Hekia Parata

Next education minister will be too meek to be any use, says Chris Holden

The next Education Minister needs to take on and destroy the teacher unions, but Chris Holden reckons they will be as meek as a mouse.

One could easily be forgiven for thinking Parliament is increasingly becoming a place where MPs are more concerned about their public profile and political ambitions than they are about implementing real change.

In my view Hekia Parata was different.

Why? Because Hekia Parata couldn’t care less what people think of her, no matter how many union busses were parked on the Parliamentary forecourt bearing unionists armed to the teeth with placards and megaphones protesting against her proposed changes.

Appointed as the Minister of Education in 2011, Hekia Parata had one single political ambition: Lift the standard of educational outcomes in New Zealand.

I saw this first hand while I worked in Hekia’s ministerial office on the fifth floor of the Beehive last year.

Looking back, there was no such thing as a too-hard basket in Hekia’s office.

Rather, there was a flying pig hanging from the ceiling over a boardroom-style table, which exists as a symbolic representation of Hekia’s unrivalled dedication to achieve what some might consider the politically impossible.

As the Minister of Education, Hekia had to front-foot hard, controversial and often unpopular decisions.

She had to close schools, defend charter schools (a product of ACT’s confidence and supply agreement with National) and oversee a review of the Education Act.

In my view, Hekia Parata will leave Parliament sometime next year with the firmly held belief the education system is in a better place than when she took over the portfolio from Anne Tolley.

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Teacher unions happy to see the back of tone-deaf Parata

The teacher unions have never been happy with a single Education Minister, ever. It is no surprise they are happy to see the back of Hekia Parata.

During her time Ms Parata clashed with education groups including teacher unions. She told reporters she hoped she would be leaving with a mutually respectful relationship with the unions.

“I have tried to involve the unions early in decision-making processes, I’ve set up forums where they are involved. They’re on every key working group since I’ve been in this role,” she said.

That was her one mistake. You can’t deal honourably or constructively or even respectfully with teacher unions, ever.

And to show that is true the teacher unions have been dancing on her political grave.

The president of early childhood and primary school teacher union Educational Institute, Louise Green, said that inclusiveness was triggered by the government’s failed 2012 attempt to increase class sizes.

“Were they opportunities where we were really listened to? There were times when we felt that our voice was heard and there are other times that we felt that we weren’t.”

PPTA president Angela Roberts said when the minister did listen, things went well, but that did not always happen.

“When she has allowed herself and her ministry to engage sincerely with us, the profession, we’ve been able to see some interesting and good policies come through, such as the resourcing of collaboration between schools. And when she doesn’t, we get disastrous ideas.”

Ms Roberts said the government’s policies under Ms Parata had been a mixed bag.

“The collaboration between schools is at a very very early stage yet, it is the first time anyone has tried to push back against the collaborative model, but it is all going to be undermined by things like the COOLs (online schools) and bulk funding.”

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Parata presents premature porky pre-election promises

Announced on a Sunday morning:

Cambridge High School and Ngaruawahia High School in the Waikato will both undergo major redevelopments, Education Minister Hekia Parata announced today.

“Around $8 million will be invested in Ngaruawahia High School, and around $9 million will be spent redeveloping Cambridge High School,” says Ms Parata.

“Both schools have issues such as leaky buildings or classrooms that are old and in poor condition, so this will be welcome news for their communities.

“At Ngaruawahia, an existing classroom block will be demolished and replaced with a new block that will also function as a marae support space outside of school hours.

“Existing technology and administration blocks will also be refurbished, and seismic strengthening will be carried out on some buildings.

“At Cambridge, a new two-storey block will be built to replace an old 1953 block that’s past its use-by date, and a number of other buildings will be remediated to address weathertightness issues. Read more »


Pretend token empty symbolism smashed to pieces

This is a great example of Metiria Turei been owned by Hekia Parata.  Turei asked a stilted question in Maori to a Minister who is a fluent speaker, as you can imagine she smashed Turei.

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Online learning will supplement and complement what traditional schools offer

The fear mongering in the press releases from the Green party and the PPTA have been put to rest by Hekia Parata. A recent speech in Parliament made it very clear that online learning will not be replacing traditional schooling. Instead, as I had predicted in my post this week it will complement traditional education. While she did say ” in whole or in part ” that is likely a reference to it replacing the current correspondence school model.

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Schools doing checks to get around crim-protecting NZEI

Education Minister Hekia Parata says there are more checks in place now than when Robert Burrett was able to move from school to school, and the rules for teachers could now be extended to other staff in schools, including caretakers and bus drivers.

Fifteen years ago, Stephen Parry was Board Chair at Te Kuiti’s Pukenui School.

They tried firing Robert Burrett as Deputy Principal after claims of incompetence and drinking on the job.

But the NZEI union defended Burrett, who finally left the school following mediation and a confidential payout.

“The Union perhaps needs to ask itself why — if they knew what they did back in 2001 in terms of his inability or inappropriateness to teach — he was allowed to continue on in that role,” says Mr Parry.

While there was no evidence of inappropriate contact with children, he says the union was left in no doubt that Burrett was not fit to continue teaching.

The union is complicit in the harming of every victim by that piece of trash.   Read more »

And so the cover-up begins

Hekia Parata is handing the opposition a nice little cover-up scandal to beat the government with by refusing to have an inquiry into who was responsible for allowing child rapist Robert Burrett to continue to be near children despite years of alarm and warnings.

Minister Hekia Parata says there are no plans for an inquiry into how the Ministry of Education handled information about child rapist Robert Burrett, despite mounting pressure from the Opposition.

The former bus driver and school caretaker was investigated for making sexual comments two years before his arrest.

Burrett raped and sexually assaulted 12 school girls, some disabled and others as young as five years old.

The question is whether the Ministry of Education missed the warning signs.

An investigation into Burrett began in 2013 after he’d made inappropriate comments to a disabled schoolgirl.

Opposition MPs want an independent ministerial inquiry.   Read more »

Blunt decile system to get some tuning


Funding schools based on students’ individual risk of underachievement is one of the options on the table as the government considers a shake-up of the decile system.

The Ministry of Education is considering making use of government-wide data about every child to allocate extra funding to those schools with students who are deemed to be at risk, the NZ Herald reports.

Schools would get more money for students who had at least one of four risk factors: a parent who had been to prison, if they or a sibling had suffered child abuse, if their family had relied on a benefit for a prolonged period, or if the child’s mother had no formal education.

The proposal is reportedly in its preliminary stages. Read more »

Harman on Hekia

Her CV includes a stint at Harvard after her master’s degree at Waikato.

Since the 1990s she has moved in and out of the public service and consultancy and with her marriage to Local Government Commission chair Sir Wira Gardiner, whose CV is even more heavyweight, she is the ultimate capital city insider.

Yet ask her whether she would one day like to be Foreign Minister and she demurs.

She says that when she decided to run for Parliament after she re-joined the National Party after her very public split with them over Don Brash’s Orewa comments about the Treaty of Waitangi she did so because she wanted to be Education Minister.

“I would be quite keen in being an associate finance Minister because that’s what effects change,” she says.

“But I’m very happy in my role.”

This answer says two things about Parata.

First it displays her caution when she is on the record or in public. In private she is an exuberant and engaging politician with a personality as big as her brain.

But perhaps because of the controversies she found herself in once she made it to Parliament and the Ministry — problems with cars, her sister’s senior position in the Minister of Education, problems at the Ministry with novopay and other matters and rumours of tensions in her office — these days she seems very careful with the face that she presents to the public.

But the other part of her desire to remain education minister reflects what her genuine passion for the job is quite clearly.

There aren’t many Ministers who can be convincing when they say they have got their ideal job.

What she is doing in education now reflects what is slowly becoming a radical overhaul of the sector; perhaps the most radical since the Picot Report and Tomorrow’s Schools in 1989.

Later this year she will pilot through Parliament a revised Education Act which will encapsulate a lot of her thinking about education.

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Little can’t trust Hipkins if he’s going to do all the education stuff himself

Andrew Little is overriding many spokespeople and is especially interfering in Chris Hipkins’ portfolio areas.

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Labour leader Andrew Little have had a playground spat over the impending closure of one of Christchurch’s schools.

The squabble arose as the Education Minister opened two new primary schools.

Rawhiti School is the culmination of a merger of three damaged eastern suburb’s primaries into one super school.

Ms Parata thinks it’s pretty exciting.

“You can see for yourselves that the community is very proud of what they’ve achieved,” she says. “There’s a lot of recognition of what they’ve had to go through to get to this time and place but they’re facing forward and very excited.”

But while cake was being cut and plaques unveiled in the east, a short drive across town there’s little cause for celebration.   Read more »