PREAMBLE:

Education is a key to reducing crime, inspiring young people, strengthening relationships and avoiding poverty. Our teachers need to be well trained, well resourced and well supported and then trusted to do their job. Education is not restricted to formal training institutions, but includes life long learning through information sharing in financial management, counselling and on site training. We believe that keeping people involved in education will give them more mental fitness to withstand the pressures they face in life.

SHORT POLICY SUMMARY

POLICIES

The Conservative Party is committed to:

* Funding should follow the child: Ensuring that our education system works for all New Zealand children and youth. To make this happen, we believe that funding should follow the child, up to, and including year 13. We recognize that not all children have the same educational requirements, and parents need more choice around the education of their child to enable the best outcomes for their child. We also believe this would create a more equitable system for education providers and would ensure that they get the same funding they need for the children they are educating.

* Specialist Needs:  Resourcing schools to better identify and help children with learning difficulties and/or specialist needs. Many children are not having their needs met early enough and are at a disadvantage as a result of this. We propose that screening happen as early as possible, but within the first 6 months of school, to ensure that provisions such as additional funding can be made, to ensure that all children have the optimum environment in which to learn;

* Efficiency:  Cutting the bureaucracy and spending more on front-line education services. We are committed to ensuring the Ministry of Education runs at optimal efficiency to ensure that money can be spent where it is needed – in the classroom; We would look at reducing the formal testing of students and allow more time for  teachers to teach rather than test.                                          

* Homeschooling: We support parents retaining the right to home educate their children. We would make Te kura correspondence school funded by the government and resource parents at a similar level to what is provided currently.

* RTLB:  Cutting the allocation for Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB) and reallocate that money pro rata to schools to make decisions on the best way to serve the children in that school. RTLB’s have been largely ineffective, reflected by their ERO reports. It is our belief that this extra funding should be able to be used by individual schools to help their children. These funds would be used at the discretion of the school, on front-line services, with schools able to contract successful RTLB teachers if they wish;

* Sex Education: Ensuring that there are increased options and opportunities available for schools in the teaching of health and sex education. We believe that funding should be contestable by different providers, not just Family Planning. This will offer schools the opportunity to provide a more well rounded health and sex education, with specific emphasis on healthy and stable relationships and the input of parents being key components.

The Conservative Party believes that sex education is best taught by parents.  Any parent should have the right to withdraw their children from sex education.  Sex education should not be started in schools until after Yr 9. Family Planning should be required to include abstinence and long term relationships as the option with the best outcomes for all in their syllabus or lose their funding.  We believe that relationship education would be far more beneficial for all New Zealanders, as it relates to every area of our lives.

The Conservative Party also believes that gender identity issues are psychological and not physiological, and therefore should be dealt with as other psychological issues. Gender identity should not be taught in schools, apart from offering help for those struggling in that area. People should use bathrooms and changing rooms of their biological gender;

* Apprenticeships:  Resourcing and encouraging more tradespeople to take on apprentices and provide government funded trade programs. There is a significant need for more tradespeople in this country and we are committed to ensuring that the Government gives proper regard to apprenticeships and provides necessary incentives to meet the shortages currently present. This would also provide many young New Zealanders with lucrative employment opportunities into the future;

* Trades:  Stream students early so that those best suited for trades are valued and fed into trade training schools. These schools would supply a lot more practical activities and link maths, english and science to those trades. Students would graduate with basic tool skills, health and safety, and the theory component of their chosen trade semi-completed before entering the workforce. Gaining drivers licenses and First aid certificates could become part of this education stream.

* University and Student loans:  Working towards providing 3 years of free university training. This will only be available for courses which have a high employment demand. If a student fails a paper or changes course, they will be required to pay fees through the interest free loan system. We will open up more places in Universities for the qualifications  that are in high demand, while reducing places for qualifications that there is little demand. Universities will be required to maintain or improve their international standing to receive this funding.

* Foreign Students:  We would establish an independent watchdog for foreign student courses so that the practise of extreme leniency due to lucrative funding does not compromise the reputation of our education system.

* Funding:  Ensuring equitable funding opportunities for all education providers to ensure New Zealand has the right mix of skills that we need to ensure that New Zealanders can succeed in the New Zealand economy. To qualify for this funding, providers would need their courses approved by an employer’s representative group.

* At risk youth:  Investigating what steps can be taken to help at risk youth not currently in education or work, to ensure that they are equipped with the skills and education they need to be successful. We would seek to ensure that education providers and other community organisations who deal with at risk youth are given the support they need to ensure that they succeed and can help these young people to live successful lives. Should a youth aged 16 or 17 not have a full time job, an apprenticeship or be entering into university education, they will be required to complete either 1 year of military training and service, or 1 year of volunteering for a community organisation. Community organisation work would also be applicable to community organisations overseas, as long as that organisation was recognised within New Zealand. An allowance would be paid to all participants for the 1 year period on the basis that they have regular and timely attendance.

* Charter and correspondence schools:  The Conservative Party supports the continuation of charter schools and the use of correspondence schooling as an option for parents, as these have proven successful in the majority of cases.

* Early childhood:  Providing choice for parents in their child’s early childhood education opportunities. As we believe that funding should follow the child/student, we  also believe the equivalent of 20 hours funding for pre-school attendance should be available for a parent who chooses to look  after and educate their child at home. As beneficiaries are already supported by the state, this funding would not be available to them.

* Addressing school violence:  Violence by children in schools has reached breaking point for teachers and principals, which has been attributed to deprivation, family dysfunction and the fact that as a nation we have disempowered authority, which has encouraged anarchy.  The Conservative Party is committed to having family focused community organisations work with not only children with violent and behavioural needs, but also their family, to ensure any family wrap around programs needed are implemented. We support Whanau Ora.

* Prison Education: As part of our 3 stage prison sentencing policy, we would require offenders to complete their individual learning objectives before moving into the open prison stage. (see justice policy)

* Training for the future: With the huge changes forecast in employment and what we will be doing in the future and the training required to meet future demands, we would set up a cross party working group to identify requirements.