Blame lies with Parata

By Ross Pringle

Prepare yourselves for a revelation, folks, and this one comes from the top. It's the media's fault.

The source of this stunning bit of information is Prime Minister John Key. He has identified once and for all who is to blame for the negative publicity endured by Education Minister Hekia Parata.

Quizzed yesterday about whether she was the best person for the job, Mr Key - again - was staunchly supportive of the minister. That was ahead of the announcements on the future of schooling in Christchurch, just one of the many issues media had focused on in education. According to Mr Key, the media like to focus on a few negative things; really, Ms Parata is doing a fine job.

Media surely were to blame when people learned of the axe hovering over 31 schools in Christchurch. The anguish, anger, public meetings and marches must have all been orchestrated by newshounds, and could not have been a response by a public who felt the heart was being ripped from their community.

At least one observer was able to appropriately apportion the blame, describing the closure of seven schools and merging of another 12 as "an aftershock of the earthquake".

The earthquakes have left the Government with a tough call. Buildings were badly damaged and may not be worth fixing. Many schools have extra capacity; some are barely viable. Some rationalisation was to be expected but the Prime Minister should not expect people to be happy about it, and nor should his minister receive an easy ride over her poor handling of the issue just because these events are unprecedented.

She has overseen a catalogue of public relations disasters in her time in charge of education. Increasing numbers in classrooms, charter schools, Novopay and performance pay for teachers are some of the issues she handled badly, backtracked on or failed to resolve.

Mr Key knows only too well of the public's desire to cast the media as both hero and villain. Sometimes it's easier to attack the messenger than look within to the root of the problem. But he's not fooling anyone, especially Ms Parata, who must know there is only so much he can take before she becomes a liability and he cuts her loose.


- Wanganui Chronicle

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