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Bill English Comments

Bill English Comments

Scholarship Review Marked at 70%

The NCEA Review has some way to go with the final report due in July, but the signs aren't good. The report on Scholarship was a mixed bag. It exposed a saga of incompetence and arrogance, but concluded the central issue was that the NZQA didn't tell everyone to expect variable pass rates. It was just a case of bad communication. The review didn't find out why neither NZQA nor MOE never resolved the intellectual contradiction of using a standards based assessment for a competitive ranking exam. In fact, neither seems to even understand it was a contradiction. Fair and valid assessment for students didn't feature in the discussion

The Wellington establishment just don't get the message. NCEA's public credibility can't be much lower. A politician could win votes by promising to abolish it. Until the establishment accepts that NCEA assessment has significant technical flaws, and moves to fix them, public confidence can't be restored. Parents will not accept a system where a students' success depends on them picking the right subject in the right year


The plan for Ministers now is to get the NZQA board to sack Karen van Rooyen. She can probably hold out until the main NCEA report in July. Then Ministers plan to roll NZQA into the Ministry, under the guiding hand of Doug Martin who merged SES in to the ministry.

The Minister of Education would not express confidence in Howard Fancy when asked in the House - the least he could do for a civil servant under pressure. The scholarship review says MOE mucked up scholarship policy and handed the NZQA a hospital pass, so why is van Rooyen getting all the blame? Fancy did nothing to fix the lack of coordination between MOE and NZQA and like the Ministers he ignored multiple warnings that Scholarship was going off the rails. Fancy has overseen the mess in tertiary education, the big increase in school fees in state education and plummeting public support for NCEA. So maybe he wouldn't do such a good job of running both agencies.

What Should Happen

Change the leadership in both agencies, fix the assessment problems by using a norm referenced base and leave NZQA as a stand-alone agency

Mallard Magnifies Wananga Woes

Labour's politically motivated assault on the Wananga continues. Mallard's attacks are intended to destroy a Maori Party power base as well as show Pakeha voters Labour can kick Maori. Trevor has been cunning. First he used a mild financial problem and ACT's allegations in Parliament as excuses to put in a Crown Manager to take over the finances. He refused to provide the last $15m installment of the Wananga's Treaty settlement. And then he turned down a Wananga plan to fix its cash flow problem all by itself. So now he can sack the Council and put in a statutory manager, but it has already cost $20m - a high price to pay for Labour politicking. Now Trevor has discovered taxpayers aren't happy about the $20m so he will have to find a way to get it back, like allow the Wananga to proceed with its original plan, or dish out the Treaty cash - declined so far because the Wananga has too many Pakeha enrolments.

How was Trevor Mallard surprised by the Wananga's financial problems? He paid a consultant $120,000 to keep an eye on them and had Shane Jones, prominent Labour candidate, on the Wananga's Audit Risk Management Committee. Officials briefed him weekly for two years and the Wananga has been through 25 audit investigations and inquiries. Ministers knew the story but they were too scared of acting in case they created political problems inside Labour. Now Labour has lost all round. The voters see them throwing good money away on the Wananga and Maori see Mallards' moves as an attack on a revered institution, fuelling Maori party support. Good on yer Trev.

Bill English

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