Demise of bulk funding a big win for teachers, learners and school communities
NZEI Te Riu Roa and PPTA congratulate the Minister of Education and Cabinet for making the right decision to reject bulk funding of schools.
NZEI President Louise Green and PPTA President Angela Roberts say taking bulk funding off the table is a big win for public education and for the thousands of teachers and school support staff who united in unprecedented numbers at more than 50 union meetings around the country in September.
PPTA President Angela Roberts says parents and educators had rejected bulk funding because they realised it was a cost cutting tool that would force schools to make trade-offs between hiring teachers and other costs. Thousands of parents signed postcards to the Minister calling for better funding, not bulk funding during a national roadshow organised by the two unions earlier this term.
Angela Roberts says the win is good news for learners, as bulk funding led to fewer teachers, larger class sizes and narrower subject choices for students.
She says the two unions welcomed the opportunity to now focus on how funding could be used to improve equity.
“Now that the distraction of bulk funding has been removed we can begin the real work of developing an equitable funding model that works for every child,” she said.
However, Louise Green warned that ditching the decile system and replacing it with more targeted funding would not help schools unless the chronic underfunding of education was also addressed.
“We call on the Government to take the next step — to increase school funding and restore funding to early childhood services, which has been frozen for six years,” she says.
Both unions’ National Executives are meeting this morning and the Presidents will make a joint statement at lunchtime.
What: Joint media stand up by NZEI and PPTA Presidents
Where: Thorndon Hotel, 24 Hawkestone St, Wellington
When: 12:30pm, Friday 18 November
Kia ora koutou, thank you for being here this morning.
Today we celebrate and thank teachers, and we thank those who provide leadership and those who provide support at every level of our education system.
And we also thank all of you who help and support our educators here in Aotearoa as spouses and partners, family and friends, parents and children.
I think it can be a good job being a teacher or working in education, it can be satisfying and you can often make a difference. But working in education is rarely straightforward and it is very busy and sometimes exhausting.
Teachers and schools get blamed for a lot, and most of it is unfair. I have written quite a few books and articles about this problem, it’s what I call the ‘politics of blame’.
I heard Mike Hosking say on TV during the week that the regions including the Waikato are surging ahead, we are ‘on fire at the moment…doing brillantly’ he said. Well that’s one view of it.
But actually this is also a region where many people are struggling. I’ve become involved in Poverty Action Waikato, they put out a report recently and it’s such a shocking read.
And I know that if it wasn’t for the very good caring and teaching work being done in the sector then many children and young people and their whanau would struggle even more.
Did you know that the latest round of PISA test results organised by the OECD will come out on 6th December? That’s the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It’s when the education systems of 72 countries and regional economies within large countries get ranked against each other.
I don’t know where New Zealand will come in the rankings this time. But I do know that if we do well the Government will happily take the credit! If we don’t do well then you teachers will get the blame!
Last time we did badly and Hekia Parata was asked if she would resign. And now she is going to resign. Maybe she knows something about the PISA results coming out in December that the rest of us don’t yet.
The Minister, Hurricane Hekia, that was what the Herald called her, she does have a forceful manner and she can also be very charming. But mostly I think she is on a hiding to nothing because this Government doesn’t want to put more money into public education than it absolutely has to.
The budget this year had overall education spending forecast to stay about the same through to 2020, that means it is falling as a share of GDP and on a per student basis.
Actually, this Government doesn’t want to put more spending into any social or public spending than it really has to which is mainly to meet its promises around superannuation. It’s why poor people in this country are no longer falling through the cracks, they are falling through gaping holes.
A lot of us are here because of concerns about education funding. The problems are complicated because it’s a mixture of under-funding and of spending good money on policies and interventions that are not helping.
But I think the NZEI and PPTA are right to think that the global budget idea is a case of ‘secret plans and clever tricks’. Because once you move away from national scales for pay and the operations grant, the Government can put an even stronger cap on educational spending.
It can wash its hands of class sizes, the casualisation of the workforce and the real needs within the system in terms of operational funding.
Then there is the social investment approach to funding. It is very much about trying an intervention, measuring it, and discarding it quite quickly if it doesn’t work in order to try something else.
Unfortunately education interventions rarely make so much difference or so quickly and there is a great likelihood of useful programmes being thrown away before they have really had a chance to work.
The social investment approach also puts great weight on the significance of specific indicators like having a parent in prison, it’s less about the general context of deprivation or poverty.
But while Hekia Parata says that socio-economic factors are often overstated in education I think they are more usually understated. It’s that politics of blame again.
What I’m most worried about in education is that we will look back on these Key Government years as the period where privatisation of our public education system really took off.
The period when public education was run down.
The period when public education got dismantled.
The period when we let down not just our generation but generations to come.
I can see a hollowing out of educational processes happening all over the sector whether we talk about professional learning and development, professional resources, educational research, teacher education, curriculum coverage, special education or support for leadership.
In fact where New Zealand education is not in decline it is often because educators are working against the grain of policy rather than being supported by it.
But I also believe that when people look back on this period in our nation’s history, teachers will come out of it quite well. This week I was looking again at the campaign against National Standards, it would have to be one of the most impressive campaigns against any education policy to be found internationally in recent years.
And you might say it didn’t work but it many ways it did work, it raised questions about the National Standards and stopped them from being used to do some of the political work that was hoped for.
But it’s still a challenge we all have, recognising the neo-liberal framing up of our outlook and not losing our capacity to think and to care. If you get a chance go to Finland, I’ve just been there and it’s a real eye-opener about how things could be different – and better.
But even Finland has some global neo-liberal pressures coming on it through that OECD. Last year Helsinki, the capital of Finland, hosted the OECD’s first Global Education Industry Summit.
The aim was to establish a dialogue between ministers of education and the global education industry. And really it is about privatisation, about public education being opened up to the private sector more and more.
Hekia Parata went to that conference last year and she went to the second summit in Israel this year. And when Hekia did her speech in Israel she talked about building a coalition of the willing back here in New Zealand.
You can see where I am going with this.
When it comes to the privatisation of education, I want New Zealand educators to form a coalition of the unwilling. I want you to be unenthusiastic, hesitant, dragging of your feet and generally difficult. I want you to show only token interest and to be the last cab off the rank and not the first one.
Because it was Helen Kelly’s big farewell ceremony in Wellington yesterday and we are not all going to be as brave and as strong and as outspoken as Helen was. But what we can do is join together, PPTA, NZEI and our many friends and supporters who care about public education and form a coalition of the unwilling.
NZEI Te Riu Roa and the PPTA are launching an education bus tour in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch next week to raise awareness of the Government’s proposed radical reforms to school funding and the chronic underfunding of schools and early childhood services.
The bus tour aims to spread the Better Funding message to parents and whānau and the wider community, and educators will be talking to parents at drop-off and pick-up times about why children’s education needs more investment.
There will be Better Funding postcards to sign and send to Parliament, plus they’ll be asking the public to sign our Support Staff petition.
NZEI President, Louise Green explained:
“We are already seeing this with the Government’s freeze on the school operations grant, which funds support staff salaries and other general operating costs, and which has been frozen this year. Recent analysis of the 2016 operations grant shows that a majority of schools will be worse off when inflation is taken into account.
“Meanwhile, bulk funding in Early Childhood Education has also been frozen for five years in real terms, with services now under huge financial pressure to cut qualified teachers and increase group sizes.
“The quality of our children’s education shouldn’t be put at further risk from underfunding and flawed funding models. We need to restore full funding for quality teaching in early childhood, and at least an inflation increase to the operations grant to ensure schools have enough money to cover basic running costs, and to pay and keep on support staff who are funded from this allocation.
“No parent wants larger class sizes or fewer teachers for their kids. Our campaign is about valuing education and ensuring there is better funding to deliver the best education possible for New Zealand kids.”
This campaign is a great chance for families and wider communities to ask questions about what’s going on, so mosey on up and find out why educators are not at all happy with the Minister’s overall education policy and, in particular, the “Global Funding” plans.
Details of where the buses are going to be are here.
You can follow the campaign on Twitter at #betterfunding
Andrea Matheson writes:
Today, as a Mana [Porirua] resident, I had the ‘pleasure’ (amusement) of receiving the Minister’s MANA MATTERS newsletter. It has a feedback section, in which I particularly like the comment:
“I’m always interested in hearing your feedback and learning more about which issues matter to you. I’d appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey below.”
Well Minister, I would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to read and respond to the TWO letters I have sent you where I outlined very clearly what issues matter to me! So I really don’t think you ARE interested in hearing about what issues matter to me or anyone else for that matter!
And I’m intrigued by your statement in the letter:
“We are expanding the ORS and the Intensive Wraparound Service to ensure that every child is catered for, no matter their circumstances”
How, pray tell, are you planning to achieve that, when you have made it quite clear there will be no increase to the special education budget!?
Dear Ms Parata,
I am very disappointed that it has now been a month or so since I sent you my letter regarding the proposed overhaul to Special Education funding and I have not yet had a reply from you. I had very high hopes that my words would make a difference – I guess I am a glass half-full kind of girl.
You state in your opinion piece on Stuff, dated September 25th that “I will work with any groups or individuals that are seriously committed to improving children’s learning and raising achievement.” Well, Ms Parata, we have been trying to get your attention for WEEKS now – parents as individuals and as part of wider groups, have written letters, organised education rallies across the country, commented on news articles, commented on your Facebook page (and been blocked for their efforts), spoken to the media, left messages on the Ministry’s phone line and signed petitions. These efforts have been plastered all over social media – you surely cannot have missed these actions by passionate, proud, exhausted, anxious parents who are praying that the dire situation of inadequate funding in special needs is rectified, and fast.
The lack of response has given me additional time to think of more important questions I need to ask you as well as provide you with some further thoughts that have arisen during this long wait.
In several articles I have read in recent weeks, you have stated that no child currently receiving funding will lose that funding. This implies that individuals such as myself only care about their own child/children and will be satisfied with this reassurance. BUT – I wrote to you expressing my concern about the education system as a whole – I am NOT an individual parent who likes to whinge, who only cares about the impact for her own child – I care deeply about what will happen to children who desperately need funding who do not have any to begin with. So whilst your statement on this point seems to imply that my son will not lose the ORS funding he currently has, he was NOT my only concern. I am not that selfish. Therefore your ‘reassurance’ is of no comfort to parents of children about to enter the school system without ORS funding or teacher aide support, or to parents like myself who care about the bigger picture in education.
Could you please outline any school visits you SPECIFICALLY made as a part of the ‘consultation’ process to help you create your cabinet paper on inclusion? For example, did you:
Visit and personally meet with a wide range of children who have additional learning and physical needs?
Spend time with them in their school environment to understand how crucial additional funding is to ensure their success?
Observe a wide range of learning and physical difficulties, eg: neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, GDD and ADHD, physical disabilities, genetic disorders and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia etc?
Ensure that you saw the VAST differences between what a teacher, teacher aide, child and parents can achieve with adequate funding, versus a teacher and child who have no additional funding or teacher aide support?
Or was consultation done without the real-life context of what it is like to be struggling to meet the demands in the classroom without support?
How do you propose to support children in primary school who do not meet the criteria for ORS funding? There is currently not enough funding to support children with learning difficulties or disorders, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and autism. If a school cannot meet their needs through their operational or SEG grants, what becomes of these children? Are they supposed to struggle through their school years with little or no support? What will the outcome be for them when they have to enter society as an adult? It is a frightening prospect. We are meant to be a forward thinking and innovative country but at the heart of it, we are not supporting the children who are struggling through every day and having their confidence eaten away bit by bit. I am sure I am not the only person in New Zealand who strongly feels schools need targeted funding to meet the needs of children with these disorders if they do not achieve ORS funding (and we all know the vast majority of children with these disorders do not). We all know these disorders are on the rise Minister – what does your government plan to do about this issue?
We have repeatedly asked you how you plan to improve services to ECE without increasing the overall budget for special education. No satisfactory answer has come from you as yet. Instead we have to listen to radio interviews and read articles where the majority of journalists have not dug deeper to properly dissect the information that is being fed to them. But we as parents have a vested interest in the changes to funding and we know how to read between the lines. We will not be satisfied by the usual vague statements such as “The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander” and “Everything I’m working towards is about putting children and their achievement at the centre of the education system.” Are these statements intended to keep us quiet? I’m afraid they won’t. I guess the giant governmental PR machine may have underestimated our fortitude and determination.
Whilst we can appreciate the sentiment behind your statements, which I’m sure is genuine, you have not given us the answers we are seeking. How will you achieve better funding to students through ‘streamlining’ and what will streamlining look like? Until we get those answers we will continue to be noisy (deafening in fact).
We as parents are striving 24/7 to raise children who can become happy, appreciated, well-understood and productive members of society. All we ask for is that you work with us to better understand their needs, and the successes they can achieve with better funding and more support. Please LISTEN to what we are trying to tell you.
We want to be listened to, we want to be heard. You say that you want to work with us – why are you not responding to our questions? Why are you deleting perfectly reasonable questions and comments from your Facebook page? As a passionate parent and advocate recently suggested, we see plenty of pictures of you planting trees and other lovely photo opportunities, but where are the photos of you working alongside children with additional, high or very high needs, trying to understand how teachers meet their needs with no funding? Where are the photos of you talking to parents whose children have been turned away from schools or stood down because there are no teacher aides to help the teacher support their learning and behavioural needs? Where are those photos Ms Parata?
I respectfully ask (again) that you respond to these thoughts and concerns with REAL answers. We WANT to be involved in the direction that these changes will go, nobody knows the needs of children with ‘special’ needs better than their parents. We want to give you the benefit of our guidance. I am not setting out to be a trouble maker. I have spent an hour and a half on this letter, an hour and a half I could have spent playing with my son. But I am forced into this situation because I need to fight to be heard. Please respect our combined knowledge and experience, there is so much that we could add to help you lead an education system that we can ALL be proud of.
With kind regards,
Mum to a super special, endearing, pride-inducing and heart-warming wee lad.
Letter reproduced with Andrea’s kind permission.
Hekia Parata made a somewhat surprising appearance today at Core Education’s uLearn Conference in Rotorua, prompting again comparisons of her ability to make herself available for certain types of education gatherings and not others:
Still, this is not news, and her appearance this morning was not a total surprise, despite not being on the programme.
At least one person left the room in silent protest.
Some asked questions…
And one, SOSNZ’s very own Melanie Dorrian, made a one-person, silent and very powerful protest.
This prompted a flurry of photos on social media
The protest invoked a lot of positive support from within and without the room.
Melanie, I have never been prouder to call you a colleague. You embody exactly what we want of our teachers and our students – deep critical thinking, a commitment to facts, a determination to hold people to account for their actions, and a social advocacy that puts others’ needs sometimes before one’s own.
To those who praised Melanie, took pics, shared your thoughts, sent her your support – thank you. I hope Melanie’s stance has illustrated clearly that one person can make a difference and your voice – every voice – matters.
Next time maybe you’ll bring your banner, too?
After all, you voted overwhelmingly to stand up to this nonsense.
You can follow Melanie’s own blog here.