Claire Trevett

Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

Parata stands firm on National Standards

Hekia Parata. Photo / Porirua News
Hekia Parata. Photo / Porirua News

Teacher unions hoping new education minister Hekia Parata will rethink National Standards and other policies they revile can think again: Ms Parata says she will not be a pushover and will continue to implement the policies.

Second term MP Ms Parata was elevated to National's front bench yesterday and took over as Education Minister from Anne Tolley in what Prime Minister John Key said was part of a rejuvenation of the front bench.

Yesterday Ms Parata said she was delighted by the promotion, which Prime Minister John Key said was a reward for her performance.

Ms Tolley's demotion was not a reflection of her performance as education minister, he said. However, Ms Parata would be a "stellar" education minister and bring "fresh energy" to the role in which National ministers often struggled because of resistance from teacher unions.

Ms Parata said although she had only been an MP since 2008, she had a long history in public service and had worked in public policy. Education had been her main area of interest since she entered Parliament.

Although the teacher unions had sought to make her predecessor Anne Tolley's life a misery, Ms Parata said she hoped to build a productive relationship.

"I am focused on achieving results and I look forward to working with those who are equally focused."

She intended to pursue National Standards "unambiguously" saying they were a significant part of dealing with the one fifth of children who were not achieving at school.

"We want change and what National Standards do is just provide one more tool in the toolkit of good quality teaching that helps identify early how well a child is doing and designs a programme to assist that child to be the best they can be."

Her appointment was met with a wary reception - the secondary teachers' union PPTA said she was a "worthy" choice for education. However, PPTA president Robin Duff said she would need to "have her wits about her" when dealing with Act's John Banks over the Charter Schools policy.

Ms Parata had yet to meet associate education minister John Banks to discuss who would take charge of that proposal. She said she was open to considering anything that would help raise achievement levels.

"The vast bulk of our system is working, and working really well. But I think we can all agree there are parts that are not and we do need to look at other opportunities for success."

She would also meet another associate minister, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, to discuss his policy on separate legislation for kohanga reo Maori immersion schools.

Her own children attended kohanga reo and were now at secondary school.

Ms Parata said she enjoyed school and university herself.

"Some in my family would consider me a nerd. But I enjoyed every part of it. So it's as important to me that students enjoy their schooling as well as achieve. The two go together. So I am keen to see how I can support that to occur across the board."

Ms Parata intends to target areas where there was lower participation among Maori and Pacific Islanders. Ms Parata is also the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs and said that would dovetail well with education.

Ms Parata became a Minister in December 2010 after the resignation of Pansy Wong.

She was Minister of Women's Affairs and Ethnic Affairs, acting Energy Minister and associate minister of ACC and the Community & Voluntary Sector.

- NZ Herald

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