wants to work with the Government on these reforms to ensure there is better political consensus.
“We know there are areas that need improvement but we shouldn’t make change for change’s sake. The Government must recognise that there are areas of education that are working very well. For example, Maori and Pasifika achievement has increased significantly in the last decade so we must continue that momentum.
“We have already said we would be keen to work with the Government on areas where we can get cross-party agreement, such as the 30-year plan. However the process matters and it needs to involve collaborative decision-making rather than tick-box consultations with the Opposition and other stakeholders.
“So far there is very little information about what exactly the Government will be reviewing and the devil will be in the detail.”
Mr Goldsmith says it’s all very well for the Government to review vocational education and the need for quality research in the tertiary education sector, but the funding levers available to them will be severely limited.
“Given the Government has already decided to spend all of its $2.8 billion tertiary education investment on grossly untargeted student support, it will be severely short of cash to make any real investment to improve the quality of education.
“Rather than grandly announce more reviews, Mr Hipkins should explain what exactly New Zealanders are getting from the massive investment in tertiary education. Early indications suggest virtually no extra students are enrolling, which must be hard for the institutions and providers to stomach given they are getting no new funding to improve their quality.
“The Government must provide more detail about its review and prove that it’s not simply a smokescreen to distract from the fact it has little cash left to make any real improvements.”