A tactical retreat

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Schools will lose no more than two teaching positions under new class ratios in an embarrassing backdown by the Government after large intermediates were set to lose seven.

Education Minister Hekia Parata was forced to impose a cap after it became clear she could have a rebellion on her hands from schools and parents.

The $43 million a year that was to have been saved and diverted to improve teaching quality will be cut but Ms Parata did not know by how much.

Neither she nor Prime Minister John Key will admit that mistakes were made in calculating the effects of the new policy and yesterday she announced the cap as “good news”.

I think it is clear there was a mistake. The overall policy decision is still one I support – that given limited funding the priority should be on improving teacher quality rather than . But this was sold on the basis of a minor impact on schools and class sizes – 90% of schools having no or only a one teacher reduction.

It became apparent that some schools, mainly intermediates, would have an impact greater than minor. I’ve seen e-mails from principals talking of a 10% staffing cut. Hence the Government has moved to cap any loss at two teachers – which will probably be done by attrition.

There is a lesson here for Ministers when looking at changes like this. You can’t just look at the average impact. You need to get very detailed information on the tail, or those most affected. They are the ones whose impact will make the media. If (for example) 15 DHBs are getting extra funding of 3% and one DHB is getting a 10% funding cut, then I can guarantee the story will not be that 15 DHBs are getting 3% more, or even that funding is up 2.5% overall. You always need to be aware of those most impacted, and then if necessary mitigate that impact.

So overall not well handled by the Government. A lesson for the future.

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