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

Parata offers forum as olive branch to education groups

Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Education Minister Hekia Parata. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Education Minister Hekia Parata has held out an olive branch to education groups - offering to set up a formal forum to work with her on future changes in education after she was criticised for failing to include them in a decision to increase class sizes.

Ms Parata met education sector representatives yesterday - a day after widespread protest forced her to back down on class size increases which were intended to save money to fund improvements in teacher qualifications.

The seven sector groups which had banded together to oppose the policy had all urged her to consult them in future rather than present changes as a fait accompli.

At the meetings, Ms Parata said she would set up a cross-sector forum and assured them she would work closely with them.

The exact shape the forum will take and how it would work was yet to be finalised and Ms Parata said she was yet to discuss it with the teacher unions, who she will meet next week.

However, she was open to including them.

"Today was just to open the discussion on that. From my first week in the job I have said I'm keen to hear the voice of the education system. This seems like the opportune time to now move very quickly on that."

She expected it would be wider than the group of seven, which included the teacher unions NZEI and PPTA, the School Trustees Association, the Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools, and principals' groups.

The backdown has left Ms Parata needing to find $114 million in savings to make up for cancelling the class size funding changes. Proposals for all trainee teachers to do a post-graduate teaching qualification and to set up a qualification for new principals were on hold. Ms Parata still hoped to go ahead with those programmes, but it was not yet known how soon that could happen.

Those who met Ms Parata yesterday said they were pleased by the meetings and assurances from the minister that she would engage with them.

Paul Drummond, the president of the Principals' Federation, said his meeting was constructive.

- NZ Herald

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