Whistle-stop meeting talks education reforms

National’s education spokesperson Nikki Kaye with local MP Louise Upston review a slide at Monday’s meeting in Cambridge.

National MP and education spokesperson Nikki Kaye spoke to Cambridge residents this week about her concerns over too speedy a timeline around proposals for what she described as the biggest education shake-up in 30 years.

She was addressing a public meeting at the Cambridge Town Hall on Monday evening, one of more than 40 being held around the country over eight weeks to familiarise communities with the Government’s Tomorrow’s Schools education review proposals. Among those attending in Cambridge were local school principals, BOT members and teachers.

The Tomorrow’s Schools Review Independent Taskforce was appointed by Education Minister Chris Hipkins in April last year. Over five months, the Taskforce met with 200 different groups around the country. It has also accessed educational research and received input from thousands of interested parties – much of it online – and will close consultation early next month.

“The timeline means that National must provide feedback to the Taskforce by April 6, just over three weeks before the Taskforce reports back to the Minister on April 30,” Ms Kaye told the meeting. “That is too fast. We say they need to slow things down for what is the largest reform of our education system in 30 years. The lens of history suggests education is one of the most hotly contested areas of concern for any government, particularly because it deals with children.”

Ms Kaye said National did support some aspects of the proposed reforms but was advocating for time to forge greater cross-party agreement. She said feedback suggests communities want less politics in education and want a shift away from the current ‘swinging back and forth’ approach to a more stable and equitable education system.

She called for more flexibility in the proposals and cited a lack of detail, particularly in terms of transparency around costings.

Another major concern expressed during public meetings was around the proposed establishment of 20 ‘education hubs’ designed to replace current Ministry education offices and partner with schools. Fears were expressed, she said, around the potential for too much concentration of power transferring responsibilities to bureaucrats and away from teachers and parents.

“We are not opposed to education hubs, but we oppose the ‘one size fits all’ approach. It won’t work for all schools and all communities. We’d like to see a more graduated model.”

Ms Kaye said of the 18 or so reviews currently underway in education: “That’s a lot. This is massive.  There are a whole lot of principals, teachers and parents out there who don’t know what is going on. That’s one reason I am on the road now doing these meetings.”

Further information about the review is online here.

Ms Kaye said people could still make submissions via tomorrows.school@education.govt.nz.

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