Opinion: New education minister will have some work to do


The Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, has announced this morning that she will not be standing in next year’s election.

1 NEWS Columnist Dita DeBoni

Source: 1 NEWS

She will leave politics altogether, and another person will assume her portfolio if National wins another term.

The timing is odd. Barely a month ago, Ms Parata travelled to the US to meet educational experts (where she used her favourite catchphrase, confirming New Zealand was a "world leader in preparing young people for the 21st Century”) and then onto Israel, where she would share and learn about digital technologies.

Ms Parata claims she told PM John Key she’d be leaving earlier in the year.  In which case her trip was purely a junket. 

Or perhaps a convenient way to be absent while teachers up and down the country protested her ideas for ‘global funding’ -  a system that would allow schools to abandon set student-teacher ratio sizes and effectively ‘bulk fund’ schools.

Either way, she is leaving after a tenure which has been characterised by her consistent effort to dismantle the teacher unions, introduce dubious charter schools, give more public money to private schools, offload the cost of funding public schools onto parents, and introduce National Standards and other ideas from GERM (Global Educational Reform Movement), which have infected schools with the talk of marketing, standardisation, competition and ‘choice’.

Her relationship with educators and school staff started as they were set to go on in 2012 when she declared class size made no difference to educational outcomes – and had to back down. 

That same year it was revealed the taxpayer had been forced to pay almost half a million dollars to education secretary Lesley Longstone because of a relationship breakdown with Ms Parata, and that she’d also managed to lose several private secretaries and a senior advisor in her first few months in the job.

Video: 'Some time next year, it will be time to move on' - Hekia Parata on her decision to stand down
The Education Minister fronts the media after announcing she will not contest the 2017 election.
The Education Minister fronts the media after announcing she will not contest the 2017 election.
Source: 1 NEWS

Novopay was an omnishambles that the Government paid millions of dollars towards consulting on, trying to fix, and finally having to buy, without much of an apology to the thousands of teachers and support staff left out of pocket.

Botching the closure and merger announcements of Christchurch schools post-earthquakes was another fail grade for the minister, who inexplicably kept her job despite her errors. 

Charter schools continue to be an area where disasters abound, and, despite the constant claims school funding has been increased every year, most public schools report an effective funding freeze as resourcing has failed to keep up with growing rolls.

With Act’s clueless David Seymour at her side, the Minister has presided over one debacle after another, and if she had been subject to the same ‘performance pay’ grade she’s still insisting is a great idea for the country’s teachers, she’d have to be taking a second job just to survive.

Hopefully it is not too late to reverse many of the damaging changes Ms Parata has tried her hardest to implement in education, despite major funding reviews still underway. 

But with the current Government an eager fan of preparing huge chunks of the education system to be privatised, it’s likely there will be much more of the same if National wins the next election.

If they can manage to find at least one within their ranks who doesn’t possess staggering, repellent arrogance – and good luck to them on that score – they may just be able to finally, successfully ram their crazy ideas for New Zealand’s students all the way through.

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