Editorial: It's time Parata stepped aside

By Dylan Thorne

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No doubt Education Minister Hekia Parata will be glad to see the back of 2012.

Under her watch, the country witnessed a shambolic year in the education sector.

It started with class sizes, then the Christchurch school closures, followed by the on-going Novopay debacle and the order to close a school for girls with special needs and push them towards mainstream education.

Calls for Ms Parata to stand down were renewed this week after the resignation of Education Secretary Lesley Longstone.

Ms Longstone, who could be in for a golden handshake of up to $500,000, has been called a scapegoat for wider issues within the Ministry of Education.

Prime Minister John Key has said through a spokesman that he had confidence in Ms Parata. As one commentator has noted, he would say that.

As Minister of Education Ms Parata is ultimately responsible for the handling of proposed reforms which ended with a backdown on plans to increase class sizes and concessions on National Standards data that resulted in information that was, at best, ropey.

Relationships between Government Ministers and the public sectors they oversee are often fraught.

Government plans to cut costs or restructure departments can spark heavy resistance.

Those working in the sector might resist change on a philosophical level or because they feel a policy change will have a negative impact on what they are trying to achieve.

Such resistance is not unusual but it is unusual to have so many issues over the course of the year spark such fiery debate.

This in itself is not enough to call for the Ms Parata's resignation.

However, her handling of the backlash has raised serious questions as to whether she has the skills required to handle the education portfolio.

She has failed to articulate her side of the argument to a wider audience.

The backdown over class sizes came after principals and teachers successfully rallied parents to support their cause and resist the change.

The Minister was well and truly outmanoeuvred.

She has shown that she was unable to sway those at the coal face and there is little hope she will be able to do so in the future.

For this reason she should step aside.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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