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Invercargill will be connected to the world like never before with the introduction of ultra-fast broadband, Invercargill MP Eric Roy said today.

Mr. Roy said around 16 Invercargill schools, 100 healthcare providers and 1050 Invercargill businesses will be connected between Aug 2011 – Apr 2017, and provided speeds of up 10 gigabits per second.

“Ultra-fast broadband will connect Invercargill businesses, schools and health providers with the rest of New Zealand and the world as part of the government’s $1.5 billion Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative.”

Government agency Crown Fibre Holdings has negotiated with Telecom to rollout ultra-fast broadband between August 2011 and April 2017 in Invercargill, providing residents with internet speeds up to 10 times faster than current broadband speeds. Read the rest of this entry »

Good news – the 500-seat Tainui auditorium at Te Wharekura o Arowhenua has been saved for the moment.

I’ve had discussions with the Minister of Education, who has agreed to give the kura representatives three months to show how they would manage and maintain the Tainui auditorium in the future.

The Ministry of Education had intended to demolish the auditorium earlier this year, but the local community was determined to keep it as an asset.

It is used by a wide number of groups, and as I pointed out, the cost of repairing and maintaining it is far less than the demolition costs.  The Minister has agreed subject to the kura ensuring it has a workable plan to own, manage and maintain the facility.

I have the utmost confidence that the kura and the auditorium’s other supporters would find a way that was acceptable to the Ministry.

This is a great asset that would cost millions to build new.  This plan is a great way forward.

The news that the number of 18-25 year olds studying at tertiary level has increased markedly since 2008 is good for New Zealand.

The National Government has made it clear that world-class skills and knowledge that will get our people ahead in life are vital to our economic growth plan.

In Southland, we are blessed to have SIT leading the way and helping us retain Southlanders and recruit outsiders to work and study here.

The other key aspect to all of this is having jobs after training is completed.  Our plans, such as the 90-day trial period, have already shown increases in employment, but we need to keep working on creating the right economic climate where employment in the South remains a strong option for our students.

National has a series of goals for 2011.  Firstly, we will be lifting real long-term economic growth, because only a strong economy can provide financial security for families, opportunity for young people, safer communities, and world-class education, health and social services.

We are focused on improving children’s progress in reading, writing, and maths with National Standards, and making sure that young people get the education and skills they need to succeed.

National is taking action on violent crime and addressing the causes of crime to make families feel safer in their homes and communities.

And we are going to deliver better public services for all Kiwis by cutting bureaucracy and shifting resources from the back office to the frontline, to deliver the high-quality health and social services that all New Zealanders deserve.

It’s going to be a busy year.

There is a lot of emotion around National Standards in education at present.  Putting this aside, the two issues vexing the teachers are i) the Standards need to be trialled, and ii) the Standards will result in the creation of league tables.

In regard to the first point, schools do not have to report any National Standards data until 2012.  This ‘bedding in’ period will allow for fine-tuning the system – in essence, a trial period.

The second point is one that has only been raised by the teacher unions and the media.  It is a point that teachers need to provide alternative solutions for, rather than using it to dismiss the Standards out of hand.  It was never the Government’s intention to create league tables.

Currently, one in five New Zealand children are leaving our schools without the literacy and numeracy skills they need.

National Standards are one way of ensuring this does not continue.

The decision by some Southland primary principals to boycott the National Standards implementation workshops is a cop-out.

This decision is not about money.  It’s an ideological opposition based on flawed logic.  Those now opposed were the ones who, just a year ago, were key participants in the development of National Standards.  The NZEI and the principals are abrogating their responsibility to their teachers’ professional development and consequently to their students.

Professional development through this training is essential to ensuring principals, teachers and boards are well-equipped to work with the Standards.

The Government wants to make sure principals, teachers and trustees understand the Standards themselves; how they can support effective teaching across the curriculum; and the importance of reporting to parents.

At least 7000 teachers will be provided with in-depth training so they can use the Standards to set goals for student learning and improve their teaching practice.

A further 1200 teachers will be offered opportunities to study university papers in literacy or numeracy to improve their content knowledge and understanding of effective teaching.

Southland principals are going to get left behind.  All the parents I speak to tell me that they can’t wait to have a valid, fact-based assessment of their child’s progress, rather than some of the subjective material they receive from schools at present.  If Southland principals think boycotting the training sessions will somehow put their students in a better position, they are sorely mistaken.

Do they not want our children to get the best start possible?

The scaremongering among some groups over National Standards is ignoring the most important point.

What is wrong with parents being alerted to the fact their child is not doing well?

The focus is on individuals, engaging parents more in learning and any remedial requirements, and ensuring that we improve the literacy and numeracy of those currently missing out.  The National Standards are not a ‘pass’ or fail’ measured against other students.  It is designed to ensure that the child is not falling behind in literacy and numeracy – it is an individualized test to assist the individual student and identify gaps in learning for remedial action.

The negative publicity from unions and others shows a level of self-interest or lack of understanding which ignored the point of the National Standards.

We have a lot of very good teachers and very good students.  This policy is aimed at helping those who aren’t getting a basic level in the core competency subjects.  It’s about children and ensuring their future, and anything that assists them should be welcomed, not pilloried.  Another important aspect is that children who are failing can be helped.  The Government has put $111 million towards this goal of helping those children who need remedial assistance.

These standards are valid, reliable and evidence-based; rather than an anecdotal approach.

If you listen to talkback, read blog comments, and most of all talk to parents, they are very keen on getting a solid, fact-based assessment on how their child is doing.  This is all about improvement and ensuring no child is left without a basic education.  The only people against this are the unions and the Labour Party, and their self-interest has to be put in question.  Do they not want our children to get the best start possible?

The news last week that Myross Bush school and Southland Girls’ High School are to get information and communications technology upgrades as part of the Government’s commitment to high speed broadband in schools is just the start for Southland.

The announcement of the allocation to the schools in the latest round of the $150 million boost for school network upgrades means the benefits of greater broadband capacity will be felt in other schools in Southland as further upgrades occur in the next few years.

Given that many children will spend much of their future working lives online, it is important schools have the capacity to prepare them for that.

The goal is to have 97% of all schools serving 99.7% of all students accessing ultra-fast broadband.  This will also benefit the wider population as the current infrastructure is upgraded.  It’s another winner for Southland.

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You can contact me either by email me here, phone my electorate office on 218 7749, or call in to 97 Dee Street Invercargill (opposite Waxy O'Shea's).

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