The Government, stung by criticism of its inept education policies, is trying to silence teachers. Their plan is to make teachers, principals, and Board of Trustee members subject to the public service code of conduct. The, which currently applies only to people in the core public service (the ones the Right calls bureaucrats) bars people from making public political statements like openly endorsing or opposing a particular party or policy.
Now, it’s fair enough that core public servants can’t be involved in politics. They are often privy to confidential government decision-making and they have to advise the government. Maintaining neutrality is important in those roles for the government to have confidence in the professionalism of the public service and the public to have confidence the public service isn’t captured by the government but, rather, is giving free and frank advice.
That argument just doesn’t apply to teachers and Board of Trustee members and never has. They aren’t part of the government’s policy formation, their job is to teach and they are often the best placed people to tell us whether policies are working or not. What next? Will doctors and nurses be barred from commenting on health policy? It’s draconian and it speaks to a government that is afraid of having an honest debate.
This attempt to muzzle teachers is probably in breach of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees political freedom and freedom of speech except in very limited circumstances where there is a good reason to override those freedoms.
It’s clear why National is doing this. It has the fingerprints of Tony Ryall all over it. National’s education policy has been disaster after disaster – ACE cuts, teacher:pupil ratio worsened, uni fees, national standards. Anne Tolley is arguably the worst minister of a bad bunch and it shows. But rather than actually try to put good policies in place and get a competent minister, National’s response is to try to silence the critics.
It’s disgraceful and it won’t succeed.