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.