Hekia Parata 'patronising' teachers

JODY O'CALLAGHAN
Last updated 14:23 03/10/2012
Hekia Parata
KEVIN STENT/Fairfax NZ
HEKIA PARATA: "We're not going to agree on everything."

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Education Minister Hekia Parata was accused of patronising teachers when she spoke to the PPTA's national conference today.

The atmosphere in the room was frosty as the Minister spoke to the Post Primary Teachers' Association (PPTA) conference in Kilbirnie, Wellington, about current issues including national standards this morning.

But that erupted into vocal outrage when she then told teachers they could help engage children better by pronouncing their names correctly.

It was a comment that PPTA senior vice president Kate Gainsford says ''patronised'' teachers there - telling them what they already knew.

Parata told teachers one of the most common things she heard from young Maori and Pacifica children is that teachers did not know their names, she said.

''This is kids telling me, kids.''

Parata ended her speech by asking for a move away from complacency about being in the top 10 countries for education in the world. ''Standing still, we will be left behind''.

Until the disparity between the achievement of its minority children was addressed, New Zealand could not be considered a consistently high education system.

She thanked them for ''understanding''.

''We're not going to agree on everything. Accepting that that is part of democracy and that actually, the authority of democracy relies on the majority having most of the say provided the minority is also heard.''

Gainsford told The Dominion Post there was a mature way of dealing with democracy and disagreement, but there was too much ''superficial parrying'' of teachers' concerns.

When question time came, Ms Parata defended plans for charter, or ''partnership'', schools and her level of engagement with PPTA representatives over the Christchurch review, and said performance pay was ''totally appropriate as one of those things to be considered''.

Outside the conference at Wellington's Brentwood Hotel, Ms Parata said the reaction to her speech was ''pretty predictable''.

There was some discourtesy, but there were always going to be areas in the education sector they would disagree on.

She defended her comments about pronunciation of Maori children's' names.

''That is what I get from kids telling me that they don't see themselves as being valued because of just the basic courtesy of being able to pronounce their names. I was reporting that back.''

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- The Dominion Post

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