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

Audrey Young: Who could replace Education Minister Hekia Parata?

Education Minister Hekia Parata in her Beehive office.  Photo / Mark Mitchell
Education Minister Hekia Parata in her Beehive office. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Hekia Parata's final report card as a minister may not be straight As but it will be one she is proud to have.

She came to the Education portfolio not so much with ideas but with a mission to lift student achievement.

And she has had the passion to drive them as far as she can.

She will certainly leave a better minister than when she started.

Prime Minister John Key resisted calls to sack her after the Budget bungle over increasing class sizes in 2012.

Really that was as much the fault of Finance Minister Bill English and other senior ministers who had failed to ask basic questions about what her plans meant for local schools.

LISTEN: Trevor Mallard: Education portfolio 'not one that results in someone becoming popular'

She survived not least because improving Maori and Pacific student achievement was such a crucial goal of the Government it would have been unthinkable to sack its most senior Maori minister.

Parata would be the first to say she learned and improved from that revolt of schools and parents.

It meant she has always been better prepared in her subsequent reforms and mindful of the need to win support, not expect it.

She will be a loss to National. She has been a strong presence for women and for Maori in a party that has a deficit of both.

She will have no problem using her skills and energy in another field when she leaves.

While she said today she had "no intention of taking a diplomatic post", she is obliged to say that.

It will not stop her considering any offer later on next year.

Early in her public service career she worked for Foreign Affairs and she would be more than capable of taking on a senior posting.

She would also be well qualified for a role in an international education organisation such as the OECD which has a strong interest in education policy.

In terms of who will replace her, that depends largely on when Key wants her to step down.

He may allow her to stay next year to do more on the review of the decile system, or to bed in her reforms encouraging greater collaboration among schools.

He may keep her on for as long as it takes for Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye to recover from breast cancer and then give it to her.

But if he wants to shake it up in the reshuffle planned for the start of next year, Simon Bridges could be in the mix.

He has proven already as a former Workplace Relations Minister than he can handle unions.

And with only Transport and Energy and Resources, he is very much under-employed.

- NZ Herald

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

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor, a job she has held since 2003. She is responsible for the Herald’s Press Gallery team. She first joined the New Zealand Herald in 1988 as a sub-editor after the closure of its tabloid rival, the Auckland Sun. She switched to reporting in 1991 as social welfare and housing reporter. She joined the Herald’s Press Gallery office in 1994. She has previously worked as a journalism tutor at Manukau Technical Institute, as member of the Newspapers in Education unit at Wellington Newspapers and as a teacher in Wellington. She was a union nominee on the Press Council for six years.

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