Teachers outraged by Parata comments

By Kate Shuttleworth

Education Minister Hekia Parata arriving at the NZPPTA annual conference at the Brentwood Hotel, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Education Minister Hekia Parata arriving at the NZPPTA annual conference at the Brentwood Hotel, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Education Minister Hekia Parata hit a bum note with secondary teachers today when she said children had told her their teachers weren't pronouncing their names correctly.

Ms Parata told teachers at the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) conference in Wellington that one of the most common things Maori and Pacific children tell her is that teachers don't know how to correctly say their names.

"It starts with pronouncing names correctly. It's one of the most common things I hear [from] focus groups with Maori and Pacifica kids."

The comment came in the middle of her speech, which had been well-received until that point, but was met with a collective jaw-drop and groan from teachers in the room.

The atmosphere quickly turned icy as the teachers became outraged.

Teachers said the Minister's comments were patronising, but Ms Parata said she wasn't being combative or picking a fight with teachers.

Outside the conference at the Brentwood Hotel, Ms Parata defended her comments.

"That is what I get from kids telling me that they don't see themselves as being valued because of just the basic courtesy of being able to learn how to pronounce their names. I'm just reporting that back," she said.

President of the PPTA, Robin Duff, wasn't impressed by Ms Parata's comments and said they were "dangerous" and a "low blow".

"Overall the speech was disappointing, and there wasn't a lot in it that hadn't been said before."

He said teachers already placed a high level of importance on getting names right.

"The groan was related to the patronising comment; in particular when this is what teachers are already committed to doing."

He said it seemed out of context and out of proportion.

Ms Parata also reiterated her goal of raising student achievement.

"Those are our challenges. We all need to be able to meet them so that five out of five of our learners can, and will be successful. That is the challenge to the New Zealand education system."

Mr Duff said the minister's call for five out of five students to be achieving had become an "overused mantra".

Ms Parata wasn't surprised by how her speech had been received.

"I think it's pretty predictable. There are areas we agree on and there are areas that we don't. There was some discourtesy, but that's okay. You can't blame that on an organisation, can you?"

During question time at the conference, Ms Parata said performance pay was "totally appropriate" and "could be considered".

Meanwhile, a Ministry of Education report, released today, revealed the extent of errors being made when primary and intermediate teachers marked their students' work against national standards.

The National Standards School Sample Monitoring report showed teachers who were asked to judge samples of children's writing against the standards were getting it wrong 49 per cent of the time.

The information is part of the three year project by the ministry, which began last year to evaluate the implementation of national standards.

- APNZ

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