GUEST BLOG: Kelvin Smythe – Hekia Parata fighting for her job



There was the lie in parliament swearing on the bible that she consulted with a Christchurch special needs group about the proposed change to targeted funding.

That, even for her, was unusually reckless.

The signs of increasing growing desperation about the so-called ‘big shake-up’ – but that is only a small part of the miasma over which Hekia is responsible.

She knows, except for some academic and principal cronies, she won’t be missed, and that she will go down in education as the worst minister of education ever, unparalleled in never allowing a fact go by without seriously interfering with it.

Deep down she knows history will condemn her, the most chilling condemnation, in particular, will be her betrayal of Maori children with her pernicious 18% rhetoric; and the most horrendous, in general, creating education mayhem with her leadership style; locked as she is into an inability, because of her personality, to introduce education change, even in the rare circumstance where it meant good, without revelling in the power of imposition and thereby destroying possibility of that good.

With all this I said ‘Hah!’ get ready for the profile spin, she will be fearful for her job.

And on 27 September there it was in the NZ Herald; what a strange foundling of an article it was by Nicholas Jones. He had obviously been called in by Hekia’s media team and handed the bundle.

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There was a potted history of the girl from Ruatoria being marvellous scattered throughout the article, along with bits and pieces of the so-called shake-up and some comment from education spokespeople.

It had the structure of a squashed jellyfish

So there it was, ostensibly about the big shake-up but really about Parata trying to come across as the Ruatoria girl next door: we get loads of family references, for instance, crossing the Waiapu on horseback to go to the rugby, her secondary school principal father, and a lot of attention to All Blacks (even an actual tweet sending best wishes to the World Cup squad), then a reference to Waikato university days and ‘helping to get the Hamilton game called off’ (sorry Hekia I was there, and all the other weeks before, noticed Donna but not you). This attempt at making her a real person slithers about for three long pages.

The article in its formlessness and idiosyncrasy unprecedented surely  in newspaper history.

Something is up and that indicates Hekia is in danger of coming down.

For Hekia to use this populist, down-home stuff to distract from the way she has ripped the heart out of New Zealand schools, especially primary schools, and to further her plans for more rough surgery (better called the ‘big shakedown’), demonstrates she senses a problem of tenure, and she knows it.

She knew there was a Herald article in the offing demonstrating that NCEA is an education fraud of her construction. And she knew that the article wasn’t even going to get to the real point of the NCEA shambles – that of manipulation within the manipulation described, and it being symptomatic of whole-of-system failure.

For all that million dollar smile and oleaginous demeanour what a cold-hearted minister of education she has been. In her pursuit of putting down teachers and public education she can’t help herself from, in the end, hurting children, especially vulnerable children. I have mentioned Maori children above (oh yes let them eat cake);  now, once again, children with special needs. She once notoriously hinted that special needs children are a result of poor teaching and teachers should just get on with it; and here we have the miserly funded targeted provision, but even more, if bulk funding came in, it would be special needs children that would suffer most.

She knows but doesn’t care.

And there are other things in the offing aren’t there Hekia? you know what I mean. And I don’t mean the mess that is clusters and the questions Treasury is asking about them.



“Kelvin Smythe was a primary school teacher, teachers college lecturer, and senior inspector of schools. He has been battling the neoliberal agenda in New Zealand education since 1989.”


  1. I remember Ms Parata a couple of years ago hooking up to the notion that a couple of years of having very good teachers would overcome the affects of poverty.

    The reality of that is bewildering. On Monday waif goes along to school at 8.30 in the morning, out of the desperation of their home, to work with a skilled enthusiastic, positive adult. At 3.00 the bell rings and she goes back to the real world. And Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday. If she gets there. So the injection in 32 of the 168 hours of some of the weeks was the magic, the antidote to the other 136 hours.

    If the family didn’t have to move somewhere else.

    (As an aside, if the teacher did not have the child reach the National Standards, the teacher had failed, the school had failed.)

    It is stunning that Hekia Parata is the Minister of Education in a country like ours.

    Of course she is the most perfect person to be the Minister of Education for the John Key/Bill English government.

    At the same time Hekia Parata is the least suitable person in the world to have anything to do with children and learning and an education system.

  2. Poor Hekia – in denial and so unaware of the real issues and real problems. Parata thinks she is so clever. She is a good little mouthpiece, a phony woman spewing superficial nonsense. She has bought into the govt.s B.S. as being a good thing and she defends the madness. She is so sucked into being a good little puppet and has bought the Natzi party’s insane plans and goes along with the program that clearly has damaged the quality of many lives and quality education. Poor poor poor Christchurch – what a shame.

    She laughs and deflects and when she speaks people cringe. Many see right through her mask, the phony mask she wears.
    She actually believes the games and passes the buck quite often. She is a master at deflection and not being genuine and REAL and warm and supportive.
    Poor students and teachers and principles and parents who have to deal with her nonsense. The sooner she is put out to pasture, the BETTER ! ! !

  3. ERO is part of the problem in education. ERO people arrive at schools and cause anxiety because teachers and principals know they are looking to find problems.
    ERO people in some cases question some mean spirited staff who in the odd case get friends who are parents to complain about other staff and causes real upset , its often a personal agenda,but ERO pick up on complaints and perfectly decent school gets a bad report.
    Hekia Parata hasnt helped the schools ,it seems knocking schools in some areas is unfair and some believe ERO find problems to justify their jobs.

    • Andrew, I am not a union member so absolutely not a union hack.

      Is what I have written a ‘sign of desperation”?

      My desperation is as a citizen seeing the control of education is in the hands of a Minister of Education who in any sense of wise education development is totally unsuited to the job. In terms of politics, ideal.
      Does that mean that you see education and learning as a mere political function, a plaything to be used in political games?

      • Andrew, I am a proud member of the PPTA. It is you who disappoint me – our education system has obviously failed you. Your rabid anti-union bigotry makes you the hack. We will continue to protect what is good in our system, and revile the destructive policies you are so eager to push. And we do NOT protect bad teachers, nor do we presume to have ‘control over the education sector.’ Unfortunately for you, few parents and Board of Trustee members share your vituperous opinions.

      • Hi Pete:

        Of course education is political. On two levels:

        1. Clearly what we teach our children impacts the body politic. Their beliefs, their employability and their status in society are all affected by their education.

        2. With only about 15% of the working population in a union and roughly half of union members being teachers, it’s not hard to see that the teacher unions are pivotal: They’re the last bastion of the union movement! It’s also obvious that the teacher unions are highly defensive and refuse to cooperate with the government on most matters. No surprise – if they allow non-members or innovation into the sector they’re screwed. Their problem is that education is now a target for technological disruption and their resistance to change will only work for a time. The voter/parents will tire of this intransigence and give a future centrist government the authority for a thorough overhaul.

        Watch this space!

  4. The worst thing from the teachers perspective is that under her regime the mantra has been that ‘100% of student engagement us due to the quality of the teacher’ . This of course is not true, with the latest PISA report stating that at least 60% of student engagement is the attitude and capital students bring from home. (This is at high school level)
    Combine this with a complete lack of disciplinary procedures in schools which allows students to act however they like in class with no fear of concequence (teachers arent even allowed to confiscate cellphones anymore) and the end result is dedicated teachers being deemed incompetent for being unable to engage tired, hungry, decile 1 students in academic classes. Kids with no academic background play up, the whole class is disrupted, teachers can do nothing about it, and the only ‘support’ is ‘well you should be a better teacher’.
    And to those who will reply here with that same line, have you ever tried to teach the intricacies of MMP to a hungry, domestic-violence exposed, stoned 13yr old? Because believe me, it aint easy.

  5. Andrew – someone needs to take over the education system because it is a total failure. For the most part, Kids hate school and can not wait to get out or leave. There are a few great schools but the Charter system is taking over and putting profits before quality education. This govt. has failed yet again.
    Unions are to be supported so many of feel that you are dead wrong.

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