Hekia Parata: I’m all ears – especially my ears

New Zealand has a very good education system. That’s beyond debate. Can we make it better? Yes, we can and we must. We must make it heaps more betterer.

As a passionate New Zealander and as a mum, I want to see an education system that delivers quality learning for every child and young person every day. Their achievement matters, to their families, their communities – and to me.

I visit schools right across New Zealand on a regular basis, and after the torrents of abuse have died down, I speak to teachers, principals and parents about what I, as the Education Minister, can do to support them to ensure our kids are achieving.

For example, I can open my mouth and tell them to do things I think are important. They can listen to me or they can strop and moan like a grumpy old man.

The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander.

This means ensuring we get the right amount of funding for each child. There are so many options in modern education. Back when I was at school in Ruatoria we had nothing. No pencils. No books. We didn’t even have a classroom or a teacher. There were 753 students in my class. At the start of the school year they took us to the top of Mt. Hikurangi and left us there. You graduated if you could make it back to Manutahi School by the end of the year.

That was real learning. And even though I never had a teacher, my teacher was the best teacher I ever had.

These days school need to be supported in making the same kind of courageous decisions for kiwi kids. Each year we spend over $11 billion on education.

As I’ve often said, “That’s a shipload of money,” because so many people I know use that term when referring to a large amount of something.

We increase spending each year and the spending review we are currently engaged in is looking at everything. We want to provide schools with more flexibility and choice. We want them to be able to be flexible enough to say, “Hey… We’ll paint the junior block and put a beginning teacher straight out of university in front of our most vulnerable learners.” At the moment they can’t do that.

School communities have to spend some of their money on teachers. That’s such a shame.

I’ve consistently listened to the teacher unions since I came into the education portfolio, regularly meeting with them and working with them on a number of important initiatives. I’ve also told them they are just plain wrong. There’s nothing more motivating than an Education Minister telling teachers how wrong they are.

This is about lifting the learning potential of every child. Our spending cuts in the Early Childhood and Special Education sectors have allowed kiwi children to grow and prosper.

It’s about preparing young New Zealanders for a contrary, challenging, exciting world where they will spend their working lives sitting 3 hour external exams and being assessed against their workmates as to whether they meet the standard.

Or not.

* Hekia Parata is the excellent Education Minister of New Zealand


Government announces bulk announcements

Today the government added to its list of funding announcements for education. Following hard on the heels of the announcement to give principals and board more choice when choosing which teachers to hire and how much to pay them, the government today announced further announcements.

Special education funding is in for a shake up. The government has said there will be extra funding given to those “differently abled” learners who are attending early childhood education. Although this will mean a cut to funding for older children with learning needs, the government has said this won’t lead to cuts in funding anywhere, except where “financial adjustments” are required to “meet the needs of learners” who are getting “the extra cash.”

Another announcement that came to light today was a plan by Hekia Parata to offer a range of online educational services to kiwi learners right across the country. The plan, which has worked so very well in the United States, would see learners log in to an online course run by something the minister called an “edu-bot” supplied by billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates.

Ms. Parata said the online course would be “cutting edge” and offer learners a unique chance to learn from the comfort of their bedrooms whilst wearing their undies – a prospect she said would entice many kiwi teens to choose this option.


“One teacher would be able to deliver thousands of hours of learning outcomes for thousands of students,” said the feisty Education Minister, “and that would mean we would require fewer teachers to deliver the learning needs of our learning learners.”

When asked whether Ms. Parata had any idea at all about the educational needs of any New Zealand learners she confidently replied, “Like the majority of my cabinet colleagues, I was at school at one point in my life and this gives me every confidence in my own abilities to know everything there is to know about education policy and the very latest in research-based pedagogy.”

Hekia Parata announced an exciting new funding model for education

Hello and salutations my loyal subjects.

It’s with great self-importance and a soft passive-aggressive voice I announce an exciting new funding model for education.

For too many years schools have had no choice in how they spend their money. Down to the last staple, paper clip or post-it note, schools have to spend their money in exactly the way the Ministry of Education tell them to.

Well that all ends. Now-ish.

I have a great new idea that I want to share with you.

What if we gave schools freedom? What if we gave schools some choice in how they spend their money?

Yes. Freedom to choose is the mantra of the National Party. We want to give schools, principals, and boards some kind of choice in how they spend their money. If school had choice, then they could choose. Being able to choice the right choice is just going to be quite choice.

And what about private schools? In these days of modern learning and 21st century pedagogy, those schools are really struggling to put iPads on the tables of their hungry students. Why shouldn’t a private school, a school which charges thousands and thousands and thousands a term for tuition, charging rich parents who are part of the political and business elite here in New Zealand, receive millions more in extra funding from the government? Imagine each student having their own smartphone, iPad, laptop and car provided free by the taxpayer instead of their rich parents? How rich would their parents be then?

All I know is that every parent of a private school student I know always pays all their taxes. They should receive some benefit from all those taxes they pay on their income.

Just to be clear, giving public schools choice by bulk-funding teacher salaries through their annual operational grant is not bulk funding. We are calling it global funding. Doesn’t that sound far more exciting and it is completely different? Global funding. Just think about that. Your school can have money from a global bank! Wow! Then you can hire all the unqualified teachers you want.

These are very exciting times for education.

Lots of love.

Hek xxx

We. Have. An. AMAZING. Plan.

Hello my little poppets.

As your beloved Minister if Education I am excited to announce a secret plan we’ve been sitting on for some time.

For years, we in the National Party, a party filled with business people, farmers and others who inherited their wealth from their parents without ever doing anything productive, have been talking about quality education in Aotearoa. Despite not really having any educational experience at all, we’ve been giving major policy reform a bit of a crack.

So far we have spent millions and millions of dollars lifting our National Standards results by increments lower than the margin of statistical error. We have decreased funding for the early childhood sector despite all research suggesting investment at this age pays off in spades in later life. Ignoring that much research takes real vision.

Our next plan, however, is groundbreaking.

In order to lift standards for New Zealand children we need to put the very best teachers in front of them. That’s why this government is going to allow barely qualified TeachFirst educators in front of our most vulnerable students. There is no better way to improve outcomes for our young learners than locking 30 high school kids in a room with a 24 year old BComm (Hons.) who wants to make a difference like Michelle Pfeiffer in that Coolio film.

Expect our PISA scores to go through the roof. And if they don’t, we can always blame Labour.

All the best.

Hek xx

Big data for our little children

Hello. My name is Hekia Parata and I’m an ideas gal. I have lots and lots of ideas. Sometimes I bring these to cabinet. Sometimes they just laugh in my face. I thought getting rid of poverty by adding a zero on the end of everyone’s income. Not so.

But then I got to thinking… what if we just tinkered with the system. What if we held a MAJOR press conference making the announcement so it looked like we were doing something. Then we could hang about for six months and then announce it again. Now… that’s a plan.

I’ve always said the decile system was a blunt instrument. It needs to be replaced.

What if the National Party reinvented it? What if we said we’d  be able not only fix the decile system and get rid of poverty all at once?

What a load of rubbish, Hekia you’d say. Not at all, I’d reply.

So here’s the plan. We are going to track every piece of information the government has on a child from the time they are born until they are died. This information will be recorded by a vast range of government entities, then centralised in a huge database (already under conatruction and expected to be delivered past deadline and massively over budget).

On the database there will be all sorts of wonderful  information. Information about health, parental income, parental criminality, and parental voting intentions (among other things) will all be collated and used to better target our funding cuts.

Poor people are great because they’re working so hard they don’t have time to questions the government over mass privacy breaches. I mean, at the end of the day, the Privacy Act is really only a set of suggested guidelines rather than  “legislation” that needs to be followed. Well, that’s this government’s policy anyway.

We in National believe we should have all of the power and none of the responsibility. After all…that’s what leadership and governing is all about.

Anyhoo…. that’s me. See you later everyone.

Hek xx