School leaders losing faith in policies

By Genevieve Helliwell

Bay principals have lashed out at Government education reforms, claiming charter schools, national standards and performance-based pay will damage New Zealand's world-class education system.

Opposition education spokesman Chris Hipkins spent the day in the Western Bay yesterday listening to the concerns of teachers and proposing Labour's education policies should the party return to power.

Greerton Village School principal Anne Mackintosh told the Bay of Plenty Times she felt the concerns of education professionals were falling on deaf ears and was encouraged by Mr Hipkins' visit.

"I have no faith in where the New Zealand education system is heading under the current Government. It's a hypocrisy. [The Government] says it wants good quality teachers yet with charter schools, teachers are allowed to not be registered. It's unbelievable," she said.

Mr Hipkins, who took over the education portfolio in February, spent time at Greerton Village School, Otumoetai Intermediate school and Brookfield Primary school before he led a public meeting last night. He was concerned with the direction education was heading.

"The current path education is going down needs to change. We aren't proposing a radical change. I don't think a radical change is good for education. What's good for education is stability, consistency and evidence-based decision making which need to be made in collaboration with teachers, kids, parents and the Government," he said.

"At the moment there's no collaboration ... morale is very low and people don't feel valued."

Mrs Mackintosh said morale was the lowest she had seen in her 29 years in education.

Mr Hipkins said Labour would scrap charter schools and tweak national standards so it encompassed a broad curriculum, not just reading, writing and mathematics.

Otumoetai Primary School principal Geoff Opie said he favoured Labour's approach to education over National's.

"I'm in my 40th year and I am not hopeful for my grandchildren and what kind of education system will be provided for them," he said.

"The current Government is following a business model that has failed in America and England and that just isn't right."

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said the Government was working co-operatively with the sector and Mr Hipkins was talking "absolute nonsense".

"The Government is trying to do one thing and one thing only in education and that's raise standards for the benefit of children and their parents. We're just trying to get results."

Charter schools and national standards were ways of trying to improve the standard.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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