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Key backs Parata after horror year

Published: 5:11PM Thursday January 17, 2013 Source: ONE News

Prime Minister John Key says Hekia Parata will retain the education portfolio ahead of a raft of controversial changes to the sector.

Key, speaking in Christchurch ahead of a trip to Antarctica, said Parata would not be affected in his Cabinet reshuffle despite calls from the education sector to end her one year term in the education portfolio.

"The fact that the unions are asking for the resignation of the new Minister of Education under a National Government is nothing new. In fact I can't name a Minister of Education under National we've had that the unions haven't want to see sacked."

Parata faced a barrage of criticism in 2012 over her handling of the Canterbury school mergers, national standards in primary schools, increased class sizes and a proposal to close a special needs girls' school.

The resignation of Secretary of Education Lesley Longstone last month after only a year in the job topped off the horror year for the Minister.

Key admitted Parata could have better handled National's controversial education changes but said he has faith she will do a "good job" this year.

"I think there was one or two times last year when, for a variety of different reasons, she wasn't able to completely articulate exactly what we were doing in a coherent way and that caused some problems. I think she would accept that."

Parata will lead the Government's trial of the charter school system in South Auckland and Christchurch this year as part of the Act Party's support agreement with the National-led Government.

The New Zealand model will see charter schools run by private enterprises such as business, iwi or Christian groups who will have the freedom to decide school terms and hours.

"Insult to injury"

The Green Party says Key's ongoing support for Parata adds insult to injury for students, teachers and parents.

"Hekia Parata has time and time again frustrated the education sector, students and families with her damaging plans for education and her poor communication of those plans," education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.

"Parata has become known around the country for her incoherent rhetoric and her inability to answer simple questions, both in Parliament and with the public.

"Good communication involves listening as well as speaking, and Hekia Parata has time and time again refused to listen to those on the front lines of education."

Delahunty said students, parents and teachers deserved a fresh start in 2013 and keeping Parata in place will mean a "sorely needed change in attitude" will not occur.