PM leads Cabinet in breast-beating
The Cabinet has taken a long, hard look at itself after the botched class size funding plan.
Apart from setting embattled Education Minister Hekia Parata to the task of filling a $114 million hole in the Budget, Prime Minister John Key yesterday appeared to have led a post-mortem into the backdown.
"I think all members of Cabinet would accept that we could have done a better job in that particular programme and that particular policy," he said. "There are some lessons to learn from that - hindsight is a wonderful thing."
Successive polls since the policy was confirmed in last month's Budget have shown National shedding support and Labour slowly gaining. Mr Key, as ever, shrugged off the polls saying "pretty much every incumbent government" was "on its knees" in Europe, whereas National remained at about its election night result.
He pointed to hikes in tobacco excise tax as among a mix of "initiatives" causing some kickback.
But he accepted that parents had rejected the plan of a "tradeoff" on larger class sizes for better teaching.
"The idea was the right idea in the sense of quality over quantity, but the execution of the idea was poorly handled and we all need to take some responsibility for that, including myself."
Despite his insistence that the backdown was merely a matter of style over substance, Mr Key was not about to give the idea a fresh lick of paint and second try later on.
"I wish it was that easy," he said.
Ms Parata, meanwhile, yesterday made her first attempt at the big job of bridge-building with the sector.
Invitations have been sent to education organisations, academics, unions and interested parties to join a new "cross-sector forum", she announced.
Its first meeting would be at the end of the month, with its terms of reference - aligned to the Government's education plan - to be finalised by then.
One of its key tasks is likely to be as a sounding board for where at least some of the now missing $114m can be lifted from the education budget.
But first Ms Parata faces the public bearpit of today's Question Time in Parliament.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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