School Choice Working Party Produces Quality Report
“The report of the National, ACT and Maori Party Working Group points the way forward in important areas of education
policy”, the chairman of the Education Forum, Byron Bentley, said today.
Mr Bentley, who is also the principal of Auckland’s Macleans College, welcomed the Inter-Party Working Group’s finding
that the centralising moves in education since 1998 were a mistake and that schools should have greater autonomy in
respect of school organisation, property – to allow schools to expand or contract in response to demand – and employment
arrangements for teachers.
“Equally, parents should have a wider range of school options with comparable funding. Choices are always limited but
the policy aim should be to expand them as much as possible.”
Mr Bentley noted that the model proposed was similar to longstanding arrangements in the Netherlands and Sweden and to
proposals being advanced by the Conservative Party in Britain.
“A focus on the most disadvantaged and the most gifted children would be a good start but should be applied over time to
the system as a whole, as the report suggests and the accompanying ACT Party report outlines in greater detail.
“The importance of parental choice going hand in hand with moves to free up the delivery of education is well
established in educational research”, Mr Bentley said.
“Another important link is between the government’s introduction of national standards and a freer and more flexible
system. It is of little help to parents to find their child is underperforming if they can’t do much about it. ‘Voice’
alone – pressure on schools by parents to take remedial action – is not enough. Parents need choice of alternative
schools as well.”
Mr Bentley said that the approach favoured by the Working Group should appeal to Maori parents. It offered the prospect
of a greater diversity of educational offerings, rather than the limitations of a one-size-fits-all system.
“National has stated its commitment to increase education choices so that families have more freedom to select schooling
options that best meet the individual needs of their children”, Mr Bentley said. “The Education Forum hopes the
government will accept the Working Group’s recommendation to establish an implementation taskforce without delay, and
looks forward to working with it.”