Education Minister Chris Hipkins’ pattern of creating confusion and chaos continues with parents and schools being sent mixed messages about whether children can start school in the weeks before they turn five or not, National Party Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“Last week Mr Hipkins said he would change the law around cohort entry so that kids could not start school before the age of five. The Ministry of Education has since said that schools that have already adopted the policy, or are in consultation to, will be able to allow four year olds to enter from Term 1 2018, but it is unclear when the law will change and what the new rules will be,” Ms Kaye says.

“Parents want to know well in advance when their child will be able to start school, and schools need to know so that they can prepare for their new entrants. But Mr Hipkins is sending mixed signals, leaving them with more questions than answers.

“For instance, how long will the existing law be in place? And will the new law mean that thousands of children will have to wait longer than their fifth birthday to start at the school their parents have chosen for them if that school has adopted cohort entry?

“Cohort entry is about helping kids to make an easier transition from early learning to school and it is up to schools to decide with their community if they want to adopt the policy.

“The existing law says that schools who do adopt cohort entry cannot revoke it without giving a term’s notice so Mr Hipkins must clarify the timeline for a law change, and provide certainty about what the new rules will be so that schools are not consulting on policy that will be changed part way through next year.

“To make matters worse, I’ve had confirmation that the Prime Minister received no reports or briefings on this issue before Mr Hipkins announced it. This means there could not have been a Cabinet paper on the law change which is startling given it affects thousands of children. It looks like Mr Hipkins unilaterally made the decision to change the law without going through the proper Cabinet process.

“This is just the latest example of Mr Hipkins making announcements on the hoof without providing any detail, that have a real impact on children’s lives. Just over a month into the job and already he has backtracked on National Standards, free tertiary education, Partnership Schools and international students. What’s next?

“The new school year is just weeks away and parents and schools deserve to have certainty around when kids can start school. It’s time for Mr Hipkins to front up with the details.”

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