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Parata tries to head off revolting masses

The success or otherwise of a charm offensive today by Education Minister Hekia Parata may determine the strength of a planned demonstration tomorrow.

Ms Parata arranged to chat with journalists at The Press newspaper this morning.

Whether she intended it or not, The Press announced the briefing in its publication today and asked readers for queries that would be put to her.

Her visit marks the onset of three weeks of statutory “”consultation” on a planned major upheaval for local education.

Her attempts to smooth the way for up to 13 closures and 18 mergers of schools has caused furore and distraction for Canterbury educators in recent weeks.

Local education spokespeople generally accept that some rationalisation is necessary, especially in eastern areas.

But the reform plan goes well beyond post-earthquake reorganisation.

This is evident in the litany of errors which has been revealed in the information the Education Ministry has used to justify the upheaval.

They include false descriptions of the number of classrooms in schools, incorrect assessment of damage and wildly inaccurate estimates of costs.

And some of the schools earmarked for closure or merger are in urban growth areas.

The huge errors echo the amateurish and disorganised launch of the reforms when announced to principals at Lincoln a couple of months ago.

Government ministers subsequently tried to blame confusion and distress on the media for breaking embargoes.

But the plan remains exactly the same as the initial media releases stated – except for Ms Parata's subsequent insistence that they were just proposals ahead of "consultation".

Meanwhile, tomorrow’s demonstration is timed for 4pm, starting from the Hagley Park netball courts and ending up at the art gallery near the city council building in Hereford St.

The advertising for the demonstration is titled “Christchurch has had enough!”

More by Chris Hutching

Comments and questions

This has been yet another disastrously incompetent project by the Education Department to add to the teacher payroll and the class size adjustment. Heads should have rolled. Parata has been missing in action.

Yes. Genuine consultation invites ideas for solving problems from all st akeholders then the best ideas being selected by impartial experts in the field. This isnt consultation. National doesnt know the meaning of the word.

At a minimum it seems impossible to excuse the apparent complete failure to consult with affected schools to establish facts before constructing a plan. Especially since so many people would inevitably be distressed - possibly needlessly. That is sacking incompetence.

Many teachers lost faith in her, when she placed her close whanau into senior positions in the ministry. Most teachers do know the meaning of "nepotism".

buck stop at the top -John key!!

When it comes to the public's perception of the effectiveness of Key's ministers, Parata is not so much dragging the drain as being the anchor. And a damned heavy one at that.

..dragging the "chain"

Since the Minister relies on the research and assesements, made by the Civil servants in the Education Department, before formulating her policy discussion paper to take to Cabinet; shouldn't we be castigating those Civil Servants for their short comings; rather than trying to make political capital from a situation which Parata didn't instigate.
Also perhaps if the Teaching fraternity was more honest with their reports, and reviews from their schools to the Ministry, then maybe schools in growth areas would not have been included in the 'possibles' list, of schools being reviewed for possible closure.
Unionisation of Teachers has a lot to answer for in the public debates and activisim which has surrounded nearly all announcements relating to schools.

You're making the assumptions that:
- she followed advice from the officials in formulating the policy taken to Cabinet
- teachers and schools have either been withholding information from the Ministry or deliberatily providing false data and
- the unions are to blame.

Prove it!

When you return to your office in the morning, take a good look at the calibre of staffing, the policies forced upon the organisation by the unionisation of Public Servants, the attitude towards factual accuracy and the appreciation of the value of 'time' to the non public service sector of our country.
Then, if you are honest with yourself, you will see the proof.

Are you suggesting that schools are scheduled for closure for not providing adequate national standards data?

Why does the unionisation of teachers have a lot to answer for?

Can you please specify how the teaching fraternity have been dishonest?
I am also interested in your comment about unionsation, can you explain this?

A leading academic in education should be education minister, a climate scientist should be minister for climate change and drug experts should be in charge of the country's drug initiatives. Instead we have a lawyer, a christian etc. in the respective positions and it is therefore no wonder that they're all making a mess.

Would you hire a lawyer to do the electrical wiring in your house, or an electrician to represent you in court?

No, you are quite wrong. Technical expertise is neither necessary nor sufficient to direct a department. An ability to utilize and inspire a team comprising the necessary range of skills is the requirement - and that needs perception and clear vision as well as people management skills.

Yes again. And a commitment from the leader to defend that value based vision. What values underpin hekia parata's vision?

My sympathies are with Ms Parata, school teachers have become a greedy grabbing selfish lot of wasters.
They care not for the childrens future. It is all about them.
Don't believe me? Check out the cost of education in exports 50 years ago and then do it for today. Do it with wool, butterfat, meat, logs whatever, you choose.
Remember how many past Ministers who have tried to rein them in and failed? al la Lockwood!

Rein them in? What are they doing wrong?

I could agree with you on class size, but the payroll and closures debacles are completely self-inflicted by the Ministry.

The self-serving militancy of teachers is ledgenary.They are resistant to any change in their remuneration or conditions.Whether such changes are for the good of children under their care is seemingly irrelevant to them.
Parata should continue with the Govt reforms although the timing could have been better,given the earthquake situation.

What sort of remuneration and condition changes are you suggesting teachers should accept?

Do you have evidence of this self-serving militancy? I have been involved in a situation recently where I have seen teachers trying desperately to get change in remuneration and conditions, based on international and NZ research and best practice, totally driven by the good of children's education - frustrated by our own Ministry of Education.

And liberte, could you please indicate how the government reforms are going to be 'good for the children'?

Not many correspondents here from Chch. Down here we have 4500 children who have moved from the Eastern Suburbs where most school changes are proposed. One school has a principals and 4 teachers on the payroll for less than 50 kids. Several schools are damaged in some way and the eq sequence is not over. Is it any wonder the Ministry are looking to make changes? It just seems this whole response is made by teachers protecting their jobs and parents too lazy to see the whole picture. And many principals knew about this well before the media did, but kept it quiet to try and cover their butts. Everyone in Chch with an IQ above room temperature know the proposals generally make sense (there are some exceptions of course).
And National Standards is so needed - I have had teachers lie to me and trot out personal agendas with my kids. We (parents) need transparency and honesty throughout the whole education system But the teachers unions will fight tooth and nail to stop this and protect their elitism.

If you suspect teachers of lying to you, I suggest you take your complaint up wit the school principal. This is very concerning. As a union activist i absolutely agree with you about the need for honesty and transparency - at all levels. I believe we must base what changes are made on the key principles of best evidence and equity. I believe that all our students are entitled to quality learning. Teachers want to make a difference, working with families to do our best for your kids. If I didn't believe this wholeheartedly, I wouldn't be in the job. Hmm, must be time to go home now.