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Minister Leaves School Trustees Exposed

Minister Leaves School Trustees Exposed

Friday 28 Nov 2003 Deborah Coddington Press Releases -- Education

Education Minister Trevor Mallard is not only undermining school principals with his scornful put-downs over their OSH fears, he is also exposing Boards of Trustees to potentially huge costs because the Education Ministry has secretly changed the OSH rules, ACT New Zealand Education Spokesman Deborah Coddington said today.

"This week the New Zealand School Trustees Association wrote to all State and integrated schools, expressing `grave concern' at how the Health and Safety Code of Practice for State and State-Integrated Schools has been unilaterally changed," Miss Coddington said.

"The code is mandatory for schools. The Ministry previously provided indemnity for Boards if they were prosecuted under the Health & Safety in Employment Act. Now the Act disallows such indemnification and also disallows Boards to take out insurance to cover such fines.

"The Ministry's advice to Boards - similar to Mr Mallard's advice earlier this week - is, in effect, `avoid liability by being careful'.

"According to NZSTA, `no consultation was entered into before this important document was redrafted and promulgated' and the Ministry is `abdicating from its responsibility which it had previously held in situations where for genuine reasons the board could and should not be held accountable'.

"The letter to schools concludes: `How changes could be made to such a significant document without discussing them with stakeholders is unfathomable'.

"But schools should not be surprised. This Labour Government is not the least bit interested in giving parents - whom BoTs represent - any significant say in their children's education.

"ACT warned that Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's changes to OSH legislation would have disastrous consequences. This is just one example.

"When the Centre-Right becomes government, this legislation will be thrown out. Government will cease dictating to schools and parents how they should run every single minute of their time. Parents, teachers and principals - not politicians - know best," Miss Coddington said.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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