8 Jun 2012

Minister begins rebuilding relationship with principals

10:29 pm on 8 June 2012

Education Minister Hekia Parata has begun mending her relationship with school principals, a day after the Government abandoned its unpopular plan to increase class sizes.

Ms Parata met separately with leaders of groups representing primary, secondary and intermediate school principals on Friday.

In May as part of Budget announcements, the Government announced that it would set new teacher-student ratios that would result in larger class sizes and schools losing teaching positions. From 2013, the ratios for Years 2 to 10 would increase to one teacher to 27.5 students.

The meetings were scheduled before the Government's backdown on Thursday.

The groups had expected to present alternative sources for funding cuts, which the Government says will be needed now that staffing changes have been canned.

Ms Parata said the policy on class sizes was a trade-off from the outset, but one that parents could not accept. The Government would have to look for new ways to save money in education and raise student achievement and there was now a shortfall of $114 million in the education budget.

Principals said savings were not the focus of talks on Friday. They said they could not divulge what was said, but their exchanges focused on raising student achievement.

They also said the Government would set up a forum to discuss education issues with school sector leaders.

Earlier, the primary teachers' union said the Government could never have won the debate on increasing class sizes.

New Zealand Educational Institute president Ian Leckie said it was a total mismatch to talk about raising quality and increasing class sizes. He told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme on Friday the Government did not properly consider the real impact of the decision.

Mr Leckie said the sector is happy to talk with the minister about where savings could be made.

PM says other education policies were at risk

The Prime Minister says the Government backed down on changes to class sizes because the potential disruption was not worth it.

Prime Minister John Key says the potential disruption was not worth it.

Prime Minister John Key says the potential disruption was not worth it. Photo: RNZ

John Key is on a trip to Europe and told Radio New Zealand while in the German city of Hamburg that opposition by parents and teachers to the changes risked derailing other improvements the Government is making in education.

Meanwhile, the Mana and the Green parties are calling for Hekia Parata to be removed from the education portfolio.

However, Labour says Ms Parata was hung out to dry by her more senior Cabinet colleagues and did not believe she should resign.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia also said Ms Parata should retain the portfolio, but is pleased the change is not going ahead.