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Maxim Institute - Real Issues - No 150

Maxim Institute
real issues.
this week: No. 150, 31 MARCH 2005

* Employers and employees not trusted to work it out

* Benson-Pope accepts lesson from teachers

* SKIP Smacking Report

* Autumn Evidence out now

* Upper Hutt Change Agent Workshop

Employers and employees not trusted to work it out

The Green Party is seeking to compel employers to grant employees flexible working hours when requested, unless they can show "that a clear business case exists for rejecting the request." Green Party Co-Leader's Employment Relations (Flexible Working Hours) Amendment Bill was drawn out of the Private Members Ballot this week, and would apply to employees with dependent children under five or those with disabled children under 18.

The rationale behind the Bill is that "An increased employment rate for parents of young children will benefit employers in reduced turnover costs, increased skills retention and continuity of employment." Mr Donald fails to realise that a flexible employment market depends on freedom, trust and good faith, all of which could potentially be eroded by this Bill. Hours of work are an agreement reached by employer and employee, and interference by the state signals a lack of trust in both parties.

Making flexible working hours mandatory could have quite the opposite effect to what the Green Party wants. It is possible that employers will be more reluctant to hire people with dependent children, as they could be viewed as a potential risk. This could disproportionately harm women with young children.

To read the Bill please follow this link: http://www.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpprint/docs/bills/20052531.txt

Benson-Pope accepts lesson from teachers

Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope has openly endorsed 25 out of 26 recommendations made in the report of the Scholarship Reference Group this week. Unfortunately the fundamental problem - that academic subjects are unsuitable for standards-based assessment-remains unaddressed.

The Reference Group was charged with finding solutions to the problems found in the New Zealand Scholarship exam results of wide variability in the results across subjects. The objective was to ensure that pupils can have confidence in Scholarship as a mechanism for recognising top academic achievement.

The language of the report is unclear, but it seems the most significant recommendation adopted is that Scholarship Awards be given to the top 2 - 3 percent of pupils studying in each Scholarship subject. The change means that pupils will have to be ranked against one another; as was the case with the Bursary examinations used until 2004. The government says it is maintaining its philosophical commitment to standards-based assessment as the foundation of all secondary school qualifications. In practice it has had to compromise this by admitting it is necessary to compare pupils through rankings in order to recognise excellence.

Whether the recommended reforms over the next two years will restore faith in the Scholarship Awards is debatable. Candidates and teachers in 2005 may be left scrambling to adapt, as the changes come one-quarter into the school year. Moreover, the return to a ranking system is an admission that there are serious shortcomings with a standards-based approach to assessment for academic subjects.

The Reference Group's report only dealt with Scholarship level. The underpinnings of the entire NCEA system need to be reformed so that pupils at all levels can have certainty that their results reflect their ability.

SKIP Smacking Report

The Ministry of Social Development has recently released "Strategies with Kids - Information for Parents (SKIP) Research Report". It reports the findings of a recent survey of parents' approaches to smacking. The report forms part of the government's $10 million SKIP programme aimed at informing parents about discipline methods.

While the findings of this survey are interesting, it is unclear how this will help inform parents. The survey is simply descriptive, providing an awareness of the current situation.

The media have suggested that, when compared with previous surveys, the latest survey shows an overall decline in the use of smacking in New Zealand. Some conclude that smacking is becoming less socially acceptable. This survey, however, cannot establish this causal claim, and it is largely an irrelevant point. The value of this survey to the debate on smacking is questionable.

The UNICEF Innocenti Report Card (2003) shows that New Zealand has an unacceptably high rate of child abuse. Child abuse is a serious problem, but so far there is no compelling research in New Zealand linking smacking to child abuse. The money used to fund the descriptive SKIP Report could have been used to commission research into the causes of child abuse including an analysis of how it is linked to family breakdown.

Autumn Evidence out now

The autumn issue of "Evidence", released last week, takes a closer look at culture and policy in New Zealand. In this edition, Maxim researchers Andrew Shamy and Ruth Oates ask, "Is the NCEA delivering?" and examine the claims and criticisms three years on from its introduction. For details on how to get your copy of "Evidence" visit


Upper Hutt Change Agent Workshop

If you want to be informed about current issues and challenged to think more deeply about 'hate speech', education, same-sex marriage and the 2005 election, come along to the Upper Hutt Change Agent workshop on 12 April. Be equipped with practical tools to engage in public policy and debate. For details visit


THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK - Ben Jonson ((1572 - 1637))

Very few men are wise by their own counsel, or learned by their own teaching; for he that was only taught by himself had a fool as his master.

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from the Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action. If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.

Key principles - The Building Blocks of Civil Society


Maxim Institute 49 Capehorn Road, Hillsborough, Auckland. Ph (09) 627 3261 74 Middleton Road, Riccarton, Christchurch. Ph. (03) 343 1570

Email: maxim@maxim.org.nz Web: http://www.maxim.org.nz

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