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National Education

National Education

9 September 2005

National will fund schools better

Schools will be better funded under National than under Labour. In recent years tertiary education has chewed up hundreds of millions, and so has the bureaucracy. I told a tertiary audience in Auckland this week that tertiary funding will be frozen while we sort out quality issues, and school funding will be our top priority. National could never get away with Labour's recipe of minimal operations grant increases and growing dependence on parent fees.

Boards are starting to turn up the heat and if National gets elected currently compliant unions will turn feral on school funding.

The transition to bulk funding will certainly cost money, and every extra dollar will be a dollar for schools. In fact Trevor Mallard argued last week that bulk funding will cost too much. Was this the same Trevor Mallard who used to argue that bulk funding meant not enough funding. The lesson of the last 6 years is that centralised salaries are no guarantee a school gets enough money to deliver the core curriculum, and no protection for parents against fees for "free" state education.

Who Pays the Piper?

Boards must wonder why they pay fees for their principals to join the Principals Federation when the Federation so bitterly opposes better information for parents.

National has proposed all schools do what many schools do already - report to parents on progress against their goals. In fact this is a legal requirement in the Education Standards Act. However, the Principals Federation believe it's the worst idea they have ever heard of.

If I am the Minister, I will work with the sector to ensure all parents and students get the benefit of sector practice already in place and that information is based on data about standard progress in literacy and numeracy. The policy emphasises progress, not absolute achievement. I want to see the sector build in the developing culture of focusing on raising achievement from wherever the child starts. No more tests, no new data, just more best practice.

Commonsense Wins

18 months ago Labour announced 3 and 4 year olds would be eligible for 20 hours free early childhood education in teacher led community based centres. Mr Mallard explained that private centres would be left out because they were lower quality. I heard this mantra repeated endlessly in kindergartens and crèches around the country. Then Trevor changed his mind when it became clear that his policy would not survive the pressure of an election campaign because it discriminated randomly against thousands of families. So now 20 hours free will be available at private centres as well. This is a more sensible policy, but it will be expensive and complicated. National favours a tax deductibility for early childhood care and education with expenses up to $3000 per year available of the same terms as the current childcare rebate already in law. It will be available for children up to age 4, not just 3 and 4 year olds and available for not community-based care.

Bill English


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