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National Education

National Education
Comments From Bill English, National's Education Spokesman

26 May 2005

Bureaucrats Beat Budget

Nothing sums up better the balance of priorities in the education sector than this simple fact. In Budget 2005, $20m will be paid to 2700 schools for an increase in their operational grant. The Ministry of Education gets a bigger increase of $24m. Just so schools get the message of this digital response from the minister, ERO have been allocated $800,000 to review how schools are using their operational grants.

This makes an nonsense of PPTA arguments that bulk funding means schools won't get enough money. Rather inconveniently Labour has used its central control to strangle government provided discretionary funding available to schools.

But the facts can be inconvenient. In the recent PPTA News, the PPTA say that if bulk funding is introduced, schools will have to collect money from parents. And schools will be forced into risky ventures like recruiting international students. If this is the argument against National's policy, then the argument is already won. National will bring in bulk funding for all schools. It might now be apparent to everybody that the funding method has no connection to the funding levels.

Parents beat Teachers

Government policy will raise child care costs for families significantly over the next few years as wages rise faster than funding. While National supports the general direction of Labour's ECE funding policy we will look carefully at whether families are better off as a result of the large increase in spending. Certainly the policy of 20 hours free in teacher led community owned centres is misguided and National will scrap it.

A new critique of the Competent Child study shows that children from Playcentre scored well ahead of all other groups in when their literacy and numeracy were measured at aged 12. This is an unexpected result buried in a study that has been used by government to justify policy requiring all teachers to be qualified and for preferential funding for teacher led services. The same critique points out that the Competent Child study is not "internationally recognised" and nor has it been published in a peer reviewed journal.

The critique is available at www.childforum.com under "Publications". Early childhood research in New Zealand is prone to reflect the establishment view that more early childhood education is better and it has to be teacher led and centre based to be any good. The Competent Child study does not back this unqualified claim, and nor does overseas research but it was repeated again in the Budget by the Minister of Finance. The Competent Child study should be fully reviewed by competent researchers before its selective conclusions become "facts".

Fear and Loathing In Polytechland

Trevor Mallard's musings over his plans for small scale butchery has spines shivering among polytech management. Polytechs had put off the evil day by front loading their 5.1 community education allocations. Most are planning to use up most of their three year allocations in the first two years. Now Trevor has said all of 5.1 type courses are going to the ACE providers, and of course he will pocket a fair bit of the $115 million for universities.

This week he announced in the Education Review that he will stop funding for all short courses under 40 credits. So another $30m is about to leave the polytech sector. Expect to see a dozen polytechs on their knees by the need of next year. A few will be wiped out by these changes. Its time for government of any colour to look again at governance and cost structures in polytechs. Lurching from one financial crisis to another is no way to build strong vocational and technical education for the next generation.

Bill English


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