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Chris Hipkins (Education Minister)

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About this government and education…

I’ll be honest, when it comes to education policy, I’m not enthralled with everything the Labour coalition government’s done so far.

In particular, I’m more than a bit annoyed about the piddling increase in schools’ ops budgets, and don’t get me started on not reinstating 100% trained teachers to Early Childhood Education (ECE). And the increase to Ongoing Resource Scheme (ORS) funding doesn’t cover the full need out there,  Teacher Aides are still being paid out of the operations budget (competing against the power bill and the money for loo rolls), and the teacher pay offer is galling. Very galling. But it would be madness to say this government isn’t an improvement on what we had for the last nine years.

Already this government in the process of getting rid of two of the hugest bones of contention for so many in the education sector – National Standards and Charter Schools. As soon as the government was formed, the announcements were made, and it’s moving as fast as the wheels of Government allow given that changes to the Education Act are needed.

The government’s also reviewing Tomorrow’s Schools to see if it’s fit for purpose, and looking at NCEA for the same reason, including inviting feedback from the education sector and the wider community. And school funding is being reviewed, too, to see if there are better ways than the current decile system, which everyone agreed for years is a blunt instrument but nobody had yet replaced. So they’ve acknowledged that changes may well be needed and they’re seeking feedback – this I like.

It also matters that the current Education Minister, Chris Hipkins, and the Associate Education Minister, Tracey Martin, both speak about teachers with respect. It seems like such a small thing, but after almost a decade of vitriol, it’s needed and it’s so very, very welcome.

So, yes, there’s a lot more to do, and we are entitled to gnash and wail about the pace and the bits not yet addressed. And we absolutely should continue to watch every move and hold our Ministers to account. But to say nothing’s changed would be wrong. It’s not perfect, but it’s better than what we had for almost a decade.

As Rita Pierson might have said, we ain’t there yet, but we’re on the road.

Educators welcome reforms but need close consultation

Educators will need to be consulted heavily if the overhaul of education announced by Education Minister Chris Hipkins today is to be successful.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Lynda Stuart said NZEI welcomed the reforms.

“We are generally pleased with the direction this Government is taking in education. We encourage the Minister to take the time needed to undertake the reform properly. Careful and planned implementation is needed and would set this Government apart from the previous National Government.

“There are huge and pressing issues that need resolving in education. Today’s announcement gives us some hope for these being addressed.”

The issues include: teacher shortages and the ability to attract and retain teachers, sufficient release time for teachers to teach and lead, ECE funding and a need to fix the ECE sector issues more generally, principal burn-out and stress, and more support for children with additional learning and behavioural needs.

“We want a world-leading curriculum and an education sector that fosters children’s love of learning and allows teachers to the freedom to teach and engage children in the learning that motivates them.

“However, the reforms will only be successful if teachers are meaningfully consulted in the development of the new programmes.”

Teachers were the experts in education and were able to bring to the table best practice and real world experience of children’s learning.

Over the past nine years under the National Government education has languished to the point that it is now in crisis.

What changes are proposed in the Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa) Amendment Bill?

Below is the official outline what is in The Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Bill currently before parliament:

The Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand) Amendment Bill (the Bill) amends the Education Act 1989.

The purpose of the Teaching Council (the Council) is to ensure safe and high quality leadership, teaching, and learning for children and young people in early childhood, primary, secondary, and senior secondary schooling in English medium and Māori medium settings through raising the status of the profession.

It stands to reason, therefore, that the governance of the council should be directly elected by, and representative of, the teaching profession as well as appointed lay representatives, and that its name should reflect the central role teaching plays in quality education.

The teaching profession has less control of its affairs than most professions.

For example, the current Council provisions contrast with how members are chosen for the Nursing Council. In 2009, the-then Health Minister Tony Ryall led the modification of that appointment system to enable nurses to elect members of the council.

The rationale for that move was that it was an important step toward giving nurses greater say in decisions affecting scopes of practice, competence and safety.

The Education Act 1989 currently provides that the new Council comprises 9 members. The Minister of Education appoints all 9 members. There are no elections.

This Bill retains an independent statutory basis for the Council, but its governing body is a mix of teacher members elected directly by the teaching profession and lay representatives appointed by the Minister of Education.

It is possible under the current Act that 4 of 9 Council members are non-teachers. “At least 5 of the members must be registered under section 353 and hold a practising certificate under section 361”- Schedule 21, clause 1(1) and (2). This Bill proposes that teachers should be in a majority in the leadership of their own professional body.

Teachers expect that membership of the Council should include appointments in the public interest, but it is only logical to build teachers’ ownership of the organisation required to promote and monitor the standards of their profession by ensuring they have a direct vote on some Council members.

The teaching profession supports greater legal independence for the Council, but it cannot, and will not, be perceived to be independent of Government as long as all of its governance body members are directly appointed by the Minister.

This Bill proposes that the membership of the Council be increased to 13, to include a senior ECE leader and a teacher educator and 5 other qualified and registered teachers/teacher leaders. Ministerial appointment fills the 6 other member positions.

This link takes you to the full Bill, if you wish for more detail.

~ Dianne, SOSNZ

 

A new era: a government that values and trusts teachers

One of the most insulting and insidious things done to teachers by the previous government was when Hekia Parata removed democracy from the Education Council. Teachers were still required to fund the body through involuntary registration fees, but had no say on who made up the Council itself; Hekia hand picked every member of the Council herself.

The move from a focus on it being a teachers’ body to something more akin to an outer arm of the Ministry of Education was made patently clear with the removal of the the word ‘Teachers’ from its name. At that point, the Education Council ceased to be teachers’ representative body in both deed and name.

So it gave me great pleasure to see that the current Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, has a Bill before Parliament (Education (Teaching Council of Aotearoa) Amendment Bill) that aims to right these wrongs and that this was supported  in House by Tracey Martin (NZ First, Minister For Children) and Chloe Swarbrick (Green Party).

What gave me the greatest pleasure, though, was hearing Jan Tinetti (Labour) support the Bill. Jan has been a teacher and principal for over 20 years before becoming an MP last year, and she well knows the damage done to teacher morale over the past few years. She spoke for thousands of us when she said:

“The lowest point as a principal that I saw teachers get to was when the Education Council was set up under the Education Amendment Bill a couple of years ago. It was a real kick to teachers. It was where teachers said ‘the government doesn’t care about us – we don’t matter to them any more’ And we felt low. As a teaching profession, we felt lower than low.”

Jan hit the nail on the head when she pointed to the move being about control and punishment, saying:

“This was a punitive approach and was seen as a punitive way to control us as a teaching profession.”

She then rightly explained:

“…as any behavioural psychologist will tell you, punitive approach never brings out the best in anybody…”

Teachers felt downtrodden, mistrusted, and insulted. (And is it any wonder there’s a recruitment problem when the government openly treated us that way?) But change is afoot.

The changes proposed in the Bill aim to restore democracy to the teachers’ professional body by having 7 Council positions that are voted in by teachers, and restore teachers’ faith that it is their professional body by renaming it the Teaching Council. And in doing these things, it also restores hope that once more we have a government that respects teachers.

Mutual respect, honesty and integrity go a long way to bringing out the best in us all.

Here’s to better times.

~ Dianne, SOSNZ

You can (and should) enjoy Jan Tinetti’s speech in full, here:

 

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