As Parliament debates the third and final reading of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill this week, primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa has voiced its concern that submissions have not been taken into account in drafting the legislation.
President Lynda Stuart says that while the public focus has been on cohort entry for new entrants, meaning that children could possibly start school before their fifth birthday, other changes would have a far more serious impact on children.
Among them are the proposed Communities of Online Learning, which have received a lot of criticism since they were first announced.
However, Education Minister Nikki Kaye says the CoOLs will supplement and complement students’ learning in the classroom, and give them access to a wider range of subjects and teaching expertise.
“It’s simply not realistic to expect every school to have teachers ‘on the ground’ teaching every specialist subject,” says Kaye, “Communities of Online Learning will enable students to attend a local school, but include subjects in their studies that might not otherwise have been available to them.
“This is incredibly important in a country like ours, which comprises many small, remote communities.”
However, Stuart says the union’s current heartland tour has found that parents are “extremely worried” that online schools will be used to justify the closure of small rural schools.