NZEI rubbishes National education policy

National is set for three more years of fighting with education unions if it is re-elected, with its education policy panned within hours of its release.

The primary and early childhood education teachers’ union, the NZEI, said yesterday National was obsessed with “one dimensional” policy and “tick-box compliance”.

The party’s full education policy, covering early childhood education, schools and tertiary education, was the last of the major policy announcements from either Labour or National expected before Saturday’s election.

Launching the policy in Auckland yesterday, education spokeswoman Anne Tolley said the sector needed to be “far more accountable to parents and communities”.

The controversial National Standards programme in primary and intermediate schools would take its next step, with schools required to start publishing their results next year, she said.

National also wanted to set up rewards for the best performing schools and toughen up teacher training and monitoring of teacher performance. It would use the information to try to lift achievement standards.

“Good information tells you exactly where you need to go in and what sort of support you need to do,” Tolley said.

Secondary school pupils between years seven and 10 would also have more information about their achievement published for parents.

Tolley also indicated National wanted to set up a much simpler early childhood education funding model. A working group would be formed to design a new model, expected to take two years.

No government could guarantee ECE centres would not put their fees up, but National wanted to strip bureaucracy out of the model, which would save resources.

NZEI spokeswoman Frances Nelson said most of the policy was underpinned by the controversial National Standards already implemented in primary and intermediate schools.

“Professional development for teachers will hinge around National Standards, there will be more expert advisers to implement them, schools will be expected to publish plans and targets against them by a certain date, provide templates of clear school reports, and schools and teachers will have their performance measured against them,” Nelson said.

“It’s frightening to see how much more time and money National is willing to throw into National Standards when parents, teachers and school communities continue to have so little confidence in them.”

In the tertiary sector, National’s spokesman Steven Joyce said the party wanted further “rationalisation” of industry training organisations to make the sector simpler, with a focus on a stronger, more results-focused system.

There would be further tightening of interest-free student loans, with a new policy to reduce the number of times students could switch courses during a year.

That would lower the amount of debt some students were unnecessarily loading up, he said.

New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations co-president Max Hardy said the policy did not address the drivers of student debt, with no measures that would improve access to student allowances, to curb fee increases or to boost funding.

KEY POINTS

National’s education plan:

EARLY CHILDHOOD: Target of 98 per cent of new entrants in school having participated in early childhood education by 2015 New interactive website for parents to choose “the best” local ECE service New funding model to be trialled in 2014

SCHOOLS: Require publication of National Standards data in 2012 New formal assessment of “disposition to teach” for trainee teachers

TERTIARY: Publish employment data for graduates of each qualification Consult on a plan to stop students changing courses more than once in a year.

From The Press.

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