By: Simon Collins

Jacinda Ardern unveiled a plan for free driving lessons in secondary schools at Kelston Girls College today. Photo / Dean Purcell

Secondary School Principals Association president Mike Williams, the principal of Pakuranga College, said many secondary schools already provided driver education, which has been available for the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) since 2015.

New Labour leader Jacinda Ardern announced that Labour would spend $50 million a year on a “school leaver toolkit” including five free professional driving lessons, a free defensive driving course and free tests for learner’s and restricted licences.

The “toolkit” would also include compulsory “civics” education in Years 11 to 13 and options for budgeting, financial literacy, work experience and practical certificates such as first aid and heavy machinery licences.

Williams said: “If those are the biggest issues there are in education, I’d be very surprised.”

“The reality is that in an awful lot of schools driver education is happening already. Financial literacy is happening in an awful lot of schools already, and civics programmes are happening in an awful lot of schools already,” he said.

“It’s a real kneejerk reaction. They must have listened to some talkback radio and thought, ‘We must fix that.’ It’s that low-level thinking that is not helpful.”

Act leader David Seymour also attacked Ardern’s proposal, saying civics classes “risk turning into political indoctrination sessions”.

“Political parties on both sides need to do better at reaching young people. Handing this job to teachers is a cop-out. It’s not the state’s job to tell kids to vote Labour,” he said.

“There’s a serious risk of unions influencing civics class content. Notice how it’s conspicuously the left pushing for these classes? Labour is suspicious of religious education in schools, but seems fine with using the school system to push a political agenda.”

However Road Transport Forum chief executive Ken Shirley, a former MP for both Labour and Act, welcomed the driver education proposal.

“The lack of driver licences amongst young people is a really big issue for our industry. There simply are not enough young people coming through to drive the trucks needed to help grow the economy,” he said.

“It is a very serious issue right across the economy, not just in road transport. A recent NZ Institute of Economic Research report showed only 10 per cent of 18- to 24-year olds on jobseeker support had a full licence and nearly half had no licence at all.”

Source: NZ Herald

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