[Sitting date: 31 May 2012. Volume:680;Page:2756. Text is subject to correction.]
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the
Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister of Education; if so, why?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: Yes; because she is a hard-working Minister working to build a brighter future for New Zealand. In particular, she is focusing on lifting achievement for the one in five young Kiwis who does not currently succeed in the New Zealand education system.
Grant Robertson: Has he received any advice from the Minister of Education on the impact of changing staff-student ratios on primary schools that provide technology centres and classes for students from a number of other schools?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I do not have that information to hand.
Grant Robertson: Has the Minister—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have been down this track before. I think the Minister should not have said “On behalf of the Prime Minister, I do not …”, because what he is effectively saying is that the Prime Minister does not, and he does not, know that. I think he should be saying that he is not aware whether the Prime Minister has that information. It is quite important when it comes to later stages.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I accept the technicality the member makes, but I think one has to accept—if we got that technical about all questions and answers in this House, I think we would be in some difficulty.
Grant Robertson: Has the Minister of Education advised him that the cumulative effect of a number of contributing schools and the provider school losing up to two staff will be that they will not be able to afford to send students to technology centres such as that offered at Mt Cook School in Wellington, and that those centres may have to close?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not familiar with the exact issue the member raises, but it is important to point out the key element of this policy, which is that over the last 10 years teacher numbers have grown by over 12 percent while student numbers have—
Hon Member: Student rolls.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, they have not. They have grown by only about 2 percent over the last 10 years. At the same time we have had no further improvement in achievement in our education system. So the Minister and the Government have taken some decisions to invest in quality. We have made it absolutely clear that no school will be affected by more than two full-time teacher equivalents by this change.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a newsletter from Mt Cook School in Wellington that has been released to parents today that says that its technology centre will close in 2013 unless the funding policy in the Budget is dropped.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Grant Robertson: Is the Prime Minister concerned that technology centres such as the one at Mt Cook School in Wellington may have to close as a result of the policies being implemented by his Government in Budget 2012?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. We are very focused on supporting technology education at levels 7 and 8. I would point out two things. The Minister has made it clear that 90 percent of schools will be affected, either positively or negatively, by one full-time teacher equivalent position, and the other 10 percent by up to two full-time teacher equivalent positions. Beyond that the schools make their own decisions as to how they allocate their staff funding around the teachers in the school.
Barbara Stewart: How can he have confidence in the Minister of Education when her department is planning to close residential special schools throughout New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have all that information to hand today, but I would point out again that everything this Minister does is focused on lifting achievement of New Zealand’s young people, and I am absolutely confident she is passionate about doing that.
Grant Robertson: Has the Minister of Education informed him of what she will say to schools that, even with the slowing down of the cuts, will be forced to choose between cutting Reading Recovery programmes or programmes for gifted children, or reducing staffing and increasing class sizes?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Schools every day manage their number of teachers according to the roll they have at the time, and they make their own decisions as to how they allocate that funding to best teach the New Zealand curriculum and to give the best possible education to their students. We have said, and have made it absolutely clear, that the effect of this change will be no more than two full-time teacher equivalents for 10 percent of schools, and only one, positive or minus, for the other 90 percent of schools. I am confident that professional schools will work with the change.
Grant Robertson: Will he step in to stop the closure of technology centres such as the one at Mt Cook School if they have to close as a result of the cuts being made by his Government?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The reality is that those decisions are not made by the Ministry of Education or the Minister. Those decisions are made by the schools. If they did decide that they wanted to present technology in a different way, with a different provision model, that would be their decision, and this change will not require them to do so.
Grant Robertson: If he is prepared to intervene to ensure that technology education can continue in intermediate schools, why is he not prepared to intervene to say that technology centres in primary schools can carry on operating?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is obviously not listening. The answer to the question is the same as the previous answer. We have made it absolutely clear that 90 percent of schools will be either up one full-time teacher equivalent or down one, or about the same, and schools will make their own decisions within that as to how they allocate their resources—as they always have done. The same will apply to the other 10 percent, where any change will be limited to two full-time teacher equivalents.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question about why the Government is prepared to intervene for intermediate schools and not for primary schools. There was no—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have listened to the answers quite carefully and I believe that, in the answer to the previous question on which that supplementary question was based, the Minister in replying said that it was a matter for the schools to organise how they delivered the curriculum, and the Government would not be stepping in to tell them how to do it—if I heard the Minister correctly. So that is why the Minister, in answering
the last supplementary question, suggested that the member asking it had not been listening, because in asking the question the member implied that the Government would step in, and the Minister’s answer had indicated exactly the opposite—it would not step in to tell the school how to organise its affairs.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Further to that point of order, I think the point of the question was that the Government has stepped in to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The point of a question may be one thing; the question that is asked is the matter the Speaker has to deal with and the Minister has to answer. The question that was asked gave the Minister the chance to answer in the way he did, and that is why in my view it was an acceptable answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, I think you should review—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!