Prime Minister John Key has acknowledged for the first time that Education Minister Hekia Parata should take some blame for the breakdown in her relationship with former education boss Lesley Longstone.
The former chief executive left her job on February 8 amid reports she could not work with Parata, and criticism for the handling of a number of issues including Novopay and the closure of schools in Christchurch.
Key has previously defended his minister insisting she is a good "communicator" and encouraging media to look to the future rather than dwell on the past.
However, speaking to reporters in Mexico he said Parata is culpable for some of the blame.
"There's always wrong on both sides it's never one single thing," he said.
"I think even Lesley said there was a breakdown in a number or relationships... there's lots of employment matters handled by the State Services Commission that go well, that one didn't."
It was revealed yesterday that Longstone got a $400,000 golden handshake after she left 13 months into her 5 year term as Education Ministry CEO.
Key defended the payout, saying a large part of it was what would normally be paid out in such a case.
However, Labour's education spokesman, Chris Hipkins, has accused the Prime Minister of hypocrisy
"John Key preaches fiscal restraint, and tries to make a virtue out of cutting spending and services. But the moment he has a political mess in his Cabinet, he is happy to throw taxpayers money at it to make it go away," he said.
Hipkins said Parata, rather than Longstone, should have lost her job over the problems in the sector.
"The Prime Minister might hope axing Lesley Longstone and blaming her for his Government's education woes will be the end of the matter. But with Hekia Parata's record of botch-ups, bungles and back-downs, I seriously doubt it."
Parata's well documented list of woes include back tracking on increasing class sizes, the closure and merger of some Christchurch schools, an illegal attempt to shut the Salisbury special school, the clash with and eventual resignation of the Education Ministry's boss, and Novopay.