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Second Attempt To Close Reading Inquiry

The Minister of Education has tried a second time to undermine the Education and Science Select Committee’s inquiry into why so many children are failing to learn to read in New Zealand schools.

Trevor Mallard’s first attempt last week, when he launched a personal attack on ACT MP Donna Awatere Huata to have her removed from the inquiry, backfired when the Mrs Huata refused to give in to what she described as ‘bullying’ from the Minister.

Mrs Huata, a recognised reading expert credited with gaining the inquiry, said the Minister is now trying to shut down the whole inquiry by publicly casting doubts on its value saying he simply wants to rely on a report by Government appointed academics.

“The Government literacy expert group that Mr Mallard wants to pin our children’s futures on squabbled internally over the way forward for improving the teaching of reading and closing the gaps between Maori and non-Maori children. The result was a watered down report made up of a series of bullet points that is of no use to anyone,” she said.

“New Zealand children are struggling with reading to the point where one in four leaves school without the ability to read properly, she said. Briefing papers to the Government show the failure in schools and homes to teach children to read now sees a quarter of adult New Zealanders and three-quarters of the unemployed with literacy levels below what’s needed to be productive and effective contributors to the workforce.

Mrs Huata said she is baffled as to why the Minister is waging war against his own Select Committee that is simply trying to address what is now the most important education issue for children in New Zealand schools, particularly for Maori and children from poor areas.

“I simply cannot understand why a Minister of Education is so hell-bent on shutting down what is one of the most important inquiries ever to be carried out by the Education and Science Select Committee. Why is it that he doesn’t want the Committee to hear from teachers and parents.

“If we are going to give our children back the right to read it requires a total commitment from everyone, the Minister, members of the Select Committee, academics, teachers and families. We have to have to have an open and thorough look at the problems and work together to get a National reading strategy in place,” said Donna Awatere Huata.

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