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Excellence in education - Don Brash Statement

Don Brash
National Party Leader
13 April 2005

Excellence in education

Improving basic literacy and numeracy should be a national mission, National Party Leader Don Brash said today when signalling substantial changes to the education system under a National Government.

Speaking to an audience of education specialists in Auckland this afternoon, Dr Brash said there is too much political correctness about failure in our schools and he was staggered at the complacency over this.

To “ensure that no child is left behind”, he announced that a National Government would provide reading and maths vouchers to parents whose children were not meeting age-related standards at age seven.

He announced a comprehensive package of measures designed to improve the performance of New Zealand schools, including a major shift of decision-making away from centralised bureaucracy and back to schools and communities.

“We must empower good schools, good principals and good teachers to use their professional skills to provide our children with an outstanding education.”

In announcing a fundamental reform of NCEA, he said more than fine tuning or tinkering was needed. “The whole approach is in many respects deeply flawed.”

“Our assessment system has become a conspiracy to ensure that parents cannot compare students or schools. Parents have the right to know how their child is doing, and how the school is performing.”

Dr Brash also announced measures to increase parental choice by committing to expand schools with substantial demand for places, removing rigid zoning restrictions, removing the cap on integrated school rolls, and easing the squeeze on independent schools.

Dr Brash said National will:

- Fundamentally overhaul the NCEA and reintroduce demanding scholarship exams where students are ranked and given meaningful grades.

- Stop hiding information about the performance of pupils and schools.

- Cut back assessment so there is more time for teachers to teach and students to learn.

- Introduce national literacy and numeracy standards and hold schools accountable for ensuring their pupils reach them.

- Provide reading and maths vouchers to the parents of any child who does not meet national standards by the age of seven. This resource will allow parents to ensure their child catches up.

- Slash the education bureaucracy by decentralising school management, and use the savings to attract and retain outstanding teachers.

- Free up outstanding state schools by allowing them to expand, without suffocating bureaucratic oversight.

- Support the expansion of integrated schools where there is demand.

- Improve parental choice by ending rigid zoning restrictions and lifting the state’s contribution to independent schools.

Ends

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