Protests against education reform

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 14:08 13/04/2013

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Teachers across the country have taken to protest marches against Novopay, charter schools, national standards and other education issues.

The marches were organised by the primary teachers' union, the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI).

Around 3500 descended on Auckland's Aotea Square, with hundreds more in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Dunedin - protests were planned in 26 centres around the country.

Around 2000 marched on the steps of Parliament and hundreds turned up to Gerry Brownlee's office in Christchurch.

"The real issue is the Government is trying to save money by saying we're failing as teachers. They want to privatise the sector and save money," impassioned Willowbank School teacher Claire Scott said in Auckland today.

She is also bitter about National Standards, with the expectation that boxes must be ticked to show a child is succeeding. "Not all children arrive at school with the same ability."

Not having a regulator to ensure all teachers grade their pupils in the same way makes the standards pointless, Dannemora based teacher Jo Thompson said.

"There are underlying issues, we can't fix social problems. And the impact of them is huge.

"The issue is having to label kids who are five and six years old."

They are protesting against what they say is a proposed implementation of a Global Education Reform Movement, which could see the imposition of charter schools, performance-based pay for teachers, national league tables for primary schools and ''super boards'' which would govern several schools.

In Christchurch the protesters, mostly teachers, chanted slogans such as ''No pay - Novopay'' and ''Two, four, six, eight; give us a fair deal. It's not too late''. 

They gathered at Wairakei Primary School in Bryndwr before marching down to the office of MP Gerry Brownlee about 200m away.

Mary Pearson, a teacher at Branston Intermediate, said she was against national standards. ''To have a child labelled at primary, middle, and even upper school as a failure is absolutely appalling.

"I'm wondering now if our beloved leader will come home from China with some of the tests the three and four year olds have. By the time you have three and four year olds coming to a lesson in English at 8.30pm for 90 minutes-would we do that to our children?

"Absolutely not. Do we want that sort of education for children? National standards have to go. It's not helping children.''

Teacher aide Pene Jarvis said this was the first rally for which she had ever felt strongly enough to attend.

''I'm protesting against the degradation of the education system by the experimenting from the National government. They are trying to put a business model onto schools. Schools are not businesses. We are there to educate the future generations to lead.''

The rally attendees stuck posters to the windows of Brownlee's office and left their signs in the hedges after the march.

Members of the Secular Education Network also attended. Mark Ottley said he was against charter schools because  it would open doors for religious institutions to push their own agendas onto children.

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''A lot of religious institutions are lining up to run Charters schools,'' he said. ''What standards will they put into the process? American science curriculums have been compromised by charter schools run by religious institutions. Charter schools are another way of putting taxpayer money into promoting certain religious views.''

In Auckland NZEI organiser Chris Walker said. "There are people here from as far as Thames and Kaipara.

"Teachers recognise changes need to be made to education but are saying lets look at the proof and view the evidence fully before we do that. They feel they're not being listened to by the government. Instead its introducing really grand ideas."

Auckland University critical research unit associate professor Peter O'Connor spoke to the rally, saying the primary role of education reforms was to disestablish teacher unions and create a privatised education sector.

Secondary and tertiary staff and nurses have joined in to protest on the side of primary and intermediate teachers, Walker said.

- National

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