Speech Rt Hon Winston Peters: Time for An Education Conference And A New Education Strategy
Speech to open new classrooms at Hora Hora School, Whangarei
Friday, February 17, 10.15am
Time for An Education Conference And A New Education Strategy
Thank you for your invitation to be here today and congratulations on your new classrooms which are the result of many trials, tribulations and much perseverance.
This is a wonderful day in the long history of Hora Hora School which stretches back to 1893.
Looking at your school website it was interesting to read the early school history and what the pupils did at the end of that first year in 1893.
The records show some left the district, some went on to Whangarei School.
Others left to learn trades that today have almost disappeared - blacksmithing; drapery, saddling and printing. Some went on “home duties.”
It is interesting to think children as young as some of you here today would start learning trades.
No more school!
Those were different days.
But some things never change.
The school’s goal in 1893 was to give the children a positive start in life – to set them on the road to happy and successful lives.
Your school goals today are much the same.
They include having an educational programme in which the children can acquire basic skills in literacy, maths, the sciences, arts and Maori culture; and helping the children to become good citizens, able to lead happy and useful lives.
Value of education
Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
It doesn’t matter where your school is – with education you can reach for the sky and achieve your full potential.
Education must never be under-valued.
Any of you children here today, if you set your heart on it – you can become that doctor, or nurse, or truck driver, or scientist or teacher.
You might even think about becoming a politician.
We need only look at our history to see some of the famous New Zealanders who came from small schools such as Hora Hora.
The man called “The Father of Physics,” Ernest Rutherford, started his education in a small country primary school at Havelock, near Nelson, in the South Island.
A famous rocket scientist who helped get the first man to walk on the moon, Bill Pickering, also went to this humble school in Havelock.
Āpirana Ngata, a great Maori leader and politician, attended a small primary school in Waiomatatini near Gisborne.
He became the first New Zealander, Māori or European, to gain a double university degree.
The question we could ask is – while we recognise the value of education – do we give it the level of importance it deserves?
We may not change the world as Nelson Mandela said, but do we recognise that education can change and improve the circumstances of our own lives and those of our families and communities?
Schools under huge pressure
Since Hora Hora School started, of course, the world has changed immensely.
Education has become far more complex and intense.
Schools are probably under more pressure today than they have ever been.
Last month the New Zealand Educational Institute said a survey they commissioned revealed hundreds of primary school principals and their deputies were burnt out by bureaucracy.
They blamed “government initiatives” as a key cause of this stress.
Vast amounts of administrative work are taking up their time and taking them out of the classrooms.
Last month also hundreds of New Zealand principals said they could not cater for special needs children in their schools because of insufficient support and funding.
Things are no different here at Hora Hora.
You have to battle to get funding to cover costs and what you receive is not enough.
And things are not going to get better.
Core funding for many schools around New Zealand has been frozen this year.
Early childhood funding has been frozen for seven years.
More pressure is going on parents to donate money to keep schools afloat.
As these problems go on some push an agenda to privatise education, to create charter schools which don’t have to have registered or trained teachers.
The underlying purpose of charter schools is to make money for their owners.
And these charter schools receive three times the level of funding per student than normal state schools.
If a charter school fails and shuts down – the owners and managers can keep the land and state assets.
This is where our education system is headed in recent years.
It is a seething mass of problems.
And as schools struggle our society has become more socially divided – with levels of deprivation rising.
Too many schools in our country today have to feed their students.
That is wrong, unfair and a clear sign the so –called “rock star economy” might be rocking for big business and the wealthy people in our country, but not for hundreds of thousands of ordinary New Zealanders.
Time for change
A change in how we view education is desperately needed.
Education must be given the level of importance and support people like Nelson Mandela, Ernest Rutherford and Apirana Ngata recognised but which, today, too many decision makers do not.
We need to ensure the education sector is adequately funded to meet the requirements of all our children – including those who face special challenges.
It is counter-productive, and not in the best interests of schools, to have teachers and principals burnt out and leaving the profession when they have so much to offer.
Primary school teachers will no doubt remember that it was New Zealand First which brought children free doctors’ visits and pay parity for teachers.
Our education system has now reached such a crisis point New Zealand First believes it is time we have an Education Conference between all those involved – in early childhood, primary, secondary, tertiary, trade training, adult and community education.
Out of this Education Conference will come a strategic plan for New Zealand education for the next 30 years to achieve the same goal Hora Hora School has – to set our children on the road to happy and useful lives.
We need order to triumph over chaos.
We need every parent to understand and accept just how important their role is in the education of their children.
Once again, thank you for inviting me here today.
When I was young at primary school there used to be a Hora Hora rugby team which sang when they came to play that they would “razzle dazzle.”
No doubt all you children have plenty of that razzle dazzle.
Enjoy your new classrooms! Study hard, have fun.
Congratulations Hora Hora School.
I now declare the new Hora Hora classrooms officially open. (Unveils plaque).