Welcome to the panel this morning: Dr Bryce Edwards from Otago University; Deborah Coddington, former ACT MP; and Kelvin Davis, former school principal and former Labour MP on his Q A panel debut. Good morning to you all. We'll start with you. Was this a very bad selling job on not a bad idea?
KELVIN DAVIS - Former Labour MP
Well, let's cut to the chase - this has been a massive balls-up from the government. They've really mangled this whole policy. But I have to agree with the minister and with John Hattie that teacher quality is the most important factor in raising student achievement. But if the minister believes that sacking teachers and packing kids into classrooms is a way to increase student achievement, well, then, she's deluded. I think that she's gone down the right path in getting a forum together involving the sector. I think that they need to decide on the factors that are immovable that teaching and education needs so that they're oblivious to the swings of governments, left or right. I think that they need to review all the initiatives that they have that don't impact on student achievement and ditch them, then they'll find money that way. But one of the big points is that the minister can't talk about using the research around class sizes and around teacher quality when she ignores the research around things such as charter schools, which are way down there in terms of their effectiveness in raising student achievement, and that is the obvious pot of money that they could use to find the money that they need for the initiatives.
GREG Deborah, a point John Hattie made as well is we were never really clearly told why it was happening, where the money was going to, what the benefits were. We were sold the bad stuff and we weren't really sold the good bit.
DEBORAH CODDINGTON - Former ACT MP
That's right. It was too airy-fairy, in other words. The positive side was too airy-fairy and that was the mistake, and the mistake also was buying a fight with the teacher unions when they had actually won the fight on national standards. But I think the time now, as Steve Hansen would say, you know, flush the dunny and move on, and I don't think for Hekia Parata, as the Opposition is saying, that she should resign. She's not a quitter. I mean, she's Ngati Porou, for goodness sake. She's tough, and I think she will still be... Education is where good careers go to die, but I don't think she will. The politics of this - they have been kind to her. They have extended the olive branch. They have said, "Let's talk." They have not said they reject investment - as you said, Kelvin, is right - in improvement in teacher education and teacher standards. That is where raising education lies and Hattie is right. And I think that where she would gain more favour is jettisoning charter schools, because I've done a lot of research on that, and in a small population like New Zealand, that will only make a difference to a very very small number of students.
GREG Bryce, having said that about Hekia Parata and her career aspirations from here on out, it all came down on her head. John Key - he's not even here yet. I think he's here later this morning. Hekia Parata and John Key wouldn't speak to us on this. It's all come down onto Hekia Parata's head. Politically, the implications going forward are what?
DR BRYCE EDWARDS - Political Analyst
Oh, this government's going to take a hit from this issue. This has been the biggest backdown, the biggest stuff-up, as Kelvin said, by this government in the four years it's been in power. I think this will resonate with people. It shows the government as being weak, and it shows it as taking a poor public policy process in that they had no mandate for this, they had no real proper logic for it, in fact. This whole idea of this trade-off between increased class sizes and quality teaching was always a con. There was no logic in it. It's a false dichotomy, if you like. And we had a hint of that in the interview with Professor Hattie before. He'd shown that he hadn't necessarily swallowed the Treasury Kool-Aid on this. He was saying that it was a mistake to go down that path, because it's a stupid one. We can have increased quality teaching and the same class sizes, and it's silly trade-off that the government was talking about.
GREG Where's the line on this, though, Kelvin? I'm interested, because on one side you can say, "We are the government. We listened here. We backed down." Yet on the other side you just look a bit weak and wet, don't you?
KELVIN Well, they need to follow the courage of their convictions. If they believe that teacher quality is the most important thing, they shouldn't have backed down. And that just shows that the courage of their convictions is only as strong as polling. But one this is I don't believe that Hekia should resign or be stepped down. I think she was hung out to dry by people above her. I think that she needs to realise, as the minister of education, it is her responsibility to create the conditions where quality teachers can weave their magic, and that's what's missing in this debate is that, you know, larger class sizes, less teachers - those aren't conditions where quality teachers can actually weave their magic.
BRYCE Parata's performance has been woeful on this issue. I think she'll be gone as minister of education in the next reshuffle, because her relationship with the sector is now terrible. People are making the right messages about working together now going forward, but no one in the education sector - the teachers won't believe that she's backed down because they've listened to her. They've listened public opinion.