An interesting thing happened yesterday afternoon at 3pm.
Intermediate school teachers across the country patted students on the heads, locked classroom doors, then pulled in the road patrol gates to slink into the staff room for something stronger than the usual afternoon cup of tea and a biscuit.
Old habits die hard though, so looking around at one another nervously, they dipped soggy Ginger Nuts into double shot expressos instead and sighed. And sighed some more. And then the principal got up and probably said something along the lines of "It's hard for me to begin to come to terms with what the impact of this will be."
If you were too busy planning your next student budget cuts protest and missed the news, National announced the proposed spending cuts across another sector of education yesterday. The impact will be the loss of two teachers at public Intermediate schools across the country. Meaning 'extra' classes, like technology or language classes are likely to get the chop when there is simply nobody there to teach them. Not only that, but with two set as a cap, National's hopes and dreams of finding $43 million in educational spending cuts over the next year have been indefinitely squashed.
So where is that money going to come from, now?
What do you do when you make a savings claim, realise you can't afford it and receive a white wash of public backlash? I bet the Prime Minister wished he knew the answer. Re-branding as "good news" probably wasn't it. Following a tirade of media attention, bandying the phrase "complete government back down" around like it was the 2012 Political Meme of the year, chances are National weren't prepared for a beehive of laughter when Education Minister Hekia Parata first made the announcement. Ah, politicians and uncontrollable laughter. Now there's the start of a great financial year ahead.
While this was happening opposition leader David Shearer was out making best friends with every Intermediate School Principal in their desperate time of need, like only the leader of the opposition can. David, if you're reading this, you're nice but do yourself a favour and don't be in the exact place cynical National supporters expect you to be every time they expect you to be there. You're trying to sway the votes that won in majority to bring in your opposition. It's simple maths: they bet you, you need them to like you. So don't focus on impressing the existing voters who already think you look smashing in red.
They say cliches are based on truth, and in this case I tend to agree. The children are our future, and pulling teachers from them to increase class sizes is unlikely to make a huge positive social impact. Especially amongst pockets of rural poverty in New Zealand, where the teaching staff size is now set to be cut directly in half from 4 to only 2. If I were a kid in a school facing this reality, I'd be annoyed.
Imagine if they did that at uni? AUT's 'mixed/integrated learning spaces' might just be a telling sign of what's to come.