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English Comments On Nat's Education Policy


National Education - Comments from Bill English National's Education Spokesman

National's Education Policy

Now the predictable reactions to Don Brash's speech on school policy have blown over, its time to get down to the substantial debate. The first step is to see what was actually said rather than what the critics say was said. Here is Don Brash's speech.

Here is a summary of the main points on issues raised in the media.

Reading Voucher
* value of $600-$700 of after school tuition
* entitlement belongs to parents
* available to children after age of 7 who don't reach agreed benchmarks in tests currently used in schools
* parents gets data from school
* voucher issued to parent by broker for approved course from qualified person
* ideal tutor has track record in lifting achievement of struggling students.
* schools can be tutors if they meet requirements

National Standards
* National will set national standards in literacy and numeracy
* There will be no new tests
* Standards will relate to existing tests such as Asttle, STAR, PATs
* Schools will report on standards consistent with current reporting requirements

School Funding
* National will cut back education bureaucracy (see more new horrifying spending here) and redirect funding to schools
* funding controlled by MOE will be shifted to schools where schools can
make better decisions
* schools will be funded by a single grant for salaries and operational expenses
* single grant simplifies management and decisions about teachers paid outside salary system, support staff issues, staff banking and non government revenue

Choice
* more choice for parents through relaxing rigid zoning, allowing integrated schools to grow, restoring 1999 aid to independent schools, some more classroom investment for growing state schools
* geographical zones replaced by more permissive 1997 legislation requiring Ministry approval of local enrolment schemes which must include provision for local students

Trust Schools
* schools can apply for trust ownership where there is strong record of lifting achievement levels, good governance and financial stability
* available to schools of all deciles
* criteria will build on work commissioned by current Minister on excellent schools
* similar to UK model for Foundation Schools now applied to ALL secondary schools

NCEA
* a serious overhaul including
* assessment for consistent and comparable results from one year to the next and from one school to the next.
* Pragmatic approach to moderation
* Failure must be reported.
* dump Scholarship in its current form and replace it with a high-stakes external exam, with ranking and grading
* reduce assessment so teachers can focus on teaching.


Special Needs Announcement

It's worth looking this gift horse in the mouth. $30m is spread over three areas over 4 years. The money available for more teacher aide hours is more like $2m per year. NZEI estimate that schools spend about $400m per year of their operations grant on support staff. So $2m will help top up the gap between negotiated wage rates and school budgets - but not much of the gap, so there won't be more teacher aides.

No More Pay Increases

A Treasury paper now on their website shows that pay has increased in education much faster than any other part of the public sector. The Treasury paper also says ministers are running out of policy choices because they are running out of money. Each budget they will have to find between $750 million and $1 billion to meet the state sector pay increases they have already agreed to. These figures don't take account of relativities that flow from the nurses' settlement. That's why Dr Cullen is trying to find ways of reducing forecast budgets by $300 million year. So a decade of consistent large pay increases are over, regardless of who is in government.


Bill English


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