There was a prescient moment at Wednesday night’s Tick For Kids education forum in Wellington.
Hekia Parata had just wound up, and Tracey Martin MP took her place at the lectern. Without a pause she said that the education sector had been under prolonged and determined attack from this government.
And then, boom, she underlined the exact problem in education at the moment.
It was sublime
The trouble, said Martin, is that what Hekia Parata says and what she intends are not the same thing.
In other words, the Minister speaks with forked tongue.
This was particularly prescient because later in the week we were to hear from Nicky Hager that this modus operandi is almost National Party policy: Say what sounds good and do what you like.
The trouble for Hekia Parata is that teachers and parents have already noticed the discrepancy between what is said and what is done.
This is why we mistrust the Minister.
A history of forked tongedness
We heard her say she was looking at funding schools based on achievement outcomes for students.
She denied it.
We heard Hekia say she would consult fairly with the schools she intended to merge or close in Christchurch.
We heard her say, when announcing the proposed closures and mergers of Christchurch schools, “This is genuine consultation.”
We heard her say of Christchurch schools “We’ve done everything we can to try and minimise that on the back of what’s been a very difficult situation.”
We heard her say at her announcement to close Salisbury School that ““[a]t the very heart of this difficult decision lies the opportunity to provide services and support for more children with complex needs in their local community.”
The decision to close Salisbury had been made in 2011, before the review was even announced. And just ask the community in Phillipstown how well they feel they were listened to during the ‘consultations’.
And so back to this week’s education forum.
Spin, avoidance and outright untruths
With our own ears, a packed room heard Hekia say that special needs is an area of special focus for her.
She said the majority of parents and teachers were pleased with National Standards.
She said the new wraparound service for children with special education needs is working well.
She said IES is just the ticket for improving schools.
She said the select committee took heed of submissions on EDUCANZ.
Like hell they did.
She said partnership schools are doing well.
She said the biggest impact on student achievement is good teachers.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
And she said there is not a problem with low morale in the education sector.
You have GOT to be %$#@*&^ kidding me, lady!
Seeing through the obfuscation
You see, many of us sat there through the Education Amendment Bill submissions, both the first and the second lot, and we heard many, many people make incredible well reasoned arguments for changes to the proposals. And we saw the Minister each time make just a teeny token change to appease the masses and allow a positive press release. The rest was completely ignored. The plan was cut and dried before anyone submitted a thing.
And so now we know all too well what Hekia’s brand of consultation looks like.
Does it look like the Minister has told us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?
And have you any reason to believe, given another term, she’d be any better?
As Hager says in Dirty Politics, “how easy it is to spin and manipulate.”
Look at the evidence. Don’t fall for it.
Sources and further reading: