Government backs down

Stuff reports:

In a major u-turn, Minister Hekia Parata says staff pupil ratios will not change.

The move comes in the face of a backlash from teachers and parents after Budget moves to increase class sizes.

Sources this morning confirmed the policy was not “set in stone” and the Government was open to other ways to achieve its goal of lifting the quality of teaching, after a signal from Prime Minister that it was prepared to listen to alternatives.

Speaking to Radio New Zealand from London, Key said: “My view is that we want to achieve the outcome that we stated. And that is to improve the quality of teaching and teacher quality in general and that’s the purpose of the policy.”

Asked if there was another way to achieve that he said: “Other people will suggest that. That’s one of the reasons why the minister is talking to the unions. She is talking to the sector. I’m sure she will continue to do that.”

It is understood feedback to the Government, especially to electorate MPs, has been highly critical of the plan.

I’m going to write on this in more detail tomorrow in the Herald Online. But this was a case of the policy intention being good (focus on teacher quality more than class size), but the detail and implementation being flawed.

Any -off can always be challenging to do. To make the case, you need to be able to be highly specific as to the benefits or upsides, as well as the costs or downsides.

The problem here is that the downsides are highly specific and known, but the upside (improved teacher quality) has absolutely no detail. How can you win a public debate, which is based on a vague commitment of “do something around improving teacher quality”. If you wanted to win the debate, you needed to have worked that side out in advance. Then if it was say a debate between a minor reduction in class sizes in exchange for say $10,000 bonuses for the top 10% of teachers – that could be supported.

So a big black eye for the Government here on this issue. Governments will always make mistakes from time to time. The lesson is to learn from them, so you don’t repeat them.

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