Hurrah! SOSNZ’s investigation into the Teacher Education Refresh (TER) programme has got the attention of the Education Council, and Lesley Hoskin (Deputy Chief Executive of the Education Council) has assured me that they are looking into things urgently.
When I spoke with her, Lesley was very clear that concerns are being taken seriously and that EC is now aware that there are big issues. She said that EC will start by looking into requirements for itinerant teachers and relievers to undertake the TER programme, and will widen the net to look at the criteria in its entirety so that is can be applied fairly, reasonably and with flexibility.
It’s great that they listened, and great that PPTA and NZEI backed up the concerns we raised, but in order for improvements to be made, Education Council need your feedback.
That’s right, it’s over to you.
If you have done the TER, please send your comments to email@example.com or use the online form here. EC needs to know the positives and negatives, in particular regarding the criteria for having to do the course.
If you have not done the course but have concerns, you can also send feedback. Please make it as specific as possible so that the issues are clear. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the online form.
I am, of course, happy to receive your feedback re the TER and pass it on to EC for you (anonymously if needs be) but in order to get specific situations reassessed EC will need your full name and registration number, so please bear that in mind.
If you want to have your own situation assessed to see whether you have to do the TER course or not, also email email@example.com or use the online form.
When asking for an assessment, make sure you give them your full name and teacher registration number so they can access your files and get all of your details. This is the only way to get an accurate answer.
If you want to email Lesley Hoskin direct, she is happy for you to do that. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org,nz
Lesley informs the that Education Council typically responds to email within 48 hours. If you don’t get a reply in that time frame, check your email spam box, and if there’s nothing hiding in there please call the Education Council and follow it up.
We’ve now got the Education Council in agreement that the course requirements are not as they should be; to get things changed, you have to let those with the power to change things know what your concerns are.
You know the drill by now: email email@example.com or use the online form
Over to you.
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
A teacher writes:
I love teaching, I love the spark in the eyes of the learners, I love to challenge myself and the kids to achieve the best they can.
I try supporting my colleagues as best as I can, I try hard to be the Teacher I wanted my kids to have. I am not perfect, but I extend myself, I learn, I try to take on board new ideas and new ways forward. I try hard to have an open mind.
I work in a supportive environment, with kind and wonderful people. I am not unhappy in my job.
I am saying that before I write the following because I want to make it clear I am not negative about education. I think there are amazing people out there, I think there is some, new and amazing stuff going on and I want to be a part of it, but…
This week I was at a union meeting again, and again I left angry and disappointed.
Not for myself, but for our students.
The real issues, are being swept under the mat.
The agreement we were presented with was toothless, there were some small steps, actually tiny steps.
The Rep was keen to point out the gains-the small victories, I feel the negotiating team no doubt had a hard job getting any sort of agreement in the current climate. The issue though is increasingly that we are presented with information and told to accept it, that there is no alternative.
Being told that we would be ‘hauled back’ (words of the rep) to more meetings if we didn’t agree to the settlement – sounded like a threat. As did ‘we will lose the back pay if it is not passed immediately’.
To be honest, if their was an alternative-such as fighting for the rights of students, I would gladly give up the pay.
Being told the one day in 2017, was a bargaining chip for further improvements in terms of release time, will be no good to the increasing number of teachers suffering from physical symptoms of stress now. There is not another day in 2018. This is a stepping stone we were told to help further negotiation in the next round. I have a feeling, many of my colleagues in the room may have left the profession by then.
Where is the union’s responsibility to protect its members from undue stress and workload?
So when do we fight the real issues, the reduction of the Teachers in Early Childhood, measuring kids in core subjects before they have truly settled into school, setting unrealistic targets, manipulating funding to make it look like an increase, when in real terms it is a reduction.
Increasing the paper workload due to the nature of the changes and expectations, but not giving teachers time to do this.
Teachers who are so exhausted and stressed they are breaking down. How many high quality teachers will we lose as they burn out? How many have lost the passion they had?
I would gladly forgo pay increases to secure release time benefits for our Teachers and Senior Staff to protect their health.
I would again give back pay increases, to see clear provision of professional development that schools can afford in areas that they need, or that enhance expertise in areas beyond the ‘core’.
I would give back the small ‘gains’ we secured to see my colleagues able to cope again.
Sorry for the rant.
We need the Union to stand up for us and our students and be prepared to help us get the parents on side. It looks as if our union has lost its teeth.
Unions are so important; they need to represent and present, galvanise support and be prepared to go the distance.
The whole point of paid union meetings being in school time was to acknowledge that Teachers needed time to discuss issues in an open forum.
We now have these in our non contact time as a norm. We do not want to disrupt our pupils and their families, but our time is very precious too and it is time we use to support the learning of the students.
A meeting should be about discussion and a level presentation of the alternative to accepting the agreement, and a chance to validate how we are feeling.
I resent being stood over as I consider my vote and being asked for it before I was ready; there was an assumption that there was nothing to consider.
Teachers are too tired to fight, they can barely meet the demands of their jobs. In 10 years of teaching in New Zealand and after 27 years in the profession I love, I am seeing more newly qualified Teachers become disillusioned after a few years, and excellent high quality teachers considering their future in the profession.
Teacher Burnout is a huge issue. The union needs to study it, help us present evidence, and to assist the fight to stop it.
Sorry for the rant. Frustrated.”
What are your thoughts?
Notes: Original post shared with the author’s permission; Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Hello all. Happy 2016, and sorry I’ve been somewhat absent, but amusing a 6 year old banshee full time is (as most of you know) not for the faint hearted, and so I’ve been somewhat distracted.
I was hoping to have another few days before I burst into action. I even avoided posting about the charter school shenanigans from last week. Perhaps I’ll reflect on that one later. For now, I want to share with you some thought on our unions…
I’ve seen a few people over the years saying they don’t know what they pay their union fees for, what’s the point joining, and so on. I saw another such comment this week, and it got me thinking that people really must not be aware of how bad things were before unions. Do people truly not know what huge benefit they are to workers? Perhaps not.
I guess if one has never worked in a non-unionised profession and seen the difference, it’s easy to take what benefit they bring for granted.
So, for those not in the know, here are just a few of the benefits of being in a union:
Wages: Your union works hard to get and maintain decent pay for us. If you think we are underpaid now, just look at the information on wages for non-unionised workers, for example…
PD: Your union provides professional development year-round. Did you know you can apply to your local branch to go on any of the union’s courses and the chances are they’ll be able to fund it for you or contribute? Coming up soon are the Pasifika Fono, the New Educators Network hui, to name but two great events. And there are all these ones. Go on – take advantage of this free and fabulous union PD.
Information: Your union keeps up to date with all of the changes and proposals relating to education and shares that information with you via branches, emails, press releases, social media, and meetings. Read the emails, check your branch’s Facebook page, go to meetings – make use of what is there. Because although the union does all this, you still have to make the effort to read it and be involved. It’s worth it.
ACET: This was hard fought for by NZEI, so that expert teachers would not have to take up management positions if they wanted to earn more but could stay in the classroom and teach. Members wanted it, the union got it. And it was achieved through hard bargaining.
Release time: This is another thing that was fought for and won. There was a time when there was no release time. That time could easily come again if the unions become weakened.
Legal help: If you need legal help, your union is there, whether the problem’s large or small. And all for FREE.
Advice: The unions’ helplines are there to help with all work-related queries. They are free and only one call away.
Death Benefit: When an NZEI union member dies, the family gets a lump sum from the union. Other unions may also do this – it’s worth checking.
Annual Conference: Amazing speakers, brilliant networking, loads of professional development and sharing, and all paid for by the union. Flights, mileage, accommodation and food. Again, ask your local branch if you want to go. Last year was my first one and it was well worth going.
I get that there are frustrations – I’ve had my own gripes – but here’s the thing; the union is only as good as its members. If something’s not working for you, tell them.
If we want the union to be strong, we must add our own strengths to it. In much the same way that teachers cannot tip information into a student’s head and make them learn, the union cannot help a member who doesn’t participate.
Or, to butcher an idiom, they can lead us horses to water and even ensure it’s drinkable, but we still have to tilt our own heads down and slurp.
Read the emails, go to meetings, pick up the pamphlets on the staff room coffee table.
Trust me, it is worth it.
NZ Union websites:
E tū: http://www.etu.nz/
Term 4 isn’t the best time of year for Hekia Parata to announce a consultation as important as this – well, not if you genuinely want plenty of quality responses – but announce in term 4 she did, and so we teachers and parents must do what we do best – roll with it and make the best of things.
At first glance the consultation looks a little overwhelming. The questions are very broad and range over many areas, and the language is somewhat loaded at times, to say the least. But it’s not as bad as it at first appears…
The first good news is you can answer as many or as few questions as you like.
If nothing else, all teachers and parents should answer at least the first question:
Q1: What should the goals for education be?
This is asking for your own view, so there’s no right or wrong answer. I took to the NZ Primary School National Curriculum to answer it, as I feel it covers things quite nicely already, but you may have entirely different thoughts, and that’s great. Just make sure you share them – that’s the important bit.
The second good news is that there’s no right or wrong format for replying. No-one is checking your spelling or grammar, no-one is expecting a specific layout or certain language. All that matters is that you have your say.
So what are you waiting for – go do it now!
More good news, you say? Excellent! You can put your responses in online using the Ministry’s natty little submission doohicker. And it gets better – you can either just type in your replies, or you can upload a document if you have written them elsewhere or want to use photos, files or links. Great eh? Couldn’t be easier.
I typed mine in as I went, and I answered most questions, and the whole thing only took me half an hour. Easy peasy over a cup of coffee.
I can tell you’re tempted now … go on, be a rebel, click here and do yours…
One last bit of good news – you can do your submission in bits if you want. Do a bit, save it, and go back to it. It doesn’t all have to be done at once. Just don’t forget, if you save it, to go back later and submit it!
The Education Act Update could prove to be one of the biggest upheavals in Kiwi education in around 30 years. Do make sure your voice is heard.
Here is a copy of my speech to the school board this evening.
Thank you for allowing me to speak today. I’m on a time limit here, so I’ll talk fast. You’ll have to excuse me if my voice wobbles, but this is a scary place to be, so I’m going to try to be brave like Ruby Bridges – if you haven’t heard of her, I promise I’ll tell you a good story about her later.
You are all good people, who give up your time to make sure our school is a great place to be. I apologize if I have made this year more difficult for you as board members, but I do not apologize for raising this issue as I believe it is a human rights issue, and as an ex-teacher myself I feel passionately about equality for all our children. I have a recently been invited to support the group working with the Human Rights Appeal Tribunal to change the law around religion in schools. I have a degree in history and I firmly agree with Pearl S. Buck’s lovely quote “If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday.”
It became clear in discussion with the school, that the staff were initially unclear about the law surrounding religious instruction, or RI, in state schools. The Education Act of 1877 provided for free, compulsory and secular education in NZ. In 1964, a time when 90% of the population identified as Christian, a legal loophole known as the “Nelson Dodge” was introduced in the form of Section 78 of the EA, which allows the board to close the school for no more than 60 minutes a week or 20 hours in a year for the purpose of religious instruction, although from the students’ perspective nothing has changed while the school is ‘closed’, and it seems that that many parents and staff were unaware the school was required to be closed during the sessions. Our school keeps no data on the times closed, so we can’t be seen to be following even the letter of the law, let alone the spirit.
Bear with me while I outline ten reasons this situation needs to be addressed:
1) RI is not values lessons, and is not part of the curriculum. The CEC who run our Champions programme have agreed in court that it is religious instruction, and have referred to schools as “rich mission grounds”. The curriculum already includes teaching about values, and so the school must present values lessons to all children anyway, without a religious bias.
2) According to the survey held last year, 50% of the school community do not want the lessons to continue in class time. The Champions website clearly states that 50% parental support on a survey means a school should drop their programme. If half the community has told us they do not want something that isn’t part of the curriculum to be offered during school hours, how can we justify continuing to lose teaching hours to it?
Regardless of the figures, it is not how democracy works to allow a majority to vote to discriminate against the human rights of a minority.
3) I believe our junior classes have a much higher opt out rate, implying either that the community is becoming less accepting of RI, or that we have a problem with peer pressure, meaning older students are taking part against their wishes to avoid stigma.
4) When we conflate a single religious viewpoint with morality, by implication the children perceive that those opting-out are less moral. Claiming that Christian values are the basis of our society isn’t respecting diversity as required in the curriculum, and is dismissive of other religious and non-religious views.
5) The quality of the programme is not up to standard. Paul Morris, Professor of Religious Studies, recently reviewed the Champions material and declared it to be “inappropriate and objectionable” to non-Christian students and parents, and said it did not support the NZ values curriculum and “may well be at odds” with it.
6) Making students leave the room to opt out based upon their parents’ religious beliefs is discriminatory, and violates their rights under the Bill of Rights Act.
I note that the board declined my request to declare their own religious positions. If the board don’t want to share their personal religious views (which should surely be transparent to rule out any conflict of interest) as they believe them to be private, why are we insisting our children and the parents in the school community do just that? Every time the opt out children leave the room they are forced into publicly announcing their belief system, or lack of it.
7) Our community is changing. Less that half the population now identifies as Christian. As Riverhead expands at breakneck speed, we will be welcoming a huge range of families to the school, bringing with them different cultural and religious perspectives. It is simply not equitable for the school to be seen to endorse only one religious viewpoint, and it makes the school a less welcoming place for those with other belief systems.
8) If the teaching staff stay in the room while volunteers present Champions, then how is a five year old to understand that the viewpoint presented is not one endorsed by the school?
Moreover, it is against the Bill of Rights act for the school to have a policy requiring teachers to stay in the room, as that conflicts with the teacher’s right to freedom from religion.
It’s a minefield, and we rely on the good nature of our teachers to stay with the children, thus compromising the neutrality of the teacher in the eyes of the children.
9) The board of trustees has a legal responsibility under the Education Amendment act 2013 to perform its functions in such as way as to allow every student to attain his/her highest possible standard of achievement. While currently a third of our children are below, or well below standard in writing, how can we justify closing our school and losing up to 20 hours teaching a year, to include a programme that is not part of the NZ curriculum?
And lastly – perhaps most importantly – there is the reason I call “being on the right side of history”. I want to share with you a story. It’s about a small girl called Ruby Bridges. If you haven’t heard of her, you might like to see a picture of her.
This is Ruby Bridges, on her first day at school in New Orleans, back in 1960. She was one of the first children to participate in the school integration system, and was sent at six years old, guarded by US marshals, to an all-white school. As Bridges describes it, “Driving up I could see the crowd, but living in New Orleans, I actually thought it was Mardi Gras. There was a large crowd of people outside of the school. They were throwing things and shouting, and that sort of thing goes on in New Orleans at Mardi Gras.”
US Marshal Charles Burks later recalled, “She showed a lot of courage. She never cried. She didn’t whimper. She just marched along like a little soldier, and we’re all very, very proud of her.”
As soon as Bridges entered the school, white parents pulled their own children out: all the teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. Only one person agreed to teach Ruby, and for over a year, Barbara Henry taught her alone.
That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal’s office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom. On the second day, however, a white student broke the boycott and entered the school when Methodist minister, Lloyd Foreman, walked his 5 year old daughter through the angry mob. A few days later, other white parents began bringing their children, and the protests began to subside.
Every morning, as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her. Another put a black baby doll in a wooden coffin and protested with it outside the school, a sight that Bridges has said “scared me more than the nasty things people screamed at us.”
It’s a terribly sad story, and thank goodness for the courage of people like Ruby Bridges, Barbara Henry and Lloyd Foreman for standing up against inequality. It seems unthinkable to me that the laws allowing that to happen, and the attitudes of people, could be that way as recently as 1960.
Now let me tell you about another brave woman – Vashni McCollum, who 15 years earlier, all the way back in 1945, took her local board of education to court over the voluntary religious instruction in public schools, and argued against separating children at school on the basis of their religion. She lost her job, she had to send her son away from the district because of bullying, and was regularly branded “that awful woman” but after a three year court battle, the US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the religious instruction programme was unconstitutional, violating the rights of the children.
Sometimes history doesn’t progress in a straight line, and it’s hard to join the dots, so it seems strange that a country which ruled against voluntary RI in state schools in 1948, took another 12 years to integrate schools and treated Ruby Bridges as it did. What is even more astounding, is that some 67 years later, we are having the same fight as Vashni McCollum here in NZ. Just like racial segregation, segregating children on religious grounds, and endorsing just one religious viewpoint in a secular state school is morally wrong, regardless of the law that enables it. Religion and race are so closely correlated, that if you separate on the basis of one, you mostly achieve the other, regardless of intention.
There have been no fewer than 12 cases against RI presented to the Human Rights Commission and on April 16 next year the High Court in Auckland will hear McClintock vs Red Beach School board in this very matter. The law will change in the coming years, of that I have no doubt. My question to the board is, if we wait for that law change, which side of history will we be on? Ruby Bridges and Vashni McCollum’s side? Or those that opposed them and accepted inequality because the law at the time allowed it?
Secular schools are not anti-religion. Secular means that state schools have no comment on religion; it is outside the scope of the school. This provides protection, not only for those without religion, but also for religious minorities. Anglican minister Rev. Clay Nelson wrote earlier this year “In my view, not until the Nelson System is abolished will teaching religion be replaced with teaching about religion. Preserving precious human rights depends on it. A more peaceful world depends on it. Making it happen depends on us.”
So what to do? A review of Champions isn’t due for another two years, by which time section 78 might well have a court precedent declaring it at odds with the Bill of Rights. If we wait for that to happen, Riverhead school will forever be on the wrong side of history, and will have shown it is a school not prepared to make a stand to treat all children equally, regardless of their religious views.
There’s such an easy win/win for our community here, and that is, from 2016 to follow the Human Rights Commission guidelines, as recommended by the School Trustees Association, which state: “Boards could consider permitting RI when the school is already closed for instruction.” During school hours, keep school open, and teach the curriculum. Religious instruction could be offered as an opt-in lesson outside school hours like any other extra-curricular activity, and everyone would be catered for.
Sometimes doing the right thing is hard. We don’t want to offend those we have worked with for years. But surely doing the morally correct thing, even when it’s hard, is the aim the RI teachers are trying to encourage in our kids? It’s time for the adults at the school to show courage in that lesson, and make Riverhead School inclusive for all children.
Here are just some of the things causing concern across the sector:
The list goes on.
Join Your Union
Being in the union starts as low as $2.29 per fortnight, and those on temporary leave from the sector for whatever reason can take our honourary membership at a lower cost still.
Our unions are working on these issues constantly. It is worth being in the union to support that work and to have a voice in the union’s stance.
Being a union member gives you help when you need it most, whether that’s advice on your contract, help dealing with a work dispute, access to a lawyer for personal issues, ongoing professional development, or professional networks.
PPTA also has the membership assistance fund, which offers loans to help those who are in need of short-term financial help.
In many ways, union membership is like insurance – you don’t realise how valuable it is until you need it and it isn’t there.
Together we are stronger.
Please pass this info to new teachers or anyone who may not yet be a member.
NOTE: This post was not paid for or sponsored or prompted by any union.
This week Chile ended the education sector experiment started in the 1980s by dictator Pinochet that had led to, by 2014, around 60% of the nation’s schools becoming charter schools. Like Thatcher and Reagan, Pinochet was a devotee of Milton Friedman’s free market ideology (one that the National Party of New Zealand follows, too), and deregulating schools is key to that ideology.
Chile is an interesting country, educationally, so it’s no wonder researchers have paid the country a lot of attention. Unfortunately, findings are varied and often contradictory, meaning findings leave as many questions still to be asked as they answer.
A wave of protests began, challenging the unequal system. Students were fed up of the underfunding of state schools, which were allowed to accept vouchers but, unlike charter schools, were not allowed to charge top up fees. State schools also had to accept all students, while charters were allowed to cherry pick who could attend. Inequality was a huge issue.
One research paper concluded that:
“…public schools are more likely to serve disadvantaged student populations than private voucher schools… [and] the typical public school is more internally diverse than the typical private voucher school. These results are not surprising given that public schools are mandated by law to accept all students who apply, regardless of ability to pay, while private schools are permitted to use parental interviews to select and expel students as they see fit.”
It was an unequal system in a country of ever-widening social inequality. It was compounding issues, not improving them.
In 2006, widespread student protests of inequalities in the education system prompted debate over whether entrepreneurs should be able to own and run private voucher schools for profit.
Protests continued and ramped up with huge demonstrations in 2010-2011, and by 2014 Chile saw the huge “National March for Education” with tens of thousands of people taking part. This prompted Chile’s President, Michelle Bachelet, to promise an end to education policies that had divided and segregated her country.
Change is Coming
On Monday 26th January 2015, Chile signed into law “the first part of the multi-pronged reform, which includes an end to profits at state-subsidized schools and eliminates their selective entrance policies”
“”What we’ve put an end to here is a set of illegitimate bases put in place during the dictatorship, behind the nation’s back, and today we’ve recovered Chile’s historic tradition and the best practices in the world,” said Education Minister Nicolas Eyzaguirre.”
The Minister said the next phase was to bolster the status, quality and pay of teachers and bring schools back into the state system. There are also plans to make university education free to all.
“Bachelet championed a recently approved tax overhaul that will boost the state’s coffers by $8.3 billion and help pay for the education changes. She also sent Congress a bill that seeks to balance labor relations by bolstering unions and workers’ rights.”
The charter school experiment in Chile went on for over 30 years; it is now being dismantled. The next part of this journey is not likely to be an easy one, with 200,000 students effected, but one can only hope the next incarnation is fairer and more equal.
One also hopes that other countries learn from this huge failure and take care not to find themselves in the same position.
Yesterday, with the passing of the above Bill, another blow hit New Zealand education. The Bill passed 61:59 with National, ACT and United Future voting it through.
The Bill gets rid of the Teachers Council and replaces it with EDUCANZ, a new professional body for the teaching profession. The problem here is that EDUCANZ cannot and will not represent teachers: Clause 1 of Schedule 22 in the bill outlines that the nine members of EDUCANZ will all be appointed by the Minister of Education. Not one member of EDUCANZ will be democratically chosen by teachers. Not one.
Even the EDUCANZ transition board, put in place well before the Bill was even passed, was chosen by the Minister of Education. And, you guessed it, “[a]t least five candidates from this nomination process will be appointed by the Minister, with the balance being selected by the Minister.”
Compare that to the Teachers Council, which “has 11 members, with four members directly appointed by the Minister of Education, three members appointed by the Minister following nomination by NZEI, NZSTA (School Trustees Association), PPTA and four members elected by the sector.’
The Bill also shrinks universities and wananga councils and removes the necessity for student representation on those council. These changes were rigorously argued against by well over a thousand submissions to the Education Select Committee. The submissions were, like last time, ignored.
Are you spotting a pattern here, of reduced representation? Of increased government control?
If you’re not convinced of that control thing, you may wish to consider that EDUCANZ will be writing a new Code of Conduct for teachers. That’s right, the Code of Conduct will be written by people entirely chosen by the Minister. Prepare to be gagged.
Reactions to the Bill Passing
Chris Hipkins spoke of a “string of bad decisions by the minister which have led to disastrous changes to the education sector” and called the move “the final nail in the coffin for teachers wanting representation on their own professional body”.
Sandra Grey, Tertiary Education Union national president, said the union will campaign at each NZ university and wānanga for their council to set aside one-third of council seats for democratically elected staff and student representatives.
In fact, the only people speaking in favour of the Bill, were Hekia Parata, Stephen Joyce and co.
Ask yourself why.
Sources and further reading:
I’d love to tell you what was reported in The New Zealand Herald, but they ignored the event completely. Of course.
In a chat with some teachers tonight, one commented that she doesn’t have time to keep up with politics because she is too busy teaching. I hear that a lot, and to be honest, I was exactly the same when I was in the classroom. Note to Hekia Parata and David Seymour, if you want me to be quieter, I need a job.
Seriously, though, between the planning and marking, the social issues, special educational needs, my own professional development and reflections, staff meetings, art exhibitions, camp trips, paperwork, and heaven knows what, there is little space left in many educators’ minds for anything else. Doubly so if they have a family.
It’s hard to strike a balance between being informed and having one’s head in the sand. We want to know what’s going on, but we don’t want to become overwhelmed, which can so easily happen in teaching as in many jobs. So what do we do?
Well, there are a few simple ways to keep up with what’s going on in education politics:
1) Make sure your union has your email address and you get the regular updates sent out.
1a) Take a minute to read the emails from the union. Seriously, just having them in your in-box doesn’t count, much like the pile of dieting books on my shelf aren’t helping me lose weight.
2) Attend union meetings and ask questions.
Clearly you use social media because you are reading this. Excellent – I like the cut of your gib. Now maybe you would like to follow some of these marvellous people so that you can find out what’s going on via them, too:
On Facebook and Twitter you will find new people and pages to follow, some will come, some will go, and you will find your tribe. It’s invaluable – I can totally recommend it for the best PD around, quite aside from keeping up with education politics.
Ask other teachers to tell you what’s going on. You don’t have to accept their viewpoint or what they’re saying without question, but you will still get an idea of the issues of the moment and some of the concerns.
Read those magazines, leaflets and posters in the staff room to find out the latest.
Ask your union rep. If the rep isn’t clear, ask someone else.
Pick What Works For You
You owe it to yourself, your profession, your students and their parents to be informed. Changes will happen – they always do – but you must be clear of the possible impact of those changes so you can choose whether your input or action is needed. Being passive is not really an option.
Pick whatever methods work for you. If you are on the computer a lot for work, maybe join a Facebook page or group (or two), and consider Twitter to link to other educators (well worth it, I promise).
Whatever way you do it, find your tribe and get yourself informed.
PS, thanks for the work you do in our schools. We parents appreciate it more than we might let on.
More and more parents are opting their children out of state-wide testing in the USA.
Well done, Natalie’s dad – I like your style.
Thank you to Natalie for permission to use this image.
From a post by Daniel Katz, which you can read in full here.
I invited a number of my department’s alumni back to campus this week for an informal panel discussion about our preparation program, their experiences as early career classroom teachers, and what we can do to improve the experiences of our current undergraduates.
It was a fantastic evening, largely because the young people with whom I had been impressed when they were here remain an impressive group of early career teachers.
They had many insights about knowledge, both practical and theoretical, that would have aided them even more as they began their careers, and myself and my colleagues have been similarly considering several of those ideas as we engage in our constant work of program assessment and renewal.
Beyond those ideas, however, a consistent theme seemed to emerge from our conversation:
Schools today need to slow down.
Our graduates told us of their experiences with phenomena that we know about and that we have observed in schools during field visits and from regular discussions with teachers in partner schools. However, we have never directly experienced those changes as teachers in the classrooms effected by them.
They spoke of having to create and measure “Student Growth Outcomes” with no practice, no training in creating statistical measurements, and no release time to do analysis.
They spoke of rapid changes with little time to adapt, and they spoke about constantly shifting technology demands made upon their teaching and their record keeping/administrative tasks.
They spoke about the changing nature of the young people entering their classrooms, many of whom have grown up in a world of information that constantly streams into their hands with few opportunities to truly comprehend and analyze that information and with few adults who truly understand the technology’s strengths and pitfalls — even while they demand that teachers find ways to use them productively in the classroom….
. . .
Imagine policy and administrators at every level of the system actually facilitating a vision of teaching like this instead of placing roadblocks to thoughtfulness, contemplation, experimentation, and craft at nearly every juncture.
Such roadblocks not only prevent teachers from the careful work of improving their teaching, but also they stand in the way of students having time to truly get deep with their content and skills.
Hurried teachers do not genuinely improve their teaching, and hurried students do not genuinely deepen their understanding.
I want Slow Schools.
To read the rest of this article, click here.
There was an air of excitement, tension and hope at last night’s Tick For Kids education forum in Wellington. The room was packed, and people were very keen to hear what the parties’ representatives have to say about education policy.
Kiwis are no fools, though, with people well aware of what Chris McKenzie called the pre-election lolly scramble to present popular policy, only 10% of which we might see post-election.
Given what we have heard so far and what was presented at this forum, we can only hope that far more than 10% of the promises come to fruition should there be a change in government.
So, to the night.
The panel comprised Hekia Parata (National), Chris Hipkins (Labour), Tracey Martin (NZ First), Peter Dunne (United Future), Chris McKenzie (Maori Party), Suzanne Ruthven (Greens), and Miriam Pierard (Internet-Mana) and was MCed very well by Dave Armstrong.
The candidates’ names were drawn from a bowl to determine the order in which they spoke – all very fair and orderly – and Armstrong made clear that people were welcome to mention each other, refer to other parties’ policies, and so on – unlike the shambles at Helensville the previous night. That got a big giggle.
(Clearly the Helensville event wasn’t run by Tick For Kids, otherwise it would have been far more interesting and informative.)
First up was Chris McKenzie (Maori Party)
McKenzie outlined a credible background in education and then won a significant ripple of applause when he said the Maori Party will reinstate ACE (Adult and Community Education) funding.
McKenzie also said they would make Te Reo compulsory and would look into the teaching of civics so that students understand the democratic process.
Given I had spent 90 minutes the night before trying to explain that very thing to my babysitter, I could well understand the need for civics in the curriculum. Maybe my high school colleagues can fill me in on what they feel is needed?
Peter Dunne (United Future) was up next
Dunne spoke mostly in generalities, with lots of feel good stuff about great teaching and high expectations, saying he wouldn’t be more specific as United Future’s policy is not out until next week!
He did, however, go out on a high note by stating UF would work to repeal charter schools.
Cue more audience applause.
Hekia Parata (National; Education Minister) was the next to take centre stage
Parata started by saying that student achievement had risen during National’s time in government and that now students are staying in school longer, saying that there was still more to do, especially for the neediest groups.
There was a wee round of clapping from one corner of the room. I later spotted that group leaving with Ms Parata – whether anyone *not* in her entourage clapped, I cannot say for sure…
Parata then said that special education needs was a key area of focus, and this elicited mumbling from the audience, most of whom are no doubt well aware that SEN provision is diabolical and has only got worse under this government. For my own part, it was all I could do to stay quiet and not shout “Tell that to Salisbury School!”
Parata continued on to say that Investing in Education Success (IES) policy would see to it that those issues are all addressed. This did not go down well with the audience. There was muttering.
Parata ended with a flourish by pronouncing “decile is not destiny” and banging the lectern. It might have gone down well were it not for the fact that teachers KNOW THAT already and don’t take kindly to being patronised. If she was waiting for a round of applause for her showmanship, she was disappointed.
And if showmanship is what was called for, we were in luck, because the next person to speak was Tracey Martin (New Zealand First), who always gives a clear and excellent speech.
Tracey Martin (New Zealand First)
Martin pulled no punches, opening by saying that teachers and the education system have been under constant attack by this government and it’s been relentless. She listed what we have seen from National: increased class sizes, charter schools, national standards and more.
Martin said parents were tricked into supporting (or at least not fighting) National Standards by the promise that they would be helpful, but said that’s not turned out to be the case.
In other words, the sales pitch doesn’t match what’s delivered.
The audience seemed to agree, with a large clap and mutterings of “too right”.
There was no pause as Martin went straight into EDUCANZ and the assault on teachers’ democracy. More clapping.
Martin then made absolutely clear that NZF would repeal both National Standards and charter schools. Applause from the room.
She went on to say that the conversation about how to improve education needs to be given back to teachers, that the sector itself needs to be involved and listened to.
She said change should be driven by teachers and facilitated by politicians, not the other way around.
Barely pausing for breath, Martin said Boards of Trustees (BOTs) would get compulsory training under NZF plans, ORS funding would increase to 3%, and there would be more money for special needs across the board.
This was all very well received by the audience, and Martin ended by saying (in a wee dig at Dunne) that New Zealand First’s education policy is already online, in full, and had been there for three months. She urged us all to read it. You should.
Suzanne Ruthven (Green Party)
Tracey Martin was a hard act to follow, but Suzanne Ruthven from the Green Party (who was standing in for Catherine Delahunty due to a family emergency) spoke to the effect of poverty on a student’s chances of success, said that education needed to be seen in its wider context, and outlined briefly the Green Party’s School Hubs Policy.
Ruthven explained that School Hubs would be flexible, there was money there for a Hub coordinator so that teachers were not expected to run them on top of their workload, and that schools and communities to mould them in whatever ways best suited their own needs.
And now to Chris Hipkins (Labour)
Chris started by saying he got a top rate education in a state school, and thanked his maths teacher who he had spotted at the back of the room.
He won the crowd over further by quoting Beeby:
“…every person, whatever his level of academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has a right, as a citizen, to a free education of the kind for which he is best fitted, and to the fullest extent of his powers.” C E Beeby
Without a pause for breath, Hipkins said charter schools would be repealed under Labour. National Standards would be gone. IES would be gone. School donations would be addressed.
He then said the Advisory Service would be put back in place, and the audience erupted into applause and cheers.
He went on – ECE would be funded to 100% qualified staff – more clapping
– and EDUCANZ would be ditched – HUGE applause and cheers, again, from the audience.
Hipkins sat down with the clapping still going.
Miriam Pierard was next up
Pierard explainsed that until very recently she was a teacher, and she believes once a teacher always a teacher.
It is, she says, time to take the education system back.
Pierard was clear that poverty and education need to be addressed together and that any government must work alongside teachers to find solutions. She stressed that the Internet Party want to hear from teachers about what they believe needs to be done.
Pierard reminds the crowd that ACT Party describe teachers as “vile” and says not all politicians feel that way.
Pierard ends by asking how many teachers in the room have been stuffed over by Novopay? Over half the hands went up. There’s applause for the recognition of the scale of the problem. She nods, sagely.
We all nod.
And with that, the candidates’ speeches are over, and we are onto Question Time… which deserves a post all of its own….
Other articles about the event:
Key political figures will debate the rights and interests of children at a forum to be held at Ponsonby Primary in Auckland next week.
The event promises to be a lively one with Education Minister Hekia Parata facing off against a full complement of party spokespeople and candidates.
Those taking part alongside Hekia Parata include:
The event is being run under the banner of ‘Tick for Kids’; a collective that seeks to put the interests of children at the centre.
Spokesperson Anton Blank says, “We want New Zealanders to engage with politicians about issues for our children. These local events provide platforms for everyone to articulate these concerns to political candidates directly.”
With so many important politicians involved the debate is bound to be vigorous and wide-ranging, covering education, health, housing and child poverty.
“We know that the New Zealand public is concerned about increasing rates of child poverty,” says Anton Blank.
He states that the ‘Tick for Kids’ movement, which is less than a year old, is becoming an important non-partisan force in New Zealand and the engagement of politicians in ‘Tick for Kids’ events is proof of that.
When: Wednesday August 6th
Where: Ponsonby Primary School, 44 Curran Street, Herne Bay, Auckland
For more information:
It is clear from reading the report that Taskforce members were far from agreed regarding what changes might be needed to the Education Act.
The report acknowledges that “[t]here was widespread nervousness among respondents about the possibility of any desired goals and outcomes being framed too narrowly,” and stresses that there was “strong agreement that if goals and outcomes were to be developed for the education system, this must take place through wide consultation.”
The taskforce seems to have dealt with the issue of disagreement by concluding that it is essential there is widespread consultation before any changes are made.
Sounds great in principle.
It should be heartening that Ms Parata also acknowledges that “[a]ny review of the Act would require an extensive consultation process with the education sector and with parents,” shouldn’t it?
… are we not now all too familiar with what she means by consultation? Namely, go through the motions, don’t listen to much if anything at all, and then do what she planned to all along. (Indeed, I am expecting Websters to update their dictionary entry for “consultation” accordingly this year, since it is now so widely understood that this is what it means.)
So promising consultation doesn’t give any comfort that sector views will be heard and acted upon or allay any concerns, sadly.
I took a moment to consider what is meant by Murray Jack, Taskforce Chair, when he comments in the report’s foreword that:
“… the Taskforce has concluded that there is a strong case to review the Act to provide a greater focus on student outcomes and more explicit roles and objectives“
“A greater focus on student outcomes…” Hmmm.
What, do teachers not currently aim to advance students? Focus on it more how? And what outcomes? Are we perchance only talking about things that can be measured in a test? That seems to fly in the face of other comments in the report which made clear that “[r]espondents did not want a focus on just literacy and numeracy, but felt that these needed to be set within a holistic concept of student achievement.”
Holistic or focusing on test scores – which is it to be?
Also, I cannot help but wonder whether this “greater focus on student outcomes” and “explicit roles and objectives” might be somehow heralding performance pay, perchance?
After all. National Standards and the PaCT system are all set up and ready to rock and roll for just that purpose, despite the Minister assuring us that’s not what they’re for.
Something about that has left me uneasy.
There are a number of other statement in the announcement that ring alarm bells:
“[The Taskforce] recommended a number of regulatory changes to ensure enough flexibility in the education system to keep pace with the ever-changing environment.”
What exactly does that mean? How does the current legislation shackle schools? Does the legislation as it currently stands truly stop schools from keeping pace with “the ever-changing environment”?
Or are we to read this as “we need to make the legislation privatisation-friendly, so we can shoe in more charter schools and the like.
Again, three years of following this government’s carry-on in education means that any such ambiguous statements lead to fretting about what’s going on behind the scenes. I’d love to think it was just me and my paranoia, but so far my concerns have sadly been valid.
Boards of Trustees get a wee mention in the report, which comes to the conclusion that in order to determine whether BOTs are doing a good job, they too need to be subjected to “reliable and valid measures of [the identified] characteristics … to assess their contribution to student achievement.” (p.13)
Truly, it seems the taskforce believe if it can’t be measured, weighed or put in a pie chart is doesn’t count for a thing.
“The Taskforce noted that evidence from the OECD suggests governments can prevent school failure and reduce dropout using two parallel approaches: eliminating system level practices that hinder equity; and targeting low-performing, disadvantaged schools. From the evidence reviewed, the Taskforce concluded that good regulation and effective governance are elements of high-performing systems that support priority students. Ensuring that they are aligned with other schooling policies and practices can help New Zealand achieve its educational objectives.” (p. 13)
I totally agree we all need to ensure schools are run well and teachers should encourage all students to aim high. But to ignore the roles poverty and home environment have in the chances of a student succeeding is a failure to address the whole issue and an insult to both the students and staff living that reality day to day.
I wonder what exactly is meant by “targeting low-performing, disadvantaged schools”? Targeting for extra help? Or targeting for a change principal? Or being changed into a charter school?
Again, if a school is low performing, it may indeed need help and support, guidance and so on, but if all of that is done within a system that is blinkered to the realities of the students and the community that school is in, then it is not considering the whole picture and cannot be expected to adequately respond to the situation.
So, if improvement is really wanted, we do indeed have to mention the “P” word and get real about the big picture.
I await the unfolding of this next phase of the reform agenda with interest, apprehension and a large gin and tonic.
Considering Education Regulation in New Zealand: http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/EducationInitiatives/~/media/MinEdu/Files/TheMinistry/EducationInitiatives/Taskforce/TaskforceReport.pdf
Professor Stuart McNaughton has been appointed New Zealand’s first Chief Education Scientific Advisor. His job is to promote the use of sound scientific research in the forming of education policy, and to help ensure that changes are based on this rigorous research.
It’s a positive move, assuming he is listened to and does indeed consider all the research out there. For example, if research were the basis for whether or not performance pay was put in place, it would be a no go as there is a strong body of research out there showing that it does not improve student outcomes and in fact causes harm.
So I welcome him to the role with hope.
What’s not so hopeful is John Key’s endorsement:
“We think it’s a great idea to be focussing on science for our youngsters,” he said.
“I think we can always do better, the main thing is to encourage more youngsters to be actively interested in science – it’s very important for our economy, and it’s very important for how we can perform as a country.”
But here’s the thing, Mr Key … the role is not about teaching science. Not at all. Prof. McNaughton is charged with USING sound scientific principles and research to ASSESS possible education POLICY and make recommendations.
He is not teaching science, teaching science teachers, doing anything with the science curriculum. Okay?
It doesn’t give much faith the role is being taken seriously when the PM is confused about what it’s for.
Good luck, Professor McNaughton.