Labour pledges more teachers, smaller classes

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Last updated 16:24 06/07/2014

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Labour is promising to fund an extra 2000 teachers and cut senior primary school class sizes to 26 by 2018 from the current one teacher to 29 pupil ratio.

In his keynote speech to Labour's election congress leader David Cunliffe said the funding would come from scrapping National's policy to establish specialists executive principals.

"We all know that kids do better in smaller classes because their teacher has more time go devote to them," Cunliffe said.

Labour would also cut average secondary school class sizes from 26 to 23 by 2018.

Labour would also raise the standards for those wanting to be teachers through pre-screening, and redirect resources spent enforcing National Standards into teacher development programmes.

Cunliffe said the upcoming election campaign would not be about "dirty tricks or dodgy, smear campaigns and a personality cult" but about families and communities.

He said Labour would build a fair and just society.

"We are going to win," he said.

He said National had no plan for working people. The Government's policy was based on dairy exports and the Christchurch rebuild; "milk and disaster".

Speaking from the stage with his caucus and some candidates in tiered seats behind him, Obama-style, he said National was nervous "and they should be" because they were tired and lacked vision.

His government would transform the economy to create better jobs and higher wages and protect the environment.

"We will not tolerate tax dodgers or greedy monopolies or racism or unsafe streets - and it's possible to do all of this and to balance the books."

Taxation would be fair by cracking down on trusts, multinationals avoiding tax and by lifting the top tax rate to 36c on income above $150,000.

The minimum wage would be lifted to $15 an hour in the first hundred days and again in April 2015.

TEACHERS' UNION REACTS

New Zealand Educational Institute President Judith Nowotarski said teachers and principals welcomed Labour's plans.

 "Smaller class sizes allow teachers to give more individual attention to students and this means that the quality of teaching improves," she said.

Research showed that in smaller classes students were more likely to be attentive and participate in learning and achieved greater success

"This is particularly important for vulnerable children, those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those who start school behind their peers."

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Nowotarski says international studies show that the benefits of quality teaching through smaller class sizes went well beyond the school gate.

She said 2000 more teachers was a far better use of $359m than the National-led Government's plans for bonus payments for 6 per cent of teachers and principals.

'LOLLY SCRAMBLE' 

But Education Minister Hekia Parata described it as a "back to the future" idea.

She said the idea of reducing class sizes "at the margin" was proven to achieve very little in terms of better results for Kiwi kids.  

"We know that because that was their policy last time they were in government and student achievement flat-lined at best."

She said the best way to improve success at school was to help all teachers be better teachers, and invest strongly in principals.

"Investing in the quality of all teachers is more important than just adding more teachers."

Labour was taking a "lolly scramble" approach to education and understating the extra costs.

- Stuff

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