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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.”

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