Teacher unions happy to see the back of tone-deaf Parata

The teacher unions have never been happy with a single Education Minister, ever. It is no surprise they are happy to see the back of Hekia Parata.

During her time Ms Parata clashed with education groups including teacher unions. She told reporters she hoped she would be leaving with a mutually respectful relationship with the unions.

“I have tried to involve the unions early in decision-making processes, I’ve set up forums where they are involved. They’re on every key working group since I’ve been in this role,” she said.

That was her one mistake. You can’t deal honourably or constructively or even respectfully with teacher unions, ever.

And to show that is true the teacher unions have been dancing on her political grave.

The president of early childhood and primary school teacher union Educational Institute, Louise Green, said that inclusiveness was triggered by the?government’s failed 2012 attempt to increase class sizes.

“Were they opportunities where we were really listened to? There were times when we felt that our voice was heard and there are other times that we felt that we weren’t.”

PPTA president Angela Roberts said when the minister did listen, things went well, but that did not always happen.

“When she has allowed herself and her ministry to engage sincerely with us, the profession, we’ve been able to see some interesting and good policies come through, such as the resourcing of collaboration between schools. And when she doesn’t, we get disastrous ideas.”

Ms Roberts said the government’s policies under Ms Parata had been a mixed bag.

“The collaboration between schools is at a very very early stage yet, it is the first time anyone has tried to push back against the collaborative model, but it is all going to be undermined by things like the COOLs (online schools) and bulk funding.”

So, the key to having teacher unions on side is to listen to them and ignore everyone else.

Principals’ Federation president Iain Taylor said people’s personal views of the minister were varied, but he was impressed by her intelligence and focus.

Mr Taylor said the minister had more than a passing influence on the policies she had overseen.

“I think a lot comes from her actually,” he said.

“One of the big changes has been the relentless focus schools are now having on achievement, sometimes too much, but without a doubt we are actually looking at achievement in more depth and with a bit more understanding than we used to.”

Bizarre, apparently a relentless focus on achievement is a bad thing?

Early Childhood Council chief executive Peter Reynolds said the minister got ticks for some policies and crosses for others, but overall he believed she would leave quite a mark on the education system.

“People are going to look back on the tenure of Minister Parata and say that she has made a significant contribution to the shape of our education system,” he said.

“Not all of us are going to agree with everything that she’s done or she’s led, not all of us are going to disagree with those things either, but generally speaking I think she’s been a good Minister of Education.”

Hekia should spend the next year rolling out more Charter Schools, the single biggest improvement in education in recent decades.

Once again, though, a National minister who Labour should have nailed in her first term leaves of her own free will. Labour really are useless at holding people to account and they failed miserably with?Hekia Parata. I was highly critical of her early years but watched her grow into her roles to the point where she became unassailable in parliament.


– Radio NZ