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Unions call for Govt to scrap education reforms

Published: 8:55AM Tuesday June 05, 2012 Source: ONE News

An alliance of education sector groups has made a joint call this afternoon for the Government to scrap its controversial classroom cut backs.

The unprecedented meeting of six school unions in Wellington today said talk of industrial action is premature, but believe parents would back them if they decided strike action was necessary.

The sector is furious over the Government's plan for new teacher-pupil ratios in schools that will result in larger class sizes and see some schools lose two frontline teaching staff.

Ian Leckie, president of the primary teachers union NZEI, told TV ONE's Breakfast the Government needs to rethink the changes.

"We're waiting for them to reconsider. Obviously it has not been met with any popularity in the country. The sector is in an uproar."

And the plan seems to be taking its toll on the Government with the latest ONE News Colmar Brunton poll showing the National Party has slipped below 50% support for the first time in two years.

Leckie believes the poll result strengthens his position ahead of talks today.

"It shows that there is widespread support for the issue and they do think it's a Government matter. And as such they are showing their displeasure by responding as they did in the poll."

Education Minister Hekia Parata said she is prepared to talk but said there will be no backdown on the reforms.

"That's not on the table."

Leckie said teachers may use collective agreement negotiations to fight increases to class sizes.

"We need to hear that class sizes will be maintained at current ratios, that tech arts are restored and I think then we would be in a position to discuss how best we can make improvements to the education system."