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Education

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On the school traditions worth keeping

In his end of year message, Wellington High School Principal, Dominic Killalea reflects on school traditions and the importance of building an evolving, caring, community-based school:

“…I was having a chat with one of our teachers and a parent about tradition. The point being made seemed to be that Wellington High School doesn’t really stand for tradition. And it’s true that we don’t sell that part of ourselves so explicitly yet we are a part of an ever-evolving institution that has been around for 132 years. I think sometimes we associate tradition with conservatism and that becomes a strong selling point for some schools because it protects a sense that things were better in the old days and if we only adhered to what we used to believe in then we’d be better off.

“I don’t believe that and I don’t believe this school has ever stood for that sense of tradition but there is rich tradition in ideas, and ideas have been a strong part of our school throughout its history.

Killalea continues,

“We have always been a school that has listened to the needs of the community and acted accordingly. This is why we were once a technical college and why we led the free secondary education movement in the early 1900s. This is also why we were the first school in the country to identify career planning as important and therefore appoint a careers advisor in the 1920s. This is why after World War II, in a period of intense rebuilding of the economy, we supported almost 3000 students until we split to become a polytechnic, an evening institute and a high school in the early 1960s. This is why we were the first school to have a bilingual unit in the 1970s and this is why we were one of the first schools in the country to introduce Bring Your Own Device in 2010. Finally, this is why we are coeducational, why we wear no uniform, and why we have a special needs unit and put as a priority supporting all of our learners with as much intensive support as we can give them. Our tradition is founded in assessing what our community needs us to do and then acting appropriately.

Reflecting on the importance of being inclusive and understanding, Killalea goes on,

“In this vein, this year at year 9, almost all of our students studied 2 languages, as well as English. Te Reo Māori was compulsory and students all chose another language to study from Chinese, Japanese and Spanish. As well as learning these languages, students had cultural experiences which have allowed them to learn a bit more about others and how they live. This is a part of building empathy, that ability to understand and share the feelings of one another. I also note that more than half of our current year 9 have chosen to continue to study a language next year. Of this language study, the most popular choice is Te Reo Māori. If this school is a microcosm of our larger society then those decisions are helping us build a better future where, because we understand each other better, we are more likely to be caring and compassionate towards each other.”

“Building a more reflective, flexible school that proactively works to grow a society of caring, compassionate and empathetic humans sounds like a tradition worth keeping.

Well said Dominic.

Meri Kirihimete, Dianne

Source

She’ll be right – a short poem.

Exhausted teachers clinging on for the last few weeks, tapping out reports at home on your dining room tables, this poem is for you.

Testing

~ Dianne

On breaking a strike.

A strikebreaker (sometimes derogatorily called a scab, blackleg, or knobstick) is a person who works despite an ongoing strike. Wikipedia

There’s a lot of chatter on social media about whether or not union members can *choose* not to strike, and whether they would get paid for working on the strike day if they went to work.

I haven’t got a definitive answer yet, but how very sad that any union members would be actively trying to find ways to break a strike.

How astounding that anyone would be encouraging others to do so.

And how utterly unbelievable to be hunting down possible loopholes to get paid on a strike day.

Yes, it’s term 4, yes it’s report season, and yes, there are bills to pay, but it’s no small thing to cross a picket line (literally or figuratively) and work on a strike day.

Once the settlement comes in, would strikebreakers expect the same gains as the members who actively held the strike?

I wonder?

Are we paddling this waka together?  If not, why bother joining a union?

unfair.gif
~ Dianne

New “Learning Support Co-ordinators”: What we know so far

How many Learning Support Co-ordinators (LSCs) will there be?

The plan is to have around 600 in place by the start of the 2020 school year, with more to come. The goal is to eventually have one in each urban school and for each rural school to have access to one.

What exactly will LSCs do?

LSCs  will be a specialised point of contact for parents and caregivers. They will liaise with staff, students, whanau and outside agencies to support a child’s educational needs.

LSCs will not teach children – instead, they will support classroom teachers and Teacher Aides, and provide expert advice to them.

How will the LSC role be defined, and how is it different to a SENCO?

SENCO roles are almost always tacked onto a teacher’s or senior staff member’s other roles, meaning they have only a few hours per week dedicated to SENCO work. The LSC role will be a dedicated one, focused solely on learning support.

Tracey Martin (NZ First) said in the Coalition Government’s press release: “Feedback from public consultation, which has just closed, will inform what the final job description looks like and the appropriate ratios for both urban and rural schools. This will also inform the final number of coordinators.”

Will LSCs only help students that are struggling?

No. An LSC’s role will be to support any student with specific special educational needs, including learning and physical disabilities, neurodiversity, behavioural issues and also giftedness.

How will so many LSCs be found, given the current teacher shortage?

There is no specific information about how the LSCs will be found and placed yet.

However, Tracey Martin said government is “deliberately taking a two-phased approach to rolling out coordinators across all schools.” She noted that this government  “inherited a significant teacher shortage and implementation of the new role in full from the beginning of 2020 would place huge pressure on the education workforce supply.”

Martin said that once the first cohort of LSCs is in place and “a clearer picture of medium and long term workforce needs emerges,” planning for the second phase of LSCs will take place.

How is LSC funding different to the current SENCO funding?

SENCOs are paid for by Boards of Trustees – SENCOs are not centrally funded like teachers are.   In contrast, LSCs will be centrally funded.

What will the new LSCs cost government?

LSC implementation will cost $217 million over four years, and the money will be allocated in the 2019 Budget.

This funding is on top of the $272.8 million allocated for learning support in this year’s Budget.

SOSNZ will share new information as it arises. But so far, this looks very positive move indeed, and we would like to thank Tracey Martin (NZ First) and Catherine Delahunty (Green party) for their long-term dedication to making this happen.

~ Dianne

Sources:

Government announcement – New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs – Beehive Panui

PM Jacinda Ardern announces 600 school staff to support children with special learning needs, NZ Herald 4/11/18

Jacinda’s Speech in Full – more help for education

Prime Minister’s speech to 2018 Labour Party Conference

Kia ora koutou katoa,

Kia orana,

Malo e lelei,

Ni sa bula vinaka,

Fakalofa lahiatu,

Malo Ni

Namaste,

Ni Hao.

And thank you for the warmth of that greeting.

I’m really pleased to be here in Dunedin.

For all of the creativity, history, and beauty that this city holds, you still had me at ‘cheese roll.’

I’m also pleased to be here because this is my first leader’s speech at a Labour Party conference.

That means my first order of business is a very simple one – to say thanks.

When I took over the leadership from Andrew at the beginning of August last year, the election was seven weeks away.

I said we’d run the campaign of our lives. And we did.

To all those who worked the phones, pounded the pavements, stuffed the letterboxes, erected the hoardings, or did countless other tasks – thank you from the bottom of my heart.

There are a few people I also need to pay special tribute to.

To our president, Nigel. To everyone in our party organisation from branch level to the New Zealand Council.

To my deputy Kelvin, and my parliamentary colleagues. My warm thanks for the support you give me, and for expanding. We welcomed 17 new MPs to our caucus after last year’s election.

And that Class of ’17 included ten women – a fitting tribute to mark Suffrage 125, and let’s be honest, just a bloody good addition to our team.

There are also a few people outside of the Labour movement I want to acknowledge. The Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and his New Zealand First team for their commitment to the success of the Coalition Government.

The Greens and in particular their Co-Leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson for their goodwill and co-operation in this most MMP of governments.

It’s not easy to describe the journey since the Labour caucus handed me the profound responsibility of leading our party.

A number of words come to mind.

Frenetic.
Fascinating.
Fulfilling.

Which you could call a polite set of F words.

None of that probably seems surprising.

You’d probably expect that in this job I get to meet amazing people every day. And I do.

That I get thrown a diverse set of challenges and exciting opportunities. And I do.

And that there are some days that are tougher than others. And there are.

But I will be honest, there are some things that have surprised me about this job, and I want to reflect on one of them.

Letters.

It’s fair to say I get a few. In fact every MP probably does.

I still remember, as a brand new member of parliament, being given the opportunity to feature alongside a National Party MP in a weekly breakfast TV slot known as ‘The Young Guns’.

One day I received an email from a member of the public politely advising me that she thought my hair clashed with the National MP, and perhaps I should consider dying it.

I replied that perhaps she could make the same suggestion to the other MP. After all, his hair was shorter.

But whether they’re positive, negative or indifferent – it’s not the letters themselves that have been surprising, it’s the profound impact they have had on me.

I should have known that was possible. I remember some years ago watching old footage from when David Frost carried out an interview with the late great Prime Minister Norman Kirk in 1973.

He asked him a broad open-ended question – what was his most memorable incident since taking office?

He could have talked about absolutely anything. Instead, he said this, in that quietly spoken way that he often adopted.

“I would think the thousands of letters that came in December after we’d made a nominal payment to social security beneficiaries and not the fact that we’d given an extra week’s pay, but in those letters, and there were thousands of them, came through the fact that there were a whole section of our community who were missing out on ordinary everyday things.

One women wrote in and said “I had my first pair of shoes in seven years” she had trouble with her feet and had to have them specially made and “oh what a comfort to have new shoes” and you know, you don’t think in 1972 or 73 of people not having access to basic things like that but literally, there are thousands.”

A Prime Minister who was gifted a question on national television, had an opportunity to speak on anything, and he talked about a woman who wrote him a simple letter about buying an extra pair of shoes.

There are many things that have changed since Kirk’s time, but the power of this simple form of communicating with the people we are here to serve has not.

They tell me when we are on the right track or the wrong track.

They tell me when we have made a difference, or when we need to make a difference.

They tell me what children think, what adults think, and sprinkled in-between, what my mother thinks.

But there is a particular group you won’t be surprised that I keep coming back to.

Kids.

They write to me in their hundreds.

About just about everything, like this letter from a young child with some interesting economic philosophy.

“I think we should make everything free because then there would be no such thing as poor people.”

And a seven year old who clearly thinks my powers have no limits and wrote.

“Dear Jacinda, can you change the boring grey toasters into bright colours please. Perhaps you could pass a law?”

The lovely kids of Rolleston Primary in Canterbury sent me a letter with their wish list of ideas to make New Zealand a better place. It reads:

“Stop the pollution.
Make our rivers clean for swimming.
Don’t close any more schools because it makes children sad.
Stop cyber bullying.
Peace.
No nuclear bombs.
Help the homeless.
Look after the animals.
Help beached whales.
Help the sick, the poor and the old.”

I can assure you Rolleston Primary, it is on our list too!

But if you ask me the same question that was asked of Kirk all those years ago – what has been the most memorable letter since I have become Prime Minister, it’s not quite toasters.

It’s the families’ package. It has been my greatest source of pride, and I hope is yours too.

Under this package some 384,000 low and middle income families will receive on average $75 a week extra once it’s fully rolled out.

In addition, we are helping one million people heat their homes in the coldest months of the year with the Winter Energy Payment.

And we are supporting young families with the $60 a week Best Start payment for their first child, and extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks.

I know what a difference this more than $5 billion package is making, because people have told me.

Just a few weeks ago a mother of three wrote to me and said:

“Dear Jacinda. I have been meaning to email you for a while now.…I have a son, step daughter and step son…times are just so tough.

Money doesn’t go very far at all so I had started working as a cleaner part time….Anyway, I just wanted to say that the extra money in family tax credits that we receive because of your government has meant I can work one less cleaning job, creating less stress, less tiredness and a bit more of the mother I want to be.

Thank you from the bottom of me and my family’s hearts.”

And another wrote this in a letter:

“With the extra money I am able to buy my kids some more school socks with no holes in them, I am able to buy warm sheets and blankets so they are warmer at night.”

But whether it’s shoes in the 1970s, or sheets and socks now – it’s the fact people are going without these things that stands out to me the most.

These letters may have been written to convey thanks or acknowledgment, but I just see further work that needs to be done.
Kids should be warm at night.

A mum shouldn’t have to work multiple jobs to get by.

There are still huge systemic problems that we all know we need to address. And that’s why I want to pay particular tribute to our Finance Minister, Grant Robertson.

Grant knows and understands those challenges, and has made it a priority to transition New Zealand to a sustainable and inclusive economy, where everyone benefits from prosperity.

He is completely focused on well-being, and I know our well-being budget next year will demonstrate that.

But alongside this transformation, sits one of the issues that we campaigned so hard on, and that remains one of our most pressing issues.

Because if we want to increase the incomes of families we need to reduce their biggest cost – housing.

Housing will be one of the things that our success or otherwise, will be measured against. And I welcome that challenge.

Already there are over 1200 more public housing tenancies than a year ago.

In our last budget we funded 6400 more public homes and housing New Zealand are investing $4 billion to not only build this new stock, but to renovate existing state houses so they are warm and dry.

And then there is KiwiBuild.

Last Saturday I stood alongside Phil Twyford as we welcomed 18 families to their new neighbourhood in McLennan, Papakura. They were the first families to buy a KiwiBuild home.

It was a huge day. I was standing near the front of one of the families’ new homes when I overheard Phil Twyford say to one of the people gathered at the street party “this is one of the most important days of my political life”.

And I can see why.

KiwiBuild will give thousands of young families who have been locked out of home ownership a chance to buy their own affordable home, not through a subsidy, but through the government using our scale and buying power to do what the market hasn’t.

It’s an example of the government seeing a problem, and fixing it. And that’s exactly what Michael Joseph Savage did.

I like the way he summed up his housing agenda though. As new state house tenants were moving into their new homes, Savage once told a gathered crowd that:

“We are trying to cater for everyone…we do not claim perfection, but we do claim a considerable advance on what has been done in the past.”

But housing is not the sum of our ambition. We are after all the Labour Party, we will always have a focus on the value and dignity of decent work with decent wages.

That’s why we have increased the minimum wage, extended the living wage to core public sector workers, and improved our pay equity laws.

But it’s also why we are so focused on skills and training, especially for the next generation.

I’m really proud for instance of our Mana in Mahi, or Strength in Work, programme. It will help some 4000 young people to gain apprenticeships.

I know it will make a difference, because people in the industry have told me that. Here’s just one letter I received after we introduced this programme:

“Mana in Mahi trade training initiative is the most intelligent skills training proposal witnessed thus far. 

The proposal of businesses topping up wages to the minimum wage is a step in the right direction. Implemented across the whole work spectrum should be the next move. It will promote business expansion and God forbid it may even claw back some ownership of our economy.”

And that of course is not the only tool we’re using to drive job opportunities.

We will continue to work with our regions on regional development strategies, and supporting them through the Provincial Growth Fund.

And we will continue to reach out to communities, including Māoridom, to find solutions to economic and social challenges through partnership.

We have set up the Māori-Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti portfolio to oversee the Government’s work with Māori in the post-settlement era – our recent partnership on housing in Porirua with Ngati Toa shows just what is possible.

But so have the existing partnerships with Maori around governance and the environment.

I’ve talked a lot about the environment in the past year.

Our changing climate.

Our dirty rivers.

The pollution of our precious coastal and marine areas by plastics.

And yes, I do think plastics warrants its own special mention. And why? Because the kids told me so. And they didn’t tell me just once. They wrote and told me hundreds of times.

Like the student in the Waikato who wrote me a letter to say:

“Dear Prime Minister, I’m only 10 years old and I am trying to convince you to ban plastic bags. They are killing our wildlife, they swallow the plastic and it gets stuck in their bodies and they can’t breathe. It is our responsibility to stop this.”

I agree. And so with the help of Green Party Minister Eugiene Sage, we have.

The past year has also seen David Parker pursue a comprehensive plan to restore our rivers to becoming swimmable again, James Shaw’s progress on our climate change goals, and with the ambition of New Zealand First in the mix, our plan to plant one billion trees is well under way – for those who don’t follow the tree counter as religiously as I do, we are up to 60.6 million.

As you have probably picked up by now, if you pick a subject, I will have received a letter on it.

It is fair to say some subjects generate more mail than others, and as much as Grant will be disappointed to hear this, the Budget Responsibility Rules haven’t been the subject line of too many messages.

And yet we all know that some of our critics gloomily forewarned that Labour in government wouldn’t be able to balance the books.

But Grant – a proud Dunedin boy – has proved the naysayers wrong.

He has kept a firm grip on the country’s finances and he is focused on running surpluses which is a vital part of our plan.

A surplus is a safety net.

Nobody knows what’s around the corner. The surplus is insurance against those risks.

Right now the volatile international situation means having that cushion is more important than ever.

But we are also balancing that financial security with the pressing social needs that the Government promised to deliver on. That is what we were elected to do.

We can’t do everything at once, just like it doesn’t make sense to spend every cent you earn.

But we are investing carefully in the areas that need it most. Things like health, housing, education.

In the seven or so years since the Canterbury earthquakes, there has been insufficient investment across these important areas.

Over the next four years we’re turning this around, and significantly. In fact we’re investing $24 billion more than the last government in those priority areas, because that’s what we need to start rebuilding New Zealand’s infrastructure, and improving the wellbeing of our people.

We’re also prioritising managing the debt that arose from the GFC and Canterbury earthquakes, because we always need to be prepared for the challenges of the future.

And there are challenges.

We may have a lot to be proud of – long list of things we have managed to do these last 12 months – but we have many things we are yet to do too.

But we will miss the urgency if we just characterise that list as statistics or numbers.

If I say for instance that there is a lot to do in education, that there has been significant under investment over the last nine years, that we came into office facing the reality that not even population growth had been factored into future spending by the last government – all of that may be true – but it doesn’t factor in the human face.

I want to share with you an example of what does, with a letter written to me by the aunty of a boy with special needs.

“We as a whānau have tried with dead ends where ever we turn so I then turn to you Prime Minister and plead for your help, he is missing out on so much and it just isn’t fair. Please help us find a solution for this young boy who deserves the best chance living with autism.”

There’s a lot in that letter that stood out to me – including the words “the best chance.”

You may have heard me talk about my goal to make New Zealand the best country in the world to be a child.

We simply will not achieve that unless we ensure that every single child, no matter where they live, no matter their background or ethnicity, their ability or disability, has the best education possible.

We’ve already begun the enormous job of rebuilding our public education system.

In the last budget we provided funding for 1500 more teachers.

We provided the first per-pupil funding increase to ECE in ten years.

We have begun plugging a massive hole – running to hundreds of millions of dollars – in New Zealand’s schools rebuild budget.

We got rid of National Standards to free teachers up from the red tape and hours of compliance so they could focus on teaching.

And we provided the biggest increase in learning support in over a decade.

This funded around 1000 extra places for students with complex needs so they could get specialist support such as speech therapy.

Teacher-aide funding received an extra $59.3 million.

About 2,900 deaf and hard-of-hearing students and approximately 1,500 low-vision students got more help, and around 1,900 more children with high needs in early childhood education will now receive support each year.

Yet there’s more to do.

There are still children who need extra support to learn.

Maybe it is help to hear, or concentrate, or to be calm.

If a child needs support and is not getting it, that’s not fair, and I’m not prepared to tolerate it.

So today I want to say to parents, to kids, to teachers, to aunties, to anyone who has asked for more support for those with additional needs – we’ve heard you.

Today, I am announcing that we’ll be employing a new workforce of approximately 600 Learning Support Coordinators to work alongside teachers across the entire country.

Their job will be to make sure that children with extra needs are identified. They’ll work alongside classroom teachers to ensure kids with high and complex physical needs get the support they deserve.

This will be a game changer for those children.

It will be a game changer for teachers, who’ve been crying out for these roles, so they’re freed up to do what they do best – teach.

And it’s a game changer for those children who don’t need additional learning support, who’ll get more quality learning time with their teachers.

These coordinators – similar to what we now call SENCOs – are part of a new way of doing things and have been developed by my New Zealand First colleague and Associate Minister of Education, Tracey Martin, through the draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan.

But teachers have been urging governments for some time for this kind of role to be dedicated and fully funded. And for good reason.

At the moment schools ask their existing teaching staff to do the work of Special Education Coordinators. But teachers tell us this is a drain on their time and takes them away from their classroom teaching.

That’s why these coordinators will not only do that job for them, they will also support teachers, with professional advice and guidance about how to teach children with additional needs.

But more than that – these new roles will give parents a single point of contact with someone who understands the needs of their child, and will advocate for them as they move through their time in the school.

This is a big change.

It will mean investing $217 million over four years – and these 600 fully funded Learning Support Coordinators are just the start.

Taken as a whole, this investment alongside what we have already done, means that in just 12 months in office, we’ve committed nearly half a billion dollars to special education and ensuring every child has access to the best education possible.

Thank you Tracey for your work in this area. And thank you to Chris Hipkins for your leadership in education too.

I’ve shared with you today what people say when they get in touch with me.

In finishing I will tell you what I would say if I was writing a letter to New Zealand.

I’d start by saying thank you.

Thank you for supporting us.

For giving us this incredible privilege of being in government.

For allowing us to create a fairer, kinder New Zealand.

And I would finish with a big giant PS,

Let’s keep doing this.

 

Just what are primary school teachers asking for? And what has Ministry offered?

This week, NZEI teacher members rejected the Ministry of Education’s second pay and conditions offer and voted to go on strike again. But what is it they want? And what’s been offered?

What we want:

  • SENCO –  A Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for every school, so that children with additional needs have a dedicated expert. This job is almost always tacked onto the roles of teachers already busy with many responsibilities, and so doesn’t always get the dedicated attention it needs.
  • RELEASE TIME – Significant increases to release time so that teachers can complete assessment properly and have time to discuss and interpret the data they gather. Two days per term is just not enough to do all of this.
  • PAY – 16% increase over the course of a two year agreement.
  • PAY PARITY – A renewal of the pay parity clauses so that primary teachers aren’t worse off than high school teachers.
  • SALARY CAP – Remove the qualification-based salary cap so that teachers are no longer unfairly penalised for having trained under the earlier Diploma system and can move up the entire pay scale with experience as other teachers do.

What Ministry has offered:

  • SENCO – Nothing! 
  • RELEASE TIME – Nothing! (In the first offer, Ministry offered addition release equal to 12 minutes’ release per week, but that was withdrawn in the 2nd offer).
  • PAY – 3% per year over a three year agreement.
  • PAY PARITY – Agreed to renew the pay parity clause.
  • SALARY CAP – Allow only one additional step for those teachers affected by the cap.

As you can see, what was asked for and what has been offered aren’t even close to each other. Only one condition was met as asked for, and that is the Pay Parity clause. Dedicated SENCOs to support students with special educational needs are not in Ministry’s offer, miserly release time in the first offer was withdrawn in the second offer, and the pay offer is less than asked for and over a longer period, and Diploma-trained teachers continue to get paid far less than their colleagues despite having the most experience (and often being team leaders, senior staff, and the ones that train new teachers)!

When we are hundreds of teachers short for next year, and we know we will be thousands of teachers short within a couple of years, you’d think Ministry would listen to teachers and make the job more manageable and attractive so that we keep the teachers we already have and attract new ones.  But no.

Something’s got to give: Strike action dates and information can be found here.

If you want to see in full what NZEI teacher members are asking for and what was offered by Ministry, look here.

~ Dianne

 

Primary Teachers: At what point do our hours and workload stop being reasonable?

The Primary Teachers’ Collective Agreement is full of interesting and bemusing information. Take clause 2.10 1, for example…

“2.10 1   The normal hours of work hours of work for employees should as far as practicable not exceed 40 hours per week Monday to Friday”

40 hours“?
Monday to Friday“?
That would be lovely, but – oh my sides – it’s just not happening. No teacher is working 40 hours a week – unless they are employed part time.
Which all begs the question, how much effort goes into ensuring these requirements are kept to “as far  as practicable”?  And what can we do if they aren’t?
You might think that anyone regularly doing way over 40 hours per week could argue that their employer is in breach of the contract.  However, the clause goes on…

“Employees shall work such hours as may be reasonably required of them… whether or not such hours exceed 40 hours per week.” 

Oh.

Thanks.

Full-time primary school teachers generally have 25 hours a week contact time in the classroom,  plus lunch and break duties, staff meetings, professional development meetings, planning and preparation to do.  For most, that’s feasible within 40 or so hours… but what about the rest?

What about planning? Marking? Making resources? Meetings with support staff? Parent/teacher conferences?  Report writing? Planning trips?

What about meeting with RTLBs, speech therapists, Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams, or other specialists?

Or attending overnight camp? Running extra-curricular clubs? Setting up and running exhibitions of students’ work Production evenings?

Putting up and taking down displays? Fundraising events? Compliance stuff for the Education Council?

So which bit of clause 2:10 1 takes precedent? The “40 hours” bit or the such hours as may be reasonably required of them” bit?

At what point does the workload stop being reasonable?

~ Dianne

 

For the Secondary Teachers’ Collective Agreement 2015-2018, see here.

Chris Hipkins, do or do not – there is no try…

It was great, today, to see so many coalition MPs, including the Prime Minister, turn up in the Beehive’s grounds today to hear and acknowledge why NZEI members were striking.

Chris Hipkins spoke eloquently about his understanding of the issues, agreeing that more must be done for students with special educational needs and that staff workload and retention issues must be addressed, and for that we were very thankful.

And we understand that not everything can be addressed at once. We get that this government inherited a cesspool of bad policies from National and ACT. We know the pot of money is not bottomless.  But we also know we are in dire straits right now. That the issues are happening all around us, and there is no time to waste.

So, whilst we are very glad this government treats education staff with respect and genuinely seem to listen to us, we need more than just sympathy; We need action.

Before it’s too late.

yoda and hipkins

NZEI Claims and Negotiations

Admission shows that Charter School funding is higher

Radio NZ ran a story last week with the startling admission that funding for two Whangarei based charter schools was about to fall as they converted into Designated Character State schools from 2019.

The revelation will not be a surprise to opponents of the charter school initiative, as it has been clear from the outset that the original funding model was based on bold assumptions that have simply not come to pass.

Here are the statements in the Radio NZ article attributed to Raewyn Tipene, CEO of the He Puna Marama Trust:

“We won’t be able to fund them [staff] all. That’s a fact: the funding won’t allow for us to have all the teachers we’re eligible for, plus the support staff we are used to having.”

“We will just have to work out how best to do with less.”

Unfortunately the piece did not clarify how much the funding was expected to fall by when they convert.

He Puna Marama, as Sponsor of the two charter schools, will receive nearly $4 million this year for the two schools: $3,074,521 for the secondary school and $883,073 for the primary school.  These figures are published on the Ministry of Education website and are based on the projected opening rolls.  Actual quarterly payments could vary depending on the student rolls as the year progresses.

The article stated that Te Kāpehu Whetū (the educational unit of He Puna Marama Trust) employed 26 staff for its 190 students, according to Mrs Tipene, who said: “That is a higher teacher to student ratio than a state school would have. A number of those staff are not trained teachers, they are mentors who support our senior students.”

Under the contracting out theory of the charter school initiative, the Sponsor may deal with the funding it receives in whatever way it feels is appropriate.  So they can hire more teachers, more support staff, mentors etc. if they wish.  Charter school supporters claim this bulk funding approach is one of the main features of the initiative.  But the real issue has always been the quantum of funding they are receiving and not just how it is delivered.

Charter school supporters have hidden behind the narrative that the Ministry tried to make the original charter school funding model produce a level of funding that was “broadly comparable” to that of a “similar” State school.  But this modelling approach was flawed from the outset.

First, making comparisons with State school funding is problematic, as State schools have many different sources of funding.  The modelling had to try and reduce all of these to a simple approach that could be written into a commercial contract.

Second, State schools’ property is provided by the Crown but charter schools need to rent (or buy) their premises.  So how this component was cashed up has caused problems from the outset, especially if the charter school did not reach the maximum roll on which the property funding was based, or took a long to get there.

Third, it also ignored the reality that the choices parents make are “local” and not “comparable”.  So the problems with the original funding policy mean that the early charter schools have enjoyed far more funding than the local schools they were set up to compete against.

Save Our Schools NZ analysed the 2015 financial statements of South Auckland Middle School and compared these to Manurewa Intermediate.  What we saw was that SAMS received funding per student of $11,740 after paying the cost of the premises it rented from the Elim Church.  In contrast, Manurewa Intermediate received $5,907 in Teachers Salaries and Operations Grants funding per student, with its premises provided by the Crown.

This means the charter schools have been able to offer advantages such as hiring more teachers, which reduces class sizes, hiring more support staff, such as mentors and community liaison staff, or offering support to parents by way of free uniforms, free stationery and so on.

The National government changed the charter school funding model in 2015 but the revised model applies only to charter schools which commenced operations in 2017 and 2018. The government is therefore locked in by contract to the original funding model for the early schools.

A paper from the Ministry of Education to Bill English and Hekia Parata, dated 30 April 2015, set out the key problems with the original funding model and the proposed solution, which was based on:

“Moving to a true “per-student” funding model rather than a “per school” model;

Ensuring that the property funding flow is aligned with the current enrolment”.

The impact of the change in funding model is clear when we look at the funding for the closed First Round school, Whangaruru, in 2015 (its second year of operation) compared to that for the new Third Round school, Te Aratika, in 2017.

In 2015, Whangaruru received operational funding of $412,148 per quarter, or $41,215 per student p.a. based on 40 students.  In the 4th quarter of 2017, Te Aratika received quarterly operational funding of$126,580, or $15,343 per student p.a. based on 33 students.

So two “similar” schools – in this case small secondary schools – have received vastly different amounts of funding per student under the two funding models.

The initial policy mistake of fully funding the cost of creating and operating small schools has meant the charter school initiative has cost the government more.  This is why Bill English and Hekia Parata changed the funding model – over 3 years ago!

Whether this additional cost has paid off is arguable, as the formal evaluation failed to draw any meaningful conclusions as to the impact of the initiative.

But either way, one could just as easily assert that the Government should be prepared to invest more and help all students who need more support, not just those in an ideologically motivated experiment.

Bill Courtney

Save Our Schools NZ, August 2018

Secret Teacher NZ: Why I left teaching?

I sat down to write this and had to start over many times. I’m not sure how to go about explaining why I left teaching in a way that doesn’t come off as judgy, or blamey or a woe-is-me tale. I suppose many educators feel like this.

Teaching seems to be the one profession everyone feels qualified to have an opinion on, seeing as we all went through a school at some point. When I first started teaching, I had creative license and freedom to plan my days with my class. If a kid turned up with a story about how the cat had had kittens that weekend, we could embrace that teachable moment and spend 20 minutes talking about mammals and pets. If I had a few chapters left of the shared novel, we could shift something else and finish it off if we liked. As time went on, this freedom of professional judgement was eroded.

Classrooms now are full of swaps for different subjects, children leaving for extra curricular activities during the day, or specific times to access valuable resources (like computers, libraries or sports equipment.) I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because I love that children have new ways to learn and new environments to do it in; I just wish it hadn’t come at a cost to teacher’s time and our ability to use our judgement on what works for our children.

I worked in a school where we had a large space for co-operative teaching, where the syndicate swapped children around based on their levels. I can imagine some people’s eyes glazing over, so I will try to paint a picture instead.

Imagine a large hall-like space with three teachers in different areas, each reading with a small group of children. Scattered around are more groups of children, some on laptops, some on tablets, some with board and card games, some sitting in corners together working in their exercise books. You might imagine its harmonious, a buzz of children learning, both independently and supported by teachers. Unfortunately, for the majority, this is not the case.

The teachers with those groups have about 15 minutes to get through their reading, before swapping to another group in order to meet and assess them, meeting them all over a week period. Questioning, checking, hearing children read, explaining and clarifying, and all that intense learning that happens in a guided reading situation. But one of those kids forgot their book in the other class, so they have to run and get it. That’s 2 minutes gone. You can’t really start without them, or you’ll be repeating yourself. You look over and see the group that have an ipad activity to do are actually on maths games – you get up to intercept and move them back on task. Over in the library corner a group of children who are meant to be reading and working in their exercise books are clearly off task, but that first child has returned with their book- and now you’ve only got about 10 minutes left before you need to change the rotation, so you call out to one of the other teachers (also trying to get through the guided reading) to check on those off task students, well aware that you are cutting into their time too. You sit back down and go over the learning intentions and begin to get into it, when a group playing with the games has a disagreement and an incident breaks out – so again you are forced to stop, to sort that out.

Rinse and repeat.

I could go on, but the point I’m trying to make is that this is JUST reading. You have maths interchange next, and then topic interchange. And you are on duty at lunch, and then there’s a staff meeting after school… Some days I would arrive at school before 7am and not get home till after 6:30pm, and that’s with a box of marking to do.

Now add into this those children with high learning and/or behavioural needs that can’t organise themselves, can’t cope with having a different teacher, or can’t manage being a “self directed learner”.  And those who had a bad morning (or weekend) at home and are wound so tight that they might explode at any time. And the child who isn’t coping with social things and is isolated, and the mean kid who’s been hassling the outsider. All that social stuff is still happening… But somehow you have to set up the classroom for the next lesson AND find a minute or two to cram something vaguely nutritious into your gob.

As an educator 10 years ago you had the time to actually teach. Eventually I felt more like a person whose job it was to keep things running – even if that running wasn’t beneficial to the learning of the majority of the children.

Before I left teaching I was stressed, anxious and feeling like a failure every day. I had been assaulted by a special needs child multiple times, and was managing two volatile children with aggressive and violent behaviours, all while maintaining this modern idea of what learning should “look like” and spending so much of my time making sure I was collecting all the data for the children and planning their next learning steps, too.

There was no fun or fulfillment anymore. It was like failing every day.

I saw children who just wanted to be with the teacher, who wanted to learn, but who were being swept along in this seemingly never ending rotation of ‘new ideas’ and ‘innovative learning strategies’. Everything was measured and monitored because we also had data to be collecting for assessment and reporting.

I’m not for teachers becoming the facilitators of busy work to serve some ideal that is the current flavour of the month.  I spent three years studying education, children, reading, writing, maths and everything else only to find my days as a teacher filled with behaviour management and making sure children are in the right place at the right time. And that’s not to mention teachers who are struggling with learning new technology and navigating these spaces themselves, all while still doing their regular job!

My personal experience was one that made me physically and mentally sick.

I continued to give 100% of myself because, like most teachers in New Zealand, I am passionate about children getting the best education and reaching their potential.  But the system as it is, that actually destroyed me. I burnt out. I would wake up crying in the night for no particular reason. I would dread going to work again as soon as I left. Thinking about the unending cycle of planning, implementing, and hoping I got through what needed to get through – and that the children held up their end and did the work, and that there were no breakdowns in behaviour that would derail the sessions and cause me to have to cut out something else to ‘catch up’.

I burnt out. I damaged myself to the point where I will live with that for the rest of my life.

Our teachers are a resource. You can’t replace our care, knowledge and ability to teach with fancy spaces and new technology. Piling these expectations on teachers and children isn’t improving our system- it’s creating another rod for our backs.

When I studied post grad with a group of young people in their 20s, I was amazed at how poorly they managed themselves, and I wonder why we expect school-aged children to be able to do it?

There are so many complexities to the things eroding our teachers’ spirits and well-being- this is just a tiny glimpse, and not even the full picture. I could talk about disenchanted staff, apathetic senior management, poor resourcing, the social issues in school communities, negative and punitive assessments, and an obese curriculum. And, of course, under-funding of our schools and support staff. But I won’t, because we all have other things to do today.

Teachers want to teach. That’s why we became teachers! We want to have meaningful relationships with your child to help them achieve their potential. The education system in this country has moved away from allowing us to do that and morphed into something very different. 

~ end~

For more on a teacher’s daily work life, read this great post by Melulater.

National’s knee-jerk support for charter schools shows it is struggling to develop Education policy

National’s support for reinstating the American charter school model shows not only that the privatisation bias that Bill English pursued over recent years is alive and well, but also that they are struggling to develop sound Education policy.

As far back as the 2008 general election, National committed to “increasing educational choices”.  But everyone knows that the phrase “School Choice” was first coined by economist Milton Friedman and is the code used to drive the privatisation movement in the USA.  The pure form of the privatised market model is vouchers, but in practice the charter school model has been adopted as the most practical privatisation route in most States.

The irony is that there is a wide variety of choice already available in the New Zealand public education system.  One leading American commentator, writing in the Washington Post, made the remark that “…the most aggressive school choice system in the world is probably New Zealand”.

Surveys over many years by the NZ Council for Educational Research confirm that around 90% or more of New Zealand parents feel they send their child to the school of their choice.  This high degree of satisfaction with choices available is underpinned by the variety of schooling options available, both within the State system and across the State-Integrated model.

Every State and State-Integrated school is governed by a parent-elected Board of Trustees, under a charter, the defining document that sets out the school community’s Vision and Values. It is this inconvenient fact that requires “charter schools” to be called something different in New Zealand!

The State system includes the set of schools operating as Kura Kaupapa, under s. 155, and the set of Designated Character schools under s. 156.  These schools are complemented by over 330 State-Integrated schools, with religious character, such as Christian values or even Muslim values, as well as a variety of teaching philosophies, such as Montessori or Rudolf Steiner.

Indeed, anyone who tries to claim that New Zealand has a “one-size-fits-all” public education system is either very poorly informed of the variety of options available or is being deliberately misleading.

As a former Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye knows this only too well.  So, we can conclude from this release that she has just nailed her colours to the mast of the privatisation movement.

National hid behind the ACT Party first time around and needed the support of the Maori Party to get the initial charter model legislation through the House.  The convenient marriage of the ideology of privatisation and the ideology of self-determination was therefore born.

Given that the formal evaluation of the charter school model, carried out by Martin Jenkins, failed to draw any genuine conclusions as to the impact of the model to date, National is clutching at straws to claim that the model has already proven to be successful.

And we know from the financial statements of the Sponsors that this has been a lucrative business for them to enter.  Bill English rushed to change the funding model after only one year but the first and second round school Sponsors have scored well out of the policy and away from the watchful eye of the Auditor-General.

No wonder they don’t want to let it go!

Labour has launched several reviews across multiple fronts to try and get to grips with the challenges of reinvigorating the New Zealand public education system after 9 years of flawed policies, such as National Standards.

It is early days yet but National’s knee-jerk reaction to bring back an American model that doesn’t even work there reveals how shallow National’s approach to developing Education policy is proving to be.

– Bill Courtney, Save Our Schools NZ

Teachers Vote To Strike

Primary and Intermediate school NZEI members have voted overwhelmingly to reject the Ministry’s paltry pay and conditions offer, and to hold a three-hour strike on 15 August. But many at the recent paid unions meetings felt that a three-hour strike starting in the afternoon would not give a strong enough message.

For most teachers, a three-hour afternoon strike would impact one hour of classroom time, the rest of the three hours being after 3 o clock. Commentators point out that teachers’ work after 3 o clock – weekly meetings, planning, marking, paperwork and so on – would likely be rescheduled and still have to be done at some other time.  As strikes go, that’s rather lame.

At meetings across the country there was a strong call to replace the three-hour strike with a full-day strike. A whole day. That, many argued, would have more impact and send a far stronger message.

Whether or not NZEI members strike for three hours or a whole day will in the end be down to them. It’s their union – they make that choice. The union is canvassing opinion now, and state that “[d]epending on the level of feedback, an online ballot may be held early next term to vote on whether to extend the strike to a full day on the 15th of August“.

Whatever they think is the best cause of action, NZEI members must make their voices heard. The time is now.

~ Dianne Khan, NZEI member

kuataetewa

 

Utter hypocrisy from Simon Bridges on Education

So, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says that school principals must be listened to?  Obviously he has forgotten the disgraceful approach of his party when they drove through the introduction of National Standards.

School principals and teachers were supported by many leading academics in condemning the rushed and flawed process used to develop the Standards in 2009.  The Ministry of Education used external contractors to write the Standards and they worked in secrecy, with no meaningful input from school leaders and teachers.

In November 2009, Four academics wrote an open letter to Anne Tolley  to stress their view that the new system was seriously flawed and would not achieve its intended goals.

But did John Key listen?

Hell no!

Even a 38,000 signature to Parliament did not cause the National Party’s collective ears to twitch, and deafly they drove on to implement a system that the vast majority of primary school educators never supported.

Perhaps Mt Bridges can be allowed some slack, as he was a new boy in 2009?  Maybe he just didn’t pay active attention? After all, the entire National Caucus was hearing impaired that term.

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.

Teachers Propping Up the NZ School System With Their Own Money

SOSNZ surveyed New Zealand teachers about the amount of their own money they spend on school supplies, and the results are astonishing.

In reply to the question “Have you ever spent your own money buying supplies for your own class?”, 100% of respondents said yes.

A huge 86% of teachers said they have spent their own money on supplies every year they have worked, an additional 12% said they have spent their own money most years, and 2% said they had done it a few years. Nobody said they had never done so.

In short, NZ teachers are propping up the school system with their own money.

How much are teachers spending?

The survey asked “How much do you estimate you have spent on essential work supplies over your entire teaching career?”, and a stunning 32% of teachers responded that they SOSNZ Teacher Spend Survey, May 2018have spent over five thousand dollars of their own money so far. $5000! That’s a significant sum, especially when we consider the large proportion of teachers that don’t stay in the job for more than 5 years.

A total of 69% said in their teaching careers they have so far spent over $1000, 19% said it was $501-$1000, 10% said $101-$500, and one lucky respondent said they had spent ‘only’ $1-$100. All respondents had spent something.

When asked what they had spent on supplies this year alone (bearing in mind we have only had around 14 school weeks so far), 65% of teachers have spent between $100 and $500. A lucky 4% had spent nothing, and 24% up to $100. But a worrying 4% have spent $501-$1000 and an alarming 2% have spent over a thousand dollars.

What are teachers buying?

Respondents were asked to “Tick all of the things you have spent your own money purchasing for any school while you were employed there”. According to their responses:

93% bought small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)

91% bought display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)

88% bought baking and cooking supplies for student use

87% bought pens and pencils for students, and 85% bought them for their own use

Over 80% bought highlighters/vivids/board pens for their own use, posters for display, and maths supplies such as games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc.

74% had bought reading books for their classroom, and 74% had bought art supplies. Purchases for topic studies also came in at 74%.

Almost three quarters of teachers are buying modelling books for group and whole-class activities, and over half of teachers have bought students workbooks.

In addition to own-class supplies, 45% of teachers responded that they had spent their own money on supplies for the wider school – e.g. for the library, office, copier room or resource room.

This is a breakdown of all responses:

Pens/pencils for students’ use

85%

Pens/pencils for your own use

87%

Rulers/glue sticks for students’ use

64%

Rulers/glue sticks for your own use

68%

Highlighters/vivids for students’ use

65%

Highlighters/vivids/board pens for own use

84%

Work books for students’ use

56%

Teacher modelling books

72%

Display materials (e.g. borders, background materials, pegs, clips, etc)

91%

Posters for display

84%

Art supplies (e.g. felt tips, crayons, jovis, pastels, paints, paint pots, brushes, glue, craft materials etc )

74%

Small in-class storage (e.g. tubs, buckets, containers)

93%

Large in-class or office storage (e.g. filing systems, cupboards, shelves, drawers)

53%

Soft furnishings (e.g. cushions, rugs, curtains etc)

66%

Seating  (e.g. seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags etc)

46%

Maths supplies (e.g. games, dice, cubes, flashcards, clocks, measuring jugs etc)

81%

Topic-specific supplies 

74%

Cookery/Baking supplies 

88%

Te Reo supplies

54%

Reading books (fiction, non-fiction, reference)

 72%

Furniture & Furnishings

The above figures show that teachers are even buying furniture for their classrooms.

Just over 50% said they had bought large in-class or work office storage such as filing systems, cupboards, shelves, and drawers. 66% had also bought soft furnishings such as cushions, rugs and curtains, and almost 50% said they had bought seating such as seating pads, chairs, sofas, beanbags for their classrooms.

It’s alarming that so many teachers are having to buy their own essential work-space furniture. Does Ministry account for teachers’ administrative needs when new classrooms are designed? Are insufficient operational budgets being propped up by teachers’ own funds? What’s going on?

Do Teachers Mind?

The final question in this short survey asked teachers to rate on a sliding scale how they felt about paying for these supplies. The scale was:

(0) Don’t mind at all  ——————————————————— It infuriates me (100)

The mean average response was 61 points showing a large level of dissatisfaction with this situation overall, but there was quite a range in the responses: Ten percent said they don’t mind at all (responding 0 or 1), whilst 18% were infuriated (responding 90-100). Of the 18% that were most infuriated, 8% responded 100, the maximum option.

Impact on New Teachers

The SOSNZ survey didn’t ask how long the respondents had been in the profession, but it would be interesting to look into whether there is a link between yearly spend and length of service. My suspicion is that new teachers (that are paid the least) are spending most. If that’s the case, it could be a contributing factor in overall job dissatisfaction. This is an important consideration given most teachers leave the profession within the first five years, and may be worth further and deeper investigation.

Imagine…

Teachers are clearly spending significant amounts of money propping up our education system in order to give students what they need in class and to have adequate supplies for themselves, and have been doing so for quite some time.  Some overseas teachers responded to this phenomena by removing from their classrooms everything they had paid for, with startling results. I wonder, New Zealand, what would our classrooms look like if we did the same?

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