Key steals Labour's thunder

06:08, Jan 23 2014

John Key has stolen a march on Labour with his bold plan to reward teachers who outperform their peers and helicopter the best principals into poorly performing schools.

As Key observed after this morning's announcement, there wasn't a parent in New Zealand whose heart would not sink if they found out next week their child's new teacher was a dud – or in Key's words, “not that great”.

That is why today's plan will resonate not just with National's core constituency but also with Labour's.

National's plan is to give teachers a reason to stay in front of the classroom rather than move up into management positions in pursuit of better pay.

It also opens the door to schools sharing the best ideas and teachers in a newly collaborative environment, in contrast to the competitive environment that often reigns.

Just as crucially, it gives top school principals a $50,000 incentive to move out of their comfort zones and seek positions at some of the country's poorest performing schools.

That goes to the heart of the election-year theme that has been building a head of steam under Labour and the Greens that five years of National government has led to a more unequal society, a country of haves and have-nots.

Education has been National's Achilles' heel in recent times while Labour has long viewed it as a strength.

But as he did in 2013, when Key launched the political year with a foray into traditional Labour territory with an announcement on apprenticeships, National is determined to squeeze Labour on every front.

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