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Proposed education policies ‘radical’ says union

NZEI Te Riu Roa are among the education leaders warning against the new government’s proposed education policies.

NZEI Te Riu Roa are just some of the educators speaking out against National and ACT’s proposed education policies.  

The recent coalition agreement between National, ACT and NZ First has included a policy to “reintroduce partnership schools and introduce a policy to allow state schools to become partnership schools.” 

Additionally, the new government will “explore further options to increase school choice and expand access to integrated and independent schools including reviewing the independent school funding formula to reflect student numbers.”  

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The union has called ACT policies ‘radical’ and said the government needs to listen to teachers and parents about what’s best for tamariki. 

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Mark Potter called the revival of charter schools “destructive, weird, radical.”  

Educators say new policies could “undermine education”. Photo by Jeffrey F Lin on Unsplash

“What we don’t want to see is more attempts to privatise education. We want to see public education across the board funded and supported properly. To have partnership schools undermines that very idea. 

“No government should be in the business of undermining public education.” 

In a press release, NZEI Te Riu Roa raised concerns that these changes to education policy would “impact badly on a system that is already under stress.”  

Potter added that although one or two schools might see “short-term gain” by becoming charter or partnership schools, he didn’t expect many would apply to do so. Potter said that the current model already allowed for a diversity of schools:  

“We already have systems and strategies that can be explored, without bringing in a kind of weird, radical idea like charter schools, which have been demonstrably destructive overseas.”  

New Zealand Principal’s Federation President Leanne Otene agreed that re-introducing charter schools would likely be ineffective. 

“We have had his schooling option before and found that it was not popular,” said Otene.  

“Very few schools of this type could provide a quality education and they were not required to have certified teachers. Largely they were seen as emanating from a neo-liberal ideology.” 

However, Otene said that “we expect that what the new Government has in mind for ‘partnership’ schools would not follow this pattern.” She added that the NZPF was looking forward to working with incoming Minister for Education, Erica Stanford. 

Photo by Taylor Flowe on Unsplash

In a statement, Potter said that NZEI Te Riu Roa opposed “charter schools, bulk funding, more private school funding, mandated curricula or a return to standardised testing. 

“To adopt such policies would be to go backwards and to punish tamariki.” 

Other policies under fire from educators include National’s proposed mandate for an hour of reading, writing and maths each day.  

Riverlands School principal Bradley Roberts spoke to the New Zealand Herald on Monday morning, stating “that’s not how people learn, that’s not how the curriculum works.” His is one of many schools that have implemented a more integrated curriculum, and warned the policy could face opposition from educators.  

The union has also flagged concerns about ongoing discussions around Te Tiriti, noting that our education system is both historically racist and continues to be one of the most unequal in the world.  

Our education system is among the most unequal in the OECD. Photo: AdobeStock by Andrii Yalanskyi

Potter indicated the union will continue to advocate for better investment in education. He pointed to a report released in September this year which noted that education funding per student in New Zealand is already 24.9 percent lower than OECD average, 22.4 percent lower than Australia and 26.4 percent lower than the UK.  

At the time of its release National President Dr Juli Douglas of Te Hatutū Kahurangi | Tertiary Education Union Tumu Whakarae said “National’s tax plan will result in even less money for education… Aotearoa needs increases to education funding that will bring or expenditure per EFTS up to the OECD average over the next six years.”  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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