Editorial: Progressing unfavourably

Education Minister Hekia Parata
Education Minister Hekia Parata

In what is now looking like a rather wan little press release, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced on Thursday that the Government's $359 million flagship education policy was moving forward.

But the progress was all to be found among the ranks of secondary school principals and boards of trustees. Talks were continuing with secondary teachers - and there was certainly no direct reference to primary teachers. Just the assurance the Government "will continue to work with the other sector unions and other key groups . . ."

Chance would be a fine thing. The primary teachers and principals union has now emphatically rejected the policy. The New Zealand Educational Institute is seen as staunchly anti-National so the suspicion will arise that this is further proof of the lesser-known saying that where there's ill will there's no way.

Not that NZEI members have anything per se against the notion of spending an extra $359m. But they spurn as an irredeemably bad idea the Government's plan of identifying the best teachers and rewarding and resourcing them so their influence is more widespread and significant,

The NZEI would thank us for acknowledging the self-sacrificial aspects of this decision rejecting, in effect, pay rises of $10,000 to $40,000 for thousand of teachers, albeit not a majority of its members.

Instead it wants the money to go to smaller class sizes, completely qualified teachers in early childhood education, better special-needs funding and more teacher aides.

Seen individually, either of these options could be said to hold appeal. Although, amid the blizzard of educational research out there, the Government isn't hallucinating when it detects that teacher quality is looking more significant a factor than class sizes.

The NZEI insists that the Government plan taking the favoured teachers out of their own schools for two days every week is more likely to disrupt than enhance children's learning. No such emphatic message, however, has emerged from secondary counterparts. And if those educators join secondary principals and trustee boards in seeing things differently, what is the public to make of the contrast?

The Southland Times