Catherine Delahunty

All we want for Christmas is good education leaders

by Catherine Delahunty

The appointment of the very competent Peter Hughes as acting head of the Education Ministry is a welcome present for families this Christmas.

But only if it heralds wider change in the Ministry and a new Minister as well.

My heart bleeds for the families of Christchurch who are ending another year in uncertainty and moving in to a new one that looks even more shaky than 2012.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

The National Government’s handling of education has been a disaster this year, from the class sizes debacle, to the shambles in Christchurch.

To an opposition education spokesperson the relentless stuff ups from the Ministry and Minister could be seen as a monumentally generous Christmas present from the Government.

But its not one I want under my tree.

Yesterday the Green Party called for the consultation process over the so called Christchurch school renewal to be restarted in the spirit of real engagement, and coordinated by a Ministry and a new Minister prepared to listen.

A report by ombudsman David McGee had found the Ministry had forced parents and schools to “ferret out information (about the closures) by making official information requests” and that information should be presented in a “comprehensive and comprehensible form”.

And in the wake of that report, Education Secretary Lesley Longstone has agreed to stand aside.

But the report was not just a black mark on Ms Longstone, it is an outrageous indictment on the Minister, and rubbishes her claim that she is consulting, rather than barking orders, at the people of  Christchurch.

Surely its time for Hekia Parata to go too?

Like commenters have mentioned. It’s just not usual for the Ombudsman to report to Parliament with such criticisms in this way. This is a big deal.

The massive closure plans for Christchurch schools must be stopped and the consultation process re started centred on a meaningful dialogue which involves the free flow of information and a genuine willingness to listen.

I don’t believe this is possible under the current Minister who has characterised herself as a person with her fingers firmly plugged into her ears.

Christchurch kids need a new Minister and a promise that their interests will be at the heart of any new process for restructuring the schools in their city.

That would be the best Christmas present this Government could give them this year. And I’d be happy with that under my tree as well.

Published in Parliament | Society & Culture by Catherine Delahunty on Wed, December 19th, 2012   

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