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Nats’ schools policy could widen gap

Media Release
4 October 2008

Nats’ schools policy could widen gap between rich and poor.

The National Party needs to talk to the education sector before setting in motion a policy that could widen the gap between rich and poor, PPTA president Robin Duff says.

Mr Duff says National’s newly-announced policy – which would see money going directly to schools for property and professional development – had the potential to drive up disparity, as happened under bulk-funding.

The policy would allocate more for ‘expanding popular schools’, allowing them to take in more pupils without requiring strict zoning. Mr Duff sees this scenario as having the potential to see property money being pumped into high-decile schools at the expense of schools in poorer communities.

“It would allow the quality of education in low-decile and rural schools to decline dramatically, which does not stack up with National’s rhetoric about ending the ‘tail’ of underachievement” he said.

A substantial increase in funding for private schools was also questionable, given the potential to disadvantage less ‘popular’ schools, Mr Duff said.
“John Key needs to realise that if he becomes prime minister of New Zealand he will be responsible to all New Zealanders, not just those who can afford to pay $16,000 to go to a private school.”

Mr Duff was also concerned that plans to devolve professional development funding directly to schools would increase disparities.
“In rural schools most of the PD money goes on travel, and they don’t get enough funding to do that as it is. Dishing the money out this way will be an advantage to big urban schools and disadvantage the smaller rural ones”.

Mr Duff felt it particularly unfair that the policy was released just a week before the election, giving little time for public discussion and further engagement with the education sector.

“We don’t like to think the party would deliberately put New Zealand education at risk like this and feel it is a case of more dialogue being needed.
“While parts of this policy are certainly admirable, there are far too many fishhooks in it that need looking into,” he said.


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