Key rails at teacher unions and 'creeping political correctness'

Prime Minister John Key this afternoon lambasted teacher unions as putting out misleading information to parents and being more concerned with self-interest than higher education standards.

Gone was the emollient language of recent days, when the prime minister has talked mildly of those opposition national standards for education and numeracy as being “hesitant.”

Today, announcing a campaign by the government to explain its policy, he and Education Minister Anne Tolley said the policy is aimed at making sure all New Zealand parents – “not just a lucky few” – can get clear information about how their child is progressing against a set of national benchmarks for literacy and numeracy.

“New Zealand cannot afford a future where so many of our workers have do not have the skills they need to participate in society.

“Nor should New Zealand parents have to put up with declining education standards or being kept in the dark about their children’s progress, or creeping political correctness in our schools.”

The government’s campaign – which will cost $200,000, which Mr Key said is minor compared to the several million dollars spent by the last government for such policies as Kiwisaver and Working for Families – is in response to “a fair bit of misinformation” being spread by teacher unions.

“Change is always resisted and often highly resisted in the education sector,” he said when asked about the primary teacher union, the New Zealand Education Institute, which began a nationwide campaign today on the issue.

“Inevitably this policy will identify some teachers who will need to change their ways and step up, and they are union protecting their members."

Mr Key cited an Education Review Office report, which said two-thirds of the schools are not reporting children’s progress to parents in any meaningfully way and about 30% of teachers cannot adequately teach numeracy or literacy.

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