Education Secretary Lesley Longstone resigns
Lesley Longstone has resigned as the Secretary of Education
The announcement was made at a press conference called by State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie this afternoon and comes after a troublesome year for the Ministry of Education.
Ms Longstone, who was appointed to the role in November 2011 on a five-year term, is understood to have had a difficult relationship with Education Minister Hekia Parata.
"Insufficient progress has been made in the context of how the Ministry was operating," Mr Rennie said.
Ms Longstone was not present at the press conference, where Mr Rennie explained critical relationships had been strained” and the relationship with Ms Parata was a factor in the decision he and Ms Longstone made.
“We have been talking about this over the last few weeks,” he said.
Ms Parata was informed of the decision “after it was made”.
There have been a number of embarrassments for the Ministry of Education this year, including public battles over National Standards, discrepancies in the Christchurch schools merger and consultation process, as well as the Novopay saga.
Peter Hughes will take over as acting secretary from February 9.
A 'golden handshake' is being negotiated at the moment and Mr Rennie says a payment package will be offered to Ms Longstone.
Labour MP Chris Hipkins this morning tweeted that Ms Longstone looked set to be taking the fall for what he called “Hekia’s mess in education”.
“Parata is the minister,” he wrote. “If anyone is going it should be her.”
Ms Longstone’s resignation comes a day after Ombudsman David McGee slammed the ministry over how it handled official information requests about the school closures, and announced he'll investigate the consultation process the ministry followed.
His initial investigation came after concerns were raised that inadequate information was available to schools and their communities before closure and merger decisions were made.
The ministry also made an "inappropriate suggestion" to Christchurch City Council that it should refuse an Official Information Act (OIA) request on the basis that "the information requested is not held by the council" - which it knew was untrue.
Education Minister Hekia Parata would not comment on the report on Wednesday, with a spokeswoman referring inquiries to the ministry.
As a result of Mr McGee's investigation, Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem will also review how the wider public sector handles OIA requests.