Education Minister Hekia Parata was heckled as she spoke
about new class sizes in a roomful of intermediate and middle
school principals this morning.
The Government was forced into an embarrassing backdown
yesterday after it became clear it faced a backlash over
planned new teacher-student ratios and said schools would
lose no more than two teaching positions under the new
Speaking at the New Zealand Association of Intermediate and
Middle Schooling in Auckland this morning, Ms Parata was
heckled when she said schools would be able to make their own
decisions on implementing the ratios.
"Rubbish. You made the decision for us," one man shouted out.
The minister spoke of the need for a "system-wide lift" in
the country's schools.
She was at pains to stress the excellent job New Zealand
teachers did but said that despite a five-fold increase in
teacher numbers in the last 10 years, there was not a
corresponding improvement in student achievement.
Media were asked to leave the conference while the minister
hosted a question and answer session.
The $43 million a year the Government had anticipated would
be saved and diverted to improve teaching quality as a result
of the increase in class sizes will be cut because of the new
cap on teaching losses but yesterday Ms Parata did not know
by how much.
Neither she nor Prime Minister John Key have admitted that
mistakes were made in calculating the effects of the new
policy and yesterday she announced the cap as "good news''.
Gary Sweeney, principal of Pukekohe Intermediate School and
president of NZAIMS, said the questions had kept coming back
to staffing cuts.
"As a group of intermediate principals and teachers we kept
coming back to the fact that we're not happy with that."
There was still a great deal of uncertainty around the
"Nobody's actually been told how it's going to work. We've
been told no more than two positions over two years: Does
that mean one position next year and one position in three
years time? Does it mean two in three years time? People are
saying 'what happens after three years?' There's just a lot
of questions around this."
The Government has agreed to set up a working party to look
at the effect of the new ratio formulas.
Mr Sweeney was unsure exactly how they would be implemented
at his school.
"We're going to look at maybe a bit of that job, and a bit of
that job, and a bit of that job - a bit of a pick and mix
approach to it - and I've got some staff who might actually
want to work part time.
"Other schools may not have that luxury. They may have to say
'guys we're closing down the woodwork room, lock the door'."
Mr Sweeney hoped the Government would still be willing to
compromise on its stance.
Speaking to journalists after the conference, Ms Parata said
she was "very sorry" about the anxiety caused to some schools
who had calculated they could lose up to seven students.
The Government had considered this and it was never a