By Metiria Turei, Green Party co-leader
The recent screeching halt by the Government on cutting teacher numbers is a testament to what standing up in opposition can achieve. Congratulations are due to the kids, teachers, and parents who forced this U-turn in policy. It's fantastic that the Government has recognised its mistake and made a full back-down so that our kids can have the time with teachers that they need in order to achieve.
But we should remember that John Key and Hekia Parata have not suddenly turned over a new leaf and seen the light on the importance of the education sector. This reversal in policy is a clear political response to the public outrage; Cabinet are still sticking by their cost cutting ideas on what makes a good education sector. Their teacher reduction policy came not from the education experts but from Treasury.
By continuing to blame parents’ “disproportionate amount of anxiety” as the reason they have changed their decision, National miss the point that they are just making bad policy. John Key has been 100 percent behind cutting teachers from the beginning and has continued to defend it even as the real impact of the cuts became known. Their lack of analysis and proper advice on the implications for such a policy has become clear as all of the experts came forward against it.
It was a team effort from National in destabilising the education system, losing the faith of the entire school sector and causing enormous angst among New Zealand parents. John Key must take responsibility for this debacle and apologise to New Zealand parents. I can’t see how Ms Parata can continue as Education Minister when she has alienated the entire sector, or how John Key can let her take the blame for his failing policies. This policy may have been fronted by Ms Parata but it’s beyond belief that the Prime Minister and Finance Minister were not heavily involved in its development. We cannot rest easy as we wait for their next crazy scheme.
For the sake of the education of New Zealand children, we need a fresh start where the voices of parents, children and teachers are listened to and that the Government engages with the education sector in a respectful way in order to understand what schools and students really need.