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Labour admits failure in education

John Key MP National Party Leader

19 September 2008

Labour admits failure in education

National Party Leader John Key says Helen Clark's education announcements today amount to a reheat of a policy first outlined in 2002.

"In 2002, Labour signed the Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs agreement declaring 'every 15-to-19-year-old be engaged in work, training, education, or another constructive activity for their future**' by 2007. The fact that Helen Clark is making the same announcement just weeks out from the 2008 election is an admission of failure under her watch over the past nine years.

"Currently around one in five school students doesn't gain a qualification by the time they leave school, more than a third of students leave school without having gained a Level 2 or higher qualification, and nearly 13,000 teenagers are receiving a government benefit. Why should we believe Helen Clark will get to her 2014 goal this time around?

"More than 25,000 Kiwis aged 15-19 are not in any form of education, training or work - that's despite Labour's promise to get that number down to zero. Those young people are disengaged from education and are at a loose end."

Mr Key says Labour's hastily revised 'School Plus' plan is a pale imitation of National's more flexible and practical Youth Guarantee, which recognises the rich diversity of training and people's circumstances.

"Helen Clark today has also gone some way to admitting the mistake she made early this year when she announced that she simply planned to raise the school leaving age to 18. But it is way too late in the day for the public to trust that she can make any headway, given the lack of results since Labour first announced this policy six years ago."

Mr Key says National's Youth Guarantee is about giving young New Zealanders the opportunity and responsibility to better themselves, no matter what their circumstances.

* National will provide a universal education entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds. This will allow them to access, free of charge, a programme of educational study towards school-level qualifications.

* Most will continue their education at school. However, the entitlement will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to access education at a non-school provider if it can better meet their needs. For example, a polytechnic, wananga, or private training establishment.

* Courses offered under the Youth Guarantee will have to meet strict quality criteria.

* This new entitlement will be on top of, not instead of, the education entitlements young people have now. *

Sixteen and 17-year-olds who are not working, and who fail to take up this new entitlement, will not be eligible to receive a benefit.

"National will provide fresh enthusiasm and fresh leadership to lift our educational sights. Quite simply, Helen Clark and Labour have shown they can't."


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