The Government has failed to give certainty of funding for the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) Primary which supports more than 1000 students with their contract expiring in a few weeks, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“At a meeting of the Education select committee today VLN Primary who provide online learning programmes for Communities of Online Learning (COOLs) confirmed that they have not secured funding for the future despite Ministers previously saying they were looking into it.
“National opposes the Government’s removal of COOLs which provide greater opportunities for young people through digital technologies. A number of submitters to the select committee have been asking for an alternative regulatory framework so it is very disappointing that the Government has not provided this.
“With the rise in online learning it is crucial that we get a system in place that provides adequate funding and expands opportunities where there are hard to staff areas or subjects. The Government’s answer is importing large numbers of teachers from overseas when online learning is one additional mechanism that could be used.
“However, this is not possible due to the vacuum that exists around the policy and the future of providers like VLN Primary who have been hugely successful with the number of students in their network growing five times. The Government needs to urgently give the organisation certainty of its future as parents and students deserve to know.
“The Government has demonstrated it has no plan to support online learning in the interim while the education conversations occur.
“The Education Amendment Bill (No.2) also enables the Minister to issue Government policy directions relating to the Education Council’s functions. This is being criticised heavily by a range of stakeholders including large unions who have argued this undermines the independence of the profession.
“There is widespread confusion about what the law will actually mean for example if the council disagree with Government policy.
“The Government has been very hypocritical on this issue given that it has trumpeted the independence of the council in its previous changes to the law.”
After several years of work the Unit Titles (Strengthening Body Corporate Governance and Other Matters) Amendment Bill has huge support from the public, property and legal industry, but Housing Minister Phil Twyford has refused to progress the legislation, National’s Housing spokesperson Judith Collins and Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye say.
“There is a huge opportunity here to strengthen the existing unit titles regime in areas such as pre-contract disclosure, record keeping of body corporates and better management of conflicts of interests and proxy votes,” Ms Collins says.
“The main reason for the change has been concerns around a lack of transparency and inadequacy in long term maintenance plans, and a clearer understanding of the role of a body corporate manager.
“While the Minister supported reform, earlier this year he said he was too busy to draft the law. Mr Twyford chose not to support the legislation as parts of the Bill don’t align with officials’ recommendations and there was a need for additional provisions.
“National has worked alongside property and legal experts for several years to pull together more than 20 pages of legislation. The issues stated by the Minister could have been raised in Select Committee. The reality is no Bill goes to Select Committee in a perfect form.
“It is very clear this isn’t about the detail of the Bill, the Minister is more interested in playing politics and stalling a National Party piece of legislation than ensuring homeowners don’t end up with defective buildings, in disputes and with substandard information about what they are buying into,” Ms Collins says.
“These situations have hit young homeowners and vulnerable people more as they are more likely to afford apartments or townhouses. Mr Twyford has prioritised politics over people and their need for better housing,” Ms Kaye says.
“In Opposition Mr Twyford was vocal for his support for reform. Many in the sector will feel hugely let down and misled by a Minister who indicated this was a priority and is also signalling he will progress the results of the review when ‘priorities and resources permit’.
“This is a Government that campaigned on housing but isn’t following through.
“Some estimates have the apartment sector alone worth more than $50 billion. Underinvestment and inadequate long term maintenance plans can result in large unexpected bills for homeowners if defects occur and increases in body corporate fees.
“The Minister’s true colours have shone through. Mr Twyford has chosen to play politics instead of respecting the work that has gone into this and progressing this legislation that will improve the quality of housing for all. National will keep fighting hard to keep the pressure on this Government to prioritise this reform,” Ms Kaye says.
News that the secondary teachers have overwhelmingly rejected the Government’s pay offer means strikes are likely in term one of next year unless the Government can reach settlement, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The PPTA have today said that the Government has a complete unwillingness to face facts and have confirmed what they are calling an ‘overwhelming’ vote against the Government’s pay offer and for strikes.
“This will have a significant impact on students and their families and the Minister needs to explain what contingency plans will be put in place to deal with this. This is on the back of two primary teacher strikes that have already meant days of learning lost.
“One of the core issues for secondary teachers in areas like Auckland is the rising cost of living which has been raised in their claim. Last year, to help support teachers with living costs, National confirmed that we were looking at extending voluntary bonding in hard to staff areas.
“However, despite the Labour-led Government driving up the cost of living, the Minister also cut the length of payments for Auckland and only provided the payments for decile 1-3 schools. The Minster must consider a greater investment and extension of voluntary bonding payments to assist schools.
“National increased salaries for teachers by 2.7 per cent in the last year of the last bargaining round, yet the Government is offering 3 per cent despite having billions more in surplus.
“The Government has repeatedly said there is ‘no more money’ yet in November alone they have announced hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of new spending, opened a new embassy in Sweden, and mulched $160,000 worth of seedlings through its botched ‘1 billion trees’ scheme.
“Add to this recent news that the $2.8 billion fees free policy has resulted in 2400 fewer tertiary students, and the Government’s $5 billion surplus and what you have is proof that there is more money. This makes it even more difficult for teachers and parents to understand why Chris Hipkins isn’t doing more to settle the pay disputes and prevent more strikes.
“The Government also needs to realise that separate to preventing strikes, this collective bargaining is also about assisting to resolve teacher shortages, with some schools questioning the Government’s push to take in large numbers of overseas teachers.
“The PPTA said today what many New Zealanders are finding out is that the Government is simply not living up to what they’ve promised.
“The combination of further primary strikes potentially looming and strikes on the cards for secondary teachers is very worrying for students, teachers and parents.”
A Bill that will ensure every child in years 1-8 has the opportunity to learn a second language is receiving huge support from a range of communities, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“Over the last few months I have met and contacted a number of individuals and organisations regarding the Bill and a diverse range of communities have shown their support.
“It is great to have the support of key organisations which promote many different languages including Pasifika, Asian and European languages. Some of these organisations include the Asia NZ Foundation, Auckland Languages Strategy group, Confucious Institute, NZ Korean Language Teachers Association, NZ Association of Korean Schools, Waitakere Indian Association and the Supreme Sikh Society. I have also received a large number of support letters and emails from the public as well as support from some principals and teachers.
“Over the coming weeks I plan to meet with more stakeholders to gain further support for the bill. My colleague Jo Hayes has also been liaising with key organisations and individuals who support the focus on ensuring there is universal access to Te Reo. I will be continuing to work with Jo to ensure key iwi, organisations and individuals are briefed on the Bill.
“We know the enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits from learning a second language. It is increasingly being recognised the importance of language, culture and the development of young people’s oral language skills in having a positive impact on their achievement at school.
“My Bill would require the Minister of Education to set at least ten national priority languages for schools following public consultation, and require 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.
“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.
“I am open to a phased approach to deliver this policy over a number of years. This would help ensure that the workforce is in place for the different priority languages. I am keen to work cross-party on an implementation plan, as this initiative will require the support of successive governments.
“We need to acknowledge and embrace New Zealand’s increasing linguistic and cultural diversity by creating opportunities for our young people to learn languages other than English in our schools. I hope that we will be able to have a healthy debate about access to heritage languages at select committee.
“I have met with key political leaders or spokespeople from each Party in Parliament to discuss the Bill and ask for their support. It is clear to me that there is political will and public support to strengthen languages and I am hoping that political parties can support the Bill to select committee.”
The Government needs to listen and be more balanced and respectful in the way that it handles the collective bargaining with teachers, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“The strikes, which start tomorrow, are the second round of strikes. This follows on from the strike in mid-August which was the first primary teacher strikes in 24 years. Teachers and parents need this resolved to prevent further disruption for students.
“The Government’s process for the collective bargaining for primary and secondary teachers has been long and at times disrespectful of teachers. Yesterday NZEI claimed that ministers have made misleading statements regarding the offer.
“Costing information was withheld by the Government about the offer from both NZEI and the PPTA over several months. We are now six months in, and quite rightly many teachers are questioning why it has taken so long to get to the current offer. It is too early to tell whether the current offer will lead to a settlement.
“The facilitation concluded and the strike meetings over the next week will consider the offer. The timeline for any decision for members may mean that the formal vote is not held for a number of weeks.
“It is now clear that the late offer by the Government on Thursday made it very difficult to avoid the strikes. The Government offered half a day’s pay to avoid the strike but the unions requested a full day to recognise most parents would have taken leave for the full day. The Government did not move on this which has meant we will now have some parents, particularly in Auckland, scrambling to take leave or getting adequate supervision arrangements for their children.
“NZEI has confirmed the offer leaves percentage increases of three per cent a year over three years unchanged on the base salary. There are changes to the top pay step and qualifications. However, they will not happen until 2020 which has left some teachers unhappy.
“Under National salaries increased by less but we were dealing with the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes. We know that the Government has spent billions on tertiary students and on commitments to NZ First which has constrained the amount that can be offered for teachers.
“Other groups in the public sector like the New Zealand Police have been offered more.
“The learning facilitator support for 600 teachers to help children with complex needs reflects Labour’s manifesto commitment to provide staff in every school. I have previously acknowledged the Government’s announcement on this as schools need more support for these children. However, the first tranche will not start until 2020 and there is still uncertainty about the timeline of the second tranche of providing these roles.
“The other area the Government should consider improving its offer to teachers is a commitment to reduce class sizes in primary schools. Earlier this year National made a strong commitment to reducing class sizes in primary schools. Labour talked about reducing class sizes for years in Opposition and some Labour MPs distributed election material committing to reductions but since coming into Government, Education Minister Chris Hipkins has refused to commit to reduce them. The claim has also argued for additional release time to assist with teacher workload.
“The pay and conditions in this collective bargaining will be a major lever to resolve teacher shortages. This means the stakes are high with this three year agreement. If the Government is unable to find the right salary and workload package it will also make it even harder to staff schools in the future.
“If it appears settlement is unlikely and the Government refuses to shift on salary increases then the Minister needs to consider providing greater certainty on the detail of learning facilitator roles, commit to reducing class sizes or increase release time. Parents and students need the Government not to walk away and criticise teachers but continue to keep working prevent further strikes.
Today’s confirmation the Government will build on National’s record investment in learning support is good news for schools, however, with a critical teacher shortage and pay negotiations ongoing, it may be hard to achieve, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“There will be many students and families who will be hugely supportive because they understand how life-changing it can be to get personalised and timely support for children with complex needs.
“It is a bit unusual that the announcement has been made without Cabinet approval despite Labour committing to providing a role in each school in their election manifesto. This may be about the Government rushing to prevent a second round of teacher strikes in the next ten days.
“This investment will help ensure students with additional learning needs get more support. It builds on funding for learning support under National which reached around $658 million a year by the time we left office – a 30 per cent increase since 2008.
“But with demand for teachers so high the plan relies on the Government getting its teacher recruitment and retention strategy right to fill shortages now and in the future and to avoid the planned teacher strikes.
“The Government must conclude pay negotiations for existing teachers and ensure the 600 staff are paid enough and other workload and retention issues are addressed to attract the right people.
“It also needs to urgently deliver the long term-workforce development strategy National started more than a year ago. Some estimates indicate we will be thousands of teachers short over the next five years. With the Ministry’s own data it is not clear how the Government will deliver these first 600 teachers.
“Questions will be raised about Labour releasing further details of the second tranche of support and confirmation that this will definitely include a facilitator in every school.
“National knew we had to do more than just pour more money in – we needed to reform the system itself to ensure greater integration between our health and education system. The Learning Support update work was tracking in the right direction.
“Previous work on roles like this have shown the importance of providing a single point of contact for a child and their family, the need for one plan and coordinators to have flexibility in judgements around what support is provided.
“Further funding for learning support roles in school is important, but its only one step, the Government needs to do more to ensure we better attract people into teaching and retain our best teachers.”
Late this evening it has been confirmed that NZEI members overwhelmingly voted to progress rolling regional strikes from Monday 12 November to Friday 16 November, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“This is the second strike following on from the strike in mid-August. National has previously raised questions about the Government’s collective bargaining for primary and secondary teachers. Other groups in the public sector like the New Zealand Police have been offered more, and the Government created massive expectations for teachers during the election campaign that they are now failing to meet.
“It has also been confirmed this week that the Government has withheld costing information about the offer from both NZEI and the PPTA over several months.
“I understand NZEI have only recently received detailed costing information on each element of the offer. This has made it harder in my view to reach a settlement as there has been some uncertainty about the scale of what has actually been on the table.
“The Government has committed billions of dollars for tertiary students, has billions more cash in surplus so they should be able to give teachers a better offer.
“I believe there is huge public support for teachers getting more. National didn’t have the same options that Labour has but now that New Zealand has larger surpluses we have options.
“The pay and conditions in this collective bargaining will be a major lever to resolve teacher shortages. If the Government can’t improve the offer it will also be making it harder to staff schools in the future.
“I’ve raised issues in the past around the Government’s planning for the strikes. The Government must make sure it is adequately planning for the strikes to ensure that children are properly supervised. Strikes can make planning very difficult for some families who struggle to find adequate supervision for their children or get leave from work.
“It also needs to improve on the situation during the last teacher strikes, when the Ministry of Education had a lack of data about which schools were closing and which weren’t.
“As we move towards the strikes, the Government needs to improve the salary offer to teachers and ensure it includes firm commitments and a timeline around special education support. The Government also needs to also improve their support and planning ahead of the strikes to minimise disruption for students and parents.”
There are serious questions that need to be answered by Government agencies regarding the method of brake testing on Waiheke Island, Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye says.
“This is a significant issue because it cuts to the heart of people’s confidence in vehicle safety.
“Media reports today demonstrate that there is confusion and a lack of clarity around the brake testing system for Waiheke Island.
“Reports indicate that Vehicle Testing New Zealand (VTNZ) has admitted using what has been called ‘an inferior test’ since March 2017. This is despite the agency’s brake protocol which says that the decelerometer method should only be used for up to two days.
“It is also against the backdrop of VTNZ being scrutinised by law firm Meredith Connell.
“While VTNZ has said that they don’t believe there is a safety issue, it has admitted to breaking the rules by using the old test for too long.
“It is also clear that Waiheke customers were not told about this and there is a strong case for islanders being made aware.
“I am requesting an urgent briefing from NZTA and VTNZ on these issues.
“It is clear to me that not only have protocols been broken, but there needs to be greater assurance around public safety for vehicle owners on Waiheke Island. I will be asking a lot more questions of Government agencies on this issue.”
“I have requested an urgent briefing from the Ministry as a result. An independent check may be required on NZTA systems in order to prevent this risk in other communities.”
The Ministry of Education has finally released the costings of the pay offer for secondary teachers which have been held onto for months an hour after a question was lodged to be asked in Parliament today, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“I have been asking written questions where the Education Minister has cunningly avoided providing the details of the individual costings of each element of the pay offer for secondary teachers for months. Within an hour of the question being lodged in Parliament today, the Minister provided that information to the PPTA.
“Failing to provide this information thus far has been, in my view, one the barriers to settlement because the unions have been unable to verify the costings of the offers.
“The fact that it took a question in Parliament to prompt Minister Hipkins to allow the Ministry to release this information proves he is more focused playing political games than reaching a settlement and preventing strikes which we know are deeply disruptive to students, families and parents.
“The Minister, alongside the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, have been saying that the existing offers are more than the equivalent three offers by the previous National Government combined. This is incorrect, both by the Ministry’s own costings provided today and information in Parliament with regard to secondary teachers.
“The costings show the secondary school offer is approximately $360 million over four years. To this into perspective it is equivalent to approximately 13 per cent of the Governments package for tertiary students.
“We also know that other areas of the public service, like the New Zealand Police, have had offers much higher than teachers.
“The Minister’s comments last week, when considering the teachers offer in light of other offers, that National isn’t ‘comparing apples with apples’ need to be explained, especially given there are tens of thousands of teachers who want to know why other public sector workers are being offered much more.
“The Government needs to stop playing politics and wasting time and get back to the table immediately to provide an increased offer to prevent strikes.”
With the passing of the Education Amendment Bill today the Government has ignored continuous outcry from Māori leaders and scrapped the partnership school model, National’s spokesperson for Education Nikki Kaye says.
“Yesterday Māori educators Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi applied for an urgent Waitangi Tribunal hearing over the closure of partnership schools.
“The Minister of Education Chris Hipkins chose to ignore the claim and today the Education Amendment Bill, which contains provisions that remove the partnership school model from legislation, passed its final reading.
“Partnership schools have a strong track record of lifting Māori educational achievement. The claimants believe axing the model will have a detrimental effect on the futures of young Māori because it limits opportunities for educators to help Māori students succeed.
“The Minister should have done the decent thing and delayed the provisions scrapping the model until the claimants had the opportunity to be heard. Instead he pushed ahead with the legislation without even having a conversation with these highly respected Māori leaders.
“This follows the Minister repeatedly stating that the Crown had not been formally served with the initial Treaty of Waitangi claim, before admitting an error had been made and blaming it on Crown Law.
“The passing of the bill is the final step of an uncaring process that has seen the Minister refuse to meet with many schools and stakeholders, admit he didn’t think there should be Select Committee hearings at partnership schools to provide opportunities for families to submit and fail to deliver all the transition provisions the schools were promised as they become special character schools.
“The legislation passed today also removes National Standards provisions from legislation, finalising the Government’s reckless move to scrap them without a replacement system and leave parents in the dark about their children’s achievement.
“It is a sad day for partnership school students and their families. Their voices have been ignored by the Government, and they have lost the schools that helped many of them experience success in education school for the first time in their lives.
“National remains committed to reinstating and expanding partnership schools within 12 months of returning to Government.”