The Green Party has initiated a Parliamentary Inquiry into dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders in schools in New Zealand.
Following a request from the Green Party, the Education and Science Select Committee has today agreed to investigate the identification of and support for students facing the significant challenges of dyslexia, dyspraxia, and autism spectrum disorders.
“We want to change the system so every child has a fair go.”
Green Party Education spokesperson, Catherine Delahunty
“So many students are missing out on education because their learning differences are not identified early enough and help is not made available. We want to change the system so every child has a fair go,” Green Party Education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.
Significant numbers of New Zealanders live with these conditions.
“Of course, these figures are speculative because the identifying of these learning issues has been so contentious,” Ms Delahunty said.
“There needs to be strong processes and support in place to enable these learners to make the most of their educational opportunities.
“Investigations at an early level of education are important before students may become discouraged from education at higher levels.
“Decile 10 schools are seven times more likely
to get Special Assessment Conditions assistance
than students in Decile 1 schools”
“Of particular concern, has been the inequality in access to support for these conditions. Decile 10 schools are seven times more likely to get Special Assessment Conditions assistance than students in Decile 1 schools.
“It can cost well over $700 to get these special assessments done. Parents and schools need assistance to ensure that these conditions are picked up and students get the assistance that they need,” Ms Delahunty said.
The Terms of Reference include:
“While this is great news for special needs learners, I am disappointed that the Select Committee has not taken up my Te Reo in schools inquiry as well.
“I urge a wide range of parents, schools, and teachers to participate and engage in the Select Committee process that is going ahead.
“It is very encouraging to have the support of the other parties on the Select Committee to address this problem. I hope it will result in students being able to get the right help that they need,” Ms Delahunty said.
NZEI Te Riu Roa and TEU are very concerned about Education Minister Hekia Parata’s apparent lack of interest in the details of a secret international trade deal that would have a massive impact on public education.
In response to questions from Greens MP Catherine Delahunty in Parliament yesterday, Ms Parata said she did not have “primary responsibility” for negotiating trade agreements.
A leaked document has revealed that New Zealand is amongst a small group of countries pushing for education to be included in a secret trade deal, the Trade In Service Agreement (TiSA).
Ms Parata told Parliament she was relying on the Minister of Trade to seek any additional information “should he require it”.
NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter said it was of great concern that the Minister wasn’t taking a stronger interest in the deal.
“The TiSA would restrict future governments’ rights to regulate the quality and provision of education, and would expose New Zealand to being sued by international education conglomerates like Pearson Group.
“The Minister’s response is simply not good enough,” he said.
“Teachers are calling on the government to withdraw New Zealand’s claim to extend TiSA to include private education services, and to expressly exclude education from the reach of TiSA.”
Tertiary Education Union (TEU) President Sandra Grey said it defied belief that the government could see any benefit for New Zealand in pushing for education to be included in the secretive deal.
“The only winners in such a deal will be the mega corporations peddling for-profit charter schools and one-size-fits-all text books and testing.”
“The only winners in such a deal will be the mega corporations peddling for-profit charter schools and one-size-fits-all text books and testing. The quality of public education in New Zealand will suffer as a result,” she said.
For more information or sector-specific comment :
Tertiary Education Union National President Sandra Grey 021 844 176 or 04 801 5098
NZEI Te Riu Roa National Secretary Paul Goulter, 027 208 1087
In answer to Parliamentary questions from Green Education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty today, the Minister confirmed she was not planning a third Partnership School application round this year.
“This is an admission of failure,” Ms Delahunty said.
“Charter Schools were supposed to be the Government’s big solution to education, yet from the moment they opened they’ve been besieged with problems.
“They were supposed to target the Government’s priority learners, but in Parliament today Hekia Parata confirmed that there were no high needs children – a priority group – enrolled in any of the schools.
“Hekia Parata has done the right thing by putting an end to this expensive experiment and now her focus must go on ensuring children in the established schools get an education that’s up to scratch.
“There is no proof that charter schools are working for children at all. A second round of schools was approved to open this year, before assessments of the five that opened last year had been made public.
“Today Minister Parata confirmed she had not published the reports because she hadn’t made her “own assessment” of them.
“Many of the people involved in charter schools on the ground have the best intentions for pupils, but a model that undermines public education was never the answer,” Ms Delahunty said.
Many of us who have read it are very concerned about the Education Ministry’s Statement of Intent.
The foreword is an exercise in deduction as, like all of the Minister’s communications, it’s hard to get past the waffle and jargon in order to see what is actually meant.
But this is vitally important that educators and parents DO read and understand it, because this document outlines what the Minister is intending to do next to our education system.
When I first read the Statement, I was torn between horror at what is implied in it and amusement at the circumlocution and waffle. In fact, I immediately wrote my own parody of the Statement, using about 50% of Hekia’s own words and adding my own spin.
It amused me, briefly.
But that amusement didn’t last long.
In actual fact, the Statement of Intent is very concerning.
Catherine Delahunty picks it apart today in this article, and asks some very salient questions about the Ministry’s intent, in particular regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE).
For those of you that don’t know, the Ministry’s Early learning Information System (ELI) is “an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record children’s enrolment and attendance.”
Delahunty points out that the Education Ministry says it will use its Early Learning Information System:
“to help identify particular trends and the effectiveness of children’s learning…”
Delahunty then asks,
“What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning?
There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ’3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers.”
I agree, it does appear to signal the Ministry is moving towards measuring the academic achievements of preschoolers.
This is worrying.
There are HUGE concerns from the ECE sector and from parents regarding the push towards standardising learning (and, heaven forbid, testing) for preschoolers.
It’s bad enough that the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards is being entrenched in primary schools, but to it is even worse to be forcing formal learning on 2,3, or 4 year olds. The move is not supported by the research and in totally unnecessary in terms of good learning.
Ask yourself, why the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards – what does it achieve?
Has it raised student achievement elsewhere?
The answer is no. But it has created a very lucrative market in testing materials and it has allowed for performance pay for teachers, neither of which benefit the students. Quite the opposite, in fact.
“We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children”
Similar sentiments were echoed by Chris Hipkins (Labour) and Tracey Martin (NZ First) at the Tick For Kids ECE forum in Wellington last week.
The focus on reading and writing, and the obsession with pass marks, is narrowing our education system and crippling both teachers and students.
It is not a positive move.
It will not improve educational outcomes.
It is not supported as good practice by research.
So just what is the motive for doing it?
Sources and further reading:
The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2013 – 2018 (which sets out the key elements of how the Ministry will contribute to the delivery of Government’s priorities for education.)
The Green Party is challenging the Government to come clean about how much
it’s planning to spend on the latest round of charter schools, as officials
warn of the serious risks involved in opening more schools without first
seeing whether the existing ones are working.
A list of groups who expressed an interest in applying to run a new charter
school next year was released last night. Many of the organisations are
religious and many failed in their bids to run charter schools in the last
This comes as Ministry of Education officials warn that the Government has no
idea how charter schools may be hurting other schools, that there are
inconsistencies in the size of charter schools and what’s considered
efficient for other state schools, and that there is a risk of continuing to
fund them every year before evaluating whether they’re working well.
“Officials are warning of considerable risks associated with ploughing
ahead with more charter schools without knowing whether the existing ones are
working for kids, whether they’re hurting other schools in their
neighbourhood, or are even good value for money,” Green Party education
spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said today.
“It is amazingly arrogant to plough ahead with plans to open more charter
schools when the ones already open have not been proven to be successful,
could be damaging other schools in the area, and are sucking up so much
“The existing five charter schools are already set to cost $9 million more
than was budgeted last year and the Government is keeping secret how much it
is planning to spent on the entire next round of new schools.
“The total amount being spent on the current round of charters is now $26
million over their first four years – a staggering amount – which is probably
why the Government is keeping secret how much it plans to spend on the next
“There was no mention at all in the budget about how much National and Act
were planning to spend on the new round of charter schools. Instead the
amount is buried somewhere in the overall contingency fund.
“Public schools throughout the country can only dream of being given the
amount of money that charter schools get. Imagine what schools could achieve
with five times the amount they currently receive.
“No wonder charters can afford to feed their kids, don’t need to ask for
parent donations and can provide free transport to and from school.
“Charter schools were sold as an alternative to ordinary state schools,
which didn’t need to follow the curriculum, meet quality standards or
employ trained teachers.
“But how is it possible to see how well these schools are really doing when
they’re getting five times as much money as other state schools?
“Charter schools are an extreme right idea that’s rooted in the belief
that the state does not have a role in running schools. They’re an attack
on public education which use children in poorer communities to experiment
on,” said Ms Delahunty.
Link to official advice listing the concerns about the Partnership School
Catherine Delahunty and Metiria Turei are on a speaking tour to explain and discuss the Green Party’s education policies. They will discuss the Greens’ plans for more community involvement in schools, community hubs, nurses in school, and their plans for such things as National Standards and Charter schools, amongst other things.
It’s a great chance to hear from the horse’s mouth what alternatives there are to what is being implemented now, and to ask questions. There are also some great guest speakers.
To keep up with new events/speakers, you might want to follow Catherine Delahunty’s page on Facebook.
I attended the Lower Hutt event, and it was hugely interesting to not only hear from Catherine but also to hear from people working at local schools, undertaking innovative and hugely successful projects that encompass the whole community. It was informative and very inspiring, and I can’t recommend the talks enough.
These are the latest conformed dates:
Auckland – 30 April, 6-7.30pm
17 Mercury Lane, Newton Auckland
Gisborne – 6 May, 7.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Ilminster Intermediate School Library, De Latour Road
Guest speaker: Peter Ferris, Principal of Illminster Intermediate.
Tauranga – 12 May, 5.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Gate Pa School Staffroom, 900 Cameron Road
Guest speaker: Jan Tinetti, Principal of Merivale School.
Thames – 13 May, 7.00pm (NOTE THIS IS A CHANGED VENUE & TIME)
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Grahamstown Community Hall.768 Pollen St, Thames
Whakatane – 14 May, 7.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Knox Presbyterian Church, 83 Domain Road
Whangarei – 19 May, 7pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Old Library, 7 Rust Avenue
Rotorua – 22 May, 6pm
Haupapa Room, Rotorua District Library, 1127 Haupapa Street
Auckland – 22 May, 7.30pm
Te Atatu South Community Centre, 247 Edmonton Road, Te Atatu South
Hamilton – 16 June, 6pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Stack Space, Hamilton Library, 9 Garden Place
Guest speaker: Martin Thrupp, Waikato University Institute of Educational Research
New Plymouth – 18 June, 7pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Beach Street Hall, 40 Beach Street
Auckland – 26 June, 7.30pm
Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty
Mangere East Community Centre, 372 Massey Road, Mangere East (Behind the Library)
Whanganui – 23 July, 7.30pm
Catherine Delahunty and Dave Clendon
Alexander Research and Heritage Library (Venue now confirmed)
Palmerston North – 25 July, 7.30pm
Palmerston North City Library, 4 The Square
Guest speaker: Professor John O’Neill, Massey University Institute of Education.
If National, Labour or any other party plan a similar tour, I will share that as well, but as yet only the Greens are fronting up. Do let me know if you spot any talks (from any party) that I don’t seem to know about. Thank you.
At these events, Green Party MPs and guest speakers will discuss how our schools as community hubs plan can help schools play an even greater role in engaging families and ensuring a great education is accessible to all children.
30th April 6-7.30pm (Join or follow this event of Facebook)
Green Party Education Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty
17 Mercury Lane, Newton Auckland
You are invited to “Meet Your Greens” with Green MP Catherine Delahunty. We have organised a get-together in the Auckland Greens’ office, and everyone is welcome to come along.
Catherine will speak about how the Green Party can help schools play an even greater role in ensuring a great education is accessible to all children. She will also speak about her extensive history of community and environmental activism and how this influences her work in Parliament.
We also look forward to hearing from you about the issues that you and your community hold most dear for you.
Seating is limited, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday 15 April, 7.30pm (Join or follow this event of Facebook)
Green Party Education Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty, and local MP Holly Walker
Lower Hutt Tramping Club
Birch Street, Waterloo
With special guest Julia Milne, founder and co-ordinator of Epuni’s Common Unity Project.
Saturday 12 April, 7.30pm (Join or follow this event on Facebook)
Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei and Education Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty
Oreti Room, Ascot Park Hotel
Corner or Tay Street and Racecourse Road
Friday 11 April, 5.30pm (Join or follow this event on Facebook)
Green Party Education Spokesperson Catherine Delahunty
Upper Riccarton Library Community Meeting Room
71 Main South Road, Sockburn.
With special guest Liz Gordon, local Christchurch education activist and researcher.
Further meetings are being organised for Gisborne, Tauranga, Thames, Whakatane, Whangarei, Rotorua, Hamilton, New Plymouth, Whanganui, West Auckland, South Auckland, and Palmerston North. I will share those details as they are finalised.
I would love to hear back from people who attend, with their thoughts on what they heard.
The National Government’s decision to merge Phillipstown and Woolston
schools is another disaster for Christchurch and proves this Government is
more interested in saving face than in what is best for children, the Green
Party said today.
“Hekia Parata’s stubborn refusal to budge on her closure plans is a
tragedy for the children who fought so desperately for their school to remain
open,” Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.
“This is about Hekia Parata trying to save face after a litany of
back-downs, U-turns and policy failures, but it’s come at the expense of
hundreds of little children and their families.
“The children of Christchurch have become a scapegoat for Hekia Parata’s
“Even in the last few days, evidence has emerged that the second round of
consultation over the closure plans has not been fair, or accurate.
“This is not a ‘new decision’, as the Minister claims. She went in to
this second so-called consultation process with her eyes closed and her mind
“From the very beginning Hekia Parata lost sight of what was the best
decision for the children of Christchurch and has set out to use the
earthquakes to reinforce her hard right agenda to damage and dismantle public
“If she had really listened, and engaged in proper consultation from the
beginning, the children of Phillipstown and Woolston would have had some
certainty, instead many have found themselves fighting the very person who
should have been working in their interests.
“The Green Party stands with the communities of Phillipstown and Woolston
and wishes them well in their attempts to do what’s best for their kids,”
Ms Delahunty said.
and think parents are on your side.
and if you believe teachers agree
with what you are doing
and don’t feel taken for a ride,
a straight answer?
Have you lied?
Answers on a postcard, please.
Here, Chris Hipkins and Catherine Delahunty try to get a straight answer out of Hekia about proposals to change the way schools are funded:
“Is this change good for education?”
That’s the question Chris Hipkins tells us to ask ourselves of the proposed charter schools. And after trawling through mountains of evidence over the past year, I have to say the answer is no.
Like Chris, I believe we should be focused on making sure every student in New Zealand can achieve their potential, in all schools. We should be raising the bar, focusing on those not achieving their potential, and supporting all of our schools to innovate within and share good practice so that the whole system s brought up and improved further.
Charter schools are not the answer. They are not about education. They are not about improving our system. They do not aim to make things better for all students – not even for all Maori or Pasifika students. They are not about collaboration and the sharing of best practice.
They are about privatising schools, pure and simple.
Chris points out that all evidence is clear that teacher quality is a huge factor in the success of a student, and yet this Bill lowers the bar rather than raising it. Last year the government were saying all teachers needed a Masters Degree – now, apparently, a teacher can be anyone, with no training whatsoever. Why the change? It’s simple – the government will say anything to attack teachers, but suddenly change tack when it comes to “private, profit-making institutions”.
Chris’s speech in full is here and raises many issues with charter schools that people (including many teachers) may not be aware of. It’s really worth watching.
Catherine Delahunty put it bluntly but correctly, yesterday, when she said “this Bill is ridiculous and it is also quite sick”, going on to point out that it allows for children to be used in an experiment that evidence shows to work very poorly for minority groups.
Catherine pointed out the obvious that when parents in poor families are working very long hours to bring in a pitiful wage, there isn’t a whole lot of time left to help with a child’s education. Little time to give a hand with homework. Not much spare to buy computers so kids can work at home. Nothing left for school donations.
Poverty is a key factor in poor education achievement, as recognised by the OECD, and yet nothing has been done to address that important issue. While families are facing inequality on the level New Zealand sees, there will always be inequality in education, too.
Why does government not tackle poverty? … Maybe because it doesn’t make businesses any money?
What this Bill is really about is privatisation for the benefit of businesses and corporates, some of whom are not even Maori, Pasifika or Kiwi. If it were about helping all kids succeed, then ALL schools would be given the same freedoms.
Metiria Turei challenged National and ACT politicians to send their children to a charter school.
They probably would, to be honest. Not yet, but in the long run. Because once the pretence of charters being for the poor kids, the brown kids, the lower achieving kids, is over, the truth is we will see charters appearing for wealthy kids, essentially providing publicly-funded private schools with no accountability.
Be very clear: This is not about the ‘long tail of underachievement’- it is a sneaky and underhand way of bringing in private schools that public money pays for, and in the end those schools will be for wealthy kids.
Tracey Martin gave an outstanding speech, too, outlining why this Bill makes a mockery of the submissions process and democracy Many on the panel choose to ignore expert and popular opinion, instead listening with deaf ears and closed minds, following an ideology that they were predetermined to accept no matter what.
This is New Zealand under this government – they forge ahead in favour of only themselves and businesses.
Tracey pointed out that Maoridom is not in favour of charter schools. Submissions from Maori were overwhelmingly against.
She pleads and I plead with Maori and Pasifika people to contact their MPs and tell them how you feel.
Even if you do want charters, make sure you tell them what boundaries you expect, what support, what oversight.
If you do not want them, speak up now, because time is running out, and the Maori Party is about to sell you down the river.
Sue Moroney hit the nail on the head when she said “Our kids are being used as guinea pigs,” saying that it wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t already know from the evidence that charter schools do not work. She asked why the select committee ignored the concerns of Nga Tahu, who do not want charter schools. She asked why the children of Christchurch are being used in this experiment when they are already in the middle of upheaval and stress.
Nanaia Mahuta acknowledged the thousands of parents, teachers and others who took the time to make submissions to the select committee.
With over 2000 submissions, just over 70 were for charters, about 30 had no opinion, and the rest were against. Just read that again: The Rest Were Against. And those against came from all quarters, from professors and parents, from teachers and students, and from iwi.
Hone Harawira, Leader of MANA, said charters “represent a direct attack on kura kaupapa Māori, and on public education generally,” pointing out that “successive governments have starved kura kaupapa of funding from the get-go, [yet] they remain one of the most successful educational initiatives for Maori by Māori, in the last 100 years.” Like many observers, he is aghast at the Maori Party for supporting charter school proposals, saying “The Maori Party should be ashamed for turning their backs on everything that kura kaupapa Maori stands for.” Source.
So let me close by asking you this.
Who does support charter schools? And why?
Ask yourself that, and really think about it. Not on political party lines, but as a Kiwi.
Ask yourself what the motivation for charter schools really is.
Ask “Is this change good for education?”
CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green):
I am delighted to take a call on this issue because the estimates debate is very is important on education and the last year of spending on education reflects some of the most contradictory policy and priority setting that I have seen since I have been a parliamentarian.
It starts right at the top, for example, when the Prime Minister came out and said that he would not be too worried if his children were taught by unqualified teachers. That is right from the very top — a message that is completely at odds with what the Minister of Education has been saying about the importance of professionalism and qualifications, and, in fact, reviewing the Teachers Council registration policy. So what is it that the Government is saying?
Sure, at King’s College where the Prime Minister’s son has been, there is a snowball in hell scenario that they are going to hire unregistered or untrained teachers. It is simply not going to happen. They are going to have small classes and highly qualified staff. Meanwhile we have the Minister constantly arguing for teachers to improve their qualifications and professionalism. So which one is it: untrained and unaccountable, and publicly funded for-profit charter schools, or professionalism; national standards for students aged 6 years old, but none-standards for teachers and selected experimental not-for-profit situations.
Let us talk about charter schools just for a minute, because they are addressed in the estimates. The Government put aside $230,000 for the charter school working party headed by Catherine Isaac — clearly not exactly a neutral figure in the eyes of anyone who has anything to do with education or politics. And what that working party has said is that they will develop options for schools where there will be public money put in, but people like those in Destiny can apply. All kinds of people can apply, they can be as fundamentalist, as ideologically driven as they like, and they will not necessarily have to meet the same standards that are expected in public schools, which, when you think it is public money, is pretty appalling.
The Green Party is not arguing that there should not be choice in education. If people want their children to be taught by fundamentalists of any stripe, or encouraged to believe that homosexuality is a sin, or that climate change is a myth, or that evolution is anti-Christian, for example, then do that, but pay for the privilege. Do not ask us to pay as a country for that privilege. That is what the private education system offers. We are talking about public money going into a weird experiment that has failed all over the world.
So we are very concerned that this Budget reinforces that idea. We are also appalled by the contradictions between statements the Prime Minister has made and the statements the Minister has made on this issue. Let us then move to the other disaster area in education: the class size one, as my colleague Nanaia Mahuta has touched on, was a back-down that reflected a long planned, but badly planned, vision that nobody except Treasury could give any credence to. It just shows you what happens when people do not have a vision in education: it is not about anything except money. Treasury wrote the book and said: “Let’s have a plan to actually make this affordable. Let’s cut back on education. Let’s pretend it’s an investment.” But Treasury could not convince the rest of the country.
It had the Government on its side but nobody else — nobody else. So we saw fantastic unity across a sector that is not always unified and does not always speak with one voice, and the Government was forced to do a back-down. Well, that is an indication not that it had learnt, and not that it believed that the parents were right, but that it had realised it could not sell the policy. This was a cynical and depressing scenario, because we asked the Minister of Education whether she had changed her view after hearing from parents, and she said she had not. She still thought it was a great idea, and it is very, very sad for the parents and children of New Zealand that that was the agenda.
Some information on national standards was put on the website last week, and, again, it is a real mess. It is a real cut-and-paste job. You cannot understand what you are reading, you do not know what it is that you are going to get — sorry, not you, Mr Chair — what the parents will get, and it does not make any sense. The moderation tool that is being developed at great expense — about $5 million has been spent so far on developing the work around national standards, but it is not finished — will not be ready until 2014.
So what are people going to make of that? The Government put up a policy that had no tool for creating any kind of moderation, and although it will not be on offer until 2014, somehow the parents are going to get the benefit of reading the data that are completely different from school to school. That is somehow supposed to be softening the parents up for the standards. Even if you believed that was a good idea, it is a bad way to have gone about it. The Green Party does not think that league tables are a good idea. We think that league tables are for sports teams. League tables are great in the Olympics, but they are not for children. Labels are useful on jam jars, but not on children.
Our fundamental problem with national standards is not the way that they are being delivered but the idea that a narrow mechanism that reduces the New Zealand curriculum — which is upheld around the world as a valuable and broad curriculum — to a narrow set of literacy and numeracy standards is narrowing teachers’ requirements to teach-to-test. No matter what the Government says, there is huge anxiety out there. It would be interesting if people listened to the evidence of people like Professor Martin Thrupp, who went to England and looked at the model over there. Some countries have gone around the track, and they have followed the track of increasingly narrowing and teaching-to-test—Britain is one of them—and others, for example, Finland and some of the Asian countries, have gone the opposite way and have invested in a broad curriculum. The results are very clear.
Britain and the United States are failing the children who are already struggling because of poverty and social context. Initiatives like national standards only create anxiety, and they are driving teachers out of the profession — because people become teachers from the sense of moral mission to give an input into children’s lives. Children need the best people in this country, but the best people will be driven out if we narrow what has been established as being an excellent curriculum and turn it into a bunch of mechanisms. It is lovely to read numbers; they make life really simple, but guess what? Numbers do not reflect the reality of what the complex matter of each child’s individual learning is actually about. I wonder whether the Government actually looks at what learning means instead of what numbers mean when it set up these standards, because the standards are absolutely incapable of delivering rich and contextual — which is what the Minister calls it — information for parents.
It is a sad sight when you see this being justified on a daily basis in this House. It is not what people voted for at all. They voted for the idea of our kids all doing well. What they got was this mechanistic, failed system, which is incoherent and has not even been properly moderated. Quite frankly, that, along with class sizes and charter schools, is an unmitigated disaster. What is also a disaster is the lack of coherence in the Government’s way of relating to the sector. You cannot improve children’s learning unless you have good relationships not only with child and teacher but also with teachers and politicians. I am not saying the teachers always get it right, but what I am saying is that declaring war on the education sector, the academics, and the professionals is not the way in which you make change happen. We all agree that there are kids who need more support in school. And some of us know that is because the goal of the school system should be equity.
The Finns are at the top of the Programme for International Student Assessment table, because the goal of their education system is not achievement; it is equity. Equity comes first, then participation, and then achievement. But why listen to the experts? After all, the Finns have many good models, which we would do better to look at than looking at Britain and the United States, where we have these bizarre failures. Look at New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina has turned into an educational disaster. What happened is that public schooling has collapsed. Because of the disaster they have brought in these experimental charter schools — these for-profits — and as a result you have children falling through the cracks in greater numbers than ever before. That is a tragedy.
We must make sure that we do not let what has been a good education system become a game for Treasury, an experiment for the Government, and a sacrifice of the good things, under the fake mythology that what we need is running schools like a business. What we need is to run education for liberation, for life, and for life-long learning. It is not a mechanistic business. It is a mission. We should take on the Finns’ ideal, which is that not everybody can be a teacher. They invest a huge amount in teacher training. They say that if you want to lift the quality of the education system, you must lift the quality of the people who are allowed to be teachers. So instead of saying the most fabulous job you can have is to be a corporate financial speculator, or some kind of merchant banker, or that being a lawyer or even an MP is the best job in the world — the best job in the world needs to be a teacher.