The Herald editorial today:
When the Prime Minister heard her National counterpart’s “state of the nation” speech on Tuesday she suggested it had been revised over the previous few days. Laden as it was with programmes to tackle youth crime, it could have been a rapid response to public concern and laudable for that. But in fact Mr Key’s proposals were accompanied by extensive referencing and policy research. It was the Prime Minister’s address yesterday that seemed to have been spiced at the last minute.
Parliamentary staff often come in for criticism. When a party falters, the leader’s advisors are often first to be blamed. On this occasion it is appropriate to acknowledge the fine effort put in by the parliamentary staff – the “extensive referencing and policy research” was useful and reassuring. The challenge will be to keep that standard up for future announcements.
It featured a proposal to require every child to remain in formal education or training courses until the age of 18. This sounds like a drastic increase in the age of compulsory schooling and seems to mean that 16- and 17-year-olds could no longer leave for fulltime work. But Helen Clark says it is not a simple lifting of the leaving age and young people would still be able to start work from age 16 so long as they were enrolled in some sort of “structured learning”. Enrolment sounded more important than terms of attendance.
Under questioning yesterday she seemed not very sure of several implications and concedes that it is an idea that still needs refinement. In other words it is a long way short of a workable policy worth putting to the electorate.
Indeed, there were no details at all. I presume the usual suspects will do OIA requests to find out what level of analysis had been done before the announcement was made.
Policy makers must not elevate the most worthy economic aims above the interests of the individual. While education overall serves the greater good, its primary responsibility is to serve the individual, allowing every person to reach their potential. Compulsory education is for children. The age at which they can begin taking responsibility for their own development may be open to debate, but 16 seems reasonable.
Helen Clark talks of offering them a range of training “paths” that would satisfy the requirement to be enrolled in education to 18 and she envisages employers, polytechs and private training centres helping in some way. But the proposal is vague, the purpose dubious and the implications disturbing. Give the young incentives to learn, not compulsion.
As I said yesterday, there is a consensus that the status quo is unacceptable. Both Labour and National have proposed different ways of dealing with the problem, allowing people to weigh up the competing proposals.
The Press also looks at the policies in an editorial and concludes:
National’s youth education policy is the more flexible and more likely to ensure that greater numbers of teenagers improve their skill. In difficult areas of social policy, this sort of balanced carrot and stick approach is more likely to succeed than quick-fix solutions, such as raising the leaving age or introducing boot camps.
And making it 3-0, the Dom Post says:
…Miss Clark’s attempt to crash Mr Key’s party by delivering her own “state-of-the-nation” speech a day after his has failed. It is National that looks to be the party of ideas, Labour the party playing catch-up.
Mr Key’s promise to get tough on youth crime while beefing up government and community-based initiatives to turn around troubled young lives is a practical and thoughtful response to an issue that is top of the public mind. It is also one that suggests the party is putting more effort into policy development than it has for some years, and that it has taken the trouble to go and ask those on the front line what works best.
By contrast, Miss Clark’s speech – a recitation of historical economic data and a promise to boost teenage participation in formal education – sounded like something cooked up around the Cabinet table to spike National’s guns.
I suspect there is a happy mood in Rotorua today.No tag for this post.