National’s education policy Part I: Christchurch

From very early on, the warning signs were there.

The fact that a first term Member of Parliament was given a plum portfolio about which she knew nothing, and originally seemed to care even less, should have been a warning sign. The fact that her successor does not seem to be any better raises another flag. But perhaps most importantly, the fact that most of the issues to be dealt with in New Zealand education are unchanged in every way except that they are worse than before, should tell us something.

So, what are those many problems?

The National led Government of Prime Minister John Key promised National Standards for non-high schools, saying that it would improve the performance of teachers and students alike. Whilst the criticism has been loud, it has not always been on target and at times confused. And the failure of Labour in Parliament to use it as an attack weapon against Government policy until the Greens and New Zealand First – still outside of Parliament at that point began attacking it.

I find it frankly absurd that now the land which used to host Aorangi Primary School is being used to develop housing. Schools in this part of Christchurch were already close to overflowing from sustained growth in Ilam, Bryndwr, Papanui, Bishopdale and Burnside before the earthquakes hit. My old school Waimairi Primary, which had a student roll call of 300 plus staff when I left at the end of 1991 now has 500 students. Cobham Intermediate, one of two public intermediates in the area had a student population of 400 when I left at the end of 1993, now has nearly 800 students. Two other Primary schools, Wairakei and Burnside are also full to capacity. A full capacity redeveloped Aorangi Primary School could probably have taken 200 students. You can see above how some of National’s policies pre-earthquakes have since been found to be very short sighted. Although National could not possibly have predicted the earthquakes, these suburbs in Ilam Electorate were among the fastest growing in Christchurch.

One of the biggest quake recovery bungles thus far has to go to the Ministry of Education for showing how little it understands the needs of post-earthquake Christchurch schools and the migration of students from east-to-west. Yes, the future of some schools post-quake looked dubious. Yes a few might have to close. However, randomly announcing with little prior consultation a list of schools that faced the axe was a major failing, and perhap only because of political infighting on the left, did Labour not make hay from it. There have been several closures other than that of Aorangi Primary School. In New Brighton, Philipstown and Lyttelton, schools that were perceived to be failing because of their low post-earthquake rolls have been shut often against the will of the local population, and ignoring the large scale influx of students from elsewhere in the city looking for a school to attend. The now proposed closure of Redcliffs school ignores the fact that a private contractor offered to make it safe for free, as well as stiff community resistance from people who realize the potential disruption having to move their kids will cause.

Christchurch, fortunately seems to have not been subjected to the charter schools programme that National want to roll out with the support of A.C.T. Member of Parliment David Seymour. This programme, sadly lacking in structure, purpose or intended outcomes other than to redistribute taxpayer monies has some huge flaws including oversight of the teachers, the lack of a proper cirruculum and – already – misuse of funds. But if one adds governance problems at Christchurch Girls High and Rangiora High School, there is plenty on its plate to cope with.

And that all is just related to schools in Christchurch. Coming in National;s Education Policy Part II: The Rest of New Zealand


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