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Raising education standards

Hon Bill English MP National Party Leader

17 September 2003

Raising education standards

National Party Leader Bill English says there is far too much political correctness about failure in our schools.

"There are too many inspired teachers frustrated by the lack of tools to do as much as they can. It's time for honesty about how improvements can be made," Mr English told a Rotary group during a speech this afternoon.

The National Party is due to release its Education discussion document next week. It will be the third discussion paper released by National this year, backing up core policy work that's already being done on the economy and welfare.

"National will campaign for one standard of citizenship, and to close the economic gap with Australia.

"Education is part of both stories - it provides the opportunity to give every child the start deserved by a New Zealand citizen, and an appropriately educated workforce is critical to higher rates of growth," Mr English says.

"My real concerns focus on two corrosive problems I want to change.

"The first is what has been called the soft bigotry of low expectations. A generation of politicians, bureaucrats, teachers and parents have been bombarded with statistics and philosophy that tell them some children can't succeed - that their social background pre-determines how much they can learn.

"Related to this is the second corrosive belief that the teacher can't make much difference, no matter how much training," Mr English says.

"The sum of these two beliefs is that we collectively believe some children will fail, from the start, and we tolerate it.

"It's time to cut through the political correctness around testing. We owe it to our children to use the best tools we have to give them the best chance.

"We spend over $100 million on professional development of our teachers, but research shed real doubt on the effectiveness of the spending," Mr English says.

"Recent research says the success of support for teachers is measured by whether it makes them happy. In fact we should measure support for teachers by whether it helps them increase children's achievement.

"Even in our decile one schools, our poorest schools, we can get children to normal levels of achievement in literacy.

"However teachers need to be given the right tools. We all need to strive for excellence rather than accept failure," Mr English says.

ENDS


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