Education officials have 'tin ear' to teachers' complaints - Little

Pile of exercise books

Labour leader Andrew Little says Hekia Parata's a committed and passionate Minister of Education, but she's rushed headlong into making changes nobody in the sector wants.

Teachers overwhelmingly voted on Tuesday to reject the Ministry of Education's global funding proposal, which would let schools give up teacher salaries to spend it on other things - and vice versa.

A joint meeting of the NZEI, which represents primary school teachers, and its secondary school equivalent the PPTA, saw 99 percent of members voting down the proposal.

Mr Little says Ms Parata thought she could "barrel ahead" with the changes, which have been compared to the bulk funding system used in the 1990s.

"The Government's got to take a bit of time and engage with the profession, engage with the experts and academics, to get agreement and consensus and a way forward," he told Paul Henry this morning.

"You've got to manage it very carefully, and you've got to approach it willing to take views into account to get the best outcome for everybody. These things succeed when everybody buys into it and agrees on what the objective is and how you are going to get there."

He speculates Ms Parata may have been pressured into pushing the global funding model by other members of Cabinet and Ministry of Education officials.

"They listen with a tin ear, they're not hearing what other people are saying, they're not open to alternatives... it's not the first time this has happened."

Global funding differs from the old bulk funding model in that the schools won't pay teachers directly. Instead, they'll choose how much of their allocation will be cash, and how much will be 'staffing credits'. Unused credit each year will be paid back to the school in cash, by the Ministry of Education.

"It opens up trade-offs between, 'Do I have another teacher, or do I reduce another teacher in order to upgrade the IT suite or get the swimming pool cleaned?' Those silly sort of trade-offs," says Mr Little.

Ms Parata told Newshub earlier this month she was "surprised and disappointed" by the unions' opposition, saying principals know what's best for their school. 

"If your board of parents trust you, then making good choices about how you use the funding is something you should have confidence in."

She says she has been taking time to consult everyone involved, and the changes - if they happen - won't kick in until 2019.