Labour and education

’s full speech on education yesterday is here.

I previously blogged I was supportive of a focus on reading recovery. Other issues Shearer touched on are:

I want to tell you about a school in my electorate.

It takes in a large number of migrant children every year.

When these kids start school most of them have an English comprehension age at the level of a 3 year old.

By the time they finish Year 6, they leave where they should be for their age. In six years, that school has lifted their reading age by eight years.

That school is doing a great job. They are exceeding expectations for their kids.

Yet that school, its teachers and its kids are stamped as failures because for most of their time at school their children’s results fall below the National Standard.

This is in fact an argument absolutely in favour of national standards. Sure if you look at one year’s static results that school doesn’t compare well. But over time national standards will show that they improve the performance of their kids massively. That is exactly the sort of data we will be able to get from national standards. It is all about progression, not labels.

I want to see a school report card. And, if the school is falling short in any area, I want to know what is being done to remedy that.

Another argument for national standards. Parents love the fact that they finally have report cards that tell them in plain English how their kids are doing. have spent four years fighting against meaningful report cards, yet now say they will insist on them. Yeah, right.

If kids turn up to school not having eaten breakfast, without shoes, or sick because their house is cold and damp, it’s obvious they won’t get the best start.

I hear people argue that this is the responsibility of parents.

We can debate that endlessly but it won’t change this reality: tomorrow morning kids will still turn up to school hungry.

And a hungry kid is a distracted kid who can disrupt an entire classroom.

I’m not prepared to sit on the sidelines and hope this problem goes away.

We need to offer these kids a chance, not an excuse.

Labour will be more hands-on, partnering with communities and voluntary organizations to put free food in all decile 1 to 3 schools that want and need it.

A lot of low decile schools are already having this done. While I do worry about the state stepping in for parents, I am pragmatic enough to say it is important that kids are not hungry at school as it does impact their learning. I don’t have a great problem with this proposal as it is targeted towards low decile schools. I believe in targeting.

So overall a couple of good things in the speech, but a couple of areas where the rhetoric is in conflict with the reality of their political stance. Shearer also spoke about teacher quality but of course they fight against any performance pay for good teachers. Their problem is they are captured by the unions.

There is an article in The Atlantic about how some in the Democrats in the US are breaking free of the education unions.

In a major shift, education reformers are now influential at the highest levels of the party once dominated by the teachers unions.

is accustomed to having to insist she’s a Democrat. “It’s funny,” she tells me, “I’m not just a Democrat — I feel like I’m a pretty lefty Democrat, and it is somewhat disappointing when I hear some people saying, ‘She’s not a real Democrat.'”

Rhee, the controversial former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor known for her hard-charging style, has worked with Republican governors to push her reform ideas in states across the country. Her ongoing pitched battle with the teachers unions has put her at odds with one of the Democratic Party’s most important traditional constituencies.

Yet there are signs that Rhee’s persona non grata status in her party is beginning to wane — starting with the fact that the chairman of the Democratic convention, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, spoke at the movie screening Rhee hosted at the convention earlier this week. Another Democratic star, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, spoke at the cocktails-and-canapes reception afterward. Across the country, Democratic officials from governors like Colorado’s John Hickenlooper to former President Clinton — buoyed by the well-funded encouragement of the hedge-fund bigwigs behind much of the charter-school movement — are shifting the party’s consensus away from the union-dictated terms to which it has long been loyal. Instead, they’re moving the party toward a full-fledged embrace of the twin pillars of the reform movement: performance-based incentives for teachers, and increased options, including charter schools, for parents.

If David Shearer can do the same for Labour, that would be a superb thing. Labour once was the party of reform. But in this area they are too often the party of entrenched interests.  Unions are important stakeholders, but they should not get to dictate policy.


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