A primary school teacher from Tauranga, Vanessa Millar, has urged politicians to keep children out of political disputes, likening them to being used as a “political rugby ball”. Speaking at the NZEI Te Riu Roa annual conference in Rotorua, Millar asked representatives from four major parties about their plans to make education a collaborative cross-party issue, which was met with applause from educators present.
Millar highlighted that frequently changing policies and the absence of a shared vision were detrimental to children’s future.
Jan Tinetti from the Labour Party expressed her agreement, stating that children are invaluable, and politics should not interfere with education. Erica Stanford of the National Party emphasised the value of diverse ideas and debates within the sector.
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait of Te Pāti Māori was skeptical of cross-party collaboration, while Teanau Tuiono from the Green Party supported Tinetti’s sentiment, suggesting that if enough parties unite, progress could be achieved.
Education policies of the parties vary:
- National Party aims to ban cell phones in schools, emphasize core subjects, rewrite the curriculum, and introduce exit exams for teachers.
- Labour Party focuses on continuing school lunches, making financial literacy compulsory, mandating teaching methods for core subjects, and offering resources to help teachers with new regulations.
- Green Party advocates ending classroom streaming, trying alternative school governance models, universally teaching te reo Māori and tikanga Māori, and creating a ministry unit to prioritize children’s voices.
- Te Pāti Māori emphasizes kaupapa Māori education, allocating a significant part of the education budget to Māori models, banning school expulsions for students under 16, and waiving apprenticeship fees.