I think it would have been easy for the government to win – or at least break even – on this class size debate if they’d gone about it strategically. Six months ago they should have set up an ‘Education Working Group’, stacked it full of toadies and crackpots from Treasury, ACT, PriceWaterHouse Coopers, etc, who would then declare that ‘teacher quality, not quantity was key.’ Then in the election you announce that you’re capping the number of teachers and using the savings to improve their performance. Would that have been so hard?
Because the way they actually went about it means this debate is unwinnable. A government can’t suddenly cut costs, increase class sizes, insist they’re improving quality (‘Good news!’) while at the same time increasing subsidies to private schools so they can lower their class sizes – while its MPs send their kids to those private schools.
There’s simply no way to spin that. Which is, presumably, why we have Paula Bennett popping up and announcing that she’s going to ‘crack down’ on someone – this week it’s child abusers, although – as usual – what she’s going to do is basically nothing. She’s ‘considering’ giving courts the power to remove children from abusers at birth, something CYFS can – and does – already do.
Just once I’d love to see the opposition – Sue Bradford, the Greens et al – fail to fall for this trick and point out that Bennett is really just an empty PR gimmick, driving around in her leopard-print car getting amazing media for her constant pledges to ‘get tough’ and ‘crack down’ on the same rotating targets – teenagers, solo mums, child abusers – but accomplishing nothing. Child abuse rates are up on her watch. So are benefit numbers.