Parata irked by timing of teacher union protest

JO MOIR
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2014
Hekia Parata
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/Fairfax NZ
EDUCATION MINISTER: Hekia Parata.

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The country's largest teachers' union will march on Parliament today protesting against growing inequity in schools at the same time as the education minister is hosting an international summit.

NZEI has organised rallies in Wellington and Auckland timed to coincide with the hosting of OECD education ministers and union leaders, who are discussing best practices for lifting student achievement.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said she was disappointed with the protest timing, especially given NZEI's involvement in the organisation of the summit and being part of previous delegations to New York and Amsterdam.

She would continue to have a relationship with the union, which was one of the objectives of the cross-sector forum that was set up following the first summit.

"We will continue to try to work together but it does take two."

Nga Kura-a-Iwi, a federation representing Maori schools, has also spoken out against the NZEI and the "disrespect" it has shown the summit.

Co-chairwoman Arihia Stirling said it was an "inappropriate time to be airing dirty linen".

"It's wrong to do this now, we don't have people dying in the street, we don't have people bleeding at the hands of the education sector . . . it's poor judgment of the leadership of the union to do this at this time.

"Why would you air your dirty linen in front of the world when it's imperative we get the rest of the world down here to learn and strengthen our education system?"

The NZEI was welcoming summit guests with one hand and slapping them in the face with the other, she said.

The organisation is calling for Maori union members to withdraw their membership immediately.

NZEI vice-president Frances Guy said she was surprised by iwi reaction, given they had consulted with the Maori arm of the union before organising the rallies.

"We believe this conference is all about equity and inclusion and making sure the best education is available for our tamariki.

"I'd be surprised if anyone at this conference could not see that as important," she said.

"Our rally is about that and how inequities we have in New Zealand need to be addressed."

Guy said NZEI was an integral part in organising the summit - a joint initiative between ministers and union heads.

There had been no attempt to draw attention away from the summit. "The fact the rallies coincided with the conference is a godsend because that's what the conference is talking about."

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- The Dominion Post

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