Lifting standards and closing the gaps
The policy was released today at Matipo Rd School in Te Atatu , West Auckland.
Labour education spokesperson Trevor Mallard said the policy addressed three priority areas - improving the quality of the education children receive; closing the gaps between schools, and in achievement rates between different sections of the population; and upgrading school facilities, including buildings and technology.
"Every child in New Zealand should have access to schooling which enables them to reach their full potential in life - no matter where they live, how wealthy their parents are, or what special needs they have.
"There will no major overhaul of the schools system under Labour. There is a lot of brilliant work going on in schools - much of it stemming from the pioneering days of Education Minister the Rt Hon Peter Fraser and Director General Dr Clarence Beeby. The fourth Labour Government made radical changes to the administration of education, giving parents a much greater say. There is no demand or need for further radical change.
"But we have had a good look at the system over the past few years. We have talked to professionals and we have talked to parents. We have visited schools ranging from small, isolated one-teacher schools, to large urban secondary schools. We have met community workers who constantly deal with children who have problems within the school system.
"As a result, Labour is proposing a range of measures which will strengthen schools' ability to enhance the learning of all their children.
"There will be more funding across the sector; better teacher education provision; and special projects to complement the core role of schools. There will be initiatives to help 'hard to staff schools' recruit and retain a qualified and experienced staff. These include a secondment scheme, financial incentives, adequate housing in rural areas, and bonded scholarships to colleges of education for quality students willing to work in hard to staff areas.
"Labour will reinforce parents' rights to enrol their child at the local school and to be given information on their child's progress. They will also have access to a Parent Advocacy Service to help them deal with school-based conflict. Communities will be given a greater role in making decisions about future schooling provision in their communities through local education forums.
"We have major reservations about the role of the Education Review Office. There is a need for a review process, but Labour is strongly opposed to the system which allows ERO to go into a school, raise serious concerns about it, and then walk away with no responsibility for ensuring there is support for fixing the problems. We are committed to changing that system and we have not ruled out merging ERO back into the Ministry of Education.
"Child safety will be a priority including a requirement for police and character checks on all staff employed regularly in or around schools, and the establishment of a central records database so that children cannot disappear from the system.
"Labour has always been the party for education, and we will continue in that role as the next Government," Trevor Mallard said.
Labour's education policy for schools is available on Labour's website at www.labour.org.nz