Hekia Parata to introduce new  ‘COOL’ initiative

Hekia Parata to introduce new ‘COOL’ initiative

In an effort to seem innovative and exciting, Minister for Education Hekia Parata has announced a poorly thought out initiative with an even worse name, which would allow school-aged students to register in online operated charter courses as opposed to attending a regular school. 

Any registered school or tertiary institution —including privately-run charter schools, will be allowed to apply to operate an online course known as a Community Of Online Learning or COOL, which is about as cringe worthy a name for an education provider possible. 

The move has received widespread backlash from the primary schools teachers union, the Post Primary Teachers Association, and the New Zealand Education Institute, who expressed a range of concerns. Much of the criticism revolves around the decision to include primary education in the COOL system, as educators generally believe that the socialising and interactive aspects of primary school are essential in proper development of children and cannot be replicated by an online service. 

The PPTA, which has never been a huge fan of charter schools as a concept, believes online education courses are a move to increasingly privatise and turn the education sector into a profit-driven arena, saying “Our children are not commodities to be traded…The only advantage is to businesses to dip their hand into the public purse”.

This is the second time in less than a week that Hekia Parata has found herself on the end of a bad news story, after she was caught claiming support of non-existent organisations in response to funding decisions to close or downgrade special education facilities.

Salisbury School, a residential school for special needs girls in Nelson was facing closure in 2012 as a result of Parata’s ministry deciding to funnel special needs funding to mainstream schools as opposed to specialty providers and only survived thanks to a High Court decision in their favour. They are now facing closure once more and appealing to the minister for funding to keep the school open for 30 students. 

When asked in parliament if there were any unions or organisations which supported her funding models for special needs students, she cited the Special Education Association, an organisation which doesn’t actually exist. Other similar sounding organisations such as the Special Educational Principals Association were quick to deny offering an endorsement. 

When confronted with this fact, Parata backtracked, and claimed that she was referring to “all those involved in the delivery of special education.” Despite her claims, she very clearly referred to ‘association’ as if it were a title, which makes it pretty damn clear that she’s full of it and hastily trying to get out of the hole she has dug herself.  

This article first appeared in Issue 21, 2016.
Posted 10:27am Sunday 4th September 2016 by Joel MacManus.