Flash mob education protests

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Up to 60 Western Bay primary school teachers and their supporters held a series of "flash mobs" across the region to protest against Government reforms of the education sector.

The protest was organised by Trish Hunt, secretary of the New Zealand Educational Institute, a union representing primary school teachers.

The flash mobs, in which the teachers danced to Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall and Michael Jackson's Beat It, were held in Te Puke, Bayfair, Gate Pa, Papamoa, Fraser Cove and outside Mitre 10 Mega on Saturday.

Mrs Hunt, who is also a teacher at Fairhaven Primary School, said she was now planning a flash mob hikoi for early next year that would take in all the country's main centres before delivering a message to Education Minister Hekia Parata on the steps of Parliament.

"It's really that one size does not fit all.

"They are narrowing the curriculum right down and our children ... will be pushed further back," she said.

The three key issues the group was protesting were charter schools, which will be run by a private or voluntary sector sponsor and funded by the Government under a contract; the proposal to close or merge a number of schools in the Christchurch area; and national standards.

Act MP John Banks has pushed for charter schools, saying they will give the bottom 20 per cent of kids who fall through the cracks an alternative to enter into a partnership school arrangement with a party provider through the Government.

However, NZEI council member Rikki Sheterline, who joined the protest, said a danger was that funding for charter schools would be diverted from public education.

The Government was moving away from providing an education system with a broad and holistic base, he said.

"Money that would have gone to public schools is going to charter schools even though figures from the US show that 87 per cent of charter schools achieve the same or worse results than public schools.

"And in Christchurch, people who have been traumatised by the earthquakes are being told their schools are to be closed or merged.

"It was decided by the area council that we needed to get these messages across to people," Mr Sheterline said.

"[The flash mob] was Trish's idea," he said.

Mr Sheterline said the flash mob protests had been a success and raised awareness of the union's standpoint.

"There was a lot of discussion [at the various sites] and people were supportive."

Mr Sheterline said union representatives in other areas would have to decide whether they carried out similar protests.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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