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.”
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.”