The Minister has taken a hands-off approach regarding tomorrow’s strikes. Despite having more than one month’s notice it is clear that neither the Ministry nor the Minister have got the full picture, on the eve of the strike, of exactly how many of the 1945 primary schools will be open or closed, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The Minister said in Parliament today that there were 1264 primary schools which had notified the Ministry that they would close for tomorrow’s strike. He failed to answer the question regarding the status of the other 700 schools.
“The Government has failed to negotiate a settlement which has led to first primary teachers’ strike in almost 25 years, but now the Minister has also failed come up with a plan to support parents during the strike and has no clarity on how many schools are closing.
“With more than 500,000 children and their parents affected by the strike it seems a bit reckless to be leaving it to the last minute for hundreds of schools to confirm whether they are open for instruction or supervision, or closed.
“This begs the question of whether there could be some parents around the country who are either unaware if their child’s school is open or not or are being left in difficult situations at the last minute. These are the first primary teacher strikes in 24 years and it is important that parents have certainty around the arrangements for their children.
“I want to acknowledge that the vast majority of parents and schools will be rallying around to ensure the safety of children tomorrow. However, in my view, the Ministry and Minister do have a role to play to support those parents and schools that may be struggling.
“It does not appear that the Minister has offered any support to those families who are dealing with school closures and don’t have other options for childcare. It would have been a good precautionary step for the Government to provide some support in this area.
“The lack of support from the Government and late notice of some school closures makes planning very difficult for some families, particularly low-income families who cannot afford childcare and working parents who cannot get leave in order to look after their children.
“There are also reports of some schools discouraging after school providers to help parents. These reports need to be investigated. There also appears to have been issues around the adequacy of communication to boards about their responsibilities regarding strikes.
“Parents and students shouldn’t be disrupted because of the Government’s poor planning and management.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ refusal to commit to reducing class sizes is at odds with commitments made by Labour MPs at the election and adds to the long list of broken promises in education, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Labour talked about reducing class sizes for years in Opposition, but has been silent on the issue since coming into Government and last weekend Mr Hipkins went as far as saying the Government hasn’t committed to it.
“That’s a major turnaround on what Mr Hipkins had previously said, which was that reducing class sizes remained a goal for Labour.
“Labour MPs like Ginny Andersen also handed out pamphlets during the election campaign which made clear that she believed class sizes were too high and would invest in smaller class sizes.
“Less than one year and some 18 broken promises later, Mr Hipkins is ruling out changes to class sizes citing the cost of making modest changes.
“What is clear is that the Government’s $2.8 billion fees-free policy has left little cash for anything else in education. There’s no fiscal room for reducing class sizes or the many other promises Labour made in education.
“At the same time, primary teachers are preparing to go on strike for the first time in 24 years. And that’s because Labour created high expectations and has failed to meet them. The strike is not just about pay, it’s also about better work conditions.
“Backtracking on reducing class sizes is just the latest consequence of the Government’s decision to prioritise tertiary students over primary and secondary students and teachers.
“News today that secondary teachers have lodged a claim for a 15 per cent pay increase adds to the pressure on the Government with potentially more strikes ahead. Mr Hipkins has inflamed the situation, criticising the union’s proposal as unreasonable.
“What is truly unreasonable is creating high expectations among teachers, failing to meet those expectations, and then slamming teachers for asking for too much.”
With the first teachers strikes since 1994 set to go ahead later this month, it’s clear the Government has lost control of the situation and needs get back round the negotiating table to prevent disruption to kids’ learning, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“We should never have gotten to the point where teachers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a full day strike, for the first time in almost 25 years.
“This situation is entirely of Labour’s own making. It is yet another example of Labour setting unrealistic expectations and failing to meet them.
“But it still has its head in the sand. Education Minister Chris Hipkins failed to confirm in Parliament today that he has a plan in place to support working parents if the strikes do go ahead. His plan seems to be nothing more than a hope that it won’t happen.
“Well in order to prevent the strikes, the Government must go back to negotiations with respect for teachers and their expectations. Making threats, like Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters did in the media today, is not the way to resolve the situation.
“Part of the issue is the Government’s priorities. One of the first things Labour did when it came into Government was to give $2.8 billion to tertiary students, leaving little money left in the Budget for the compulsory education sector.
“In fact, the compulsory education sector’s share of the Budget is less this year than it was last Budget.
“But it’s not just about pay. Teachers want better work conditions, and the Government’s offer of 12 minutes extra a week to work individually with kids or plan learning doesn’t cut it.
“There were no primary teachers strikes under National, and overall teacher pay went up 17 per cent over our time in Government. We want to see teachers paid more, but we also want to reduce class sizes to improve the conditions for both teachers and children.
“Parents and students shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of the Government’s bad decisions and poor management of negotiations.
“The Government must do what it needs to avoid the strikes, and at the same time come up with a plan to support working parents on August 15 in the event the strike does go ahead.”
The National Party has today announced its commitment to reinstating partnership schools and enhancing the model to allow for specialist partnership schools that focus on certain areas like science and technology, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Partnership schools have a proven track record of helping vulnerable children and young people to achieve in education and reach their potential. Many are experiencing success at school for the first time in their lives.
“But in spite of this, one of the first things Labour did when it came into Government was scrap partnership schools, putting ideology and the wishes of its unions ahead of kids.
“It’s not good enough for the Government to say these schools can stay open if they agree to transition to a different schooling model. It is the partnership school model that has worked for these kids and that’s why National will reinstate it.
“We are not prepared to let kids who have struggled in mainstream schooling to continue to struggle just because they’re in a school that doesn’t work for them.
“Every child is unique and has different needs, and we believe parents should have a choice about what kind of school is best for their child. For some, that’s the local state school but for others it’s a partnership school and that option should be available to parents.
“So as National Party Leader Simon Bridges announced today a National Government would pass legislation reinstating partnership schools within 12 months.
“We will also work on enhancing the partnership schools model to ensure less red tape, greater establishment support and better support for successful schools to expand to meet the growing demand.
“We will also further expand the model to allow for specialist partnership schools that focus on areas like science, maths, technology, arts and engineering, which will encourage greater innovation to support the next generation of Kiwi scientists, inventors and engineers.
“A one-size-fits-all education system doesn’t work in New Zealand. Despite what Labour believes, state schools are not the only schools that can make a real difference for kids.
“I want to acknowledge the iwi leaders including Sir Toby Curtis who are fighting to support the partnership school, and have lodged a Waitangi Tribunal claim which the Government has ignoring. We stand alongside iwi leaders recognising the value of these schools and we will continue to fight for them.
“National is committed to doing what’s best for Kiwi kids and that means making sure that every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential.”
Education Minister Chris Hipkins continues to disrespect partnership schools, overseeing a vindictive process to axe the model, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“Mr Hipkins has given different treatment to different partnership schools, shown a lack of communication and transparency, and made flawed assumptions about some schools.
“We know for instance that the Ministry of Education failed to provide key information about Villa Education Trust’s application to Mr Hipkins, meaning that the report he used in making his decisions was incomplete and inaccurate.
“Mr Hipkins had reassured Villa that a decision would be made about its partnership schools by the end of July, but we now know that it will have to wait at least two more months for certainty about the future of its schools and students.
“The capping of Te Rangihakahaka Centre for Science and Technology’s roll at 75, 225 less than what it applied for, also needs explaining. The school has had sign off from the Ministry on the site for capacity for 200 and there is huge interest, with over 90 students enrolled after just six months of being open.
“Incidentally, Villa Education Trust and Te Rangihakahaka have been the most vocal in criticising the Government’s partnership schools policy and approach to axing the model. These schools have received the worst treatment from Mr Hipkins, who appears to have been vindictive and sent a chilling message that those who criticise will be shafted.
“His announcement yesterday followed statements from Sir Toby Curtis who slated the Government for its treatment of partnership schools, quoting schools who say they have been muzzled and have felt the foot on their throat.
“Sir Toby’s statement backs up the feeling of fear that exists in some partnership schools and follows the Treaty of Waitangi claim he lodged with Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi. This claim, and pleas from students to keep their schools open, are being ignored by Mr Hipkins.
“He is arrogantly pressing ahead with the legislation to axe partnership schools and has tabled amendments in the last couple of weeks which have bypassed the select committee process so there is no ability for the public and schools to have their say.
“Mr Hipkins’s claim that partnership schools have been privatised is incorrect. The only one that is run by a private company is Vanguard Military School – the rest are run by iwi and charitable trusts.
“These schools, kids and their families are being treated in an appalling and vindictive way, and Mr Hipkins should be held accountable.”
The Government must listen to Māori leaders who have lodged a Treaty of Waitangi claim alleging that the Government’s axing of partnership schools will have a detrimental effect on Māori, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye and Māori Education spokesperson Jo Hayes say.
“Partnership schools have a proven track record of helping vulnerable young people, many of whom are Māori, to succeed in education,” Ms Kaye says.
“Yet the Government’s Education Amendment Bill includes provisions that will scrap the partnership school model, with no regard for where it leaves the students and their families.
“Now in light of the Treaty claim, the Government should remove the provisions from the Bill and let partnership schools get on with educating our vulnerable young people.
“Education Minister Chris Hipkins has continued to show contempt for these schools throughout the process. He has already terminated 10 out of 11 partnership schools, most of which are in a state of limbo about whether they can open next year under another model.”
Ms Hayes says Labour’s Māori MPs are letting young Māori down by not fighting for the schools.
“Kelvin Davis once threatened to resign if the partnership schools in his electorate were closed by his Government, but since becoming a Minister he has ducked out,” she says.
“These schools currently cater to about 800 young Māori who have no certainty about their future. The schools have been run by iwi and have had some superb results for our kids.
"National stands strong in supporting these schools and their students, and we back Māori leaders in their fight for the schools.”
Ms Kaye says that regardless of Labour’s ideological opposition to partnership schools, the process to terminate them has been flawed at every level.
“The Treaty claim is just the latest development in people fighting for what’s right for our kids. Sir Toby Curtis and Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi are highly respected Māori leaders who have said the Government has ridden roughshod over the futures of young Māori.
“It’s time for the Government to pay attention and leave these schools alone.”
The Government must better manage negotiations and reach a pay agreement with primary teachers and principals to prevent disruption to kids’ learning, National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“The announcement today that primary school teachers and principals have voted overwhelmingly to strike in August after rejecting the Government’s pay offer is yet another example of Labour causing an escalation in industrial action since it came into office by promising more than it can deliver.
“If it goes ahead, it will be the first primary teachers’ strike since 1994. It will mean massive disruption to kids’ learning and to parents who may have to take time off work to ensure their kids are looked after while their teachers are on strike.
“Labour built up high expectations around pay rises and working conditions for teachers during the election campaign. Now Labour is in Government, it can’t follow through.
“National increased teacher salaries by around 17 per cent over our time in Government, all while dealing with the Global Financial Crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes.
“Labour has no excuse for not being able to follow through on its promise to significantly increase teacher salaries, given the billions of dollars more that it has to work with.
“This is simply a case of Labour prioritising tertiary students over primary school teachers and students. It can’t say there’s no money left when it chose to spend $2.8 billion on a fees-free policy that saw next to no increase in university participation.
“We know that teachers work very hard to educate our young people and that industrial action is a last resort, which reflects how badly the Government has managed expectations.
“It’s up to the Government to urgently get back round the table and negotiate with teachers and principals to avoid strike action so that children are able to continue learning.”
MP for Auckland Central Nikki Kaye says Waiheke residents will soon be paying extortionate petrol prices as additional fuel taxes drive up the existing high prices on the island.
“National opposes the Government’s regional fuel tax legislation. I drafted an amendment to the legislation to permanently exempt Waiheke and Great Barrier from the tax, because the cost of fuel on the islands is already high and residents will see no local benefit from the tax.
“The Government has voted down my amendment. This means people on Waiheke Island, who already pay $2.60 per litre at the pump, will soon be paying up to 23 cents per litre more.
“The Minister of Transport said Waiheke residents should pay the tax because the fuel tax will fund the upcoming expansion of the Downtown Ferry Terminal. The reality is that the upgrade is not new – it has been discussed in Auckland Transport’s ferry development plans since 2014. The terminal services a range of areas in Auckland, and Waiheke commuters already pay a wharf tax on every ferry trip.
“My amendment also proposed excluding Great Barrier Island from the tax. The Minister has said that due to Auckland Council proposing this exclusion he will support it. I hope the Minister will follow through and use his powers outlined in the legislation to exempt Great Barrier, where residents are already paying $3.30 per litre for petrol.
“Waiheke and potentially Great Barrier will get hit three times with the regional fuel tax, national fuel tax increase, and the additional costs of living on an island. This isn’t fair, and to top it all off they are not going to reap the benefits of new transport projects.
“The $150 million per year that the regional fuel tax raises is equivalent to a 4% saving by Auckland Council. The council has done little to justify the tax by demonstrating it has run a ruler over its expenditure to attempt to find savings in areas such as its use of external consultants.
“The fuel tax will drive up the cost of living for all Aucklanders, and it will hit those who are struggling the hardest.
“The Government needs to start thinking about how this regressive tax is impacting communities – particularly those on Waiheke and Great Barrier who are already facing the high costs of living on an isolated island.”
National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says the extraordinary admission by Kelvin Davis that he will not answer questions regarding the impact of his Government’s policies on young Māori raises more serious questions about the Government’s handling of partnership schools.
“There are close to 800 young Māori in partnership schools that have been terminated by the Government with no certainty about their future and yet the Associate Education Minister refuses to address the impact this will have on them.
“Kelvin Davis promised to fight for these students by offering to resign if partnership schools close but has now confirmed today that he has declared a conflict of interest and will not take any questions or have any responsibility for the young Māori in these schools.
“The timing of his admission that he has now declared a potential conflict is of public interest given that papers have already been to Cabinet over the last six months on partnership schools. The timing also matters given he had discussions with schools in his electorate in his role while potentially conflicted.
“Questions also still remain as to whether other ministers have declared conflicts regarding these schools.
“I lodged a complaint several months ago with the Office of the Auditor-General and raised issues of potential conflicts and perceived preferential treatment, however, the Deputy Controller and Auditor-General did not speak to Kelvin Davis about this.
“The Deputy Controller did note that the Minister of Education was keeping Cabinet informed and ‘might need to seek Cabinet approval if any policy changes or new funding are necessary.’ He also said that ‘depending on the nature of these decisions or input, any potential conflicts of interest will need to be identified and managed.’
“Despite questions to the Prime Minister to try and determine conflicts in the past this information has not been in the public domain.
“The Minister and other Ministers need to release both information on the exact nature of any declared conflict of interests and the date(s) they were declared to ensure no breaches of the Cabinet Manual.
“This latest development follows a long line of process issues and bad treatment of partnership schools.”
The Minister of Education’s handling of the process around partnership schools has been incompetent, uncaring and reckless, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.
“A number of schools have now received a ministerial termination letter while they are still in the dark about whether or not they will be able to reopen as a different school – with final decision from the Minister not due till the end of July.
“This is the latest development in a shambolic process which has also included the Minister meeting with one school but refusing to meet with others and prematurely announcing that schools will not open before decisions have been formally made.
“He has also circumvented the Select Committee process by ruling out changes to allow the schools to maintain aspects of the partnership school model before the committee deliberated on the matter.
“This means that people are submitting on changes they would like to occur to the special character model not realising the Minister has already ruled them out.
“He also admitted in Select Committee last week that it’s his view that there shouldn’t be hearings at partnerships schools to provide opportunities for families to submit.
“It seems the Minister, along with Labour and Green members, were determined to go the extra mile to silence the voices of vulnerable children and their families.
“He has even tried to celebrate that all the partnership schools applied to become either designated character schools or state integrated schools. The reality is they had no choice, given the legislation in Parliament to axe the partnership school model.
“There are also reports that a Waitangi Tribunal claim is being considered. If this does occur I will not be surprised, given the positive difference these schools have made for so many young Māori.
“This Minister has consistently shown a lack of care and respect for these students and these schools. They deserve better.”