Bigger is better (Alf was arguing) but the Budget provides an exemption for Maori immersion schools

Quality should come before quantity.

Alf is pleased to report the Budget recognises Maori as “special”.

Or rather, it acknowledges that Maori hold a special status as tangata whenua.

It is exempting Maori immersion schools from increases in class size announced yesterday.

For good measure, the admirable Pita Sharples announced that the Government would spend $76.4 million over four years to improve Maori students’ results.

The plan to increase class sizes – when it was announced recently – triggered the usual hollering of protest from teacher and parent groups.

They didn’t take on board the emphasis your admirable National-led government would be heaping on lifting the quality of the teaching.

What’s better for your kid – being taught by a bloody good teacher in a class of 30 or by a bloody awful teacher in a class of 15?

So – quality versus volume.

It was a no-brainer in the Grumble household, where we have a high regard for Teachers.

But hey.

Not all our kids will be subject to the regime that is causing such a ruckus.

Associate Minister of Education Pita Sharples announced yesterday that kura kaupapa and wharekura would not be subject to the cap on teacher numbers that will increase class sizes and save the Government $43 million a year.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said the Government had made the move because of the recognised challenges of teaching an immersion language.

“Proportionately immersion schools are more successful in raising Maori achievement than mainstream and we do not want to impair that progress,” she said.

Perhaps this could have been expressed more helpfully, politically, because it somewhat implies that we are prepared to impair the progress of mainstream schools.

Worse, some clever-dicks might seize on that remark to argue that bigger classes for mainstream schools are part of a fiendish scheme to drag the progress in those schools down to the same level achieved in the immersion schools.

This would be one way of closing the gaps – wouldn’t it?

But Hekia insists class sizes won’t have a negative impact on the quality of learning and the dosh allocated in the Budget to education would largely focus on improving teaching quality and raising the level of achievement of Maori and Pacific students.

“Given the current economic climate, in order to invest in quality teaching, the Government has had to make some trade-offs,” Ms Parata said.

Hmm. The idea we are making trade-offs is apt to excite the horses, too.

But not if you have been exempted from the trade-offs.

And so Te Kahui Mana Ririki, a child advocacy organisation, welcomed the exemption being given the immersion schools.

Director Anton Blank said Maori children in immersion schools would get the attention that they needed.

“It’s also supporting kaupapa Maori education, which we know is very successful with Maori kids,” he said.

Inevitably, we have given Opposition parties something to rail against, and NZ First leader Winston Peters is strong in the railing department. We should get him to run Tranz Rail.

He is saying smaller class sizes are the best way to raise student achievement and the immunity of Maori immersion schools is unfair.

“This move demonstrates either there’s discrimination in favour of one racial group, or the theory that small class sizes are important for education.”

Labour’s education spokeswoman, Nanaia Mahuta, pitched in, too.

“It’s further evidence that smaller class sizes in those kura work well for Maori students, so why not for all students.”

Alf is left to explain to his mates in the Eketahuna Club how come we don’t see things the same as Labour.

The “Maori are special” line of attack isn’t altogether convincing.

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