Parata feels heat over changes to education

Teachers from across the country showed their dissatisfaction toward proposed education changes during a New Zealand-wide teacher union meeting held in Rotorua.

Minister of Education Hekia Parata was invited to speak at yesterday's meeting, with members in the 400-strong crowd at times lifting up their union programmes in protest - which read Stand Up For Kids Protect Our Schools.

Ms Parata spoke first about how the Government's proposed education changes, like National Standards and school closures in Christchurch, would improve what teachers do in their classrooms.

Ms Parata defended the place of National Standards heavily during her speech at the Energy Events Centre.

"Knowing that 70 per cent of students are at or above the national standard tells us that we have improvements to make."

She said just like a doctor taking a blood test, National Standards simply helped identify what could be done to improve the education sector and was not a cure in itself.

Following her speech, a heated question and answer section provided little comfort for the New Zealand Educational Institute union members.

One teacher told Ms Parata that National Standards, which were made public on Friday, was unfairly judging their decile one school against other schools on a very narrow scope of the curriculum - reading, writing and maths.

Another member said she could not see the point of closing and merging their primary school, in Christchurch, when they had little earthquake damage and a rising school roll.

The Minister replied in a polite but unwavering manner and said there was still chances for submissions in Christchurch to challenge proposals and people would not always agree but that was the democratic process.

The four-day New Zealand Educational Institute Te Riu Roa Annual Meeting runs until Wednesday, with guest speakers and forums during the week. The New Zealand Educational Institute is the largest education trade union in the country.

Some of this week's keynote speakers include education expert Pasi Sahlberg from Finland, speaking today, and Labour Party's Sue Moroney speaking tomorrow about paid parental leave. The New Zealand Home-Based Early Childhood Education Association Conference was also held during the weekend at the Rotorua Convention Centre.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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