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Education, GERM (Global Education Reform Movement), Government Policy, National Standards, New Zealand, PaCT, Protest - Have a Voice, Testing

Let us frame our message correctly then act with unity, By Kelvin Smythe

Kelvin Smythe

Kelvin Smythe

Let us frame our message correctly then act with unity

Congratulations to all concerned in bringing together nearly all the primary teacher organisations.

Now we have to frame our message correctly then act with unity.

To understand how significant this recent declaration of unity is, we need to look at the past. By looking there we will better understand our present to act more surely in the present and the future. I spoke to my friend and former NZEI president, Frank Dodd, about the matter.

What the teacher organisations have done is unique in its comprehensiveness and its focus. There was organisational unity in working with the government over the integration of Catholic schools – but that was a partnership with the government. The bulk funding issue sort of brought the organisations together in a kind of way around aims, but the unity was ragged as a result of a few right-wing principals (mainly from Auckland) undermining that sort of unity, indeed, a group of them undertook direct negotiations with Lockwood Smith taking some addle-brained principals with them. That fractiousness still remains a possibility with the present unity.

If genuine unity can be developed and maintained, it signals a huge change in the balance of power of education politics. But be warned, Hekia Parata and John Key will use a combination of the sirens and Caligula (to mix my cultural mythology). They will use seductive arguments, blandishments, and raw threats. Their attention will, in particular, be to the kind of grouping referred to, that is right-wing principals bringing along some addled-brain principals. (They are not really addled-brained just appearing to be so to avoid having to display a bit of moral courage.)

But we must frame our message correctly.

The stand is against national standards not PaCT. Teacher organisations should not be voluntarily involved in anything to do with national standards, and PaCT is national standards. This stand is not industrial action as Key has called it but moral action: we are not refusing to obey the law; we are refusing to be involved in the development of something that will be harmful to children. The stand against having anything to do with PaCT is because of our stand against national standards. And our main objection to national standards is not that they are flawed but because they are bad.

That must be the rock of our argument.

We should have nothing to do with ministry in relation to the development of national standards.

There is nothing about national standards we could learn that could possibly make any material difference.

A policy is that is harmful to children is made even more harmful in being made more efficient (not that PaCT has a snowball’s chance of being so).

There is only one message to deliver to the ministry and PaCT: national standards are bad, very bad for children. End of story.

And now to peripheral matters. Could I enumerate them?

  1. Fifty pages of a 155-page Treasury report gained under the OIA lists a host of policies dependent on PaCT; policies from performance pay and dismissal of teachers to controlling classroom programmes. Hekia Parata is moving through the report, systematically putting the items contained into policy. Fears about PaCT aren’t conspiracy theories they are putative policies.
  1. This from an alarmed South Island teacher observer: ‘During the first few minutes we were guided to a webpage set up by the developers of the PACT tool. I had a few minutes before the workshop started so I started clicking around on the website. I came across a webpage that had three columns. The first column had the students MOE identifying number, the second column had their teachers MOE identifying number and the third had the students PACT score. When I asked what this was going to be used for the organisers said that the developers had to build this into the Tool. This is common practice for the Ministry as many of the SMS developers will tell you the Ministry makes strict guidelines about data. To me it was the next step in National’s educational reforms and what we all know is to come. It was a performance pay mechanism.’
  1. This from Marilyn Gwilliam, secretary Papatoetoe Principals Association to Phil Harding: ‘The ministry adviser was unable to tell us if the illustrations in the PaCT tool are aligned to the national standards or to the NZC …
  1.  ‘The PaCT illustrations are not aligned to [any to national standards, the NZC and their OTJs]’

In other words, what is being developed is a tool for national testing; a tool for results being sent to a computer in Wellington to establish its own judgements on child and teacher performance.

On the morning after the historic unity between teacher organisations I received many e-mails from principals telling me how excited they were, and an especially large number were from rural principals who said they felt much more protected as a result of these happenings. I don’t want comfortably ensconced city principals playing silly games and eroding that unity

When the next elections come round for positions in whatever organisation, voters should be looking for a clear policy statement not against PaCT but against national standards.
On the day after the historic unity was announced, the president of the Auckland Primary Principals Association (APPA) sent out a press release saying (would you believe) that ‘the NZPF position re PaCT… does not change our key statement which we made earlier in the year. That is, principals need to be informed regarding whether it will improve student learning in their schools.’
In other words, for the president, there is the possibility of him being in favour of national standards.
Unfortunately, following the declaration of organisational unity, the statements from spokespeople, by focusing on PaCT and not national standards, left the opportunity open for this addled thinking.
A lot of gibberish followed in the APPA press release about the tool not being made mandatory or accessible to the ministry: this is the siren argument of capitulation.
We should boycott PaCT’s development not because of PaCT but because of national standards. And from that rock, long may unity reign.
by Kelvin Smythe.
Reproduced with kind permission by Kelvin Smythe.  
You can read this and many more posts by Kelvin on his web site, Networkonnet

About Save Our Schools NZ

"One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds." Gandhi


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