Key defends Govt backdown on class sizes

The Prime Minister has defended the Government's backdown on changes to class sizes.

Speaking from Germany, John Key told Radio New Zealand: "Perception is reality and the risk I think was that (proposal) derailed the rest of the good work we're trying to do in education. So really was it worth months of industrial action and the likes? And I think the answer to that's no.''

Education Minister Hekia Parata announced the decision to drop plans to increase class sizes for almost all children yesterday afternoon after a huge backlash from parents and teachers. It planned to save $174 million and plough $60 of that into improving teacher quality.

She told Radio NZ this morning the plan had been a trade-off from the outset, but acknowledged the outpouring of public opposition to the plan.

"It was one part of how we could make the investment into more quality teaching. Clearly it has not been a trade-off that parents were prepared to accept. I think that the level of anxiety that parents were feeling was not our intention.''

She said there had been no consultation with the education sector on the plan but refused to say whether that was a mistake.

Secondary Principals' Association president Patrick Walsh said the Government should not have introduced the policy without consulting the education sector.

President of the NZ Educational Institute union, Ian Leckie, said he was "delighted'' the Government had listened to the public outcry over the class size proposals.

The Government will now seek other ways to fill the $174 million hole in its education budget.


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