Editorial: National education reforms a disaster

By Dylan Thorne

As an exercise in public relations, the Government's education reforms have been a disaster.

Last week we reported that tensions were again rising between the education sector and the Government over issues such as performance pay and league tables.

Some schools closed early and others were left with skeleton staffing as hundreds of teachers in the Bay took their first step in a potential showdown with the Government over their collective contract.

The teachers held a New Zealand Education Institute Union meeting to discuss the Government's offer over their contract but other issues such as performance pay, league tables and standardised learning were on the agenda.

National standards, charter schools and class sizes have been hotly debated since they were first proposed by the Government.

It was interesting to note last week that most parents who had to pick up their children from school sided with teachers.

Given some of the backdowns by the Government it is not hard to see why.

So far the Government has backed down on its bid to increase class sizes and then elected to allow schools to set their own goals and measure their pupils against them in relation to National Standards. This resulted in information being published that was at best variable.

When Prime Minister John Key explained the Government's backdown on school class sizes, he said he still believed the "quality, not quantity" principle was right but that the execution of the idea was poorly handled.

As one commentator put it at the time, Mr Key was effectively saying, "We were right, you were wrong, but we couldn't convince you."

What he did not acknowledge was that principals and teachers had succeeded where the Government had failed.

They had managed to convince parents that it was, in fact, a bad idea.

And this is why the Government's reforms are failing to gain traction.

The Government and successive Education ministers have been unable to work with those at the coal face and - because parents tend to respect and listen to principals and teachers - it has had little chance of winning the debate.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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