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Jenny Shipley Speech - "Parents Know Best"

Embargoed until delivery: 7.45am
May be subject to significant change at delivery

RT HON JENNY SHIPLEY

Breakfast address to

BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY BREAKFAST

"PARENTS KNOW BEST"

Southern Cross Hotel, Dunedin
7.45am, Tuesday 16 November 1999

This is an education city. It has a rapidly expanding range of education providers for New Zealand and international students.

You are leaders and so is National, in the education sector.


STANDARDS IN EDUCATION

National believes in high standards. High standards being set for teachers and pupils, and high standards being reached by New Zealand children.

We have one of the best education systems in the world. Our principals lead our schools with a great determination to do the best for their pupils.

Teachers are doing a great job for our children. Most primary and secondary teachers do incredibly well from the early years getting our children ready to learn, right through to the end of school and the step to tertiary education, training or work.

But our system is not serving all of our children well. We are still not strong enough in the basics. Some children move into intermediate level without adequate reading, writing and maths skills.

We could do a lot better. And we must.

That’s why we’ve put a strategy in place to make sure every New Zealand child can read write and do maths by age nine. We want to reach this goal by 2005?

When they send their children off to school, too many parents lose their say. They are kept in the dark. They have no way of knowing how their child is measuring up compared to others.

It doesn't make any sense.

Schools have a duty to ensure parents know how their children are doing right from the start.

We must help teachers lift our standards of achievement in the primary years.
It makes sense.

If children aren’t measuring up, parents and teachers can sit down and work out what to do.

National supports national testing of primary school children. We believe parents have a right to know how well their children are doing relative to others in their age group throughout New Zealand.

National testing will show children, parents, teachers and principals where the problems are. It makes sense.

We know there are gaps in the system, but rather than wring our hands and let the teacher unions dictate, we are doing something about it.

National testing will flush out the strugglers, so we can give them more help. More importantly, all parents will know how their children are really doing.

From next year, we will start a pilot of testing pupils age nine and 11.

Until now, the teacher unions have kept parents in the dark by blocking any moves that put the spotlight on teacher standards. Helen Clark supports the unions.

National will not tolerate the teacher unions agenda of centralised state control at the expense of children's education and parents' rights any longer.

National testing will give New Zealand parents a true measure of how the school system is working for their children..

New Zealand has great teachers and great schools, but that's no reason to rest on our laurels. We are determined to strive to improve schooling and the education our children graduate with.

National stands for national assessment, Labour stands against it.

Labour thinks parents are irrelevant. Labour would rather support their mates in the union who are only interested in keeping control and hiding mediocre teachers.

The choice is clear. National believes parents and principals are the best ones to make decisions about our children's education. Helen Clark and Labour think they and the unions know what's best for children.


EDUCATION REVIEW OFFICE

The ERO is the guardian of standards in our schools. Its reports give parents and pupils confidence in the education system.

National is determined to see that the Office remains independent.
Parents deserve to have a strong, reliable, independent assessment of how their school measures up.

Right now, the ERO acts as an auditor of schools and government policy. While their assessments are not always positive towards government, we believe the ERO’s independence is paramount because it serves the interests of children and their parents.

Again the choice is clear: National supports an independent ERO. Labour would scrap it. Labour's priority is to protect their union mates – not protect the rights of children and parents.

The ERO helps keep our schooling up to scratch. It has helped expose some major problems in some schools. Without the ERO, we'd have parents believing those schools were great. The trouble is, when their child leaves school, it's too late to turn back the clock and start again.

A child only gets one shot at getting the basics right. We believe in continual checks on schools and policy to make sure every one is up to scratch. Parents have a right to that assurance. A strong and independent ERO is their watchdog.

Just two years ago, the role of ERO was again reviewed and its independence found to be crucial in keeping our schools up to scratch. Margaret Austin, a former Labour Cabinet Minister, conducted the review and said that the independent role must be maintained.

Even Winston Peters understands the importance of independence. His party was a staunch critic of ERO, but after this review even Winston understood.

Labour wants to take New Zealand back to the old system. Back then, problems with teachers and principals were often hidden within an unaccountable bureaucracy. Parents were kept in the dark. No rights and no watchdog to keep the education system honest.

This approach hid the problems from parents, and jeopardised the schooling of their children, and Labour would bring it all back.

Helen Clark and her cronies want to talk, stall and consult while children's education suffers.

National is determined to keep the ERO independent and guarding the standards of education. Parents deserve to have a watchdog they can trust.

Labour is too interested in protecting its backers in the PPTA and NZEI.

But education is too important to play that sort of politics with.

Our children don't have the luxury to grow up unskilled. It's a competitive world out there and children need everything they can get to succeed.

Nowadays without a good education you've got a rocky future, destined for the dole queue, or a prison cell.
National is determined that all New Zealanders – government, parents, teachers – will work to avoid this.


BULK FUNDING

And we can do better.
Choice allows new ideas to be advanced.
It simply comes down to whether you trust principals and parents or whether you want to keep the power with Wellington bureaucrats and teacher unions.

National trusts principals and parents, Labour does not.

Schools that are bulk funded have many new options including more teachers, more specialists and new services.

Ironically, one of the highest uptakes of bulk funding is in Helen Clark's Owairaka electorate where 70% of pupils attend a bulk-funded school.

A third of New Zealand schools teaching 40% of our pupils have chosen to be bulk-funded.

Why anybody would want to disrupt the education of 290,000 pupils for the sake of ideology is beyond belief.

I call on New Zealand parents not to let their schools be dragged back where unions come before children's interests.

With National, children come first. Labour's sole focus is the unions.

National has progressively transferred the authority to principals, and parents via boards of trustees.

Parents, teachers and principals know what's best for children. They are the best ones to make choices for their children.

Labour would remove choice for parents. They would return control to government.

They think they are better judges than you.

They pledge to invent rigid formulas for schools to fit into. If your school is type A they'll tell you how many teachers, staff and buildings you need and that's what you'll get. Too bad if that's hopeless for your children, because with Labour, Wellington knows best.

Remember, 70% of pupils in Helen Clark's electorate attend a bulk-funded school. Under her own policy these children would lose out. So much for representing the people.

National wants to give parents and schools control. Labour wants to decide for you. When it comes to primary schooling, parents know nothing but Labour knows best.

SCHOOL PROPERTY

National has spent the past nine years clearing a backlog of deferred maintenance left by the last Labour government.

The last time Labour had their hands on education, they hid problems, protected unions, and chalked up $600 million of maintenance bills in our school classrooms, gyms, halls and libraries.

Labour ran down schools throughout the country.

National learned from Labour's mistakes, Labour did not.

Every school in New Zealand deserves to have more say on how to upgrade their school property. And National is doing something about it.

We are starting a programme where schools can take control of their property, make the best decisions and get on with it.

They won't have to wait for endless approval from Wellington. They won't have to wait until a government inspector decides their buildings are run down enough to warrant repair.

Every school has different priorities. Under National, principals, teachers and boards of trustees can make decisions for their school.

We stand for local decision making. Labour stands for centralised control. Helen Clark is telling parents that she knows best.

Education matters, but so do families.
Children will learn if they are confident in their relationships at home and feel valued as people.
Our Strengthening Families programmes help families solve problems. Fathering is also an area that needs the attention of us all so our boys in particular are confident in who they are and where they belong.

Government and families must work together to give New Zealand children a chance.
They also need to back themselves.

TERTIARY EDUCATION

Tertiary education is valuable to New Zealand – to students and to the future.

Each New Zealand taxpayer backs each student.
Each student gets 72.5% of their costs paid by taxpayers.
The balance is funded by allowances, or a loan that a student borrows. Students are treated very fairly compared with other young New Zealanders who have to borrow to get themselves into their own businesses.

National's deal is still best for students.

We will write off 25% of interest while a student is studying. We won't write it all off because it will only encourage kids to borrow who don't need it.
We'll allow any money available for repayment to go half to principle and half to interest with the balance of interest being written off.

When students take into account that National will bring taxes down, and have got interest rates to their lowest in 30 years, they will see that most students are better off over their adult lives with a National led government.


CONCLUSION

A child's education is too important to get it wrong.

National is determined to keep choice for parents in the school system.

Labour would tell you what's best for your child.

We believe you don't help schools that are underperforming by holding back others that are ready to fly.

We stand for higher standards, choice, local control, more flexibility, less red tape. And we've got plans to cut even more red tape so our schools are free to meet the next century.

National wants to improve our education system, not take it backwards.

Our education system is for our children. It is not there for politicians, it is not there for unions.

At the end of the day it comes down to trust.

National trusts principals, teachers and boards of trustees.
We also believe in being fair to students while expecting them to take some responsibility.

The choice is clear. Go forwards with National or go backwards with Labour.

(ENDS)

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