Mana’s MP Kris Faafoi says he’s been told by one local school principal the Government has been talking ‘bullshit’ over the planned cuts in staffing levels.
And he accuses his counterpart for the area, National list MP and Education Minister Hekia Parata, of not doing her homework on the swingeing education cuts put forward by her party.
Here’s his latest column —
Do your homework!By Mana Labour MP Kris Faafoi
Recently I returned to my office in Parliament to a ‘Post It’ note on my desk pad. It said: “Please ring …… from…. school (details withheld for confidentiality reasons). Re staff cuts – sounds angry.”
I dutifully called the principal, who I must say I see regularly but always at my request. That is to say – this principal is not a serial complainer, quite the opposite.
My desk notepad accurately records the first sentence. My note says : “Staff cuts = just Bulls**t”. This usually mild mannered Principal then went on to tell me that rough calculations projected up to six staff being lost as the worst case scenario. Best case scenario was 1.5 full time equivalents (FTE’s). The Principal was gutted. Gutted for staff, but more gutted for students and parents who now faced such a stellar change in staffing levels.
Story repeated around NZ
This story has been repeated around the country. It’s a sorry story of a lack of vision and plan in education.
As I said in my own maiden speech ‘Education is the game changer.’ It’s an area where you have to have a vision and plan. The only outcome must be lifting achievement. And the way you achieve that must be based on solid research and educational fundamentals. Yes, there are challenges that come with the financial position the country is in, but fundamentals not fiscals must always be the driver of education policy.
Let me make a simple statement: Class sizes do matter.
They matter to parents and more importantly they matter to the education of our kids. I won’t and don’t need to rabbit on about stats and research – it matters.
Which makes me wonder just how the Education Minister thought that a move in last month’s Budget to increase class sizes and freeze teacher numbers at current levels would not get any parent, let alone those in Mana, crying ‘hold on a minute here!’
Class size research from UK
OK, I will cite some research for those who are concerned that I haven’t done this. A University of London study from 2008 followed 49 primary and secondary schools in the UK over two years and found the following:
“As class sizes became smaller there were more times when pupils were the focus of the teacher’s attention, and more times when they were engaged in active interaction with teachers. Though these behaviours were not frequent, when seen as a percentage of all observations, there was between two and three times more of these behaviours in smaller classes of 15 compared to larger classes of 30.”
Parents in Mana and throughout the country are appalled at National’s blind pursuit of bigger classes and fewer teachers. The government is treating our kids – and their teachers – like mere widgets where cost saving advantages over-ride investment in a quality public education.
‘Why didn’t Minister do homework?’
If the Education Minister was so concerned about the real impact of her new student-teacher ratios, why didn’t she discuss it with officials when the modelling was being done before Budget 2012 announcements?
Clearly the Minister did not do her homework; she was led by the nose by Treasury then dutifully followed by her education officials.
The Government’s admission that it is dipping in to a $20m contingency fund to cover-up its bungled teacher-pupil ratio plan clearly shows it hasn’t done its homework.
Our kids in Mana need their leaders to be doing their homework. The Education component of the Budget gets an F. The rest isn’t much better.