Education 'going in wrong direction'

By Genevieve Helliwell


A top Tauranga principal has slammed Government education reforms.

Ian Leckie says New Zealand's world-class education system is going "backwards" because of changes such as charter schools, national standards, league tables and performance-based pay.

He has just returned to Tahatai Coast School after spending two years with the NZEI union that represents 50,000 teachers.

Mr Leckie told the Bay of Plenty Times he did not have faith in the Government and these changes would remove the focus from individual learning.

In his NZEI role he met Education Minister Hekia Parata regularly, travelled the country meeting education workers, and spoke publicly on education.

"The conversations I had with Parata were amicable and frank. We had good dialogue and there were common areas of disagreement and areas of agreement ... and at the forefront of our political discussions was the underlying policy that has been driven by a Cabinet decision," he said.

"The education reform agenda has been created exclusive of those in the profession and has been made without common sense in most cases."

Government policies on charter schools, national standards, league tables and performance pay were based on the Global Education Reform Movement, despite having failed to improve student learning overseas, Mr Leckie said.

Charter schools are to be introduced in Auckland and Christchurch by late next year, but Mr Leckie believes more will open. Charter Schools can be operated by organisations such as iwi, not-for-profit groups, companies or existing education providers. These schools will not have to follow the curriculum and their teachers do not have to be registered.

Mr Leckie visited New York charter schools and was appalled. Schools were run like military camps, teachers were overworked, which caused high staff turnover, children were being taught to score well in literacy and numeracy tests and all other education was forgotten, he said.

"New Zealand is a world leader in education and, yes, I believe we still are but with the reform policy being introduced it's taking our education system backwards."

A spokesperson for Ms Parata said New Zealand had an education system among the world's best but some children missed out.

The Government's education plan aimed to see all children achieve the school qualifications they needed, and introducing charter/partnership schools and national standards were ways to help achieve this goal.

The spokesperson said partnership schools aimed to lift educational achievement in low-decile areas and disadvantaged communities.

Ian Leckie on his time at NZEI:

The highs

  • Advocating for one of the best, and most successful, public education systems in the world

  • Advocating for teachers, principals, support staff and special education members of NZEI:Te Riu Roa

  • Interacting with all education agencies, representatives and organisations to the highest level

The lows

  • Having a Government determined to attack teachers and quality public education

  • Being away from my school, its quality staff and wonderful children

  • Being away from my home and family for so long in a Wellington-based position.

Tell us

Who's right - Ian Leckie or Hekia Parata? Have your say by emailing

- Bay of Plenty Times

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