Shift in National's education policy a positive move

13 November 2019

NZEI Te Riu Roa says the National Party's education discussion document shows it has been listening to the sector, although there are still areas of concern for educators and students.

President Lynda Stuart said it was positive that National had finally recognised the benefits for students of smaller class sizes, and greater incentives to get into teaching was a welcome and necessary move in light of the ongoing teacher shortage.

"We also welcome the commitment to increase funding for early childhood educators and services, as the per-child funding freeze during the term of the previous National Government has had a hugely detrimental and ongoing impact across the sector," she said.

"We also lobbied intensively with the previous Government to include ECE services in Communities of Learning to improve transitions for children, and we are pleased to see this is now part of National's policy document."

"However, the early childhood proposals are not aspirational enough around improving ratios or funding to have 100% qualified teaching staff. We need a focus on improving quality ahead of punishing substandard services." 

Ms Stuart said the proposal to provide further resources to schools to employ more teacher aides would be welcomed, although teacher aides' role was to support student learning, not "reduce teachers' administrative workloads".

"We would still like to see more detail about how National would ensure support staff are fairly remunerated for their skills and responsibilities, develop career paths and improve job security. This is a huge issue for support staff and must be addressed," she said.

Ms Stuart said the lack of policy information about supporting Māori student success was disappointing.

"The proposals for greater support for children with 'complex needs', and additional learning, behavioural and mental health support for schools based on need, and faster access to early screening are all much needed."

Ms Stuart said she was looking forward to further robust conversation about the discussion document with Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye, particularly around what proposed "progress reporting" might look like. 

"Teachers and principals would push back strongly against anything resembling a return to the much-loathed National Standards."

"National has clearly been listening to the sector while in opposition and is facing up to the many problems they created over the past decade, which is a great thing. However, they're still hanging on to some flawed ideological views around competition and privatisation long rejected by the vast majority of educators - their desire to reintroduce charter schools is a case in point."

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