Reversing competition and inequality in our schools

December-2015

 

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Catherine Delahunty believes the Education Act review is a critical opportunity to affirm public quality education and reverse competition and inequality in New Zealand schools.

Catherine Delahunty, Education Spokesperson, Green Party

Catherine DelahuntyThe Green Party is committed to an education system that is quality, public and offers lifelong learning opportunities to all people. As inequality intensifies in Aotearoa/New Zealand, we are disturbed to see a privatisation agenda undermining these goals. Unfortunately, the entrenchment of policies based on crude measurement and unhelpful targets is dominating government education policies instead.

The failed experiment known as the GERM (the Global Education Reform Movement) is being imposed upon schools. The community-based early childhood sector is struggling as private franchises expand and compete while government funding is cut to services that are committed to qualified staff and safe staffing ratios per child. The rhetoric of support for ‘priority learners’ is not helping low decile schools where students can arrive at school hungry, unwell and stressed by transience and other effects of poverty. The loss of opportunity for Māori and Pasifika children and children with learning differences or impairments can be acute and costs the whole of society in the long term. Schools need support to be culturally responsive and to be using a broad and creative curriculum that prepares students for the environmental and social challenges of the 21st century.

The Green Party has developed a school hubs policy that would assist decile 1 to 4 primary and intermediate schools. This would include a dedicated school nurse, a school hubs coordinator, school lunches for children who need it, and free after-school and holiday care. Teachers would be under less pressure to be social workers and able to focus on teaching. We would also establish not-for-profit early childhood centres on school sites. The hubs policy would be flexible so that schools and communities can determine their own needs, and this could include adult education, learning te reo and many other topics.

The Greens believe that education is at a turning point and that the review of the purpose of the Education Act is a critical opportunity to affirm public quality education and reverse competition and inequality in our schools. We are committed to the goal of equity and inclusion in education rather than the mechanistic and limiting focus of National Standards and NCEA targets. Poverty and inequality are undermining the potential of many children but an equitable education system can create more opportunity for everyone. The state has a responsibility to invest in equity as a goal in every school. A modern learning environment is not technology and open plan, although they are tools we might embrace. Modern learning is building a pedagogy of learning rather than of testing. We must value the teaching profession to get on with teaching.


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