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.”
National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has today sent a letter to the Auditor-General outlining potential issues to be investigated regarding the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools.
“I want to stress that I while I believe there are serious grounds for the Auditor-General to investigate, it will be up to the Auditor-General to determine if there have been any issues with the process regarding partnership schools and any potential perceived conflicts of interest,” Ms Kaye says.
“It is important that all of the evidence and paperwork is made available and transparent before any conclusions are reached.
“The first area of complaint relates to Minister Hipkins’ and the Ministry of Education’s process around the discussions with partnership schools about their futures.
“The Minister has made several unfortunate comments that indicate he has a closed mind and there is potential evidence that the schools have undue pressure being put on them to terminate their contracts.
“I believe the Minister’s and the Ministry’s process is fundamentally flawed and there is public interest in investigating it.
“The second area of complaint relates to perceived conflicts of interest, or failure of Ministers to manage or declare conflicts of interest. This is set out in the letter I have sent to the Auditor-General.
“Given the serious nature of the letter, I hope to meet with the Auditor-General in the next couple of weeks.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ contempt for partnership schools has translated into a clear disregard for the students and their families with the introduction of legislation to scrap these schools that have been making a real difference for vulnerable young people, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Despite several Labour MPs previously voicing their support for partnership schools, including Kelvin Davis and Willie Jackson, it appears the Government has no interest in doing the right thing by these schools, their students and their families.
“The Minister has stated that there will be no new partnerships schools, and existing partnership schools will now go into negotiations with the Ministry of Education about their future. But in the Minister’s own words, the preference is that the existing schools close.
“Last year the Minister accidentally tried to announce the closure of these schools prior to discussing it with them. He then left the schools waiting for clarity over the summer break with little information. To make matters worse, just days out from further meetings regarding the future of these schools, he has introduced this legislation and shown his true agenda.
“How can these schools going into negotiations in good faith when they know that the Minister wishes for them to close? How can the schools that choose not to close and go through a process to be converted into a different school have confidence in the fairness of the process, when the Minister has made his preference clear?
“It is also apparent that there is no transition plan for the children and young people who attend existing partnership schools. These are kids who have struggled in mainstream education and have finally found a school that works for them, but the Government wants to take that away and doesn’t appear to care what happens to them next.
“The way the Minister has treated partnership schools has been disgraceful and opened the Government up to significant legal costs.”
It has become clear that the Government’s policy against partnership schools has put some of the schools that were due to open in a position where they have had to choose not to proceed, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Government’s treatment of partnership schools is unacceptable. These schools have made a positive difference for children and young people, including many young Māori.
“There were two partnership schools due to open this year and another four due to open in 2019. The Government has given these schools such limited options and has starved them of information which has caused some schools to walk away from their plans to open.
“Partnership schools have a proven track record in raising educational achievement of children and young who have struggled in mainstream education.
“Aside from the lost opportunity for these young people, there will be a cost to the Crown as a result of the planned partnership schools not going ahead.
“While I understand this is a sensitive issue, the public deserves to know what the estimated overall cost will be given the Government campaigned on closing partnership schools knowing there would be financial implications to the taxpayer.
“It’s also not surprising that the Government has yet to release the latest Martin Jenkins report which I understand shows great results. So not only is the Government hiding the costs of their ideological policy, but it’s also hiding independent reports that show how positive partnership schools are for vulnerable young people.
“Many people have stood up and supported partnership schools, including the Iwi Leaders’ Forum. Kelvin Davis talked tough in opposition but has now effectively abandoned partnership schools as demonstrated by his response to questions in the House.
“It is important to reflect on this as we have discussions at Waitangi, and in the future. As Associate Education Minister responsible for Māori education, it is disappointing that he has not helped to support schools that are making a real difference for young Māori.”
A draft Bill to strengthen the ability of students to learn a second language at school has today been released for public consultation by National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye.
“The benefits of speaking more than one language have enormous cognitive, cultural, social and economic benefits. My Members Bill is about ensuring that all children in years 1-8 have universal access and resources to learn a second language,” Ms Kaye says.
“The Bill requires the Education Minister to set at least ten priority languages for schools following public consultation, and places a requirement on the Crown to resource the provision of these languages in schools. I’d expect that languages that would be consulted on would include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and potentially Hindi.
“It will then be up to school boards to consult with their communities to determine 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.
“However the Bill makes it clear that Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language must be national priority languages and funded by the Crown. The current law requires schools to take reasonable steps to enable children to learn Te Reo and this will not change.
“The Bill also requires the Government to develop a national language policy, to ensure there is a long-term strategy around issues such as workforce training and development for teachers and access to physical and online resources. I do not underestimate the need to carefully plan and support the workforce to help deliver this policy.
“National expects that the cost of the changes will be around $40 million per year, to provide schools and Communities of Learning with more expert language teachers, language specialists and online resources. To put this in context, this is around six per cent of the Government’s ‘fees free’ policy for tertiary education.
“I intend to secure cross-party support for strengthening the teaching and learning of second languages in schools. I am optimistic that political parties will have an open mind about this Bill which I hope can be a catalyst for change. I have written to each party in Parliament asking for their support on the Bill, and at the very least to start a cross-party conversation about improving access to languages in schools.
“Over the next month I will be asking the public to give their initial views on the Bill via a website. A petition has also been created for New Zealanders to show their support for improving access to language learning in schools. I plan to lodge the Bill in late February.
“Strengthening language fluency has the potential to lead to a smarter, more culturally aware nation that is better equipped to succeed domestically and internationally. While there have been some positive steps over the last decade there is still more to do and this Bill represents an important investment in our country’s future.”
The Government is irresponsibly and recklessly scrapping National Standards without having a detailed nationwide system of progression to replace it with, leaving parents in the dark about their children’s achievement, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ decision to no longer compel schools to report annually on National Standards to the Ministry of Education from 2018 is bad news for parents and could have negative and far-reaching consequences across the education sector,” Ms Kaye says.
“While Mr Hipkins is saying parents will still get reports, there is no clarity about what exactly will be required of teachers to report on. He’s even said some schools can keep using National Standards which just creates confusion for schools and parents.
“There are currently no nationwide tools that cover the whole of the curriculum to measure progression. This means questions remain around exactly what work will be involved for teachers in reporting progression.
“The decision flies in the face of Treasury advice that the Government should delay scrapping National Standards until they have a new system to replace it with, to prevent a gap in system-level information on how schools are performing.
“Without this information there will also be huge difficulty targeting funding to schools for students who need extra support to help lift their achievement.
“Mr Hipkins did not need to do this – he should have waited until he had figured out a replacement system. Instead, just as schools are breaking up for the year he has made a rash decision that will leave parents with questions about what information they will be able to get from their school on their child’s achievement next year.
“National has previously supported a shift to progression alongside National Standards information but we expected to take several years to progressively move to this.
“This Minister is consistently displaying a rash and ideological approach to our education system, and it is parents and students who will be worse off for it.”
Existing partnership schools can breathe a short sigh of relief after Education Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed through the media that the schools can stay open with no changes until the end of 2018, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“This is an important temporary breather for these ten schools who can continue planning for the new school year which is just around the corner. It will also give them the chance to negotiate their long-term future,” Ms Kaye says.
“Given Mr Hipkins will not personally front up and meet with these schools, he must urgently write to them now and provide formal clarification. It’s not good enough that the students, parents and staff have had to find out through last minute comments to media.
“He is still to confirm the fate of the six new schools yet to open, two of which are due to open in the 2018 school year which is just weeks away. One of these schools has more than 50 children enrolled – they and their parents quite rightly want answers about their futures.
“Another school received a different letter to that received by the 10 existing schools telling them Mr Hipkins would meet them for a chat early next year, whereby it is not clear whether that school can open for all of 2018. The letter is also carefully worded in that it doesn’t say the Government supports them opening, but rather it is the decision of the school to open.
“The schools due to open in 2018 started the process with the Crown in 2016. Funds were appropriated for the schools in that year’s Budget and the contracts were signed in July 2017. A lot of work has gone into getting the schools ready to open their doors to some of our most vulnerable students next year and now they’re wondering if it was all for nothing.
“Even for the existing schools, there are still many questions that remain unanswered. For instance, what will the basic requirements be if the partnership school model is cancelled and what schools, if any, will be able to remain open under new model? This information needs to be provided quickly so that the schools have time to make their case.
“These schools have been making a real difference to the lives of kids who have struggled in mainstream education. It’s frankly a disgrace that Mr Hipkins continues to treat them, their students and their families with such contempt and is prepared to leave them in limbo.
“To make matters worse, one of the schools’ sources of hope, Deputy Labour Leader Kelvin Davis, appears to have reneged on his promise to resign if two partnership schools in his electorate closed. Unfortunately today in Question Time he refused to confirm that this was still his intention, leading us believe he has given up on them.
“As Associate Education Minister with responsibility for improving te reo, you’d think he’d be fighting hard for schools that have a focus on lifting achievement in te reo. He has ministerial responsibility to answer questions on the partnership schools’ futures so it will be hugely disappointing if he continues to duck for cover and abandons the fight for their survival.”