27 Sep 2010

Teachers give Education Minister the silent treatment

8:00 pm on 27 September 2010

The Minister of Education faced a silent protest inside the New Zealand Educational Institute's annual meeting on Monday and a vocal protest outside.

When Anne Tolley spoke to about 500 early-childhood teachers and primary-school teachers and principals at the meeting in Rotorua, she was heard in stony silence.

The delegates refused to applaud her but also refrained from heckling - instead, they held up cards with protest messages on them.

They're angry with the Government over cuts to early-childhood education subsidies and the introduction of national standards in reading, writing and maths.

Mrs Tolley defended the Government's policies and insisted she wanted the same thing as the union's members - a good education for all.

She said she was appalled that a teacher had told parents their children were failures because they had not reached the national standards.

Children are not failures if that happens, she said: their progress from year to year is the most important thing.

The minister later debated early-childhood funding with a more vocal group of protesters outside the meeting.

Big boost in spending sought

Delegates agreed that the Government should spend the equivalent of 1% of GDP on early-childhood education.

Current government spending on the sector is equivalent to 0.6% of GDP but NZEI vice-president Judith Nowartarski says 1% is the figure recommended by Unicef.

Members also voted to oppose the Government's removal of top subsidy rates for centres where more than 80% of teachers are qualified and registered.

Earlier, they strengthened their opposition to the national standards in reading, writing and maths, passing a resolution saying the standards need to be completely revised.

They agreed schools should not be compelled to implement the standards until satisfied that they are fair and evidence-based.