Thursday, December 20, 2012

How long can Hekia survive?

The pressure is mounting on John Key to dump embattled Education Minister Hekia Parata. Tracy Watkins' piece in this morning's Dom-Post is just one example:

Cutting her chief executive loose might solve Education Minister Hekia Parata's immediate problem. But if National is serious about winning back goodwill from parents turned off by the mess in education, she may have to be next.
Lesley Longstone was sacrificed after a string of public relations disasters in the education portfolio, including the Novopay debacle and the Government's class-sizes backdown, which sparked a backlash so huge it sent its MPs into near meltdown.
State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie blamed a strained relationship with Ms Parata. Given the pounding Ms Parata has received, that was probably an understatement.
Seconding Peter Hughes as acting chief executive is likely to bring an end to damaging headlines. A notorious micro-manager, Mr Hughes ran a tight ship at the Ministry of Social Development.
But much of the political damage has already been done. Rightly or wrongly, Ms Parata has become the public face of education blunders.
That is disastrous for National, given that education is supposed to be one of its strong suits, particularly with National Standards - popular among parents - in its armoury.
But Prime Minister John Key is paying the price for appointing a succession of more junior ministers to the portfolio.
A Cabinet reshuffle sparked by the departure of Speaker Lockwood Smith in early 2013 may give Mr Key an opportunity to move Ms Parata into a less-sensitive portfolio and appoint someone with stronger oversight.
That would go against his usual caution on ministerial reshuffles, and his insistence yesterday that he retains full confidence in Ms Parata suggests he is not yet of a mind to do so. But another blunder under Ms Parata would be one too many. 

Education has been a significant policy focus for the John Key-led government. But the education portfolio has seen a series of damaging blunders this year; class sizes, school closures in Christchurch, Novopay; the list goes on.

Lesley Longstone may have fallen on her sword (probably assisted by the State Services Commission!), but she is effectively a faceless bureaucrat. Hekia Parata is the face of the Education portfolio, and the buck stops with her.

Whilst we are supportive of John Key and National, we were frankly surprised by the words of support for Ms Parata expressed on Key's behalf yesterday. To put it into a sporting context, it is perhaps like the English football manager who has the full support of his board one day then is gone the next. Key's reported expression of confidence in the Minister may be a show of loyalty on his part, but we believe that it is misplaced loyalty.

We don't see how Hekia Parata can continue to hold the role of Education Minister without there being further significant damage to National. Irrespective of whether the stuff-ups in education are entirely her fault or not, she is the one at the top, and she is the one who is accountable. We do not believe that her position is tenable moving forward, and John Key ought to cut her loose without delay. Retaining Hekia Parata in this pivotal ministerial role will seriously damage National's chances of re-election in 2014.  


robertguyton said...

Quelle surprise!

Urban Redneck said...

Hekia Parata's disastrous tenure as Minister Of Education was the inevitable result of a party appointing someone into a key cabinet position based solely on how "diverse" and "inclusive" National party advisers believed she'll make the party appear to be.

Her and her husband have had their snouts in the public trough for pretty much all of their working lives, and the only thing of note she has achieved as MOE was to get another couple of family members to the trough in that time.

Keeping Stock said...

Be very careful in making potentially defamatory allegations under cover of anonymity Urban Redneck. To the best of my knowledge, Ms Parata's sister was ALREADY employed by the MoE well before Hekia Parata became Minister.

bsprout said...

I agree with you again, KS. In the last election Education was raked the second most important election issue and next time it may be the first. In both Tolley and Parata we have had Ministers who have decided that they need little advice in implementing policies and the last group that they were prepared to engage with was the very profession that had to implement them. In actual fact teachers do have some understanding of how education and our systems work and we can provide useful advice. The arrogance shown by our recent Education Ministers in thinking that they know more than 130 years of professional wisdom has been mind blowing and educationally destructive.

What upsets me the most is that our children are suffering and our international ranking in education has dropped from the top 4 to around 9th over the last four years. We are rapidly dropping to the rankings of the UK and US whose systems we are adopting.

Anonymous said...

If Hekia wants to be an effective Minister, she would do well to sort out her staffing issues.

jabba said...

I think that Hekia suffers from OCS (over confidence syndrome) and expected to be a star in the education portfolio. She has been a disaster and needs to go.

Vera Sadd said...

Teachers holding up placards in front of the Minister, while she is addressing them, is the abiding memory that the general public judges the "professionals" by.

Marc said...

Ms Parata it would appear is not capable of change. She is quoted in The Press today commenting on the (justified) closure of a small rural school in Westland - " had had 10 learners or more in only six of the past 20 years."

Where does this Orwellian language come from? In a small community, talking like this about their local school will only cause mistrust and perpetrates the 'We know best' attitude from the top.

The word is students Ms Parata, yes, a perfectly adequate and understood term which fits us all during our education no matter what stage of life we are in. I would imagine that 'rejuvenation' is off the table too, and hopefully your promise of real consultation will be honoured in deciding the best outcomes for Christchurch schools which need to make changes.

bsprout said...

Vera, when every letter and submission is ignored by the Minister, when the Minister reads out the odd letter in support of the Government in the house and then admits (when questioned) that by far the majority were against the changes, when 750 primary school principals attending a professional conference voted no confidence in the National Standards were dismissed as mere political posturing, when the Minister refuses to meet with teacher organisations or front up to public meetings, when so many education decisions are poorly thought through and implemented through lack of consultation...silently holding up some cards with a single message when the Minister actually fronted up is hardly a biggie.

When we had tried just about everything to engage and work with the Minister (Tolley and Parata) who then continually refuse to engage in good faith, you are left with few options.

Vera Sadd said...





Not an example that students should observe.