Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Parata is forced to redo her homework

Education Minister Hekia Parata will meet school principals at the annual conference of the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools today. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Education Minister Hekia Parata will meet school principals at the annual conference of the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools today. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Schools will lose no more than two teaching positions under new class ratios in an embarrassing backdown by the Government after large intermediates were set to lose seven.

Education Minister Hekia Parata was forced to impose a cap after it became clear she could have a rebellion on her hands from schools and parents.

The $43 million a year that was to have been saved and diverted to improve teaching quality will be cut but Ms Parata did not know by how much.

Neither she nor Prime Minister John Key will admit that mistakes were made in calculating the effects of the new policy and yesterday she announced the cap as "good news".

This morning she and Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone will face school principals at the annual conference of the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools in Auckland.

Pukekohe Intermediate principal Gary Sweeney, who is the association president, said that yesterday morning his school had been facing cuts of four teachers and now it was two.

His initial thought was that the change would be a lot easier to manage now.

"In all probability over three years my kids won't suffer as they were going to beforehand."

But he also questioned why the policy was being imposed at all.

"The thing that should always drive you with change in a school is that you are doing something that is going to turn out better for kids. And I don't believe taking teachers out of a system makes it better for kids."

The new funding formula ratios were announced in the week before last Thursday's Budget but the crucial piece of information affecting Years 7 and 8 (form one and two) was not admitted until after the Budget was delivered.

Under flawed Ministry of Education modelling, an extra one-teacher-to-120-student ratio normally given to schools providing subjects such as art, cooking and woodwork, was attributed to contributing schools rather than to provider schools.

Ms Parata told the Herald this week: "What has become really clear in that is that the Year 7 and 8 have had a 10-year provision for technology, the provision of which was not fully modelled."

Mr Sweeney said that "institutional knowledge inside the Ministry of Education has failed the system".

NZEI president Ian Leckie said the cap was an admission that the policy of increasing class size was "in tatters".

Most schools, 90 per cent, will have only one teacher position less or more over four years which might increase actual class sizes a little.

Labour leader David Shearer said that schools would still lose teachers.

"I've never heard of a Government arguing in support of increased class sizes as part of improving education."

- NZ Herald

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