Teachers, parents voice anger on education cutbacks

BY KRIS DANDO
Last updated 12:38 05/06/2012
KPN-noise-05WEB
Kris Dando
MAKING NOISE: A megaphone, singing and plenty of pre-arranged chants from teachers and parents greeted Education Minister Hekia Parata outside the Monteith's Bar on Mana Esplanade.

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Education Minister and locally based MP Hekia Parata faced angry protesters and cries of "leave our kids alone" as she attended a Chamber of Commerce breakfast last week.

More than 120 teachers and parents braved the early morning cold to congregate outside Monteith's Bar on Mana Esplanade, rallying against proposals for bigger class sizes and culling technology lessons.

Ms Parata did not speak to the protesters and said she was not aware that a member of the teachers' union (NZEI) tried to hand her a letter outlining their collective opposition to changes.

Porirua School teacher and mother-of-three Helen Collins said in her 22 years in the job she has "never been this demoralised.

"What this government is doing is scaring me.

"I'm hugely disappointed and it's easy to see why people are getting militant about it.

"I have concerns for my young children and their future."

NZEI support officer Paul Nees, formerly principal at Rangikura School, said the protest reflected the level of anger towards the cutbacks.

"It was a great turnout, from teachers, but especially parents, some even turned up after hearing about it on the radio in the morning. People are very angry and the government have made a big, big mistake. It's on-the- hoof policy-making and there will be far more protests than when national standards were introduced."

Mr Nees said National's lack of consultation with teachers and school boards had been "deliberate", with advice taken from Treasury and Education Ministry officials and not from anyone at "the chalk-face".

He said NZEI would keep the pressure on, especially during collective bargaining meetings due to start this month.

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