GUEST BLOG: Catherine Delahunty – National’s Dangerous Education Agenda Exposed


Putting aside the dirty politics coming out of the Beehive and the right-wing blogisphere, there are some very strong signals that another term of a National Government would do even more serious damage to the public education system.

The Education Ministry’s latest statement of intent provides some clues as to what may be ahead, but poses more questions about just what might be up.

As usual, the plan for education is cloaked in the unique doublespeak so beloved by the Minister. In the absence of plain English, I have some questions about some of the gems lurking in the Statement of Intent.

Firstly, what on earth does the Ministry mean when it says it is “shifting its focus to stewardship”? Is it the same stewardship now imposed on the Department of Conservation which means facilitating commercial access and sponsorship deals, such as for mining? Does it mean that the Ministry is no longer the captain of the good ship education but is rather overseeing, or guiding other people’s ships? This “overseeing” role seems to be what stewardship means and I think anyone who cares about public education should be very worried about the implications of this so called shift in focus.

Many of us are concerned about National’s almost exclusive focus on narrow definitions of achievement. Perhaps the most worrying of their targets for achievement are the code words around early childhood in the statement.

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The Ministry says it will use the Early learning Information System “to help identify particular trends and  the effectiveness of children’s learning”.

This is seriously concerning. What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning? There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ‘3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers. If you believe measurement is proof of young children’s learning, there is a logic to this approach. If you know anything about the human brain and educational pedagogy, you know it will not work.

The Early learning Information System (ELI) is an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record the children’s enrolment and attendance. If centres do not send in their data on enrolment and attendance it can affect their funding.
The Green Party, along with the ECE sector, has previously expressed concerns about how the ELI could be used to track kids for the purposes of applying sanctions to beneficiary parents who don’t meet their so-called ‘social obligations’ to have their kids attending preschool.

The problem with National’s drive to get preschool bums on seats – its 98 per cent enrolment target – is that it does not discriminate between a quality centre or a crap one.

If National cared about quality, it would ‘t have given $1.8 million to a wealthy business called Kidicorp to set up shop all over South Auckland and Porirua.

If National cared about quality, it wouldn’t have scrapped the review into the home-based sector, where there were serious concerns about safety and quality, and it wouldn’t have focussed on getting disadvantaged, Maori, and Pasifika kids into this sector to boost its chances of meeting its enrolment targets.

My conclusion is that National does not care about quality at all. It cares about meeting its targets.

The Greens have exposed the plan to allow Charter schools for babies which included some kind of outcomes-based funding. This all reeks of National Standards for babies.

We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children.

We have to fight for quality public education which means a new Government on September 20.

The goal of education is to create equity so all children have the opportunity to thrive and we need the Greens in Government to ensure this happens!



Catherine Delahunty is a Green MP from the Hauraki/ Coromandel. She was brought up to be an activist in a left wing Wellington family and works on social and environmental justice from a Te Tiriti o Waitangi perspective. Catherine is education spokesperson for the Greens.



  1. We must stop the National ruin of education. Well said Catherine! The harm National would wreak with more time is devastating, and it must come to the fore as an election issue of prime importance. Catherine would be an excellent Minister of Education. Vote National Out. It is imperative.

  2. ” I really believe very strongly that the willful undermining of universal public education by our governments and the direct or indirect encouragement of private education is the most flagrant betrayal of the basic principles of middle-class representative democracy in the last 50 years.” John Ralston Saul

  3. Thanks you for addressing this. I could not agree more that it is a huge area of concern, and that the Ministry and the Minister need to be very clear what their intentions are. Parents do not want preschoolers tested or judged against benchmarks that do not reflect how children learn. It is madness in Primary schools – utter lunacy in preschool.

    My take on it all is here:

  4. Well said, Catherine!

    It’s a shame this is not discussed in the MSM with the same vigour as dirty politics and sex scandals.

    It’s the msm that makes pious noises about “focusing on policies” – and then focuses on tabloid-style sensational Gaffe Journalism.

    Let’s hope the message get’s through during the election campaign.

  5. This just out from Catherine Delahunty – the Greens:

    “Latest F for Hekia Parata

    The Green Party agrees with the need for more collaboration and non-contact time for teachers, but disagrees that the Government’s hierarchical approach is the way to achieve that, said the Green Party today.

    The NZEI today voted with a 93 percent majority to reject the Government’s flagship education policy.

    “This is the latest of the Minister’s expensive flagship education policies that she has failed to get over the line,” said Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty today.

    “Hekia Parata needs to stop meddling with the system and start working with it instead.

    “Research shows the best way to improve education for disadvantaged kids is to mitigate the impact of poverty on their lives and this is where the Green Party would start.

    “The Green Party’s School Hubs plan provides nurses, school food, and community support that mitigates the impact of poverty and frees teachers up to teach.

    “In government we will work with both secondary and primary teachers on the best way to achieve collaboration in the sector,” said Ms Delahunty.

    Subject: Education”

    I reckon this sounds awesome. Go Greens. FHP

    • NZEI have been very foolish in rejecting the offer to engage with the government on this. They’ll just end up having it imposed on them by legislation, as with National Standards, and without any of the compromises PPTA has won by engaging in the process. The more the primary union acts like a branch of the Labour Party the less credibility they’ll have on education issues.

      • They certainly did the right thing I reckon.

        Time to revolutionise our education systems, and they will soon be able to do this – once FJK is gone on 20th September.

        Love your education policy Greens, and looking forward to seeing it in action, with Labour at your side soon.


  6. Bring it on!

    Hopefully we see the beginnings of the creative economy here. Which means social change and revisiting what it means to be ‘democratic’. Catherine – Paulo Friere in Brazil, education begins at the bottom, is free and accessible to all, particularly the poor and disadvantaged. Key’s policies are the antithesis of good pedagogy, and fly in the face of what Paulo and others have taught for years. If you’re interested in current pedagogy movements visit and check out the ‘Leaders of Learning’ document.

    Greens have grabbed my vote.

  7. It is worrying the emphasis that is emerging from some in our society with regards the development of their children and grandchildren. How often do you hear the boast “little Johnny” or “little Sarah” can write his/her own name – and they are only 2, 3, or whatever. The younger the better! This is the desire of considerable sector of our society today unfortunately. They are the mums and dads who will also drive their darlings off to dance lessons, gym, sport, swimming, and music – whatever in an endless desire for their young child to be the best. Not that there is anything wrong with giving young children a variety of experiences, but to think this is all there is, to the detriment of just allowing children to play and be with others is sad. It is to this sector – who will be upper-middle class young “professionals” two income families of elevated socio-economic status.They are also likely to be strong supporters of National. It is to this group by and large that Herekia Parata pitches her policy. They want their little ones to be taught the 3 R’s! They have little or no understanding of children’s development. They think they do. They went to school after all! But they, by and large, know nothing.
    They, more than likely, also missed out on a very important development stage at ages 2 – 5, learning how to live with others. By demanding lessons, rather than play, they are also denying their children the learning they really need – socialisation skills, and understand that we are all the same and yet all different.
    Meanwhile, the Green’s holistic approach for all Children, the implementation of Hubs in schools, the emphasis on education for all ,
    “4. Investing $500 million per year in children’s health and education to reduce the harm of poverty”
    is the most positive thing I’ve heard in Education in the 50 years I have been an educator. Kia kaha Catherine.

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