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An Education policy for children and New Zealand

An Education policy for children and New Zealand

"ISNZ welcomes the National Party's pragmatic, non-politicised education policy released today by Dr Don Brash," said Independent Schools of New Zealand Executive Director Joy Quigley.

He has given New Zealanders an education policy that is built around children's needs and the nation's future, not an ideology.

The emphasis on "bringing up the tail" with the reading vouchers will ensure children are not left behind. As an after school activity it allows for other family members to be involved without feeling out of place, as many parents are scared of going back to school. An out of school setting will help them participate.

It makes sense to ensure that the children who want to learn are able to do so in a calm and productive classroom environment. The policy provides for additional alternative educational and skills training opportunities for those who disrupt regular classrooms.

The pragmatic approach to assessment will be met with approval from teachers. They are the ones who day after day (and night after night) work to ensure their students are moving towards gaining a qualification that is meaningful and useful.

It makes sense to allow communities to develop their school in a way that best reflects their needs. The single funding grant will assist them to do this. A school is more than just the buildings; it is its learning and social environment that matters. Parents should be part of that, and principals should be trusted to work with parents, staff and children to build that environment. Allowing schools to develop their own special character that reflects their community is essential. ISNZ is supportive of parents having more choice in education, and while some of the new Trust Schools may provide parents with alternatives to some private schools, the concept is a step in the right direction.

It also makes sense for parents to be able to have more choice in schooling for their child than just being able to afford to buy a house in a 'good school area'. Therefore the proposal to allow schools to grow in size and take out of zone students, when there is demand, is sensible.

Dr Brash has recognised that private (independent) schools are not subsidised by the state, and that conversely it is private schools that subsidise the state system. (The current Minister of Education has noted that private schools save the state well over $100 million annually.)

ISNZ is pleased that the National Party policy will quickly move to reinstate the 1999 per capita child grant to private schools. There has been a 27.5% decrease in the grant in real terms over the last 5 years which has resulted in many schools struggling financially. Some schools can lift tuition fees to partially compensate, but many of the 114 schools cannot do this as their parents are unable to afford the increase.

"We know from the 2003 NZIER report, Funding Arrangements for Independent Schools that choice in schooling lifts everyone in the education 'boat' and that the Government could lift the state grant to independent schools to 46% before there is any negative impact on state costs" said Ms Quigley.

"The policy proposals outlined by Dr Brash today form a sound base for an education system designed to reverse New Zealand's decline in the OECD rankings for education and economic standards," said Ms Quigley.

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