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National Education

17 November 2005

Now We Are Five

National Education is back and so is National with a new and bigger education team. These are keen approachable people with a wide range of experience in education.

Bill English - MP for Clutha Southland Education Spokesman
Tau Henare - West Auckland List MP Early childhood
Pansy Wong - Auckland Central List MP International education
Allan Peachey - MP for Tamaki Special Education, Education Review Office
Colin King MP - for Kaikoura Trades and Skills

I am excited to have four more enthusiastic talented people to push for the best deal for every student. Over the next 12 months the National Education team will be covering the country listening. We will build the best ideas into our policy. We also plan to pick out policies the Labour led government should implement in the interests of young New Zealanders, and work to get them implemented. New Zealand First and United Future will need to show they are independent of Labour, and what better way to show it than support progressive education policies?

And They Are Two Or IS It Four

Dr Cullen has the difficult job of cleaning up the tertiary sector. As he said himself this week, some institutions will look much different in 5 years time than they do now. That's code for Polytech closures and mergers and a "Maori only" Wananga, and along the way he will have to sort out the mess and mediocrity in the education agencies. He owes it to students who voted Labour to guarantee the quality of their education.

Helen Clark said Steve Maharey was put into education for his marketing skills. Presumably that means he won't be allowed to actually do anything. Labour don't want the same problems in the schools sector as there are in tertiary, or TVNZ which is also Maharey's responsibility. However Maharey won't be able to avoid dealing with schools squeezed by rising costs and dropping international student revenue. He should also have to explain why anti-choice, anti-parent policies are increasingly at odds with the international mainstream, but he probably wont.

Apparently Jim Anderton and Marion Hobbs have education roles as well.

NCEA Again

NZQA have already set pass rates for NCEA 2005. It's a political paint job, where any results that might cause public embarrassment will be changed. Maharey wants NZQA to take responsibility for producing a politically palatable set of results, and they will, because they know any controversy will be a serious problem for NCEA

But why did NZQA wait till two weeks before the exams to announce that they will re-mark exams if not enough or too many students are failing? . This is a significant compromise on the principles of standards based assessment and so it warranted explanation and debate. Neither is possible when thousands of students need to have confidence in exams which may be crucial to their future choices.

Good Polytechs Going Broke

In the rush to the election, a bailout for Weltec in Lower Hutt went unnoticed. Weltec has stuck to its knitting and runs one of the largest portfolios of core trades and skills courses in the country. If they need $9m to get through next year then the tertiary funding policy is way off the beam. About half of the polytechs are budgeting for deficits as they are hit by dropping enrolments and community education cuts.

The Quality Reinvestment Fund has become the political trough fund. There are no rules and there's no certainty. Polytechs are reduced to begging and hoping, or worse, putting their feet up because the viability of polytechs is now the government's problem. Dr Cullen needs to urgently restore transparency and certainty for funding so polytechs know the rules for 2007.

Request for Political Correctness

I want to hear from teachers how people like me outside the system can articulate concern for students who are failing, without offending teachers

After ERO stated that they wanted schools to report on what they were doing for the bottom 20% of achievers, the reaction was as swift as it was predictable - unions and principals complaining that schools and teachers were getting the blame for society's ills. I copped an earful or two for the suggestion that we should make sure all schools do what some schools do very well. In fact the public concern for underachievement is a genuine concern about the children. To be concerned about these children is not to automatically attack teachers. Too often this debate is shut down when people in education get defensive and hurt.

So I want to teachers to tell me how to talk about underachievement without causing offence. Then we can have the sort of debate intelligent people are meant to be able to have.

Bill English

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