I’ve not been to a select committee meeting before, never heard oral submissions, and for that matter never stepped foot in our parliament buildings before today. In fact a year ago I didn’t even follow politics that much. But a year changes a lot…
So today I spent three hours listening to oral submissions on the Education Amendment Bill 2012, and here are some highlights, lowlights and things to think about.
The New Zealand Principal’s Federation were adamant that “our commitment should be to the curriculum document, which is an excellent document,” and argued that “collaboration and the right conversations” are what is need with the Ministry, noting that Ministry had not consulted educationalists about charter schools at all.
That was followed up by NZEI pointing out that there is no evidence charters leads to a shift in improvement for students, a theme that was echoed by almost all submitters, including the Association of Propiertors of Integrated Schools, the present ombudsman, a past ombudsman, the NZ Union of Student’s association, Liz Gordon, Juliana Venning and, my favourites, Mr and Mrs Bevin. (More on them in part two – well worth waiting for.)
NZEI also spoke about the declining academic standard in the USA, England and Sweden, where charters schools are already in place, then queried why the Bill makes no provision for special needs learners and does not ask charters to make any provision either.
A telling moment was when NZEI stated that
“schools are not a band aid to fix ALL social problems“
– an issue raised by many others – pointing out that
“social inequity is a larger problem … than the school system.“
What NZEI would like to see, instead of charters, is that money being invested in what is known to work here in NZ, money put into schools already there that are struggling.
NZEI asked why expressions of interest in running charter schools were being canvassed now, before the committee hearings are over and the Bill passed, which lead to much muttering in agreement from those of us observing. Why indeed. When questioned by the panel to explain what they (NZEI) think is driving the legislation, they said what anyone who knows anything about charter schools would say:
“The argument is that competition lifts performance,
but there is no evidence for that.”
We heard the same thing from The Association of Propiertors of Integrated Schools’ Patrick Lynch who said they have not formed a firm opinion yet but note that the evidence in inconclusive and not a good indication of what would happen if charters were introduced in NZ, saying that if charters were to be put into place then the governing “legislation needs very firm parameters.” They pointed out, also, that OECD research on equity firmly concludes that education policies should be aligned with housing policies and so on, and that this proposal does not do that.
Lynch seemed aghast that “the Bill has no parameters for success for charters,” and followed on to say
“We don’t see why an experiment
should not have a strong degree of transparency and openness
– otherwise how can we properly judge?”
In questioning, Metiria Turei noted that “it seems you [IPAS] are agreeing that there is already a lot of choice in education”, to which Lynch gave a clear and concise “Yes.” Megan Woods asked “You don’t see the National Curriculum as stifling creativity?” – the reply, an emphatic “No.”
Lynch then took a breath and stated:
“We see this BIll as severely, severely
(and we don’t use that word often)
Severely flawed. Not in need of tweaking.
Tracey Martin asked Lynch, “If I said the single term ‘for profit’ were removed [from the Bill], what would you say?” Lynch said, “I would say they could become independent schools,” yet again showing that the Bill is not about education but is about profit.
Which does beg the question of why the legislation is needed at all, doesn’t it?
I will leave things there for today and do part two, tomorrow – after all, every good black comedy deserves a sequel.
But I leave you with this.:
If someone tells you that their magical remedy will cure all ills,