This is why you have Ministers

July 30th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar


Stuff reports:

A plan to treat vulnerable newborns as “lab rats” by sitting back for two years to see if they were abused has been blocked by the Government.

The Ministry of Social Development proposed to include 60,000 children born this year in an “observational study” to test the accuracy of its new predictive risk modelling tool.

It attempts to predict abuse, welfare dependency and the likelihood of a child’s downward spiral into crime on the path to adulthood so it can better target spending.

The Government gave the go-ahead to develop the model in 2012, as part of the Children’s Action Plan. It had now begun testing it. 

But documents show officials had sought ethical approval for one study which involved risk-rating a group of newborns and not intervening in high-risk cases, to check whether their predictions came true.

A furious Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said she could not fathom what her officials were thinking.

She has called a halt to the study.

The minister’s handwritten notes on the documents instructed officials: “not on my watch, these are children not lab rats”.

One of the roles of a Minister is to apply the political filter to stuff from their department. The idea that a Government would sign off on not intervening with at risk children just to test the accuracy of predictions is one which no good Minister would let fly.

Personally I’m surprised it even got to the Minister.

Gangs and crime

August 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Jarrod Gilbert has written in the NZ Herald:

The Minister of Police and Corrections, Anne Tolley, has launched a ‘whole government plan on tackling gangs’.

Great, we need one and much of what is being proposed is good. She should be congratulated. What we don’t need is to over-inflate the problem. Unfortunately, in an election year (of course), this is what has occurred.

The Minister says there are 4000 known gang members in New Zealand. She says that so far this year they are responsible* for 34 per cent of class A & B drug offences; 36 percent of kidnapping and abduction offences; 25 per cent of aggravated robbery/robbery offences; 26 per cent of grievous assault offences; and consequently 28 per cent of the prison population is gang members. Sounds bad, right? If we believe what we are told, gang members make up just 0.1 per cent of the population yet they are responsible for between a quarter and more than a third of these serious crimes.

Unfortunately, I suspect it’s bollocks. More than that I’ll bet on it.

I will eat a suitcase full of carrots in front of the fine Sociology Department at the University of Canterbury if this data are correct. I’ll ask the Minister to do the same if I’m right.

Let’s look at what we can prove, because inconveniently she has used specific offences that don’t match with published data. Nevertheless, we are told that 28 per cent of the prison population are gang members. If we take the current prison population as 8500 that means 2380 of known gang members are currently behind bars. Whoa, that means 1620 free gang members are creating all of the carnage that the Minister has cited today.

Not only are the numbers wrong, they are widely inaccurate. Crazy inaccurate. If they’re not I’ll eat carrots.

Gilbert is wrong when he says the specific offences don’t match published data. As an academic, I am surprised he has not discovered the website run by Stats NZ.

He seems to disbelieve that somewhere between 1,620 and 4,000 gang members (some of those in jail will have been out during the year) could commit:

  • 25% of aggravated robberies and robberies
  • 36% of kidnapping and abductions
  • 26% of grievous assaults
  • 34% of class A and B drug offences

So what do the numbers tell us.

Aggravated Robberies and Robberies

There were 2,032 robberies (both types) last year. 25% would be 508. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Kidnappings and Abductions

There were 198 kidnappings and abductions last year. 36% would be 71. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Grievous Assaults

If you add up the 17 assault categories that mention GBH, there were 500 offences last year.  26% would be 130. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

Class A and B drug offences

There were 16,070 illicit drug offences in 2013. They are broken up into specific drugs and it would take a long time to do an exact count. But a previous Stats report is that less than 10% are Class A and B. So a fair assumption is 1,607 Class A and B drug offences last year. 34% would be 546. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.

So on the face of it, the statistics used by the Minister do not seem incredulous.

UPDATE: I have been sent the actual stats the Minister was relying on, which are for the first quarter of 2014. They are:

  • Class A/B drug offences total 218 out of 649
  • Kidnapping and abduction 16 out of 44
  • Aggravated robbery/robbery 72 out of 284
  • Grievous assault 130 out of 506

I look forward to the Herald covering the Jarrod Gilbert eating his carrots.

Reoffending down

March 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Anne Tolley announced:

Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says the Government is now over half way to achieving the Better Public Service target of a 25 per cent reduction in reoffending by 2017.

Reoffending has fallen by 12.6 per cent against the June 2011 benchmark, resulting in 2,319 fewer offenders and 9,276 fewer victims of crime each year.

“These figures are extremely encouraging, and combined with a 17.4 per cent drop in recorded crimes over the last three years it shows our communities are safer,” says Mrs Tolley.

The crimes figures are good, but get impacted by many factors. The reoffending rate is in my view more important. That has real flow on long term benefits.

Playing the race card

January 31st, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff reports:

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei is accusing National Party MPs of “pure racism” after comments in Parliament about her home and clothing.

Pure racism? What did they say?

East Coast MP and Police Minister Anne Tolley said today that Turei, lived in a castle and wore designer clothes.

Speaking during the debate on the Prime Minister John Key’s opening statement to Parliament, Tolley said she was insulted by Green Party claims that she was out of touch.

She said said her role as an electorate MP included meetings with constituents who were among the poorest in the country.

“I’m actually insulted to be lectured about how out of touch I am with average New Zealand by a list MP who has no constituents, lives in a castle and comes to the House in $2000 designed jackets and tells me I’m out of touch,” Tolley said.

I don’t think Turei’s choices of clothes are relevant, and Tolley could have made her point without referring to them. But how in God’s name do you conclude that her comments are racist?

MPs often have a go at each other for their apparent wealth. We hear all the time about John Key having a holiday home in Hawaii, or David Cunliffe living in Herne Bay.  This may be petty, but it is not racist.

Asked about Tolley’s comments, Turei said racism was behind the attack.

“I’m shocked that the National Party would attack me and my home and my appearance. I think it is a racist attack,” she said.

Turei is playing the race card, as a defensive measure.

“I think they seem to think it is all right for them to wear perfectly good suits for their professional job but that a Maori woman from a working-class background is not entitled to do the same. I think it is pure racism.”

Ask how the attack was racist, Turei said she shopped at the same place some of her opponents did.

“They do not think that a professional Maori woman from a working-class background should be able to wear good suits to work,” she said.

Turei seems to be projecting, to put it mildly. They were attacking her for being sanctimonious, not Maori.

Turei said it was unfair to attack her home.

“MPs’ homes have always been outside of the acceptable realms of debate, and so this very personal, very explicit attack, I think, comes from their inability to cope with my work and the effectiveness of my work, and an inherent racism.”

Oh what nonsense. Opposition MPs rant and rave about John Key’s house all the time. Cunliffe’s house also comes in for mention on a regular basis. Neither of them claim it is racism.

Asked whether there was any irony in a Left-wing political leader wearing expensive clothing, she said: “Do you ask that question of David Cunliffe? Do you ask that question of any other political leader or any other politician?

Basically yes. People comment all the time that Cunliffe lives in an incredibly expensive house in a very expensive suburb. Now one can have a view as to whether that is relevant – but Turei is not alone in having jibes about the contrast between claiming to represent the down trodden and their lifestyle.  Also Winston Peters choice of expensive clothes have received lots of comments in the past.

“I’m simply not prepared to pander to that. This is a racist attack by National and I’m not prepared to pander to it.”

Tolley described Turei’s comments as “absolute nonsense”.

“The Greens’ co-leader is entitled to turn up in Parliament every day in expensive designer clothes, and good on her for doing just that,” Tolley said.

As I said, I don’t think what Turei wears is relevant. But Turei playing the race card as a defence is rather sad.

Parliament debating blowjobs

September 5th, 2013 at 3:37 pm by David Farrar

Oh dear. NZ First MP Asenati Lole-Taylor asking Anne Tolley if she would feel harrassed if asked walking down the street how much for a blowjob!

Watch the Speaker as he tries to work out if this involves ministerial responsibility!

Tracking Offenders

November 12th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Dangerous repeat violent offenders and sex offenders could be monitored for the rest of their lives after release from prison, says Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley.

She wants to develop a comprehensive management scheme similar to one run in Britain and says a law allowing it could be passed by the 2014 election. …

Mrs Tolley returned last week from visiting the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements group (Mappa) in London.

It monitors about 58,000 registered offenders who are deemed to pose a serious risk of harm to the public on their release.

“They do a risk analysis of them and keep track of them essentially for the rest of their lives,” she said.

At a minimum, the offenders were required to register once a year.

Not a great burden.

Officials kept track of their address, job, family relationships and other things depending on the individual.

The officials kept an eye on their propensity for offending again but also worked with them to help them find another job if they lost one, or find housing.

Mrs Tolley said she was worried that once repeat offenders finished their parole or supervision orders they went out into the community.

“Take someone like Stewart Wilson – he’s on parole and then he is on an extended supervision order for 10 years, which is a really close monitoring of him, but at the end of that period he is finished and we just walk away.”

She hoped that because Wilson was older, his opportunities for reoffending would be few, “but there are some younger ones who will just disappear out into the community”.

Asked about civil liberties concerns, she said most offenders found it helpful to have that sort of structure in their lives “and know if something goes wrong, there is someone keeping track of them and they are not on their own out in the community”.

Sounds a worthwhile initiative if it can reduce reoffending rates.

Fronting up

October 18th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

John Hartevelt at Stuff reports:

The secondary teachers’ union says a new National government would strip away its right to strike.

But Education Minister Anne Tolley, who will speak at the Post Primary Teachers’ Association annual conference today, says the union is “making it up”.

In a paper to be debated at the union conference in Wellington, the PPTA says it believes the Government “is considering introducing legislation in its next term to deny teachers the right to strike in pursuit of a collective agreement”.

Mrs Tolley said the Government had not sought advice about the cost of teacher strikes and it was “nonsense” to suggest it would introduce legislation denying them the right to strike.

I really wonder why Anne is speaking to the PPTA conference, if they are going to just make up lies about what National is planning. It’s an act of considerable bad faith. Good on her for fronting up, but really there has to be a limit to how much bad faith one should tolerate.

Would Helen Clark have spoken to the Exclusive Brethren annual conference?

UPDATE: A representative from the Exclusive Brethren has contacted me, complaining of the comparison to the PPTA. I accept their point that the comparison is unfair, and apologise for comparing them to the PPTA. Whiel I don’t approve of what the EB did in hiring a private detective to follow Clark, they have now knowingly published a false document, as the PPTA is doing.

Anne wins, BTAC loses

September 8th, 2011 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

Protests by hundreds of schools against national standards in reading, writing and maths have been called off.

Schools are required to report on students’ learning in relation to national standards, however, many schools have refused to include the standards in their charters this year.

They faced statutory intervention if they did not.

Yesterday, the Boards Taking Action Coalition (BTAC) recommended schools who had opposed including national standards in their charter alter it to include them, but make it clear the school was forced into it, BTAC spokesman Perry Rush said.

I suspect the reason they have done this, is they realise Trevor Mallard is not going to become Minister of Education in 11 weeks time. They were hoping they could outlast Anne Tolley, but they failed.

It has been such a fuss about nothing. The national standards are a minor but useful additional reporting requirement. Schools keep all their current assessment tools. All that is required of them is to moderate those against the national standard framework and include that extra data in school reports, and provide it to the Government so the government has some comparable data.

NZEI says Tolley should have attended US conference, not dealt with earthquake

May 23rd, 2011 at 4:17 pm by David Farrar

NZEI’s hatred of Anne Tolley is clouding all their judgement. Their latest bizarre rant is that they are unhappy Tolley did not fly to New York for some talk fest conference, and instead stayed in New Zealand to concentrate on getting Christchurch schools re-opened.

Jo McKenzie-McLean writes in The Press:

Unions have criticised Education Minister Anne Tolley for not attending an international summit in New York because of the Christchurch earthquake.

Tolley was to lead a delegation in mid-March to the International Summit on the Teaching Profession at the invitation of United States Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) president Ian Leckie and the Post-Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) president Kate Gainsford attended the summit, held at the New York Hilton.

The Hilton sounds cheap.

However, Tolley said there was “no way” she was going to leave New Zealand after the earthquake to attend a conference.

She also questioned why the union leaders had attended the summit.

“It is up to these union leaders to justify to their members why they believe their job was to fly to New York for a conference while thousands of their members were affected by the Christchurch earthquake,” Tolley said.

“With all Christchurch schools still closed, many of them seriously damaged, and students displaced and out of school, there was no way I was going to leave.

“It was my job to be in Christchurch and Wellington leading ministry officials and supporting schools to reopen, and I was hugely impressed by the determination and hard work from principals, trustees and teachers during such a distressing time.

“I’ve personally told the NZEI union leaders, in no uncertain terms, my feelings on this matter.”

Imagine if Tolley had gone. She would have been attacked for abandoning New Zealand. NZEI seem determined to have an confrontational relationship.

Hartevelt on Tolley

April 10th, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

John Hartevelt writes in the SST:

THEY USED to mock Anne Tolley. They used to laugh at her rambling, head-scratching monologues and wonder at how she had made it to such an important job. They used to say she was not up to it and that she would surely get the flick from her boss, John Key.

But the joke is not so funny any more. Anne Tolley has turned in to this government’s great survivor.

She has seen off four Labour Party pretenders to her job and, after two years of battening down the hatches, the minister of education is finally on the front foot.

Besides dispatching Chris Carter, Trevor Mallard, Darren Hughes and the short-term acting spokesman, David Shearer, Tolley has also witnessed the backs of arch union leader critics Kate Gainsford and Frances Nelson.

She has stared down endless and noisy criticism of her flagship national standards to the point that she is confident enough to show up at this weekend’s meeting of the Principals’ Federation and tell them all about a controversial new policy she’s pushing to fast-track teachers into the job. …

Once she has managed to consistently avoid gaffes that make her look stupid, Tolley’s ordinariness becomes an asset. The barbs from the intelligentsia then start to rebound and become political assets to Tolley. National Party voters like nothing better than straight-up sheilas sticking it up the namby-pamby commentariat.

That’s why they reckon Tolley is such a hit in the airport lounges. Her supporters say she often gets parents walking up to her without hesitation to talk about her national standards and to puzzle with her about why people hate on her so much.

The campaign against Tolley was so nasty and personal, that having endured it she got sympathy. You had union leaders on television sneering at her, and making it clear they would rather destroy her than work with her, and the average punter didn’t like that.

A disgusting headline

November 19th, 2010 at 4:12 pm by David Farrar

In contrast to his useful policy focused post, a more recent blog post goes down to the depths from Trevor:

Anne Tolley doesn’t care about sex criminals looking after children

From the Shadow Education Minister, this is disgusting and a reminder as to why Labour should not be in Government – if this is their idea of debate.

The Education Amendment Bill currently before the house removes the obligation to get a Police check for people who look after babies and young children unsupervised at gyms and mall childcare services.

Labour may have over-regulated but this goes too far.

Labour massively over-regulated. They forced creches at gyms to register as early childhood education centres, have qualified teaching staff etc – including the Police check.

The reality is a creche at a gym is not a school, or part of the educational infrastructure. They are a babysitting service. They allow a mum to use the gym and have someone look after their kids for 60 minutes.

One can have a sensible debate about whether or not gym creches should be required by law to do police checks on their creche staff. But to effectively accuse the Minister of being indifferent to paedophilia is again disgusting.

Personally I’m not at all sure there is a need. Labour sounds like they want to go down the route of the UK where you can’t even be an occassional parent helper for sports or scouts without a Police check.

Have any kids ever been molested by a staff member while their mother is exercising at the gym? I mean, what is the problem to be solved here?

Do we only require police checks for babysitters at gyms? How about for all babysitters and nannys? Maybe we need a Department of Babysitters to register and monitor them?

The Scouts have a policy of getting police checks on all new leaders. This is very sensible, as sadly youth groups do attract paedophiles. But Scouts are not required to do this by law. Are gym creche staff a bigger risk than scout leaders?

If there is evidence that not having mandatory police checks on gym creche staff has led to children being molested, then I can be persuaded that it may be a sensible idea. But can’t we hold that debate without Labour MPs asserting that the Minister of Education (herself a parent) doesn’t care if sex criminals look after children.

An apology to everyone but the Minister

November 10th, 2010 at 3:45 pm by David Farrar

The bloglight that shined on the principal of Salford School referring to Anne Tolley as Hitler got picked up by the media, and her board has distanced themselves from the comments of Marlene Campbell.

Campbell has also apologised on her school blog:

I regret and withdraw my ill considered and not thought through reference to Nazi Germany, I feel passionately about National Standards and I am immensely frustrated by the damage they will do to children’s learning. I really regret that my comments have created a diversion from the real issues: the negative impacts of National Standards as a policy.

I care passionately about children and their learning- some might argue too passionately- but it is that passion which drives my opposition to National Standards.

I unreservedly apologise to the parents and students of Salford for casting our school into disrepute.

So she has apologised to her students and parents, but not to Anne Tolley for calling her Hitler. What a wonderful example to the students.

Now talking of the campaign against national standards, it is important to stress again that sadly the taxpayer is being forced to fund most of this campaign. Membership of the various principals’ associations is not paid for by the principal, but by the taxpayer through Vote Education.

Whale Oil has some documents showing the extent of the taxpayer funding – around $100,000 from the regional principal associations.

The taxpayer funding of the unions comes about because it is in the collective contract. My advice to the Government is to refuse any future agreement that results in the unions being funded by the taxpayer. If a principal sees benefits from joining the principals’ union, then they can do so out of their own pocket.

Good spotting

August 27th, 2010 at 9:03 am by David Farrar

Act on Campus blog:

Don’t you love when two people contradict each other in the same news article?

Even more so when the journalist writing the story doesn’t seem to notice!

“Parents were meant to have been told about the illusion before the exercise.” – Justin Reid, Otatara Primary School Board Of Trustees Chairman

“Yesterday, school principal Sharon Livingstone said the letter was a “mistake” and was not meant to go home to parents.”

Good spotting. It does make it look more likely that they are inventing excuses, after the event, and that it was in fact politically motivated.

Idiot school

August 26th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Education Minister Anne Tolley is furious a Southland school put her signature on a fake letter, and officials are investigating the forgery.

Otatara Primary School pupils were given the fake letter yesterday, saying their school day was to be extended by one hour.

Written on Education Ministry letterhead, it was “signed” by Mrs Tolley, who was angry when she learned of it.

“It’s unbelievable that teachers would do this to children and I’m angry that the school has used my name,” she said. …

Otatara principal Sharon Livingstone told the Southland Times the school was uncomfortable with the news media attention, and the letter was a “mistake” that was not meant to go home to parents.

So will someone be held accountable?

Sounds worthwhile

August 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

More than 50 schools around the country will have Government experts sent in to try and lift grades.

Education Minister Anne Tolley has this afternoon announced what she calls “a major new approach to lifting achievement” in schools.

At least 50 “practitioners” from within the Ministry or elsewhere in the education sector will be appointed to schools or clusters of schools.

Some schools would need very little support, but others would need intensive help, Tolley said.

The “practitioners” would build a better relationship between the Ministry and schools.

“These experts will have proven ability in lifting student achievement, and will give specially-designed support to schools to meet the specific needs of their students and teachers,” Tolley said.

“They will use student data to assess where support will be most effective, and make sure schools get help much earlier.”

Sounds pretty good to me.

The only problem of course is the education unions don’t want the Government to have meaningful student data.

Audrey on National Standards

March 10th, 2010 at 9:55 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young writes:

I saw first hand yesterday why teachers are having a difficult job trying to win the argument against Education minister Anne Tolley about national standards. …

It’s not that Tolley was that brilliant. She sometimes sounds like she has had 10 briefings too many from Ministry of Education officials when she falls into jargon like “unpacking” the national standards.

But she has better grip on the subject than the last time Mallard made mince meat of her in the House over moderation of national standards. And once parents join her in the debate, she wins, as was evident yesterday.

And the parents are what this is all about.

Tolley talked about her own kids – two of whom had been “very bright but very lazy” and her five year-old grandson who has started school in Rotorua. He had told her matter of factly that he was now in group 3 reading, not group 4 where he had started – the point being that kids knew exactly where they were in relation to other kids.

That reminds me of my first year at school. I joined the class in September and it was assumed would need to catch up in reading with my classmates so was placed in Group 4 (of 5). By December I had moved into Group 3, Group 2 and then Group 1, and finally because I was such a good reader myself and one other were placed in our own special group where we could read outside unsupervised. I was so proud of that, after having started in Group 4.

That was a rebuttal to one of the Onslow kids who had Tolley on about the brutality of the new reporting system to parents that would show them (and the kids) exactly where they were in relation to others and could be discouraging.

What is brutal, is allowing kids to drop out of school unable to read or write.

A small shuffle

January 26th, 2010 at 6:27 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced:

Steven Joyce becomes Tertiary Education Minister, allowing Anne Tolley to fully focus her efforts on the Education portfolio, and in particular the implementation of the Government’s national standards policy.

I said almost a year ago that I thought both Education and Tertiary Education was a huge workload, especially with no Associates from your own party.

I will be fascinated as to Steven’s approach to tertiary education. It has quite a few pressure points in it.

Kate Wilkinson becomes Conservation Minister, a portfolio in which she is currently Associate Minister. This change reflects the fact that Tim Groser is frequently out of the country representing New Zealand’s interests in the Trade and Climate Change fields.

In other words Kate has effectively been the Minister, so this makes it official.

Mr Groser, because he has primary ministerial responsibility for the international negotiations aspects of Climate Change, will have a change in title and becomes the Minister Responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations.

That should not take up too much time, as there isn’t much to negotiate. The US, China and India are all running 100 miles an hour away from an agreement.

The battle for standards

December 14th, 2009 at 5:45 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Education Minister Anne Tolley says she will sack the boards of primary schools which allow teachers to boycott national standards, saying they would be refusing to obey the law.

Tensions over the new standards in literacy and numeracy are increasing.

Teachers’ and principals’ unions are lobbying school boards to support them in their call for a trial period before the standards are introduced nationwide.

The unions have also threatened boycotts and industrial action, and last week wrote to principals urging them to ask school boards to voice the same concerns.

Mrs Tolley has ruled out a trial, and said that in “extreme” cases of a boycott she would dissolve the board involved – because the trustees would be refusing to obey the law – and replace it with a commissioner.

“If despite having that pointed out to them, they absolutely refused, I do have the power to dissolve the board and put in a commissioner,” she said.

“In the end, I would have to do that. I don’t think it would come to that, but if it went to the nth degree I would do it.

You just cannot have schools disobeying the law.”

Absolutely. If people do not like the national standards, they should vote for a Labour Government that will scrap them. But National won the 2008 election with a explicit commitment to introduce the standards, and voters not unions should get to decide the law.

Mrs Tolley said the Ministry of Education would give as much support as possible to boards stuck in a standoff with teachers.

But she would not be backing down on her decision to introduce standards nationwide from next year.

The minister said she had already made many changes in response to concerns from the unions but each time, they had returned with more and she believed their arguments were now purely philosophical.

“That’s why I’m putting my foot down … If there are changes needed, we will make them.

“I’m not saying this is it from day one. But we have to get started because this is about kids failing in the system. I’ll do whatever it takes to make this work.”

As Anne has said, there has been masses of consultation and even compromise. But some no doubt seek delay just for the sake of delay.

A battle too important to concede

December 10th, 2009 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has intensified a developing standoff with teacher unions.

After The Dominion Post revealed yesterday early plans by the primary teachers union to strike over the national standards policy, Education Minister Anne Tolley hit back, telling Parliament she was “disappointed” by the unions.

“I find it really disappointing that the unions want to stop parents getting information about how their kids are doing,” Mrs Tolley said.

“This Government is on the side of parents and we’re on the side of kids.”

Now that is not a typo. The unions are not going to strike over more pay, or smaller class sizes. They are going to strike to refuse to implement the policy of the Government, despite an explicit election mandate for it.

As far as I can tell, Anne has bent over backwards to work with the unions. She even said she’d work with them to try and stop the media publishing league tables. But they seem implacably opposed to giving parents nationally consistent and relevant information.

I say bring it on. Let this be Mrs Thatcher’s miners. The unions plans to pressure school boards to refuse to implement the standards. My response would be no standards, no funding.

All power to the union when they are trying to get payrises for their members. That is their legitimate role. But the unions seek to determine the education policy of New Zealand. They think the voters and the parents are unqualified. This is a battle over who is in charge of the education system and who does it exist for – is it the unions – or is it pupils and parents.

If you think the national standards is crap policy, then you’ll get a chance at the next election to get them thrown out. Elections should determine policy, not unions.

Trevett on Tolley

November 4th, 2009 at 7:39 am by David Farrar

In their third feature in a series, Claire Trevett rates Anne Tolley’s first year in the job:

Anne Tolley was reportedly given the job of National’s education spokeswoman because of her reputation as the party’s whip of having an iron hand in a velvet glove.

Party leaders John Key and Bill English believed her tough approach would serve her well against the infamously lippy and powerful teacher unions.

Personally I would recommend deploying 245-T against the teacher unions 🙂

Her decision to target adult night courses as one area for cuts is understandable and should have been easier to “sell” – deeper cuts to education for young people would be even more unpalatable.

But it attracted far more opprobrium than it should have. It drew a petition with more than 50,000 signatures, and National sources say backbench electorate MPs were besieged to such an extent that a caucus revolt was narrowly averted.

She underestimated the public reaction to it and erred in understating the impact by saying it would affect only “hobby” courses such as Moroccan cooking and belly dancing.

My view remains that the true scandal is that we were subsidising so many of these courses at all. I think National could have been ore aggressive on this issue, and painted Labour’s defence of them as a case of being out of touch.

Labour MPs have gained a grudging respect for other ministers they initially targeted, such as Paula Bennett. They remain disparaging about Mrs Tolley. Former education minister Trevor Mallard is now the Opposition’s education spokesman.

Although he can be merciless, his attacks have made little impact as yet partly because he is distracted by his other duties.

If he put the unremitting focus on education that Bill English did when he was made education spokesman after being ousted as National’s leader in 2003, Mallard could make mincemeat of Tolley.

There is a difference. Mallard’s attacks on Tolley are quite personal. English’s blitz on Education was focused on standards and outcomes.

As it is, Mrs Tolley is showing signs of improvement. Until recently, she was reluctant to return media calls on even uncontroversial matters. This was astonishing for a front bench minister in charge of such a fundamental portfolio.

I find if you don’t call the media back, it rarely helps you.

National’s current policy does not propose any major reforms of the types that invoked widespread outrage in the 1990s. But Mrs Tolley is struggling against the unions to bring in even those smaller scale changes for which it has a broad public mandate.

My biggest criticism in Education is of the policy, not the Minister. I think wider ranging reforms are needed. I want performance pay, standard funding etc.

Educational priorities

October 24th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The new national standards will narrow educational opportunities for children, says the country’s largest teaching union.

“It all adds up to teaching to a very narrow focus and ultimately narrowing educational opportunities for children,” said New Zealand Educational Institute president Frances Nelson.

The union has been opposed to standards since National announced their introduction.

The standards were part of National policy before the party was elected to Government. Despite almost a year of talks, the Government has failed to reach an amicable agreement with the teaching unions.

NZEI – which represents about 45,000 people in the education sector – did not attend yesterday’s formal launch.

The union is holding a forum next month to work out how the standards will sit alongside “everything else we do in terms of teaching and learning and getting the best results for students”.

Ms Nelson said the national standards were causing upheaval and the main issue for the forum was to “ensure a focus on improved student achievement across the broader school curriculum not just in literacy and numeracy”.

I am genuinely confused here. If a pupil can not read or write or count, then what are these other areas of achievement they may be doing well in, that don’t need basic literacy or numeracy?

Ms Tolley said it was hard to understand how teaching reading, writing and maths would narrow education opportunities.

“If they cannot do these basics, that is when opportunities are closed off.”


More on league tables

October 15th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Firstly the unions are back to squabbling with the Minister, and it is unsure how sifnificant the agreement trumpeted yesterday is. I have asked the Minister’s Office whether or not the actions planned to make it difficult for media to report league tables includes any changes to the Official Information Act.

So long as the OIA is unchanged, I don’t see how one can stop people compiling whatever tables they want. Hell, I might even help set up a wiki where parents can report the data for their local schools 🙂

So for me I don’t care too much what the Govt does, so long as they do not touch the OIA.

But on the subject of the education unions loathing for any sort of comparison of school achievement, I have to quote this wonderful note placed on Facebook yesterday by Mark Unsworth:

I totally support the teacher unions right to protest against being able to rank schools according to how well they perform. This cuts across the hunt for mediocrity which is so important to some in NZ .How dare some parents who want to know how good an education their children are getting.!! And as for the media having access to the information !Bloody hell what would Stalin have thought about that?

I would like to see this move taken further however.
I would start with Fair-Go, Target and the Consumers Institute and that dreadful Consumer magazine that tells us which products and companies and service providers are dodgy or unreliable. Who needs that useless information?

Magazines that reviewed and ( gasp) rated cars ,electronic goods, and new technology need to be ditched as does LINZ which tells us which suburbs are considered desirable. Imagine what would happen if that information got out? Wine, beer and restaurant reviews and rankings, what a waste of effort .Do we really need to know how good a wine is before we drink it? Doesn’t that take the fun away. The same goes for those silly websites travelers use to check out accommodation. A bed is a bed no matter whether its 1 or 5 star, you still fall asleep.
Next on the bonfire would be rankings of investment returns for Kiwisaver and other super schemes. People who can find out who is performing well poorly will only go and move their money and we don’t want that do we. Best we protect those who are not up to the job just like we do with teachers and schools.

NZ will obviously need to pull out of any agencies such as the UN ,WHO,OECD,ILO etc that rates how we compare with other countries on a wide range of indices. That material would be dangerous in the hands of taxpayers wouldn’t it ?

The media need to have a jolly good look at the way they report sport as well. Do we really need league tables for rugby, football netball etc? Surely it’s the taking part that matters. Who really cares about “Top 4 finishes” and semi-finals? It’s all too elitist .I can imagine the TAB may struggle paying out bets when all horses are deemed to have crossed the line together but they will cope .

Last and not least we need to ensure that some of the dangerous new Apps available on i-phones overseas are permanently banned .They allow phones to scan barcodes and customers can find out how one retailer’s price compares with others around the country. That would cause mayhem and only encourage consumer choice. Who needs that in NZ?

I have huge respect for the hard and often unrewarding job that teachers do. However the blinkered view that the teacher unions have that says neither individual teacher or school performance can be measured can only ever be detrimental to our future .They need to move into the real world .


A good editorial from The Press also.

A deal on league tables

October 14th, 2009 at 9:26 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

After months of disputes, Education Minister Anne Tolley has struck a deal with primary school unions that will see them work together on its controversial national standards policy.

Under the agreement, the Government has confirmed it will make it as difficult as possible for the media to produce league tables that rank schools.

It’s good that the unions will not try and boycott the national standards (as they are important), but I’d like some more details on how exactly the Government plans to make it difficult for the media to produce league tables. I sure hope they are not talking a law change.

It follows a threat from hundreds of primary school principals to boycott the policy unless changes were made to limit public access to performance data.

The peace deal with NZEI, the Principals Federation and the School Trustees Association follows months of disagreements between the groups over the introduction of the policy, which will see pupils from years 1 to 8 assessed in numeracy and literacy against national academic standards from next year.

Mrs Tolley told The Dominion Post the deal was a “a momentous occasion”.

“I can’t stress enough that it took my breath away that we have all for the first time sat round the table and said, ‘Yes, we are going to make this work together.’ That is fantastic.”

She said she told the groups she was prepared to work with them to stop the use of league tables. “We want to make it as difficult for you [media] as possible. It will be too hard and too much work and not worth it in the end. There are a few ideas we will discuss as to how we can do that.”

I’m fascinated as to what these ideas might be, because I can’t see what will stop media requesting achievement info for a school under the OIA, and then using that to compile a league table – should they so wish. Personally league tables have limited value and are overly simplistic, but I don’t believe you stop the media from publishing them, if they decide to.

Plan for dealing with disruptive kids too late says PPTA

October 1st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Education Minister Anne Tolley unveiled plans at the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) national conference in Wellington yesterday to put 12,000 parents of disruptive kids through parenting courses and give 5000 teachers from low-income areas extra training to deal with violence.

PPTA president Kate Gainsford said the plan was “a step in the right direction” but was not enough to help secondary teachers already dealing with disturbed and violent students.

“It’s a great idea, we won’t see the results for another decade, and that’s just too late,” she said.

Hmmn, who has been in Government for the last decade? Is the PPTA saying Labour should have done this in their first year of office, rather than leave it to National to come up with solutions in their first year of office?

“It needs to be supplemented at the adolescent level now.”

That would be nice, and it is tough for teachers with disruptive adolescents. But in an era of limited funding, the targeting of the scheme at kids when they are much younger will have the most impact in the long term.


September 20th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The main interview on Q+A was Education Minister Anne Tolley. I thought Anne did well (as did two of the panelists – the PPTA President obviously not such a fan).

PAUL Let’s talk about that shortly. But 200,000 New Zealanders a year go to night classes to improve themselves. Grown up people – that’s a helluva lot of people to annoy for 13 million dollars.

ANNE Well 124 million dollars will still be spent in adult and community education. What I’ve said is we’re going to focus on literacy, numeracy, language, foundation skills – those courses that will lead on to employment. We’re still in an economic recession, there are people out there, particularly young people, who are the most vulnerable, they are the most likely to lose their jobs and the least ones likely to get jobs.

PAUL Yes, but night classes in schools of course as adults – migrants, refugees adults trying to improve their lot – the strugglers.

ANNE Some of them are, some of them are hobby courses courses like belly dancing, ukulele playing. We’ve got courses like pilates and yoga – I’ve attended those classes myself. The average age of people attending those night classes is about 46. What we’re saying I had a half billion debt from the previous government to find in tertiary education what we’re saying is we’re going to put those tax dollars into supporting our young people through the recession.

PAUL I understand. Go to those classes again, Minister. Some of those classes might have been questionable – belly dancing, Cook Island drumming, cheese-making, folk art for beginners – but there were also book-keeping basics, English as a second language, learning Mandarin

ANNE Yes, English is important, language classes will remain as I say

I think Labour are deluding themselves that this decision is unpopular. The protesting are mainly the providers. Most of the 200,000 understand we are in a recession.

Recent polls in the UK have found from 70% to 80% of the population support spending cuts to reduce the deficit. I doubt it is much different here. NZ Labour is trying to appeal to 20% to 25% of the population only.

They then had Labour List MP Jacinda Ardern and National Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye on, to talk about how they were finding being MPs. Some extracts:

PAUL Do you get a thrill from that as well from helping?

NIKKI Absolutely. I mean I think my point is that the part I enjoy the most is being in the community and in my electorate actually with my constituents and Ive had some pretty hard cases as well, theyre people whove asked for drugs to be funded and you know that actually theyre not going to be funded.

PAUL Of course, you are both MPs but you are a constituent MP, youve got an electorate (Nikki) and youre a list MP (Jacinda). Does that give you more mana do you think with your senior colleagues that you do have a constituency?

NIKKI I think it was a pretty big win and there are often times when you can talk on an issue and you really know youve got the people behind you in your electorate I think there is something there in that.

PAUL As a list MP, and a young list MP at that, are you made to feel a bit lesser than say a constituency MP?

JACINDA No, not at all I think that part of is that because we accept that this system that uses list MPs, MMP, has made our parliament look more like New Zealand so list MPs are an important part of doing that. Now me personally, I would love to represent a constituency one day

I think Nikki is right that electorate MPs are often in a stronger position as advocates.

Interestingly Jacinda said that she is not ruling out standing in Auckland (in 2008 she stood in her home seat of Waikato), maybe even standing against Phil Twyford for the Auckland Central nomination.

PAUL Is your generation, people of your own age, more likely to have friends across the political divide than say the, are you likely to be less tribal?

NIKKI Well I think Ive built some good relationships on both sides of the house and I think it depends on the politician. I mean, thats the way that I work. I sort of see it as a bit of a sports match, you go in and you fight for what you believe in but then youre able to come off and treat each other with dignity and respect.

JACINDA I would agree with that, I think that that is important. I dont know if tribal is quite the right word , I do believe what I believe strongly, Ive got a really strong values set but I am willing to look at new ideas and new ways of doing things and if that involves the other side then it does. But I still think that there are certain things that I wont compromise on.

Jacinda tended to not reject the ideological label, as much as Nikki did. And that probably reflects the fact Jacinda is more ideological. But I don’t mean that in a bad way. Most successful politicians have a mixture of ideology and pragmatism, and the differences between them are more shades of grey than black or white.

PAUL What are the mistakes? Tell me your one mistake, because you told me a story once about a fellow who came to you with a problem and you did the political spiel and told him what the law was blah blah blah and what did he say to you?

NIKKI He said to me, and you know I think its that whole thing about, theres a whole of politics stuff that happens in Wellington but when you get back to the community people want to know how decisions affect them&.

PAUL&What did he say to you&

NIKKI ..and he said to me you seem like a very nice lady but youve just told me a whole lot of stuff that just means nothing to me and & but we actually ended up going to the pub for a drink and, but what I realised was actually that people just want to know how the decisions are going to affect them, theyre not that interested in the politics.

PAUL Youve got to stay real, is that what youre saying?

NIKKI Thats exactly right.

I thought that was a great example of the difference between people caught up in politics regularly (the beltway) and most New Zealanders who are focused on how decisions affect them, rather than debates about politics.