Today’s announcement of mega strikes at schools will be tough on students and parents who have already lost days of learning and work, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“I have said before it is crucial the Government provide a circuit breaker to resolve this . Labour created huge expectations with the sector by over promising.
“The mega strike will see the largest ever industrial action by New Zealand teachers, covering almost 50,000 members across the two unions.
“Teachers are telling me they don’t believe Education Minister Chris Hipkins and the Prime Minister when they say ‘there is no more money’ given the spending announcements that have been made over the past 12 months.
“National left Labour growing surpluses. Budget 2019 will involve a massive education spend. However if we can’t get teachers in classrooms people will question Labour’s priorities.
“Some of Labour’s big promises include scrapping donations, modernising all school buildings, digital devices, driver licenses and financial literacy for students and learning support coordinators in schools.
“They are a year late on their donations promise and they are only committing to funding this term for a small proportion of learning support coordinators promised.
“We have said before that Labour has favoured tertiary students by using more than $2 billion on a failed fees free policy. With people predicting Tomorrow’s Schools reforms could cost hundreds of millions, tens of millions being spent on education reviews people are saying to me the urgent need is pay and workload.
“Recent announcements around teacher training are less effective if we can’t get pay and workload issues addressed because we won’t have teachers in the classroom. National supports lowering teacher ratios which the Government should move on to help settle the dispute.
“Children’s learning is suffering and people lives are being disrupted. This standoff needs to be resolved. Labour need to prioritise teachers to resolve the dispute.”
The Ministry of Education is taking too long to process applications and payments to Professional Learning Development providers which is an unreasonably long period of time, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“I’m aware of a provider who was owed close to $100,000 by the Ministry of Education. It’s not fair to have people who are struggling as a result and having to max out their credit card to pay their bills. It is unacceptable that it takes a media query to force the Ministry to pay this provider back.
“A Ministry report from March of this year confirms that complaints on issues, time delays and the payment of invoices ‘are universal’. It also shows that there are personnel issues within the Ministry and pressure on the viability and functioning of businesses.
“I will be asking more questions to get to the bottom of the time that they have been taken to process both proposals for professional learning and development and payments for this.
“It is positive that the ministry indicate that they’re working on a platform to speed things up. However, that is cold comfort for the people at the coal face and the schools who are getting delays in their professional development.
“The uncertainty around payments and funding will have a huge impact on businesses that rely on this as their main source of income. This is extremely concerning, it’s important our teachers get timely, professional development and that there is confidence in the market.
“It’s clear the Ministry can’t even get the basics right and we need urgent assurances that these issues are being resolved.”
Today’s passing of the Education Amendment Bill (No2) continues the ideological approach this Government is taking in education, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National previously established Communities of Online Learning to provide more distance learning options in subject areas that may be hard to staff. While we accept the Government didn’t support this particular regime, there is a need to ensure the sustainability of existing virtual learning networks and to grow distance learning.
“The Government’s refusal through the legislative process to provide an alternative regulatory framework for sustainable, quality online learning and content is hugely disappointing. There are a number of rural areas and hard to staff areas where children could’ve benefited from more virtual or online learning opportunities.
“The new Bill changes cohort entry which will see a change to the school starting age for some parents. For decades, kids in New Zealand have been able to start school at the age of five.
“The previous cohort entry regime would have only allowed a small group of children to start school at a maximum of eight weeks before their 5th birthday if a parent chose to do this. National supports what would have likely been a small number of parents having that choice.
“The Bill also enables the Minister to issue Government policy directions relating to the Education Council’s functions. The Minister is reducing the independence of the profession with this change.
“It is deeply ironic and hypocritical for him to have argued so strongly in Opposition for independence and then pass a law change like this. A number of organisations including teacher unions voiced their concerns on this at Select Committee.
“While National opposed the Bill, we did support an SOP to require University name changes to be approved by a resolution in Parliament. Nicola Willis campaigned hard to stop the Victoria University name change and it’s great that the Minister listened to all of those that campaigned against it. It made sense to tidy up the law.
“But the Education Amendment Bill (No2) is an example of this Government on an ideological crusade to get rid of anything brought in by National, rather than putting up a positive agenda of change.”
The Government’s pre-Budget education announcement today is a mixed bag for the sector, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“While it is positive Education Minister Chris Hipkins has abandoned his focus on overseas teachers to try and ensure we have New Zealand trained teachers in classrooms, it is pointless if collective bargaining issues can’t be resolved.
“During the election campaign Labour built up high expectations around pay rises and working conditions for teachers. They’re not following through and have found themselves in a gridlock with the profession with primary and secondary strikes imminent.
“The package announced will also fall short of providing more than 8000 extra teachers over the next five years that the Ministry of Education’s own data indicates could be needed in classrooms.
“The PPTA has previously stated that larger class sizes are likely if these teacher shortages can’t be resolved.
“It’s been two years since National announced the development of an Education Workforce Strategy. It’s unbelievable that the Government is half way through their first term and they still don’t have a plan, only the ‘vision statement’ that was released today.
“By not releasing a plan that shows how many teachers are actually needed, the Government can avoid being held to account, flying in the face of its promise to be open and transparent.
“It’s good to see Mr Hipkins has backtracked on his decision to scrap National’s plan to extend voluntary bonding to further hard-to-staff areas, but he has provided little detail and fast-growing places like Auckland need certainty now.
“The Teach First NZ funding is also welcome, but is just an extension of what already exists.
“The reality is the Minister has trumpeted increases in the number of people going into teacher training, however it’s my understanding that the numbers in secondary teacher training in places like Auckland have decreased, not increased.
“Without resolving collective bargaining issues around pay and workload, providing further incentives for teachers who have the left the profession to come back and doing more to urgently increase the number of people in teacher training, we will be thousands of teachers short in classrooms over the coming years.”
A link to the Ministry of Education's new Teacher Demand and Supply Planning Tool can be found here.
The Government is half way through its term and it hasn’t signed off a plan to manage the increasing pressure on Auckland schools, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Auckland is New Zealand’s fastest-growing city and it urgently needs more places available for students.
“Investing in school property to get ahead of growth was a priority for National, particularly in Auckland. Despite the Global Financial Crisis and Canterbury earthquakes, National increased investment in school property to more than $5 billion.
“National delivered 9,000 extra student places by June 2017. We were on track to deliver 17,000 places needed in Auckland by 2019. We knew there was more work to be done, under National in 2017 an Auckland Education Growth Plan to manage adding capacity to Auckland’s schooling network had gone Cabinet.
“We have seen very little progress on future proofing Auckland for the tens of thousands of additional students despite the Minister making comments last year. Figures demonstrate more than 200 schools are currently over capacity in Auckland.
“The Government has not invested to keep up with growth in the last 18 months despite National in 2017 putting aside billions over four years for school infrastructure.
“We know Auckland’s population is continuing to grow and some schools are bursting at the seams.
“Budget 2019 will need to provide a large investment in school infrastructure in places of high growth, like Auckland and the Bay of Plenty, to catch up on this Government’s inaction. Even if there is a large investment the reality is the Government’s spent nearly a year and a half doing very little.
“This week Helensville MP Chris Penk launched a petition for land to be put aside for a new school in his electorate in response to growth and overcrowding in the area. This is just one example where there are schools with growth issues not being addressed. We know there are also major issues in Papamoa.
“Schools, students and their families can’t keep waiting for action while the problem gets worse. The Government needs to get to work and deliver more student places in areas of high growth like Auckland.”
News last week that the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce received over 5000 submissions and pieces of feedback shows the public and educators are very invested in the potential reforms, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National has previously argued for an extension to the deadline for the Taskforce to report back to the Minister. The original timeframe was too short for comprehensive and considered decision making.
“The Minister extended the deadline until the end of June, but I am concerned that it’s still not going to be possible to properly process all of the submissions and do the policy work required to translate the findings into the next iteration of the report. I think the Minister needs to give a further extension of another two months at least.
“It is also my view that the Taskforce needs to provide a summary of all the submissions they received for full transparency.
“One of the biggest criticisms I heard at my public meetings was that there is a lack of detail around the proposals and their cost. The Minister says costings haven’t been done, but the public need to have high-level cost estimates as soon as possible.
“The detail really matters. In all aspects, from suspensions and expulsions to the fundamental delineation of the role of boards versus hubs, far more detail needs to be provided in the next report.
“This is the largest education reform in thirty years and National wants to work constructively with the Government, but in order to get enduring change we need to get the process and detail right.”
Eight weeks of public meetings across New Zealand on Tomorrow’s Schools show many people see room to improve our education system but they don’t want it radically restructured into a hub model, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“National hosted around 30 public education meetings and discussions, engaging with an estimated 2000 people on options proposed by the Independent Taskforce. We also held around 40 more informal meetings and discussions with principals, smaller groups, students, parents and stakeholder organisations.
“Submissions on the report closed on Sunday. The timeframes are too tight to allow adequate and meaningful consideration of the hundreds if not thousands of submissions the taskforce is likely to consider before reporting back to the Minister on April 30th.
“National has already confirmed our support for some of the recommendations on additional learning support and on scrapping the decile system, which National made a decision to do when we were in Government. The work of the NZ Initiative provides further evidence for scrapping the decile system.
“Many people said the proposed hub model was a return to the past when education boards held sway. Their shortcomings were a major driver for Tomorrow’s Schools being introduced three decades ago.
“People were concerned that principals and teachers could be muzzled and lose their autonomy if they were employed by hubs, and parents could end up disempowered. There were significant concerns that the proposed governance of hubs could see them stacked with political appointees.
“Another way to look at it is that this is potentially the largest restructure of the jobs of more than 19,000 boards of trustees and more than 2500 principals and it could significantly affect the employment of teachers in schools.
“National will formulate our final position on the Tomorrow’s Schools report in coming months. We said at the outset we want to be constructive and engage with both the taskforce and the Government to ensure any improvements to education system are enduring.”
Notes to Editors: We cancelled a number of meetings out of respect for the victims of the terrorist attack in Canterbury. We will hold an additional meeting in Canterbury on May 5th which we have permission to provide feedback on post the closing of submissions.
National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye is concerned for students and parents potentially facing continued strikes in 2019 as the Government has yet again failed to reach an agreement with primary teachers.
“The news today by NZEI that teachers have overwhelmingly rejected the latest Government offers means that there is a high likelihood of strikes in the coming months and disruption has teachers try to get the Government to listen to their concerns.
“Last year marked the first primary teachers strikes in 24 years. This would be the third strike to take place after prolonged negotiations that started 11 months ago.
“NZEI has signalled ‘significant disruption’. We note that NZEI is looking at paid union meetings, partial strike action by working to rule and a day of strike.
“The PPTA has also previously confirmed that it has rejected the Government’s third offer and is also likely to be heading towards strikes unless it can come to an agreement. It cancelled its strike because of the terrorist attack. Both the primary and secondary education sectors have raised a number of issues including recruitment and retention issues.
“We have said before that Labour has taken teachers for granted and favoured tertiary students by using huge amounts of education cash on a failed fees free policy.
“National has been travelling the country and listening to teachers concerns as part of the consultation on Tomorrow’s Schools. People are concerned that the proposals could cost potentially millions and that the larger priority is teacher pay and addressing additional learning support issues.
“The Government needs to find a circuit breaker to break the stand-off. It appears that there will be no agreement if the Government doesn’t either shift on additional learning needs, workload and recruitment issues.”
The Equal Pay Amendment Bill risks significantly delaying pay equity for part-time teachers, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The transitional provisions of the Bill will put at risk existing pay equity cases that are currently before the Employment Relations Authority and the Courts.
“This is a departure from earlier legislation and will delay some cases considerably, including the PPTA’s pay equity claim for part-time secondary teachers.
“The PPTA has been working towards pay equity for part-time secondary teachers. Discontinuing its claim would cost years of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the PPTA has indicated it will be seeking compensation from the Government if this comes to pass.
“It also appears that the Ministry of Justice’s Bill Of Rights Act analysis was based on an earlier version of the Bill that didn't include the transitional provisions, as it doesn’t mention them. This demonstrates an alarming level of incompetence from the Government.
“National is committed to achieving pay equity in New Zealand, which is why we support this Bill as a step toward closing the gender pay gap and ensuring female dominated jobs are paid fairly. However, the transitional provisions are flawed and will only serve to delay or put at risk completely existing pay equity claims.
“The Government need to show some respect for the considerable expense, resources and effort that have been put into existing pay equity cases over many years. The Bill must be rewritten to give claimants the option for current cases already in the pipeline to be considered under the current law.”
There has been huge interest from communities since National announced its Future of Education public meetings with a focus on the Tomorrow’s Schools proposals and wider education issues, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Because of such high demand, and our desire to ensure that as many people as possible can attend, we are looking to fit in 40 meetings over eight weeks. We are securing dates, times and centres for all the 40 meetings which will be updated on the National Party website.
“Unfortunately, the rapidly approaching deadline for the Tomorrow’s Schools consultation of early April means that it’s not possible to hold a meeting in every electorate. However, I will be travelling the country to hold meetings in most of the major town centres from Kerikeri to Stewart Island.
“The meetings will be jointly hosted by myself and the local National MPs, some members of National’s Education Caucus will also be in attendance. I plan to attend all of the 40 meetings.
“National has also welcomed a request by the Chair of the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce, Bali Haque, to have some of the taskforce or officials attend some of our meetings as part of their own public consultation process.
“National want to ensure that the 19,000 trustees on school boards and hundreds of thousands of parents have the opportunity to have a good understanding of the proposals. To ensure this we will be providing factual information on the changes as well as seeking feedback.
“I will provide the feedback from our public meetings to the taskforce before the consultation process closes.
“I expect that an important part of the meetings will also be discussions around wider issues in education including NCEA changes, school property and additional learning needs.
“The Tomorrow’s Schools proposals represent the largest education reforms in over thirty years, and we want to ensure more parents, educators and communities have the opportunity to be heard.”
National’s Future of Education meeting schedule available here.