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?
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.
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.