What's vocational education for?

QPEC has been working with a range of people and organisations to try to make sense of and critique Te Pukenga.  Below is an introduction to a blog by David Cooke, published on the NZARE website.

Jill        Many people think polytechs are just training for industry and trades.   

Jon      Isn’t that what they’re for?  

Jon’s comment probably reflects the popular view.   Regrettably, it’s close to the official view, which for years has explicitly tied tertiary education in general to the needs of industry and business.   Fifteen years ago, for instance, The Tertiary Education Strategy for 2007-2012 put it as, “improving the responsiveness of the tertiary education system to the skills needs of industry and business” (p. 13).   Read more.  

Te Pūkenga plans savage attack on Polytechnic education


Media Release                   24 Oct 2022

Te Pūkenga plans savage attack on Polytechnic education

 QPEC urges Education Minister Chris Hipkins to step in and prevent the new polytech national entity, Te Pūkenga, from taking the axe to vocational and trades education across the country in a drive to save money.

 On Friday Te Pūkenga Acting Chief Executive Peter Winder announced a projected $63m budget deficit for 2022 and plans to save $35 million from the sector next year. He made it clear vocational and trades education is in the frontline for massive cuts.  

 “The government’s Unified Funding System also comes into effect next year and we must also respond to it and the new priorities in the way training should be delivered in this sector.

"This shift means we must emphasise in-work learning and consider our cost structure for face-to-face and on-line delivery so that our costs are better aligned to demand…”

 This is shaping up to be the most savage attack on vocational and trades education since the 1990s, when National abolished apprenticeships in favour of “in-work” training.

 The danger is that by and large employers focus on the specific skills that the employer wants. Whereas previously, students were taught a wide range of portable knowledge and skills they could take to multiple worksites, the emphasis on “in-work” training down-skills workers, threatens pay rates and undermines the benefit of vocational education to the nation.  

 Te Pūkenga's move is an ideologically-driven privatisation of state education.

 It’s disheartening that the Labour government has not learned these lessons.

Vocational and trades education at polytechs is not a cost – it is an investment in our people and in our country’s future. It will return social and economic dividends well into the future.

Te Pūkenga’s proposed budget cuts on the other hand are wrong-headed, short-sighted and fundamentally misguided.                                                                                

 The Minister must step in.  

 Dr David Cooke, National Chair


027 404 9721  


Sexual harassment: silence and power
Below is my blog on the research I have recently completed on sexual harassment affecting secondary school students.  Under that I have included the executive summary of the report.  If you wish to read the full report, it can be found here.
Liz Gordon

For the past couple of months I have been researching and reporting on claims of sexual harassment by students at Christchurch Girls’ High School.  In an anonymous and confidential survey, they were asked about their experiences of sexual harassment.

During the course of the study there was some media coverage from the UK.  First was Keira Knightley’s story that she was sexually harassed every day of her life. Was this some celeb hyperbole (love that word, even if I can’t pronounce it) or something real?  Then, in response to reports of high levels of sexual harassment towards schoolgirls, a national report from England by OFSTED, the review agency, that 90% of girls reported having been sexually harassed.

We already had our own study underway, of course. Ours did not show a 90% harassment rate, but certainly a 60% rate.

What it did show was that the 430 girls who had experienced sexual harassment had experienced it in total nearly 2700 times between February and May 2021.  That made us think.  2700? How did that happen?

The harassment happened on the streets both near the school and in town, on the buses, at parties and really wherever the girls were. Most of the harassers were young males (48%) or older males (43%) with a smattering of workmates, family members, teachers and girls/women.

The most common harassments were verbal, including cat-calling, yelling, shaming.  This may not sound so bad, but imagine if your daughter, aged 15, walked along a street and past a group of boys, who shouted out “B****” or “C***” or “I want to f*** you, or even, a phrase I haven’t heard since the 1970s but is apparently a meme on the internet, “get back to the kitchen”. Really? And the worst of the worst, delivered by a relatively young boy to a senior student walking past: “I want to f*** you ‘til your back breaks”.

Older males often appear in cars or on bikes, overtaking the young woman and harassing her.  A group of them in a car might turn around two or three times to come back for more. It is terrifying. On bikes, cyclists might zip by yelling, or sometimes stalk a young woman down a street.  One cyclist shouted “I want to rape you” to a girl, and she took shelter in a restaurant until he went, heart pounding. Younger males are, of course, everywhere the girls are.  They seem to hunt in packs.

One of the questions unable to be answered by this study is whether there is a small number of repeat offenders out there, or lots of one-timers.  Do groups of blokes get in their car every afternoon to abuse girls on their way home? Are they sort of career harassers? Does every young man have to perform a harassment or two as a rite of passage? Or are there, indeed, just a few performing their abusive rituals over and over?

Apart from the sheer number of events, there were more than 20 direct reports of rapes, with many more hinted at. We know that some young women chose not to complete the survey due to the overwhelming effect of their experience on them, which they wanted never to discuss.  I expect some of these young women will read this blog and I don’t want to go into too much detail.  Let’s just say that the worst of these was three separate incidents, all at parties, where drunk girls were led, on a false premise, into situations where a group of boys was waiting to have their way with her.

Was it three different groups, or is there a rape gang operating in Christchurch?  Who knows? Because none of these events was ever reported, and in a couple of cases we were the first to have been told.  None of the rapes – not one – was reported to the police.

Which leads me to the next bit. The silence. Girls reported feeling uncomfortable, upset, nervous, degraded, embarrassed and afraid as a result of their experiences. A good number of them fear it was their own fault.

But they change their behaviour.  They love party skirts, but will never wear them again. They wear baggy clothing, loose jackets, shorts under school skirts, trousers where they can. They disguise their bodies.  They take different routes home and avoid public transport in general and specific buses in particular.

They walk only during the day or in well-lit places.  They avoid lonely roads. They walk with fear. They want to forget and find it hard. What many don’t realise, but was evident from the stories they told, is that they carry with them trauma and possibly PTSD.  We also know, of course, that this does not just go away, and for some the scars will remain for life. The testimony of the victims of sexual abuse in state care shows that these things can shadow a whole life.

What has happened? Well, we have not yet done work on the why, but perhaps the influence of violent and deeply sexist rap songs, the ubiquitous internet delivering up porn, alongside old insults in new terms…. I don’t know.  It does make me wonder, though, how relationships are going to go in the next generation, if the only terms by which boys can address girls are abusive ones.

The silence of the girls is what remains with me (I am one traumatised researcher, believe me, after working through all that material). I want them to start fighting back, taking photos, noting number plates, saying what happened to them, comparing notes.  Not as vigilantes, but as witnesses to the harm.

As we congratulate our society for finally getting to the bottom of historical claims of sexual abuse by church and state, a tsunami of sexual harassment and abuse is coming to your school-aged children, right now, on your local streets. 

Executive summary: 
sexual harassment survey in schools 

This is a report of a whole of school survey carried out in May 2021 for Christchurch Girls’ High School. The research received formal ethical approval and operated an ‘opt in’ system for those under 15 (with parental consent) and an opt-out system for older students. The survey was sent to 1042 consented students and 725 participated, a response rate of 71.2%.

 The survey included a definition of sexual harassment and 430 participants noted they had been harassed. Most stated it had occurred 2-5 times, but a quarter had been harassed more than ten times.

 Harassment included verbal, space, written and physical or sexual contact.  On average, those who had been harassed experienced 2.5 types of harassment.

 exual harassment was most likely to take place outside school and around town, out socialising or on public transport. Online incidents were also common.

 Men constitute 91% of the identified sexual harassers, including young men the same age as the students and older men. Most common events were cat-calling, body shaming and being rated on looks. Other forms were also frequent.

 In 2021 to date, 381 participants report a very high 2677 incidents of sexual harassment, or seven per student who had experienced harassment. Most incidents were carried out by lone males, with one quarter by groups.

 Students were asked to describe their ‘worst’ incident of sexual harassment.  Over 20 students described being raped by individuals or groups. Many other incidents involved young males at social events, on the streets or on public transport. Egged on by friends, many comments were extreme and terrifying. Participants described many incidents of physical and sexual abuse. Almost the same number of events were caused by older males on the streets, either alone or in groups, often in cars. Older males also harassed students on public transport and in taxis and Ubers.

 The worst incidents stirred up many feelings. Students were uncomfortable, nervous, degraded, upset, embarrassed and afraid, among other feelings. Only a tiny number, less than 10%, received any help or support.  Most did not mention asking for help.

 More than 60% of those who had experienced sexual harassment have changed aspects of their lives to try to ensure it does not happen again.  The most common change is clothing, with students donning baggy clothing, jackets, shorts under skirts, trousers and other additional clothing to try to deflect attention.

 Many have changed their routes home or become hyper-alert about who is on the streets.  They avoid quiet streets and darkness. Many take multiple precautions.

 A significant number have been harassed on school and town buses and work hard to change their routes, times, and bus habits. Many have stopped using buses at all.

 Another strategy is to avoid boys, especially in groups. They might change direction, keep their heads down, pretend to talk on the phone and not go to particular places.

 Other changes include no longer drinking alcohol, not going to parties, learning self-defence, never being alone and keeping their phone handy.  Participants outlined a range of strategies to keep themselves safe. In most cases these work, but it does mean doing things differently but still living with the risk of harassment. Sometimes they lose friends as a result.

 As a strategy, disclosure to others appears to be used very little, and fear prevents this increasing. While instituting personal changes can reduce exposure to sexual harassment, the overall threat does not reduce.

 Those who have experienced sexual abuse seek safe spaces. They want to be able to talk openly about their experiences. Many think that harassment has been normalised as an expected part of the society.

 Their main demand is to educate young men about the effects their abuse has on young women, how to stop being abusive and turn around their culture.  In their own school, they want to receive active support, to know that wherever they seek help it will be available.

 There is a need for education and discussion over what sexual harassment is.  For example, is a little cat-calling just ‘good fun’, or the beginning of a pipeline of abuse? In particular, there is a need to break the code of silence that surrounds such discussions.  They plead for more openness.

 A key concern of this study is the very low level of reporting, including, apparently no reporting of individual or group assaults revealed in the study.  The main barrier to reporting is the tendency for the victims of sexual harassment to be ashamed or embarrassed, and often to blame themselves, or fear that others will blame them.  These barriers lead to unprecedented hiding of potentially serious crimes, and the potential also for perpetrators to realise they have got away with it and do it again.

 The participants feel very powerless when being sexually harassed, no matter what the context or the actual harassment.  A strong goal of schools needs to be helping to empower all their students against this kind of attack.  This means bolstering their self-esteem, their ability to respond and to stop and prevent attacks.

 Students are making many demands for change within the school setting and provided many examples of what could be done.

 Of the participants, 78% knew of other people who had been sexually harassed over the past three years, but only 42% of those were students at the school, in line with the earlier discussion about non-disclosure. The rest were friends outside school, family members and others. On average, each participant knew of 1.5 people who had been sexually harassed over three years.

 The age ranges of participants were from 12 to 18, with the modal age being 16. 93% identified as female and around 74% as straight. Nearly three quarters of students were Pākehā New Zealand with the others being Māori, Chinese and from a wide range of other cultures. Sexuality and ethnicity were both mentioned several times as aggravating factors in sexual harassment.

 The study concluded with a discussion of areas that needed attending to and questions that should be answered.




The QPEC AGM will be digital this year and will be open to paid-up members on


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Thank you very much for sharing this.

Ngā mihi nui Anna Lee

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Education beyond Colonisation

Education beyond Colonisation  
Liz Gordon, Vice-Chair of QPEC, spoke on education at Alternative Aotearoa in Wellington, 25 July 2020.  
Download powerpoint

Public Funding for Public Schools!

Media Release                   27.08.20    

 Public funding for public schools  

The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) is appalled to hear of the decision to provide $11.7m in public funds to Green School in Taranaki, a private education-for-profit school. This move comes at a time when the Covid crisis has highlighted the huge inequity in the NZ education system arising from years of underfunding.  

 The decision has been announced by James Shaw as Associate Minister of Finance.   Shaw is also Co-Leader of the Green Party, whose policy platform states, "Public funding for private schools should be phased out and transferred to public schools.”   QPEC agrees with the policy, but not with this week's decision on the Taranaki school.  

 "Government  could invest in green buildings in state schools in Taranaki and elsewhere," says former MP Dr Liz Gordon.   "It should not fund projects that will generate profits for private companies."  

 The $11.7 million could be easily applied to countless “shovel ready” upgrades and rebuilds of the many substandard school buildings around Aotearoa NZ which have been delayed for many years as a result of the underfunding.

 There is also a huge need for additional qualified staff to support vulnerable students, many of whom have experienced a lifetime of inequality and have been severely disadvantaged by the impact of Covid-19. This could immediately provide a vastly greater number of jobs across the country, many of whom would be women, the sector hardest hit by job losses.


Dr Liz Gordon, 027 454 5008

Dr David Cooke, National Chair,  027 404 9721  

Beyond Covid

Beyond Covid

During this Covid time, we are acutely aware of the pressures both personal and institutional that teachers, parents and students are experiencing. As we look with hope for a sometime end-point, we are also aware more than ever of the need for a robust public sector infrastructure in which education is inclusive, enlightening, challenging, comprehensive, and actively values diversity in school and society. 

We look for a system that tries energetically to promote high-quality delivery and equity in education services in the face of inequality across society.  In the interests of an informed and thoughtful populace, we look for an education system that encourages intelligent thinking rather than just transmission of information.

When we someday emerge from Covid, we can expect massive pressures to return to the status quo in a context of enormous public debt.  Government response to demands for funding then will likely be that the coffers are empty (though Geoff Bertram of VUW argues that government can issue money to counter the debt). Much of society will understandably want to just return as quickly as possible to business as usual.

But as in the Great Depression, the current crisis is an experience that should push us to create a new, far-reaching and progressive vision of a socially just culture. We will need to be very carefully prepared with powerful arguments and data to promote enlightened education in NZ.

At the same time, we need to keep some aspects of recent history firmly in mind.  A change of government could usher in a return of calls for standardised testing,national standards, and even COOL – the proposal to put primary school students into extensive online learning. There would be a paradox here. Online education is obviously a resource at this time of crisis. And by chance, a new online private online school opens in April, (see RNZ 9 to Noon, 17 Apr, 9:42 Transforming teaching and learning online , Crimson Global Academy .)

Meanwhile, tertiary managements have been salivating for years at the prospect of ever-increasing use of online learning to streamline delivery, "create efficiencies," cut costs and staff. But teachers and lecturers argue that for really effective education to take place, they need sustained face-to-face contact with students, no matter how much it's supported by online platforms.

Here are some items that might be worth pursuing, building a case for:
~ moving ECE from its extensive private ownership to public funding and oversight, preferably under community direction
~ supporting equity in society and in education funding and structure
~ fully funding public tertiary education
~ extending fees-free tertiary education to do away with crippling student debt (remember university in the 1960s?)
~ replacing the relentless push for polytecs to "meet the needs of business and industry" with tertiary education that serves the enrichment of the nation, in other words, the public good 

Gloriavale Christian Community School: What does it teach?

Gloriavale Christian Community School: What does it teach?

27 April 2015

Registered by the state; inspected by the Education Review Office, and partially funded by taxpayers – but what is taught there?

Liz Gordon, co-Convenor of QPEC, has been researching the Gloriavale School for three years. She has concluded that the ‘education’ that takes place there deprives young people of their human rights, supports a context that allows girls to be sexually abused and teaches young people a false curriculum – all sanctioned by the state.... more

Funding for education success going to …. the educationally successful!

Funding for education success going to …. the educationally successful!

23 March 2015

QPEC wants to know why the extra resources provided by the government’s flagship teacher policy are overwhelmingly being captured by the schools that cater for the wealthiest suburbs of our richest city.

“It is now clear the ‘education for success’ is a policy to keep National and ACT voters in Epsom and Remuera happy, rather than to lift the educational achievement in our poorer communities” says John Minto, QPEC spokesperson.

“The glaring anomaly is that 21 of the 43 new teaching positions doled out in this funding round have gone to very wealthy communities in central and north Auckland.

“This is the government’s one big initiative in seven years to raise student achievement but ‘success’ funding is going to the already successful.

Low decile areas have been promised additional resources – they are the government’s priority. The lowest decile group of schools allocated funding will get only 2 additional teachers, and that is the only group in which most of the schools are serve poor communities.

The policy is supposed to provide expert teachers to support learning in areas that need it, but instead the majority of the resources in this round have gone to many of the richest schools in the country.

“The rich get richer and the poor get zilch”, said John Minto.



Are partnership schools more trouble than they are worth?

Are partnership schools more trouble than they are worth?

19 February 2015

When National fundamentally altered the Education Act to provide for a new, non-accountable, category of schools, the justification was that these schools needed to be freed from the shackles of government regulation in order to provide excellent education to high risk students.

Today it was revealed in the House that no Partnership/ charter School has included a single high needs student, leaving the state schools in those areas to grapple with the most challenging students. It appears that these schools have found ways to cream off the best students among high needs groups, leaving the rest for state schools to tackle. More

Fee paying education not in our interests

Fee paying education not in our interests

15 February 2015

Dr Liz Gordon, QPEC spokesperson and educational researcher, today argued against proposals being aired in the media to allow state schools to charge fees.

“In 1877, in the middle of a long recession, New Zealand politicians passed an Act of Parliament stating that schooling should be ‘free, compulsory and secular’”, she said.

“The trade-off for requiring children to attend school was that the schooling, and if necessary transport to school, would be available at no charge”.

Dr Gordon notes that the right to free education has been eroded over the years. “Most parents now pay a fortune for school uniforms, stationery and, increasingly, capital items such as laptops and tablets”..  More...

Inteuri buys ITTI

Inteuri buys ITTI

6 February 2015

 "Inteuri's purchase of ITTI (the Information Technology Training Institute) continues the process of undermining public tertiary education in New Zealand," says Dr David Cooke, spokesperson for QPEC, the Quality Public Education Coalition.  More....

David Cooke: 027 404 9721  

Tertiary education spokesperson

As predicted, charter schools in trouble

As predicted, charter schools in trouble

1 February 2015

Statement from joint spokespeople

When the government changed the Education Act to allow for charter schools, it bet that a bunch of non-educators using their own untested theories of education could run schools for our most disadvantaged students and achieve better results than state schools.

Not only that, it stacked the decks by deliberately removing the charter schools from the checks and balances that all state schools must face and gave them more money (as a series of set-up grants). For example, these schools are exempt from making disclosures under the Official Information Act, despite the fact that they are government funded.

The policy was always ideological, always about neo-liberal thinking rather than straight thinking. In Sweden and the UK, charter school models (free schools) are contributing to the decline of educational outcomes. There are calls for change in both countries.

In the USA, scandal after scandal has swept charter schools: poor teaching, poor facilities, financial scams, corruption, profiteering, abrupt closures of failed schools, political patronage, abuse…. Almost everything that could go wrong in these schools has done so, often over and over again. QPEC has been tracking US charter schools daily for over two years ago now, and not only are many of them an educational disgrace but they continue to contribute to the overall educational collapse of the USA in world educational rankings. Per dollar spent, US schools are the world’s worst.

The public was told things would be different in New Zealand (despite depressingly similar policy settings). But our own tiny number of such schools have already suffered from student loss, concerns over quality and now a new school is being led by a principal under investigation by the Teachers Council for potential serious misconduct. This is a clear example of de-regulation leading to poor practice.

The Minister calls these “teething troubles”.

QPEC calls them an educational disaster in the making, and calls on this government to stop this experiment, which is following the worst practices of schools internationally and will not improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged.

There is no empirical research that supports this model of charter schools, and plenty of evidence against the model. It is being driven by the first term right wing ACT MP, David Seymour, who promises to support these schools through thick, thin and very expensive, success or failure – competition at all costs, and the taxpayer must pay.


John Minto


Liz Gordon


QPEC National Spokespeople

28 January 2015

28 January 2015

State housing sell-off will harm vulnerable children 

“The government’s planned sell-off of state housing will cause serious harm to the education of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children”, says QPEC Spokesperson John Minto.

Pushing more low-income families into the private housing market and social housing will mean another increase in transience (children changing schools frequently) because more families will struggle to pay the higher rents.

Housing from private landlords and social housing providers is typically much more expensive than income-related rents provided through state housing. When income-related rents were introduced, school transience reduced. This policy will have the opposite effect.

The effect will be to destabilise more families and increase the educationally-disastrous levels of transience. Some schools in low-income areas already have a student turnover of more than half their school roll each year because of transience related directly to poverty.

These transient children are the students who are failing. They make up the “long tail of underachievement” the government says it wants to address.

However National’s policy of selling state houses will increase the huge pool of children changing schools frequently. It will throw up more barriers to education for the children who need the most help.

“Selling state houses is a very cynical policy targeted at families already struggling with issues related to poverty and inequality. John Key’s trademark is to be able to say with a straight face that policies that are destructive to the poor are good for everyone. But there is no good news story with this announcement – only another rise in housing costs for those least able to afford it”, says John Minto.

State housing provides affordable income related rents and helps stabilise families. We need more state houses to stabilise more children and enable them to succeed at school. QPEC challenges the government to find any family paying income-related rents who will be better off or have a more stable existence as a result of this policy.


John Minto


Liz Gordon


QPEC National Spokespeople


Government misguided to base funding on employment outcomes

20 November 2014


“QPEC is alarmed at proposals to tie tertiary education funding to "employment outcomes," says QPEC tertiary education spokesperson Dr David Cooke.

Ministry briefings, the Ministry of Education, the TEC and Treasury recommend a change in funding "away from student numbers and qualification levels to outcomes."  

Minister of Tertiary Education Steven Joyce today commented favourably on this suggestion.

“Tertiary institutions contribute significantly and consistently to employment and work, but it is not their function to provide employment,” says Dr Cooke. “Their role is to deliver first-class, leading edge education.   This they do.   But as thousands of job applicants in NZ can testify, getting a job is uncertain and capricious.”

“While tertiaries regularly and actively help and support job-seekers, the employment market is constantly forbidding and dependent on factors well outside the control of universities, polytechnics and potential workers.   In any given year, there could be few opportunities in certain categories of jobs, while in later years the position might change for the better.”

“As a nation, we should be mature enough to recognise that tertiary institutions contribute to the country's wealth and richness in many ways in addition to preparing people for jobs.”

“It would be totally misguided to base funding on employment outcomes.”


Dr David Cooke

QPEC Tertiary Education Spokesperson

027 404 9721  


Don't dump the decile system until there is a workable alternative!

Don't dump the decile system until there is a workable alternative!

13 November 2014

Liz Gordon has been following arguments around the school decile system since 1989 and argues that it should not be dumped until a better approach has been developed - and that hasn't happened yet! Read the press release here....

Another $15 million to be wasted on failed charter schools policy

Another $15 million to be wasted on failed charter schools policy

11 September 2014

Four new schools are to be opened under the Partnership Schools banner in Auckland and Whangarei. QPEC Chair, Bill Courtney, notes that he is most concerned, given the lack of accountability already evident in the programme.
“The Minister and Catherine Isaac have been unable to answer some key questions about the policy and the five existing schools”, Mr. Courtney notes.  More....

Charter Schools now even smaller and more expensive

Charter Schools now even smaller and more expensive

9 September 2014.  Bill Courtney

NZ’s charter school experiment is proving to be even more expensive than first thought, as two schools have experienced falling rolls since the start of the 2014 school year and three remain below what is termed their “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” for funding purposes.

As a result, the number of students enrolled has fallen to 358 across the 5 charter schools and the schools will now receive an average of $20,878 in per capita funding this year.

Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, discussed the controversial initiative on TV’s Q&A programme last weekend, describing it as a “…niche sort of thing…”

But the argument that this is only a “niche” is in stark contrast with ACT Party policy. The ACT Party wants to expand the charter school programme and ultimately convert all state schools into privately operated charter schools.

The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the Working Group, led by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, never produced a written report.

This is in contrast to former ACT MP John Banks’s claim in Parliament that we could learn from the successes and failures of charter schools overseas. But with no written report from his former party president, we simply don’t know how the NZ model supposedly does this.

Two charter secondary schools, Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru and the Vanguard Military School, have seen their rolls fall by around 10% between March and July: Whangaruru from 63 to 56 and Vanguard from 104 to 93.

Under the terms of the charter school contracts, each school is funded for the full year at a minimum level set in advance at the start of the year. Whangaruru is funded for 71 students and Vanguard is funded for 108 students. In addition, the primary school, Rise Up Academy, is funded at a level of 50 students but has only 46 students as at 1 July.

Based on the 1 July roll returns, Whangaruru will now receive $26,939 per student in 2014 and Vanguard will receive $22,837 per student (see table below).



“Guaranteed Minimum Roll”

March Roll

July Roll

2014 Minimum Operational


($ p.a.)

$ per student (March Roll)

$ per student (July Roll)

South Auckland Middle School







Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru







Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa







Rise Up Academy







Vanguard Military School














 S o across the 5 charter schools, total student enrolment has fallen to 358 and the average minimum operational funding cost per student for 2014 has increased to $20,878.

 In practice, actual funding per student may be higher than these estimated figures, if the school roll has exceeded its “guaranteed minimum roll”, as the contract stipulates funding will be set at the greater of the two.

 One further aspect that disturbs us, is that the Vanguard Military School is sponsored by a for-profit family owned company. Will the fixed revenue stream be spent on the remaining students or will it fall into the Income Statement of the Sponsor?

 QPEC reiterates its call for a review of this controversial policy.

 QPEC also wants to see a major review of school funding take place after the election. It is time to re-examine all aspects of school funding and to seek a more equitable basis for funding our most deserving students and the community schools that serve them.


8 September 2014

ACT Party supports big spending policy – price no object!

The ACT party has foisted a secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment on New Zealand taxpayers with its so-called Partnership Schools.

 ACT, the party of so-called fiscal responsibility, is quite happy to squander more then seventeen million taxpayer dollars on five small schools.

QPEC is concerned the policy has set up the conditions for the same kind of scams, fraud, mismanagement and poor academic performance that is plaguing charter schools in the United States.

Now the Epsom candidate is crowing that the “children are thrilled” to be going to these five schools. QPEC would like to know how the ACT candidate knows this.

No information on these schools is available through the Official Information Act, because the National Government legislated that the schools could work in complete secrecy.

There is no National Standards data so no public record of how they are doing.

We do know that the schools are costing taxpayers more than double the price of a state school education, and that three of the five schools had enrolment numbers below the guaranteed minimum at 31 March.

Local communities concerned were never consulted on whether they even want a so-called partnership school, nor on whether it is needed, nor on how they are expected to continue to offer a quality public education when such a well-funded school is set up alongside them.

QPEC is concerned that the ACT Party, having set these schools up to avoid public disclosure, is now claiming that they are successful, when they cannot know that. All we do know is that they are extremely expensive.

In the light of the Dirty Politics scandal, any political group that trumpets the success of a secretive, taxpayer funded scheme, needs to come under scrutiny.

Candidate David Seymour, who is likely to become an MP due to a deal between National and ACT, has been quite specific in supporting the South Auckland Middle School, a fundamentalist Christian partnership school.

We think it is highly inappropriate for David Seymour to be “going to Wellington”, as he said, to advocate for individual schools, or for a system that deliberately hides funding from taxpayers. Where is the openness and transparency the ACT used to support?


Contact: Dr Liz Gordon 0274545008

Charter school loses 10% of roll

Charter school loses 10% of roll

Wednesday 13 August 2014

The new military charter school on Auckland’s North Shore has lost 10% of its students since opening in February this year, figures released by the Ministry of Education show.

QPEC chairperson Bill Courtney says this is a sign that the charter school experiment is failing, and should quickly be stopped to avoid any more students being disadvantaged.

Vanguard Military School opened in February with 104 students. But according to its 1 July roll return to the Ministry of Education, only 93 students were on the roll 5 months later. This is before the second term had even finished.

“Vanguard is funded for 108 students this year” says Mr Courtney, according to its contract with the Ministry, which has set the “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” at 108 students.

“But unlike state schools, it has lost no funding as a result of these students leaving, as the funding is guaranteed for the year. “

QPEC is questioning what made such a high proportion of students leave. “The Ministry of Education raised concerns during the application process about this school’s military culture and zero-tolerance ethos, and how that would fit with being inclusive. It seems these concerns may have been justified” said Mr Courtney.

“It is well known from the experience of charter schools overseas that charter schools ‘counsel out’ difficult students who could bring down school grades.

Is this something that could well be going on at Vanguard?”


John Banks gives two-fingered salute to parliament with charter school board appointments

John Banks gives two-fingered salute to parliament with charter school board appointments

Media Release - 3 March 2013

Act Party leader and Associate Education Minister John Banks has given a two-fingered salute to parliament with his premature appointment of the government’s new charter school authorisation board.

He is arrogantly undermining the authority of parliament itself which has yet to pass the enabling legislation to even allow these publicly-funded, privately-operated schools to operate.

Act Party appointment to the Charter School Working Group Catherine Isaacs did a similar thing before Xmas when she called for expressions of interest from those wanting to run charter schools – before parliament had heard a single submission on the charter school proposal.

In typical fashion Banks is also setting up charter schools to be an unaccountable success by making it clear the new Board “…will have a role in the regular review and monitoring of their [charter schools] performance to ensure agreed targets are achieved.”

So the same Board that approves school applications will monitor their success. This creates an obvious conflict of interest as those who approve applications will typically be the last to admit failure.

Banks waited till public submissions on the bill ended before making his announcement to avoid criticism of his appointments – none of whom have a track record of improving schooling outcomes for children from low-income communities.

And yet these children are the very group which Act says will be the focus of charter schools.

This is not about improving education for Maori, Pacifika or children from low income communities. Instead these are political appointments to drive a political policy which uses some of our most vulnerable students as guinea pigs for an experiment which has already been an epic fail every country it has been implemented.

Feinberg and Failure

Feinberg and Failure

Comment - 1 October 2012

By any rational measure last week’s New Zealand visit by KIPP charter schools co-founder Mike Feinberg was a failure.

Feinberg was brought here by wealthy “philanthro-capitalist” Julian Robertson to promote the case for charter schools in New Zealand. Feinberg’s KIPP (Knowledge is Power) charter schools were specifically mentioned in the ACT/ National coalition agreement as an example of excellent charter schools which had overcome socio-economic disadvantage and gained excellent achievement for children from low-income communities and ethnic minorities. New Zealand should emulate KIPP we were told. This was of course despite the fact neither party mentioned charter schools in their election policies or during last year’s election campaign.

But despite no obvious interest in charter schools the right-wing thought they could swing New Zealand around to the idea with some old-fashioned barnstorming using a passionate charter school advocate. Feinberg has been successful spinning for charter schools in the US so why wouldn’t he do well in New Zealand?

But it wasn’t to be. Feinberg was here for four days and spoke to public meetings in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland but all the meetings were small and politically insignificant. In Wellington there were 80-100 people, in Christchurch 20 (sic) and in Auckland 102 spread out in an auditorium which could seat 550.

The low turnouts weren’t for the lack of trying. The ACT party promoted the meetings through corporate networks and Feinberg enjoyed lots of positive largely-uncritical media coverage early in his visit. On his arrival in New Zealand for example the New Zealand Herald devoted almost a whole page to a favourable interview with him and included prominent free advertising for his three New Zealand public meetings.

Feinberg did many other radio and TV interviews in the few days leading up to his last Auckland meeting which was clearly designed to be the highlight of the visit – huge auditorium, New Zealand’s largest city, lots of free publicity, charismatic speaker. The recipe seemed right. All that was needed was to get the a big crowd going with an evangelical message of choice and the case would be sealed.

It didn’t work. Only 102 showed up and at least a third were opposed to charter schools. Another third would have been Act Party members and the last third was hard to pick.

Feinberg gave his presentation with lost of passion, personal anecdotes and well rehearsed lines. Nothing surprising there but in question time he was evasive and disingenuous.

The first questioner asked Feinberg about claims KIPP schools had a 40% dropout rate of African American boys. Feinberg said it came from just one school in about 2003 which he implied was a rogue school and that they had fixed up the problem. He was challenged on this later when another questioner (myself) raised the 2011 study by West Michigan University which found an average 30% dropout rate in KIPP schools nationwide before Year 9 and a massive 40% dropout rate for African American boys. Comparable dropout rates in public schools were just 8%.

Feinberg was forced to then acknowledge the research but said it was shoddy and poorly conducted. Instead he said we should read the Mathematica research which was genuinely independent and it said KIPP had similar dropout rates to public schools. When I had a second opportunity later to ask another question I suggested to him the Mathematica research was “vested-interest” research because it was commissioned by KIPP and paid for by KIPP’s corporate backers. Feinberg avoided the question and instead repeated that the West Michigan research was shoddy and paid for by teacher unions as though that negated it automatically. He was warmly applauded by the Act acolytes.

But despite the poor turnouts and lack of resonance with the public the government will press ahead with its charter school proposals because it wants to drive a wedge into public education – especially since it has faced such staunch resistance to its national standards/league tables policies from a sector determined to defend quality public education.

Driving this wedge will mean getting groups or sections of communities to agree to split off from public provision of education. The Charter Schools working group will now redouble its efforts to get Maori and Pacifika groups in particular to buy into charter schools before the first proposals are sought from interested groups next year for a 2014 start.

QPEC will continue to work to resist charter schools because we know from what’s happened overseas that proposals such as these weaken and undermine public education and have the most negative impact ont he very students they are supposed to help. Whether its beneficiary bashing, charter schools, league tables, the government is using the poor to advance the agenda of the 1%.


John Minto

National Chairperson



Resources on KIPP and charter schools:

  1. The Research on charter schools by the Massey University Policy Response Group is here.
  2. QPEC’s leaflet on charter schools is here.




The charter-mongers

Tonight, Mike Feinberg will speak at a public meeting in Christchurch about the amazing success of his KIPP schools. The ‘Knowledge is Power Programme’ runs 125 schools across the US enrolling 40,000 students. It was mentioned by John Banks as the kind of programme to be encouraged here.

Feinberg’s visit has been funded by the Aotearoa Foundation, which is the local arm of the right wing USA-based Robertson Foundation. The philosophy of this new breed of ‘philanthrocapitalist’ is to use corporate giving to influence government policy, in particular towards the privatisation of public goods such as education. There is therefore a hidden agenda underlying this visit.

After 20 years of charter schools and thousands of new schools opened, the overall position of American schools on international league tables should have improved dramatically if the policy had been successful. It has not, and the USA is many places below New Zealand schools on scores of literacy, numeracy and science.

KIPP claims excellent results for its students. With a school day from 7.30am to 5pm, and several hours compulsory, supervised homework each night, plus half a day on Saturday, there is certainly plenty of time for learning. The emphasis is on learning to pass standardised tests, and on good behaviour. Concern has been expressed about the boot-camp mentality. One researcher, Howard Berlak, noted the following:

When I was there children who followed all the rules were given points that could be exchanged for goodies at the school store. Those who resisted the rules or were slackers wore a large sign pinned to their clothes labelled "miscreant." Miscreants sat apart from the others at all times including lunch, were denied recess and participation in all other school projects and events.. . . . I've spent many years in schools. This one felt like a humane, low security prison or something resembling a locked-down drug rehab program for adolescents…

The dropout rate is high. Children who fail standardised tests at each year level are kept back, and many leave and return to the public system. Thus unsuccessful students are weeded out early. The dropout rate before Year 9 (age 13) is around 30%, compared to 6% at public schools.

Most of the teachers are young and lack experience. Many are graduates of the ‘Teach for America’ programme which fast-tracks teacher education. The dropout rate is very high. Typically, they leave after two years, because they work unsustainably long hours (up to 70 or 80 hours a week is common) on relatively low pay. They burn out.

KIPP schools are very well resourced with government funding and tens of millions of dollars in corporate donations. The average public school child in the US attracts eleven thousand dollars, while the KIPP schools have per capita funding of $18,000.

In his visit so far, Mike Feinberg has been surprisingly muted about the stated success of his schools. He says they are not a silver bullet but another ‘choice’ for parents. This is a very revealing statement, as the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is also using the ‘no silver bullet’ analogy, as has the Secretary for Education, Lesley Longstone, the head of the now-rebranded Business Roundtable and the head of the charter schools NZ initiative Catherine Isaacs. This feels like subtle political management to me.

Those living in Christchurch might ask the question why, if choice is so good, it is being reduced here through proposed school closure or merger. Is this a dastardly plot to soften us up for charter schools? Are we being prepared for a new menu of ‘choice’ in education here?   Is the Christchurch rebuild going to be used to import new models of privatised education into the city?

Choice, by itself, does not raise educational standards. I am highly suspicious of models of assertive discipline in schools that treat children in ways that none of us, as parents, would treat our own.

The National Standards data released this week has revealed for all to see (teachers have always known it) that there are big educational and social gaps between our children. But is the upshot of that the need to enrol poor kids in school boot camp? Isn’t that a little dire? And does it work, anyway?

In recent years the Ministry of Education and low-decile schools have worked tirelessly to overcome the educational gaps. Here in Christchurch there are some fabulous low-decile schools and teachers that break their backs to help their students. I do not believe that the KIPP model, or charter schools generally, offer anything better for us. Not a silver bullet indeed – rather a shotgun that will fragment our high quality public education system.

Mike Feinberg will speak at 6.30 Wednesday night at Undercroft, basement of University of Canterbury main library, James Height Building

Christchurch consultant - government proposals for Christchurch schooling a “tangled mess”

Christchurch consultant - government proposals for Christchurch schooling a “tangled mess”

Media Release - 16 September 2012

The proposals for Christchurch School closures, mergers and changes reflect a confusing mass of conflicting purposes, reasons and justifications, according to a local education expert.

Liz Gordon, a Christchurch-based educational consultant and Deputy Chairperson of the Quality Public Education Coalition, spoke of her bewilderment and despair on reading the list.

Dr Gordon said that the most worrying thing was a lack of discussion and consultation within communities.

The Quality Public Education Coalition is requesting that the Ministry of Education go back to the drawing board. “The plan is ill-informed and anomalous. It should never have been released in that form. As others have said, all it has done is cause upset and concern across the city. We really could have done without this.”

Dr Gordon wants the Ministry of Education to withdraw the plan, and start again. “There is an opportunity to really improve educational provision and results over the next 20 years in this city. This will not be achieved by top-down mergers, but by serving communities effectively.

“The Ministry needs to compile a public consultation document that includes population projections, civil aspirations, providing services that overcome educational disadvantage in poorer communities, and a city-wide discussion over our educational futures.

Dr Gordon calls on all parties for a democratic, integrated, aspirational and planned model of schooling for the city into the future, not “the tangled mess released this week”.

13 public schools in Christchurch to close – how many will reopen as charter schools?

13 public schools in Christchurch to close – how many will reopen as charter schools?

Media Release - 14 September 2012

QPEC is calling on the government to come clean over the decision to close 13 public schools in Christchurch as part of an educational re-organisation following the city’s earthquakes.

It appears the wholesale closure of public schools in the city is at least in part to make room for charter schools to take their place.

We saw this happen after Hurricane Katrina devastated the US city of New Orleans and private profiteers worked with the government to close the city’s public schools and reopen them as charter schools run for private profit.

Will some of these 13 schools be closed as public schools only to be reopened in 2014 as profit-making charter schools? Which sites have been quietly earmarked by government ministers and the private business lobbyists as sites for charter schools?

Christchurch was specifically targeted for at least one charter school at the time coalition agreement between Act and National after last year’s election. Auckland was the other centre suggested for a charter school.

Since then Act’s ambitions have grown with Charter Schools promoter Catherine Isaac now talking publicly of up to 30 charter schools. How many of these will be in Christchurch?

We know no-one can trust Charter Schools Minister John Banks so we want the Prime Minister to assure the people of Christchurch and New Zealand that no public school which is closed will be re-opened as a charter school. Such a move would be an insult to people of Christchurch – its students, parents and teachers.

A good start for Labour on education policy

A good start for Labour on education policy

Media Release - 10 September 2012

QPEC is pleased to see the Labour Party begin to announce some significant improvements in its education policy compared to National’s dangerous drive to undermine public education.

The policies announced yesterday by Labour leader David Shearer are a good start. We would be delighted to see the end of National Standards and league tables; a commitment to feed children at low-decile schools and increased resources to help children falling behind.

It was also refreshing to hear a party leader say “a great public school system is important”. This contrasts sharply with National's attempts to belittle public school and teachers at every opportunity and blows away the foetid atmosphere created by National’s policies for charter schools, league tables and so-called performance pay for teachers.

QPEC will be keen to see further details of this policy and we hope future announcements will include policies to dramatically reduce pupil/teacher ratios in schools in low-income communities as the most effective way to improve student achievement for groups of children, predominantly Maori and Pacifika, who are falling behind.

ERO - a biased political weapon for the government

ERO - a biased political weapon for the government

Media Release - 30 August 2012

Another month and another biased ERO report attacking schools, principals and teachers.

ERO claimed yesterday’s report was a “wake-up” call for teachers, principals and Boards of Trustees and highlighted what it said was schools’ “three most important shortcomings” –  schools need to focus on the needs of individual students, provide a rich curriculum and use assessment results to plan their teaching.

This report is meaningless because it is so negative and biased. It lacks the balance and independence that is essential to its national evaluation function. In this report, ERO has simply trawled through four years of reports to pick out and highlight the most negative aspects of teaching and learning they could find and then launch a broadside against public schools. 

New Zealand has an excellent public education system which overall stands close to the top of OECD rankings but listening to the ERO one would think our children attended banana republic schools.

The report is also completely useless as a practical guide for schools to improve teaching and learning. This is incompatible with ERO's claim to want to 'assess and assist schools'. So what is its purpose?

It seems clear the report is part of government plans to “soften up” parents to see public schools in a negative light and so support the government’s destructive drive for performance pay for teachers, national standards, league tables and charter schools.

By acting in this biased way, the ERO has become the mouthpiece for the government, picking on public education with such broad political attacks that make it impossible for schools to respond effectively.  

Dealing with an ERO report like this is like trying to wrestle with a marshmallow.

We saw this in the 1990s when schools in low-income communities were ERO’s soft targets – now it’s the entire public education system.

If ERO continues to produce such biased reports lacking in objectivity then parents will rightly lose confidence in using their findings.

The ERO must become a genuine evaluation agency of the education system rather than the willing political weapon it has allowed itself to become.

Class size matters the most where students are struggling

Class size matters the most where students are struggling

Published in Dompost - 15 June 2012

Relief at the government abandoning increasing class sizes needs to quickly change to focus on improving student achievement.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has said as much and the education sector must take her at her word and be prepared to collaborate in developing policy.

The first thing to recognise is that overall our education system is a world beater. Our kids consistently perform close to the top of international comparisons in the key areas of reading, science and maths. We regularly outperform the US, UK and Australia.

In the latest international survey (2012) from 34 OCED countries New Zealand students were ranked fourth in reading literacy, fourth in scientific literacy and seventh in mathematical literacy.

Since these PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) surveys started in 2000 New Zealand has stayed close to the top while other countries have struggled. As our Teachers Council reported last week “Australia has recorded a significant decline since 2000 on all the skills measured. England has slipped from seventh in 2000 to 25th in reading, eighth to 28th in maths and fourth to 16th in science. The United States only rates around the average of all OECD countries.”

If our athletes in London competed as well internationally as our students and teachers we’d be deluged with medals.

Prime Minister John Key complains that despite adding additional teachers in recent years our student achievement has “flatlined” over the past decade. That’s true but we are flat lining at the top, which should be a source of pride and only a single country from the original top 10 performers from the first PISA survey, Korea, actually increased its reading literacy score over the last 10 years. Compared to the countries whose ideas the government wants us to emulate, the UK (free schools) and US (charter schools), are dropping or have flatlined well below us.

What is also clear is that our teachers and schools achieve this with lower funding than other OECD countries. Again the Teachers Council reported “New Zealand consistently scores in the top half dozen OECD countries, even though, according to the evidence gathered by the OECD, we spend far less per student than nearly all of the other 34 OECD nations.”

In the words of Massey University’s Professor of Education John O’Neill “...one can reasonably argue that New Zealand schools are underfunded, but overachieve.”

All this should be a matter of huge national pride so why is the government constantly belittling our teachers and schools. During last year’s election campaign John Key told the country that our schools were letting down New Zealand kids. How pathetic is that? We need to ask him why the government doesn’t offer its warmest congratulations to our students, teachers and schools. International success like this is fantastic and it’s easy to make the case that our schools are the brightest spots across our entire economy.

It’s also important to recognise that New Zealand has achieved these high levels of success through a strong public education system. 96% of New Zealand children are educated in public schools while education systems which are in crisis and failing such as the US and UK have highly fractured education provision based on a false notion of “choice” where the most important choice – a high quality school in the local neighbourhood – has been lost to many. Their attempts to improve through so-called “charter schools”, more private funding and getting businesses to run schools have paralysed progress in lifting student achievement. They should be emulating us and not the other way round.

In fact across all OECD countries those with the highest levels of student achievement, such as New Zealand, have their successes based on high quality public education as a right of citizenship.

In Finland, which has the best performing education system in the world there are no private schools but the government has heavily invested in public education with the funding focused for equality and equity and ensuring that every school is a good school. Now there is something worth emulating.

But all is not perfect and the Minister is right to point to significant numbers of students who are still failing in education. There will always be students who don’t do so well for a host of reasons but our Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf is right to point out that we have more low-scoring students than the other high-performing countries.

These students are disproportionately Maori, Pacifika and working class kids in our low-income communities.

What Makhlouf didn’t say however is that there is a strong co-relation between poor educational results for kids from low-income communities and the degree of income inequality in a country. It’s no surprise then that in New Zealand, where we have had the fastest growing gap between rich and poor over the past generation, we have kids left behind. Lower achievement for kids from families on the lowest incomes follows inequality like night follows day.

The same applies for other social problems we are all too familiar with: child abuse, violent crime, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy and poor mental health. If we are serious about addressing these problems we must rebalance our economy so every family is brought in from the cold.

This is the unpalatable truth the government and Treasury must face but there’s no point holding our breath waiting...

So what should we be doing in the meantime?

There is enough local evidence now that the single policy which would make the greatest difference in lifting the achievement of Maori, Pacifika and kids from low-income communities would be to decrease class sizes in our lower decile schools and couple this with intensive professional development for teachers to adapt their teaching to the new learning environment. So while reducing class size doesn’t appear to score as highly as teacher performance in lifting achievement overall, the local research shows it has differential effects for different groups of kids with the kids we need to target benefiting the most.

Lowering class sizes at high decile schools where high parental expectations match high teacher expectations would not necessarily make much difference. But where home circumstances mean learning outcomes depend more heavily on the teacher alone then small class sizes and closer relationships between students and teachers become key drivers in improving achievement.

We shouldn’t accept second best for any of our kids and this means significant investment directly into the classrooms where our underachievers predominate. Class size matters for these kids more than most. Our teachers have shown they are world beaters – why not give them the resources to get all our kids to the top?

John Minto

National Chairperson

Quality Public Education Coalition


After the backdown....where to save money?

After the backdown....where to save money?

8 June 2012-06-08 


Saving $114 million in government spending is now the challenge facing Education Minister Hekia Parata and Finance Minister Bill English following the backdown on plans to increase class sizes.


QPEC suggests that if these savings are needed they can be can be made partly from inside education and we suggest the government start by:

  • Removing government subsidies for private schools which enable these schools to keep average class sizes of 12 students while public schools have on average more than double that student teacher ratio. Saving over $60 million per year.
  • Scrap the Aspire scholarship scheme which funds private schools to select 250 students ($16,500 each) to bolster private school funding and academic and sporting results. Saving $4.13 million per year.

Any other funded needed should come from higher income earners who currently pay virtually the same tax as those on low incomes if GST is considered alongside income tax.

QPEC does not support stripping funding from other sectors within education to make up the difference.

Education Minister shows arrogant disregard for parents and teachers

Education Minister shows arrogant disregard for parents and teachers

Media Release - 6 June 2012

Education Minister Hekia Parata’s refusal to meet with education sector groups together today in the face of outrage at the government’s decision to increase class sizes at public schools shows an arrogant disregard for the parents and teachers.

The Minister has backed herself into a corner and instead of trying to work with the sector to change the policy and is now digging in for a fight. Her statement that there will be no backdown on this hugely unpopular policy reinforces the enmity for public education which seems hard-wired into National’s DNA.

Parata is trying to cloak this attack on public education by saying one in five students is failing and the objective is to raise achievement for those students.

However the research evidence is clear that the very students the Minister says she wants to help would suffer the most if class sizes increase. Massey University’s Professor John O’Neill wrote to the Minister in February pointing out that any decision to increase class sizes would impact most on students already failing. He pointed out that even education researcher John Hattie, much quoted by the government, concluded in his major research project that “...increasing class size is poor policy.”

This is a political decision to undermine public education rather than an educational decision to raise achievement.

QPEC will be working with education sector groups to campaign to have this policy reversed.

$43 million should be saved from private school subsidy

$43 million should be saved from private school subsidy

31 May 2012


QPEC is calling on the Minister of Education to save $43 million from education by reducing the government subsidy to private schools rather than increasing class sizes at public schools.

In the New Zealand Herald this morning the executive director of the Independent Schools Association said the average class size among their 44 member private schools is around 12 students with a maximum class size of 16 students. In public schools the average class is size is around 25 with many classes well over 30.

At private schools:

Average class size of 12, maximum 16

No children with significant special needs

No children with significant behavioural problems

Few children with serious learning difficulties

Educate 4% of our children

22% increase in government funding in 2012


At public schools:

Average class size of 25, classes of over 30 typical

Children with special needs included in “mainstream” classes

Many children with significant behavioural problems

Many children with significant learning difficulties

Educate 96% of our children

Government aims to “save” $43 million each year by increasing class sizes

Government subsidies for private schools have increased from $40 million when National took office to more than $70 million today. In 2010 the increase was 22.3% with similar annual increases since.

We believe the government should save the $43 million they are claiming by reducing the taxpayer subsidy to private schools rather than by increasing class sizes at public schools.

The educational needs are much greater in public schools and the government should act accordingly.

Government hypocrisy protects small classes at elite private schools

Government hypocrisy protects small classes at elite private schools

30 May 2012

QPEC remains implacably opposed to any increase in class sizes at public schools despite yesterday’s backdown when schools were given the “good news” they wouldn’t lose more than two teachers.

The “good news” is appalling news because larger classes mean:

Less individual time for each student with their teacher

More difficulty for students to develop strong learning relationships with their teachers

Less teacher time for students who are struggling or for children with special education needs. (This is supposed to be a key focus for this government)

Greater stress on teachers

Prime Minister John Key and Associate Education Minister John Banks expect small class sizes for their own children at Kings College where the school “philosophy” says:

"Class sizes are limited and our policy of a low pupil-to-teacher ratio ensures students are given greater individual attention in the classroom".

However while preaching austerity for the 96% of children who attend public schools the government has protected these small class sizes for the 4% attending private schools – which includes the children of more than half our cabinet ministers.

Government subsidies to private schools increased by 22.3% in 2010 and over 20% in each of the following two years to almost double in the first three years of John Key’s National government.

It’s hypocritical for the government to preach austerity at public schools but lavish funding on private schools where they disproportionately send their own children.

QPEC is urging the government to abandon its plans to increase class sizes.