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Time for Government to listen to parents

Media Statement For immediate release Tuesday, 9 December, 2003

Dunne: Time for Government to listen to parents

If the Government holds parents responsible for ensuring their children are educated, then it should hold up its part of the bargain and listen to those parents when they say what kind of schools they want for their children, United Future leader Peter Dunne said today.

"And that is not happening enough as evidence by the way the Government is riding rough-shod over communities in closing schools," Mr Dunne said in jointly announcing United Future's schools policy with the party's education spokesman, Bernie Ogilvy.

"The Government can't have it both ways. If it tells parents that they are primarily responsible for ensuring that their children are to be educated - and they are - then the Government needs to really listen to those same parents.

"It needs to understand that schools are not education factories, and that they exist within communities - often being the glue that binds those communities together. It needs to understand that while the economics of providing an education system are vital, other values need to be preserved.

"Parents are entitled to tell the State what their needs are and how they ought to be met, and provided that those concerns are consistent with meeting core educational requirements, the Government needs to listen and listen hard," Mr Dunne said.

"This means that the State must allow different schools with different cultures, characters and curriculums to develop and thrive, giving parents the choice they should have for their children."

United Future saw the optimal school size at 200-300 pupils at primary level, and 700-900 at secondary, Mr Dunne and Mr Ogilvy said.

"But again the emphasis must be on flexibility - these levels are not set in stone and may be outweighed by other community-related factors and parental preferences, particularly in rural areas."

Ends.

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