Will schools open for Term 2 to next week? For Term 2 at all?

Yesterday the Government sent mixed signals with the release of an education package that is clearly aimed at enabling education from home. It looks a lot like they are setting up for a lengthy period of students learning from home – my guess is probably for the duration of Term 2.

Term 2 is officially due to start next week after Easter, on Wednesday 15 April with a duration of 12 weeks (nearly three months).

Minister of Education  Chris Hipkins stated:

The Ministry of Education is working with partners to develop a package of options so that students can learn at home when Term 2 begins on 15 April, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

Supports are also being prepared for households with children under five, to help parents and whānau keep their children engaged in learning through play, Chris Hipkins said.

“It’s important to reinforce up front that the Government is still working to a timeframe of a four-week Level 4 lockdown but we’re planning for every scenario.

“That means, in education, developing robust distance learning infrastructure and a more resilient system so that learners can receive education in any scenario.

“We’re moving so that all families will have at least one education delivery option available to them when Term 2 starts,” Chris Hipkins said.

The official start date for term 2 is next Wednesday, but the four week lockdown extends past that another week and a day, so schools can’t open for the start of term 2 in any case (unless there’s a sudden change of Level 4 rules).

The Government would be unlikely to put together such an extensive ‘learn from home’ package for one week of education.

How many hard copy packs are being printed and for which years?

Depending on demand, and subject to printing and delivery logistics, we are prepared to ship tens of thousands of packs if required over the coming weeks.

A variety of packs are being prepared for all age groups – early learners and from year 1 through NCEA, including for learners in Māori medium. We will start by prioritising delivery these to younger students and those who are disadvantaged.  NCEA students will be able to request packs across up to six subject areas each.

Shipping “over the coming weeks” isn’t education cover for a week or two.

What is the estimated flow of internet-ready devices for students to work on?

About 17,000 devices have been ordered and are confirmed to be shipped to students and ākonga in April. Not all will arrive before 15 April, and it may take up to a month for all of them to be sent to households. Many schools already have their own stocks.

We are working to secure thousands more devices from offshore.

That doesn’t sound like a short term plan.

TV channels

“We’re also preparing education broadcasts on two channels, one for English medium schooling and one for Māori medium, starting on 15 April,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The broadcasts will run over six and a half hours during the day.”

They are not setting that up for a week or two of broadcasts.

Level 4 specifies “educational facilities closed” so that specifically rules out schools opening next week.

Level 3 specifies “affected educational facilities closed”. It will depend on what ‘affected’ means.

They could be allowing for the possibility of a drop to Level 3 in the near future (after 4 weeks or soon after) but the likelihood that some regions may stay at Level 4, or some regions or the country may have to go back up to level 4 at some stage in the future.

I think that parents and caregivers of school students should be informed as soon as possible what the likely arrangements will be for schools after the 4 weeks and for the duration of Term 2.


UPDATE:  ‘Unlikely’ students back at school as soon as lockdown ends – Education Minister

Once the lockdown is over, Education Minister Chris Hipkins told The AM Show that parents shouldn’t expect their children to be heading back to school straight away.

“Don’t assume that as soon as we are come out of level four that schools and early childhood services will all automatically reopen. That is actually unlikely. It is likely to be more of a staged re-entry for schools and early childhood centres and that is going to be done based on health advice” he said.

“It is quite difficult to manage social distancing and, particularly for young kids and early childhood and in primary schooling, so we are working through all of the different scenarios for when it will be safe for kids to go back to school.

“We want them back at school as quickly as we can get them back to school. But we are not going to do that until we know they will be safe and we are not going to be spreading the virus.”

 

Details for ‘learning from home’ rollout

From the Beehive:

Government moving quickly to roll out learning from home

The Ministry of Education is working with partners to develop a package of options so that students can learn at home when Term 2 begins on 15 April, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

Supports are also being prepared for households with children under five, to help parents and whānau keep their children engaged in learning through play, Chris Hipkins said.

“It’s important to reinforce up front that the Government is still working to a timeframe of a four-week Level 4 lockdown but we’re planning for every scenario.

“That means, in education, developing robust distance learning infrastructure and a more resilient system so that learners can receive education in any scenario.

“We’re moving so that all families will have at least one education delivery option available to them when Term 2 starts,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The Ministry has surveyed schools and about half say they are well set up currently for distance learning using the internet. But we are taking action to support new connections and resources for students at all schools.

“Starting this week, the Ministry will be rolling out, in waves, an extensive, four-channel package.

“We’re anticipating a number of logistical challenges in the short term, so our plan is broad enough to ensure every learner has at least one option either through this package or through their school or kura, and we expect many will be able to access more than one. These channels, include:

  • Increasing the number of students who have internet access and devices.
  • Delivering hard copy packs of materials for different year levels.
  • Funding two television channels to broadcast education-related content – one for English medium and one for Māori medium, including content that is targeted to Pacific and other communities.
  • More online resources for parents, available through the Learning from Home and Ki te Ao Mārama websites, and fast-tracking ways to connect Learning Support Coordinators with families remotely.

In addition, more support is being provided to assist schools to set up and make the best use of distance learning, and teachers and leaders will get access to more professional learning and development (PLD) to support them to work remotely with their students.

“We’ve fast-tracked immediate emergency funding of $87.7 million to fund these measures and to provide ongoing nationwide access to online teaching and learning for all scenarios. Further additional funding might be required.

“We know that tens of thousands of households either lack an internet connection or an education device at home. We’re working with telecommunications companies and internet service providers to connect as many of these households as we can as quickly as possible.

“We are also working with schools to identify the students who lack a suitable device for online learning, and we plan to deliver as many devices as possible to the students who will benefit the most. We will be following public health advice as we do this.”

Devices and materials rolled out in waves

“This is a big and complex job being delivered at speed, and there are constraints around the stock of equipment in the country. Not everyone who needs them will get internet access, digital devices and hard packs at the same time,” Chris Hipkins said.

“Where we are unable to immediately connect a household with the Internet or get a device to a student, we will be working with schools and kura to provide hard-copy learning materials direct to homes.

“We will need to prioritise, and reach students and households, with an initial focus on connecting students in senior secondary school working towards NCEA – to minimise disruption for those working towards a qualification – and on those with greatest need due to disadvantage. We will then move down the year levels from years 10 to 1.”

Chris Hipkins said parents should not worry if their child doesn’t receive a device or hard copy materials in the first wave.

“We know there are schools and kura that have plans in place to support students and whānau from 15 April, and will be working with the resources available to them as we can get devices and hard copy materials out to as many learners as we can.

“Principals and teachers are working hard to get ready for the start of the term and to make sure their students remain connected with learning.”

TV channels

“We’re also preparing education broadcasts on two channels, one for English medium schooling and one for Māori medium, starting on 15 April,” Chris Hipkins said.

“The broadcasts will run over six and a half hours during the day, and include specialised content for:

  • Early learners,
  • Parents, to help them support their children’s education,
  • A broad curriculum that includes movement, music, physical education, wellbeing, numeracy, literacy and science through an integrated approach to curriculum,
  • An hour of Te Reo Māori, and
  • Pacific and other communities.

“There’s already a lot of good education video content available, and the Ministry is working with experts and educators to refine and further develop it.”

Web-based resources

The Ministry of Education is also building up the resources it provides on the Learning from Home and Ki te Ao Mārama websites.

Chris Hipkins said public health remains the Government’s number one focus, but families, learners and schools are increasingly focused on preparations for Term 2.

“The Government wants to reassure people that we are mobilising our resources at great speed during this extraordinary time so that we can provide the best possible level of education in all potential scenarios.

“I am proud of and grateful for the efforts of the Ministry and the entire education sector and our other partners in the public and private sectors to enable distance learning during the Covid-19 emergency.

“The Ministry has received more than 100 offers of extra resources and assistance from businesses wanting to do their bit to help, and is working on the best way to mobilise them as quickly as possible.

“I would also like to thank parents and learners for their understanding.

It’s important to remember that despite these resources becoming available in homes, parents aren’t expected to become teachers. Teachers will continue to have the primary role in students’ learning.

“Together we will support New Zealand’s efforts to save lives through physical distancing, while minimising the impact on children’s learning and wellbeing.”

Here are the links to the hard-packs being assembled –

https://vimeo.com/404830943

https://vimeo.com/404831237

https://vimeo.com/404831208

https://vimeo.com/404831180

https://vimeo.com/404831157

https://vimeo.com/404831121

https://vimeo.com/404831065

https://vimeo.com/404831006

Q and A

What is the estimated flow of modem deliveries?

We are working on the commercial arrangements with Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  As supplies become available, we expect to ramp up to sending out thousands of modems each week.  Around 2000 this week.

We believe there are about 350 students where there is currently no internet potential of any kind. We are exploring the possibility of satellite coverage for these households.

What is the estimated flow of internet-ready devices for students to work on?

About 17,000 devices have been ordered and are confirmed to be shipped to students and ākonga in April. Not all will arrive before 15 April, and it may take up to a month for all of them to be sent to households. Many schools already have their own stocks.

We are working to secure thousands more devices from offshore.

What materials will be available in hard copy?

Information about the content of the packs can be viewed on line at https://learningfromhome.govt.nz/supporting-learning.

What kind of devices are being supplied?

Typically schools and kura will have the option of selecting from laptops or Chromebooks, depending on what they are already using.

What about insurance cover – who pays for replacement/repair if something goes wrong?

The Ministry is providing insurance cover for devices sent to student homes where they are not already covered by the school’s insurance.

Will accessories like a mouse and keyboard be provided?

The device comes with a power supply cable but not additional accessories.

Do families get to keep the devices after children go back to school?

The devices are registered to schools and kura and that decision will rest with them.

Will my child’s time online be monitored?

The devices we supply are pre-loaded with a content filter to block inappropriate content.

As always with the internet, parents and whānau are encouraged to supervise their children’s online activities. Schools and kura may have suggest software or apps for this purpose, and there is helpful information for parents and children about staying safe online on the Netsafe website.

There will be no central monitoring.

How many hard copy packs are being printed and for which years?

Depending on demand, and subject to printing and delivery logistics, we are prepared to ship tens of thousands of packs if required over the coming weeks.

A variety of packs are being prepared for all age groups – early learners and from year 1 through NCEA, including for learners in Māori medium. We will start by prioritising delivery these to younger students and those who are disadvantaged.  NCEA students will be able to request packs across up to six subject areas each.

A variety of educational resources will be available, including books, literacy, maths and science resources and some stationery.  The packs will include a parent and whānau guidance sheet on supporting their child’s learning, and with suggestions for activities.

Schools will be advised when students receive a pack so teachers can connect with learners as they work on the packs where they can.

Information about the content of the packs can be viewed on line at https://learningfromhome.govt.nz/supporting-learning.

We will be able to provide updates over the coming days as demand becomes clearer and distribution begins.

Around 20,000 packs will be delivered this week, and 40,000 will be available for delivery next week.

Ministry of Education announces plans for distance learning

The second school term officially restarts on 15 April while the 4 week lockdown is still going. The Ministry of Education is gearing up for providing working from home resources including mailed out paper packs targeting different age groups plus two TV broadcast channels.

RNZ: Ministry of Education reveals support plans for distance learning

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said while the plan was still for a four-week lockdown, schools must be prepared for any scenario.

That requires the means and resources to study properly home, Hipkins said.

“We’re moving so that all families will have at least one education delivery option available to them when term two starts,” he said.

It sounds like the are preparing for weeks if not months of school pupils working from home.

“The ministry has surveyed schools and about half say they are well set up currently for distance learning using the internet. But we are taking action to support new connections and resources for students at all schools.”

From this week a package targeting four areas will be rolled out:

  • Increasing the number of students who have internet access and devices.
  • Delivering hard copy packs of materials for different year levels.
  • Funding two television channels to broadcast education-related content – one for English medium and one for Māori medium, including content that is targeted to Pacific and other communities.
  • More online resources for parents, available through the Learning from Home and Ki te Ao Mārama websites, and fast-tracking ways to connect Learning Support Coordinators with families remotely.

Schools will also get more support to to assist schools to set up and make the best use of distance learning, and teachers and leaders will get access to more professional learning and development (PLD) to support them to work remotely with their students.

This will complement the efforts schools are making to provide work at home for pupils (that is already being done by some schools at least).

From Stuff Live:

He (Hipkins) said as schools are preparing for term two, he wanted to assure people that they’re preparing for all possible scenarios.

Hipkins said the goal is that all families have at least one channel of learning support by April 15.

When asked if this style of learning will continue after we leave alert level four, he said the Ministry of Education is actively engaged in the planning beyond level four lockdown and they’re working through all different scenarios.

He said people shouldn’t assume that all schools and ECE will open on day one post-lockdown.

He said there’ll be further announcements about what happens at the end of level four lockdown in due course.

The NCEA review package is helping contribute to the work that’s being done at the moment, particularly around the online delivery of it. Hipkins said they’re progressing this.
Other parts around long term work of the review are on the backburner.
On the topic of the educational channels. Hipkins said some content will be drawn from existing catalogues, some will be bridging, and some will be new. He said there’ll be some familiar faces returning to TV.

 

Cross-party committee to scrutinise Government as Parliament adjourns

Parliament was in recess this week but has been recalled today to deal with urgent business related to Covid-19 and the country lockdown, but will then be suspended for 5 weeks. This means the usual scrutiny of Government through Question Time won’t be possible, so  special committee is being set up.

RNZ: Special committee set-up as Parliament is adjourned

The opposition leader Simon Bridges will chair a cross-party committee, that will scrutinise the Government’s response to Covid-19.

Leader of the House Chris Hipkins said all of the Government’s regular legislative programme was now on hold.

Hipkins said tomorrow the house will be focusing on receiving the epidemic notice from the Prime Minister and pass an Imprest Supply Bill, which will allow Government funding to continue to flow as normal.

The epidemic notice would enact the Epidemic Preparedness Act, allowing for actions to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, without having to comply with the usual statuary requirements.

Like last week, Parliamentary business tomorrow will begin with a debate, this time focusing on the epidemic notice and other documents tabled by the Government.

The adjournment will last until April 28, meaning two sitting weeks will be missed.

To enable the politicians to still hold the Government to account, speaker of the House, Trevor Mallard said the cross-party Business Select Committee has put forward a motion to set-up a special Select Committee, which will run for at least the next four-to-five weeks.

He said the committee will meet remotely, be chaired by Opposition leader Simon Bridges with the majority of the sitting MPs being from opposition parties.

The committee will have powers that usually reside with privileges committee, such as the ability to send for people and papers.

“What we think we have got here is a balance of accountability because of a very powerful committee, chaired by the Leader of the Opposition, who can make arrangements to effectively interrogate ministers or public servants on their actions around the pandemic,” he said.

Bridges said it would be a valuable chance for constructive scrutiny of the government, that will make the nation’s response to Covid-19 better and stronger.

Bridges said the committee would be sitting two or three times a week, from next week, to ask the questions New Zealanders want answered.

He said overall, he supported the direction the government has taken, but there are things that can be improved.

However, ACT leader David Seymour called the decision to adjourn Parliament as ‘misguided’.

“We accept that the government has a difficult task ahead, all New Zealanders stand ready to support it, but this is no reason to partially suspend democracy,” he said.

“New Zealanders have just faced the greatest peacetime loss of civil liberties in our history, and it is possible we may not have an election this year.

“ACT believes there should be a Question Time and local electorate offices should remain open,” he said.

From RNZ Live covering an interview of Bridges this morning:

Bridges on the special cross-party committee of scrutiny during the lockdown – says he will have a lot of his front benchers on the committee, National will have a majority in the committee.

He says ultimately he thinks rents need to be paid during this time, says landlords should definitely not be putting up rent at the moment.

He says he’s spoken to some big businesses and what he’s hearing is that the government hasn’t quite hit the mark with the business schemes they’ve introduced.

That’s not surprising. Businesses are facing unprecedented challenges and many will be fighting for survival. The Government is doing what it thinks will help but it must be a work in progress. And they will never be able to ‘hit the mark’ for all businesses.

He doesn’t think benefits should be doubled, like in Australia. Asked whether it would be a good way to pump more money into the economy, Mr Bridges said he didn’t believe NZ’s issue at the moment is an issue of stimulus.

Over the last couple of days Bridges has changed his approach noticeably towards being mostly supportive of Government actions dealing with Covid-19 but with generally sensible sounding questions of some of what is being done. I think this is a good change from him.

Interview with bridges on RNZ: Coronavirus: Simon Bridges to chair scrutiny committee

 

Hipkins trying to resolve teacher pay dispute

Teachers had their biggest strike ever this week, protesting over what they claim are insufficient wage increases. Minister of education Chris Hipkins spoke to the crowd of teachers who gathered at Parliament, saying there was no more money available. Teachers responded by threatening more strikes.

Hipkins is now trying to resolve the deadlock.

RNZ: Minister intervenes in teachers’ pay dispute, calls forum

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has called for a forum with the teacher unions, the NZEI and PPTA, to resolve what he calls an impasse over pay and conditions.

Secondary school teachers will start five weeks of industrial action on Tuesday when they refuse to teach students in year nine. The action comes hard on the heels of this week’s joint strike with primary teachers.

In a release tonight, Mr Hipkins said the government was committed to progressively taking action to address the concerns of teachers and principals.

The talks were set down for 6 June.

“The issues being raised by teachers are many, varied and complex,” he said in tonight’s statement.

“We will make no further comment until after the parties have met.”

The primary teachers’ union has yet to announce its next move, but it has already held three strikes and further action is considered likely.

One problem that is probably unresolvable is pay scales that don’t reflect effort and effectiveness. Teachers claim they work long hours, and I’m sure some do, but they get paid the same as teachers with similar a length of service who do the bare minimum.

Teacher unions have always been strongly against performance linked pay rates.

This can mean that better teachers can leave to find better paid work elsewhere, while more mediocre teachers stay with fairly good pay for their efforts (but there are still good teachers who are underpaid).

When he was opposition spokesperson on education Hipkins had an easy ride on the side of teachers complaining about the National government. It is a lot more challenging for Hipkins now that he is up against teacher demands.

Teachers strike, more to come

After large teacher strikes yesterday the Minister of Education said there was no more money available for teacher pays for now. Teachers have indicated strikes will continue.

RNZ: Teachers vow to strike again if govt doesn’t up its offer

They marched, they sang, and they shut down most of the country’s 2400 state and integrated schools, but it remains to be seen if today’s historic joint strike by primary, secondary and area school teachers has moved the government.

The joint action by nearly 50,000 members of the Educational Institute and the Post Primary Teachers Association was an attempt to persuade the government to expand the$1.2 billion envelope it has imposed on its offers to teachers.

But speaking to striking teachers in Wellington, the Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, stuck to the line he has consistently given – that the government is doing a lot to improve schools but it can’t do everything at once.

That did not go down well with the thousands of teachers gathered in front of the Beehive and Mr Hipkins retreated from the podium on Parliament’s forecourt to boos and chants of “not enough”.

Unless the budget comes up with something unexpected today it looks like teacher strikes will continue.

Hipkins questioned about teacher strikes and budget

With the largest teacher strike ever planned to coincide with this week’s budget Minister of Eduction Chris Hipkins was interviewed on NewsHub Nation.

“…with $1.2 billion on the table and a $10,000 pay rise for most teachers on the table, we think that that’s as far as we can go in terms of putting more money in their pay packets in this pay round.”

Simon Shepherd: This week, a megastrike. The words no Education Minister wants to hear. For the first time in New Zealand history, all state and integrated schools will strike together this Wednesday. The action comes after talks failed to secure an offer acceptable to the 50,000 affected teachers and principals. I asked Chris Hipkins if he had a last minute deal to stop the strike going ahead.

Chris Hipkins: Look, we’re going to continue talking to the teachers, right up till the point of the strike action. If we can avoid strike action, of course we would like to do that. We’ve been very clear, though, that with $1.2 billion on the table and a $10,000 pay rise for most teachers on the table, we think that that’s as far as we can go in terms of putting more money in their pay packets in this pay round. But we also recognise that for many teachers this is about more than just pay, and they’re raising a whole lot of other issues that they also want us to address.

Well, let’s talk about pay. They want a package, between them all, of like $3.9 billion. It seems you guys are like a universe apart. Is there no more money to just get this done?

We’ve been really clear that for salaries there isn’t any more money on the table, and there’s not going to be, but there are many other issues that teachers are raising. We know that there are more kids in classrooms that have additional learning needs, for example. We do need to do more in that area. We know that there are big workload issues that teachers are grappling with, and we need to do more in that area. We’ll keep talking to them about how we can address those issues, but in terms of the pay round, we’ve been pretty clear that $1.2 billion is what there is.

The Crown had a surplus in the March figures of $2.5 billion, and the teachers are going to be looking at that and going, ‘Look, there’s some money.’

I don’t think teachers will put their hands up to take a pay cut, if the surplus were to go down. You can’t base your decisions about pay negotiations based on government surpluses because actually every other workforce in the public sector is looking at that money as well. We’ve got to look at what’s sustainable. We’ve also got a number of other big workforces— nurses will be back in bargaining next year. We’ve got doctors in bargaining. You’ll have police back in bargaining next year, and we do have to think about what are sustainable pay rises across the public service? Teachers are right at the top of those. You know, they are being offered some of the biggest pay rises across the broader public sector

Secondary principals now have a pay claim as well. Are you fearful that you’re going to see another strike on your hands from them?

Look, we’ll go into those negotiations in good faith. The secondary principal bargaining is just getting underway, and we need to let that take its course.

You talk about this pay round. What about next pay round? Is that one of the reasons that the government’s decided to loosen its debt cap — to create more money, to be able to borrow more money, to be able to make these kind of pay rounds work?

I’m not going to pre-empt the next pay round before we’ve even concluded this pay round. I’ve always been very clear with the teachers — as long as I have been doing this job for the Labour Party, and that was five years in opposition as well — that they need to think about their pay strategy over every pay cycle and not just a big action roughly every 15 years when there’s a Labour government.

This mega-strike that’s coming up on Wednesday, I mean, that’s hundreds of thousands of children, parents affected. Do you understand what kind of effect that this is going to have for families?

Well, look, I know that this will have a big impact for families. I don’t think that the strike action is justified. As I’ve said, the pay rise on the table now over the next two years is worth an average of $10,000 to the majority of teachers so that is a pretty sizeable pay increase. It’s $1.2 billion, and actually parents are also saying that they want the government to get serious about mental health, they want the government to properly fund district health boards, so that the hospitals that they go to are well-funded and well-resourced. They also want us to deal with the housing shortage and the housing crisis. They want us to lift children out of poverty. We need to be able to do all of those things.

But how long can you let this drag on for? One of these pay negotiations has been going on for more than 18 months.

Look, we continue to negotiate. We went to the Employment Relations Authority late last year. The Employment Relations Authority, in fact, said to the primary school teachers at the time that they thought the government’s offer was very competitive — ‘handsome and competitive’ was how they described it. We’re doing everything that we can.

And you’ve gone back there now? I mean, there’s new, urgent talks on the table, isn’t there?

That’s right. We are doing everything that we can to continue to sit around the table to try and resolve the issues that the teachers are raising. But obviously, any government — whether it’s our government or any other government — is always going to have a limit to the amount of money that they can put on the table in any given pay round.

Okay. Let’s talk about this week in parliament. Haven’t really seen anything like this before with allegations of bullying, harassment, sexual assault — how surprised were you at the findings of the Francis Report?

Look, I think parliament has come a long way over the last 20 or 30 years in terms of changing its culture, being more representative of all New Zealanders, but we’ve still got a long way to go nad I think the Francis Report clearly highlights that. We need to change the culture around this place. We need to create a much more people-friendly environment, and clearly there are some big areas for improvement.

You’ve been here — what? —almost 10 years, 10 and a half years, have you been involved, have you seen, have you experienced bullying and harassment of this nature?

Look, I wouldn’t say that I’ve been the victim of bullying. I have seen people treating other people inappropriately and unfairly. Now let’s just be clear about this — in a democratic system of government, like we have here in New Zealand, an adversarial approach is built into it. You know, it’s designed to be adversarial, and that is going to create conflict. There’s a different between legitimate conflict, legitimate scrutiny, legitimate accountability, and bullying. And certainly the staff, the interactions that some MPs have with staff, the interactions that some staff would have with each other — they’re not okay, and we need to be really clear in saying that. You can be adversarial, you can do your job in a democratic system without treating people as abysmally as some people around here have been treated.

It’s also been described as a very high-intensity workload. I mean, you’re a father, you’ve got to manage your family as well as this. I mean, how hard is it to be able to do the job?

Look, it’s a tough job. MPs are away from their homes a lot. I’m lucky in one sense, as a Wellington MP, I get to go home every night to my family. I think everybody who’s working who has a family struggles with this. I think MPs particularly, given the lengths of time they spend away from their families, do really struggle with that.
Okay, but what changes do you think should be made within parliament, both for staff and members, to make it more family-friendly?

Well, I think that the Francis Report, again, sets out some good recommendations around how we can improve the culture of this place.

What recommendations do you like?

Well, I think having a single point of contact or various points of contact for people who are feeling bullied or feeling harassed, so that they know where they can go to get extra help. We’ve been working for some time to make this place a bit more family-friendly. I think it humanises parliament a bit more, and I think we’ve made real advances in that in recent years, and there’s more that we can do there too.

So do you think we need a wider review, like the Francis Report, but for the wider public service? Do you think this kind of culture exists out there?

Look, I think any workplace is going to have challenges, if they have a culture that allows bullying. Now, without going through every different department or agency, I can’t say where that might exist, but my message to every chief executive in the public service, is my expectation of them is that they will ensure that their workplace is not one of those workplaces that has that type of culture.

Okay. It’s Budget Week, and Finance Minister Grant Robertson has been looking around for extra cash, and he’s taken $197 million dollars from the tertiary education policy — the ‘fees-free’ policy. Why not just give that to the teachers?

Well, when we set up the ‘fees-free’ policy, we deliberately budgeted conservatively because it’s very difficult when you’re introducing a new policy like that to understand the behavioural effects of that. You know, enrolments could have gone up significantly, they might not have. You’ve got to be conservative. You have to make sure that the money is there if you need it. We knew that we were probably going to get some money back from that. That money is going to go back into tertiary education, particularly into vocational education — where we know that our polytechs have been scaling back, where we know we’ve got critical skill shortages in areas like building and construction. so that money is still going into education, and it’s going into an area where we’ve also got a big pressing need.

With this tertiary policy— I mean, the Labour policy was to roll out free years in the second and third year by 2024. Has that gone?

No, that hasn’t gone. That continues to be the Labour Party’s policy. Of course, it’s a coalition government, so everything is—

So you can’t commit to that for the next election, is that what you’re saying?

Well, what I’m saying is we’ll go into the next election campaign with a very clear policy. Under this government where it’s a coalition government, the commitment that we made in this term was to introduce the first year free, which is what we have done. You know, beyond the next election, of course, that’s going to depend on the outcome of the election.

Okay. Finally, one last word to the teachers and the pupils and the parents who are going to be the subject of this strike this week, I mean, what would you say to them?

I would say that this strike isn’t necessary, that we are hearing the concerns of teachers. We are committed to addressing them. We have given teachers a very significant pay offer, the largest that they’ve had in over a decade. In fact, it’s worth more than all of the other pay offers that they’ve had over the last decade put together, and we’re also committed to working on the other issues that they’re raising.

Chris Hipkins on education reviews

Seymour grandstanding while Parliament sat and acted without him

David Seymour was busy talking the democratic high ground over the pending rush job on the Arms Amendment Bill, the Government (with the support of the National Opposition) outmanoeuvred him in the House.

NZ Herald: ACT Leader David Seymour misses chance to force Govt to use urgency for gun law’s first reading

Act leader David Seymour was so busy objecting to media about the speed of the Government’s gun law reform that he missed being in the House to block the process being streamlined.

The Government was planning on seeking leave to streamline the bill’s passage through Parliament, including having the first reading this afternoon.

Seymour had planned to block any such attempt, which would have forced the Government to use urgency, but Seymour was not in the House when a motion for an expedited process was moved.

He was outside the House at the time, telling media that the Government was too concerned with “being seen to do the right thing on the global stage”.

TUESDAY, 2 APRIL 2019

The Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.

Prayers.

ARMS (PROHIBITED FIREARMS, MAGAZINES, AND PARTS) AMENDMENT BILL

Procedure

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House): I seek leave for the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill to be set down for first reading after general business today, despite Standing Order 285(1)(b); for there to be no debate on the instruction to the select committee to consider the bill despite Standing Order 290; for the bill to be available for second reading on Tuesday, 9 April, despite Standing Order 296; should the member in charge desire, for the bill to be set down for the committee of the whole House forthwith, following the second reading, despite Standing Order 299; and for the bill to be set down for third reading forthwith, following the committee stage, despite Standing Order 310.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that process being followed? There appears to be none.

Chuckling could be heard from Members, most of whom had made it into the House on time.

Claire Trevett: Act’s David Seymour hoist on tardy petard

Seymour had been strutting around proud as a peacock for being the only self-proclaimed true champion of democracy by refusing to give his leave for firearms legislation to be passed in a hurry.

He stood alone on his high horse. In the wake of the Christchurch mosque attacks, all other parties had agreed to support hasty progression for at least the first tranche of changes – the banning of some guns, and tougher new penalties.

Seymour was so busy talking to the media about his plans to refuse leave for the reforms to be rushed that by the time he made it to his seat to carry out this superhuman feat it was already done.

Instead of delivering democracy he was outfoxed by Leader of the House Chris Hipkins.

Rather than wait until after Question Time as usual, Hipkins stood just before Question Time began to ask for the leave of Parliament to expedite the bill. Seymour was still outside, oblivious.

Members of Parliament did not quite manage to stay as deadpan as the Speaker. Audible laughter swept through Parliament. The Greens – usually most opposed to the hasty progression of legislation – were first to gloat on Twitter.

National MPs Maggie Barry, Paul Goldsmith and Paula Bennett could all be seen looking at Seymour’s desk and laughing. He wandered in a few minutes later.

Undaunted, Seymour sought to re-cast himself as the Superman of Democracy. Rather than berate himself for bad timekeeping, he claimed the fact Hipkins had taken advantage of his tardiness in such a fashion showed what little regard Hipkins had for democracy.

To succeed at democracy you have to be on top of democratic processes. Seymour should have saved hos crowing until after his democratic egg was laid, but he ended up with yolk on his face.

Whether it was good democracy or not, the quick thinking and speed reading of Hipkins meant that the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill is rushing through Parliament than Urgency would have allowed.

Hostile reception for Minister of Education in Invercargill

Plans to reform the administration of schools is in it’s consultation stage. Good on Minister of Education Chris Hipkins fronting up in Invercargill, where he received some good Southland straight taking.

ODT: Hostile southern reception for Hipkins

Education Minister Chris Hipkins’s bid to reassure a public meeting in Invercargill that the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) would not be destroyed in his plans to merge the country’s 16 polytechnic was met with disbelief and hostility.

In his address Mr Hipkins paid tribute to SIT’s achievements and said the Government wanted this replicated on a national scale.

It has been pointed out that one size doesn’t fit all pupils or regions in education.

One speaker at the public meeting of about 500 people made it clear how angry she was at the proposals.

“If I had sandals or something I would be giving it to you because you are flip-flopping all over the place.”

Any size would probably do there.

Invercargill councillor Toni Biddle said his decision would be detrimental to the community, the iwi, housing and future generations.

“I feel frustrated because there is a lot of smoke and mirrors and no guarantees. You never worried about Southland before, so why worry about us now? You don’t want to be the minister that completely demolished the work that we have done for the last five years.”

He drew a rebuke from SIT CEO Penny Simmonds when he said that much was already decided nationally, including the institution’s budgets.

Ms Simmonds pointed out that a third of SIT’s did not come from government, but from other sources.

Speaking afterwards, she said much of what Mr Hipkins was saying was not in the proposals.

“We don’t know how this works. We are lost about what he is saying here and what is written.”

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, speaking in the afternoon, after Mr Hipkins held a meeting with the SIT Council, said Mr Hipkins had offered “nothing specific” in terms of SIT’s future.

“It was a lot of vague promises taking us into the promised land.”

That isn’t going down well in Southland where they prefer that a swede is called a swede (the turnip variety).

But speaking before a visit to Waihopai Primary School, Mr Hipkins said that the community’s understandably “passionate” welcome had been fully expected.

He said that that while the country was moving to a national system it had to still be decided what would be run nationally and what would be run locally.

He repeatedly stressed that no decisions had been taken and described the the proposal as “a framework” in which to improve vocational training.

That sounds like mushy overcooked swede.

He said fears that SIT would lose its distance learning facility were unfounded.

His attempts to appease those in the audience appeared to fall on deaf ears and one speaker accused him of punishing SIT for being successful.

SIT is something Southland has worked hard for. Taking away their points of difference would be like banning the Ranfurly Shield from Southland, or banning oysters.

More from ODT: ‘Vague promises’ over SIT’s future

I wonder if Hipkins will go to Invercargill to announce what reforms he ends up deciding on.