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Brash to take sledgehammer to education

Brash to take sledgehammer to education

Education Minister Trevor Mallard predicted today that National intends taking a sledgehammer to education, by introducing a policy of vouchers to fund schools.

"Don Brash and the National Party have already signalled that they would like to devolve employment bargaining to school boards of trustees - a vital step along the way towards their new policy of a voucher system for education," Trevor Mallard said in Queenstown today.

"While National might not use the much hated V-word when it finally finds the courage to announce its education policy, we know what this party is about under the leadership of a Back to the Nineties ideologue.

"He now intends to take a sledgehammer to the state education system, by imposing vouchers on schools. Vouchers are a per-child funding system that will benefit private schools for the rich and privileged in New Zealand society, and destroy most state schools.

"The rich will be able to top up their voucher funding, while the students of low and middle income families will not have that option. Competition between schools will be re-ignited, as wealthy schools cream off the top students.

"Labour, like most New Zealanders, firmly believes everyone deserves a fair go. We believe in being constructive, not destructive like National which has already demonstrated how it intends to pit groups of people against each other.

"What makes this clinical approach to education even worse, is the fact that vouchers do not lift student achievement.

"People must be very wary of political parties that dress up slash and burn policies under the guise of parental choice.

"Real parental choice involves making sure that every school is a good school, that every teacher is a good teacher, and that every child has access to the highest possible standard of education. These are Labour's fundamental priorities in education.

"Likewise, we do not agree with the cold-hearted approach that National is proposing in literacy. It is appalling that Brash intends putting very young children through highly stressful national examinations - the sort of examinations that England is in the process of dumping because they are ineffective and damage young people.

"All of the research shows us that flexible tools like the modern literacy assessment tool asTTle (Assessment tool for Teaching and Learning) are far more valuable than making primary school kids sit exams.

"AsTTle, a world-leading New Zealand invention, helps teachers and parents assess how students are performing in areas like literacy and numeracy against national standards, and helps teachers to target their teaching to address any shortcomings or weaknesses.

"New Zealand is doing well in literacy standards - our 15 year olds are third out of the 35 richest countries in the world. But as I have said previously, we do have unacceptable disparities, with a sizeable gap between our best and worst readers. Lifting literacy standards for this group of students is what we are now targeting as a high priority.

"When Labour became the government in 1999 we had a very clear manifesto outlining what we wanted to do in education, and we've kept faith with the electorate by implementing our promises.

"We've abolished bulk funding, introduced enrolment legislation to guarantee every child access to their local school, steadily increased funding, including a 10.1 per cent real increase in overall operations grant funding, and worked to ensure access to quality ICT resources in all schools.

"We're investing heavily in getting the basics of good education right: literacy and numeracy; teacher professional development that is based on what we know actually works for kids in the classroom; quality resources; and the development of sound school leadership and governance.

"Brash might be keen to return to his outdated and old-fogey ideologies that benefit only the wealthy, but Labour believes in giving every single child a fair go in education. It makes sense for a healthy society, and it makes sense for the economy," Trevor Mallard said.

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