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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.

 

A new era: a government that values and trusts teachers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She then rightly explained:

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

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

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

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

Here’s to better times.

~ Dianne, SOSNZ

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

 

NZ Political Parties’ Charter Schools Policies

 

New Zealand Charter (or Partnership) Schools are private businesses that are fully funded by your taxes. They are funded at a higher rate than comparable state schools.

Charter Schools can employ untrained staff to work in classrooms as teachers.

Charter Schools are free to pay staff, advisors, etc whatever they choose. Charter schools need not declare pay levels or any other aspect of what their funding is spent on.

It is not possible to get use the Official Information Act to access information from a Charter School, as they are private businesses.

Charter Schools need not have parent representation on the Board.

With that basic overview done, here are the charter school policies of the main New Zealand political parties.

Party Policy on Charter Schools

ACT

Despite charter schools being driven by ACT,  their education policy web page has no mention of charter (or partnership) schools at all.

National

Despite bringing in the legislation for charter schools, the National’s education policy web page has no mention of them at all.

Labour

“We believe in a quality, comprehensive, public education system, not the corporatised, privatised system that the current government is driving us towards. Taxpayer funding for education should be directed towards learning and teaching, not creating profit-making opportunities for private businesses.”

“Labour will protect and promote our quality public education system by: Repealing the legislation allowing for Charter Schools”  (Source)

Green

“The Green Party will: Oppose charter schools, repeal the enabling legislation around charter schools, and maintain the current flexibility to support/create some state schools designated special character.” (Source)

NZ First

“New Zealand First is strongly opposed to “charter” or “partnership” schools; public funding for these privately owned profit making opportunities would be ended by New Zealand First.”

“New Zealand First will: Repeal the 2013 amendments to the Education Act 1989 that allowed the creation of Charter Schools.” (Source)

MANA

Mana will: “Cancel public private partnership contracts for schools and abolish the charter schools policy” (Source)

TOP

“Question: You seem to be staunchly against specialist schools like charter schools and even private schools. Shouldn’t parents have the right to do best by their child, and be less concerned about the plight of other less fortunate children?

Answer: You’d have a point if there was any evidence that these specialist schools are producing better overall results for their students. There is no such evidence. There is however strong evidence that ghetto-ising the residual schools is doing real damage to the students there, entrenching disadvantage and raising the costs to society of the rising inequality that results. There is a case for specialist schools or at least classes for children with special needs, or for children of various ethnic communities. But the trend under Tomorrow’s Schools of “affluent flight” shows no benefit and plenty of costs.

As for charter schools, they could easily be accommodated within the state system – there is no need for them to sit outside.”  (Source)

 

The Maori Party

The Maori Party’s education policy does not mention charter schools. (Source)

United Future

No school-level education policy at all can be found on the web page of United Future (Source)

Edits/Corrections/Amendments

If you note any errors or missing information relating to this post, please comment below and I will edit as quickly as possible.

Thank you,

Dianne Khan – SOSNZ

________________________

Edited 10/9/2017 3.34 to update TOP’s policy and add link.

The ‘Better Funding’ Bus Tour

better-funding-bus-2

From Monday 10 October, three buses will set off on a Better Funding Bus Tour of more than 100 schools and ECE centres.

NZEI Te Riu Roa and the PPTA are launching an education bus tour in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch next week to raise awareness of the Government’s proposed radical reforms to school funding and the chronic underfunding of schools and early childhood services.

The bus tour aims to spread the Better Funding message to parents and whānau and the wider community, and educators will be talking to parents at drop-off and pick-up times about why children’s education needs more investment.

There will be Better Funding postcards to sign and send to Parliament, plus they’ll be asking the public to sign our Support Staff petition.

NZEI President, Louise Green explained:

“We are already seeing this with the Government’s freeze on the school operations grant, which funds support staff salaries and other general operating costs, and which has been frozen this year. Recent analysis of the 2016 operations grant shows that a majority of schools will be worse off when inflation is taken into account. 

“Meanwhile, bulk funding in Early Childhood Education has also been frozen for five years in real terms, with services now under huge financial pressure to cut qualified teachers and increase group sizes.

“The quality of our children’s education shouldn’t be put at further risk from underfunding and flawed funding models. We need to restore full funding for quality teaching in early childhood, and at least an inflation increase to the operations grant to ensure schools have enough money to cover basic running costs, and to pay and keep on support staff who are funded from this allocation. 

“No parent wants larger class sizes or fewer teachers for their kids. Our campaign is about valuing education and ensuring there is better funding to deliver the best education possible for New Zealand kids.”

This campaign is a great chance for families and wider communities to ask questions about what’s going on, so mosey on up and find out why educators are not at all happy with the Minister’s overall education policy and, in particular, the “Global Funding” plans.

Details of where the buses are going to be are here.

You can follow the campaign on Twitter at #betterfunding

Mum waiting over a month (so far) for response from Hekia Parata

hekia-mana-newsletter-1Andrea Matheson writes:

Today, as a Mana [Porirua] resident, I had the ‘pleasure’ (amusement) of receiving the Minister’s MANA MATTERS newsletter. It has a feedback section, in which I particularly like the comment:

“I’m always interested in hearing your feedback and learning more about which issues matter to you. I’d appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey below.”

Well Minister, I would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to read and respond to the TWO letters I have sent you where I outlined very clearly what issues matter to me! So I really don’t think you ARE interested in hearing about what issues matter to me or anyone else for that matter!

And I’m intrigued by your statement in the letter:

“We are expanding the ORS and the Intensive Wraparound Service to ensure that every child is catered for, no matter their circumstances”

How, pray tell, are you planning to achieve that, when you have made it quite clear there will be no increase to the special education budget!?

Andrea’s full letter to Hekia Parata follows:

Dear Ms Parata,

I am very disappointed that it has now been a month or so since I sent you my letter regarding the proposed overhaul to Special Education funding and I have not yet had a reply from you. I had very high hopes that my words would make a difference – I guess I am a glass half-full kind of girl.

You state in your opinion piece on Stuff, dated September 25th that “I will work with any groups or individuals that are seriously committed to improving children’s learning and raising achievement.” Well, Ms Parata, we have been trying to get your attention for WEEKS now – parents as individuals and as part of wider groups, have written letters, organised education rallies across the country, commented on news articles, commented on your Facebook page (and been blocked for their efforts), spoken to the media, left messages on the Ministry’s phone line and signed petitions. These efforts have been plastered all over social media – you surely cannot have missed these actions by passionate, proud, exhausted, anxious parents who are praying that the dire situation of inadequate funding in special needs is rectified, and fast.

The lack of response has given me additional time to think of more important questions I need to ask you as well as provide you with some further thoughts that have arisen during this long wait.

In several articles I have read in recent weeks, you have stated that no child currently receiving funding will lose that funding. This implies that individuals such as myself only care about their own child/children and will be satisfied with this reassurance. BUT – I wrote to you expressing my concern about the education system as a whole – I am NOT an individual parent who likes to whinge, who only cares about the impact for her own child – I care deeply about what will happen to children who desperately need funding who do not have any to begin with. So whilst your statement on this point seems to imply that my son will not lose the ORS funding he currently has, he was NOT my only concern. I am not that selfish. Therefore your ‘reassurance’ is of no comfort to parents of children about to enter the school system without ORS funding or teacher aide support, or to parents like myself who care about the bigger picture in education.

Could you please outline any school visits you SPECIFICALLY made as a part of the ‘consultation’ process to help you create your cabinet paper on inclusion? For example, did you:

Visit and personally meet with a wide range of children who have additional learning and physical needs?

Spend time with them in their school environment to understand how crucial additional funding is to ensure their success?

Observe a wide range of learning and physical difficulties, eg: neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, GDD and ADHD, physical disabilities, genetic disorders and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia etc?

Ensure that you saw the VAST differences between what a teacher, teacher aide, child and parents can achieve with adequate funding, versus a teacher and child who have no additional funding or teacher aide support?

Or was consultation done without the real-life context of what it is like to be struggling to meet the demands in the classroom without support?

How do you propose to support children in primary school who do not meet the criteria for ORS funding? There is currently not enough funding to support children with learning difficulties or disorders, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and autism. If a school cannot meet their needs through their operational or SEG grants, what becomes of these children? Are they supposed to struggle through their school years with little or no support? What will the outcome be for them when they have to enter society as an adult? It is a frightening prospect. We are meant to be a forward thinking and innovative country but at the heart of it, we are not supporting the children who are struggling through every day and having their confidence eaten away bit by bit. I am sure I am not the only person in New Zealand who strongly feels schools need targeted funding to meet the needs of children with these disorders if they do not achieve ORS funding (and we all know the vast majority of children with these disorders do not). We all know these disorders are on the rise Minister – what does your government plan to do about this issue?

We have repeatedly asked you how you plan to improve services to ECE without increasing the overall budget for special education. No satisfactory answer has come from you as yet. Instead we have to listen to radio interviews and read articles where the majority of journalists have not dug deeper to properly dissect the information that is being fed to them. But we as parents have a vested interest in the changes to funding and we know how to read between the lines. We will not be satisfied by the usual vague statements such as “The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander” and “Everything I’m working towards is about putting children and their achievement at the centre of the education system.” Are these statements intended to keep us quiet? I’m afraid they won’t. I guess the giant governmental PR machine may have underestimated our fortitude and determination.

Whilst we can appreciate the sentiment behind your statements, which I’m sure is genuine, you have not given us the answers we are seeking. How will you achieve better funding to students through ‘streamlining’ and what will streamlining look like? Until we get those answers we will continue to be noisy (deafening in fact).

We as parents are striving 24/7 to raise children who can become happy, appreciated, well-understood and productive members of society. All we ask for is that you work with us to better understand their needs, and the successes they can achieve with better funding and more support. Please LISTEN to what we are trying to tell you.

We want to be listened to, we want to be heard. You say that you want to work with us – why are you not responding to our questions? Why are you deleting perfectly reasonable questions and comments from your Facebook page? As a passionate parent and advocate recently suggested, we see plenty of pictures of you planting trees and other lovely photo opportunities, but where are the photos of you working alongside children with additional, high or very high needs, trying to understand how teachers meet their needs with no funding? Where are the photos of you talking to parents whose children have been turned away from schools or stood down because there are no teacher aides to help the teacher support their learning and behavioural needs? Where are those photos Ms Parata?

I respectfully ask (again) that you respond to these thoughts and concerns with REAL answers. We WANT to be involved in the direction that these changes will go, nobody knows the needs of children with ‘special’ needs better than their parents. We want to give you the benefit of our guidance. I am not setting out to be a trouble maker. I have spent an hour and a half on this letter, an hour and a half I could have spent playing with my son. But I am forced into this situation because I need to fight to be heard. Please respect our combined knowledge and experience, there is so much that we could add to help you lead an education system that we can ALL be proud of.

With kind regards,
Andrea Matheson
Mum to a super special, endearing, pride-inducing and heart-warming wee lad.

Letter reproduced with Andrea’s kind permission.

 

Special education funding cuts revealed

220916-rally-1Special education funding cuts have been revealed on eve of rally at Parliament to support inclusion education.

Educators are joining with disabled people, families and service providers to rally at Parliament tomorrow, Thursday 22 September, to let Government know that their Special Education Update is totally inadequate and it is time to invest in inclusion.

“NZEI is concerned that the Special Education Grant (SEG) paid to schools through operational grant funding is failing to keep up with wage inflation and roll growth,” said Louise Green NZEI Te Riu Roa President.

“Between 2009 and 2016, the SEG fell by 1.8% when labour cost increases are taken into account, according to information released to Education Aotearoa under the OIA.

“In the same period, school rolls have risen from 760,859 students to 776,816 and the identification of students with special education need has increased dramatically. So there really needs to be much more funding going into SEG than the Government is current providing to ensure the value of the funding per student increases.

“The SEG is mainly spent on teacher aides to help meet students’ special education needs. The inadequate levels of funding puts real pressure on a school’s ability to provide the best education possible for all their students.

“Any parent or teacher of a special needs child can tell you that the level of learning support funded through the Ministry of Education is inadequate, and in many cases non-existent.

“The recent Special Education Update proposal to shift resources to pre-schoolers, without putting any additional funding into the system won’t work in the best interests of all children who need the support. They need more funding.

“We strongly support greater investment in early intervention, but that should not come at the expense of those who need support when they are older. Funding should be based on the need for intervention and support, not age,” said Louise Green.

220916-rally-2RALLY DETAILS

Education for All Rally

Where: Parliament forecourt

When: Tomorrow, Thursday 22 September 4.30-5.30pm

Organised by Education for All, a collaboration involving the disability and education sectors, including NZEI Te Riu Roa

Facebook Event Page

Online Charter Schools – the research


Research
conducted by three independent research institutions looked into online charter schools, and their findings were released in October 2015.

The press release, with links to the full report, is here.

Report findings conclude that:

“…students of online charter schools had significantly weaker academic performance in math and reading, compared with their counterparts in conventional schools.”

Referring specifically to the question of whether the schools had helped students from low socio-economic backgrounds and/or those from minority groups, the report states that:

“This pattern of weaker growth remained consistent across racial-ethnic subpopulations and students in poverty.”

Mathematica’s analysis found:

• Student–driven, independent study is the dominant mode of learning in online charter schools, with 33 percent of online charter schools offering only self-paced instruction

• Online charter schools typically provide students with less live teacher contact time in a week than students in conventional schools have in a day

• Maintaining student engagement in this environment of limited student-teacher interaction is considered the greatest challenge by far, identified by online charter school principals nearly three times as often as any other challenge

• Online charter schools place significant expectations on parents, perhaps to compensate for limited student-teacher interaction, with 43, 56, and 78 percent of online charters at the high school, middle, and elementary grade levels, respectively, expecting parents to actively participate in student instruction

The Mathematica report concludes:

“Challenges in maintaining student engagement are inherent in online instruction, and they are exacerbated by high student teacher ratios and minimal student-teacher contact time, which the data reveal are typical of online charter schools nationwide. These findings suggest reason for concern about whether the sector is likely to be effective in promoting student achievement.”

CREDO (Stanford University)’s report concluded that:

“While findings vary for each student, the results in CREDO’s report show that the majority of online charter students had far weaker academic growth in both math and reading compared to their traditional public school peers. To conceptualize this shortfall, it would equate to a student losing 72 days of learning in reading and 180 days of learning in math, based on a 180-day school year.”

In other words, most students lost the equivalent of just under half a year’s learning in reading and made absolutely no progress in maths at all during an entire school year.

id-10055380The research was funded by The Walton Foundation, which has funded a huge drive for reform.  Even so, they couldn’t find much of a positive spin to put on the findings, concluding only that the research is valuable as:

“[k]nowing the facts helps parents, educators, policymakers, and funders make smarter, more informed decisions that benefit children.”

I do hope policymakers proposing the Communities of Online Learning (COOLs) in New Zealand have read the reports thoroughly and are indeed using this information to make better and more informed decisions. Sadly, at this stage, we have no evidence that this is the case.

You will find the press release and linked full reports here.

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Campaign launched to reverse school funding freeze

nzei logoNZEI will tomorrow launch a nationwide campaign to reverse the Government’s freeze on school operations funding in order to secure sustainable resourcing for school support staff.

In its May Budget, the National Government snuck through a freeze to the school operations grant that pays for support staff wages and all other essential school running costs.

“This funding freeze is unprecedented. No Government as far back as 1999 has ever frozen school funding before, so this will put already strained school budgets under more pressure,” said NZEI President Louise Green.

“…this year’s budget freeze actually equates to a 0.5% per-student cut in operational funding for schools next year because of roll growth”

Research done by Infometrics shows this year’s budget freeze actually equates to a 0.5% per-student cut in operational funding for schools next year because of roll growth. It’s an even bigger cut when you take inflation and other costs into account.

“This cut will force schools to make trade-offs between support staff and other running costs. More pressure will go on parents to pay larger donations to cover the funding shortfall.

“We support more funding for the most disadvantaged students, but it should be in addition to adequate funding levels for all schools.”

“While the Government has put in a small amount of additional funding for the most disadvantaged children they have done this by cutting the per-student ops grant funding across all schools, creating winners and losers.

“We support more funding for the most disadvantaged students, but it should be in addition to adequate funding levels for all schools.

“Support staff like administration staff, teacher aides, technicians and others are most at risk of having their hours cut due to the funding freeze.

“Support staff already suffer from poor pay and precarious hours of employment despite their crucial role supporting children’s learning. The funding freeze puts them under greater stress and threat.

“We need better operational funding for schools that allows them to meet children’s educational needs. We also want support staff to be paid centrally like teachers are, so they are not competing with other costs and resourcing needs,” said Green.

The support staff campaign is part of the wider Better Funding Better Learning campaign being run with the PPTA to respond to the government’s proposal to introduce global funding, which could result in fewer teachers and larger class sizes.

“This funding freeze highlights the perils of bulk funding. We need to reject bulk funding for support staff and ensure it is not extended to include teaching staff,” said Ms Green.

Support staff will be starting their campaign by launching an online petition on Monday calling for parents and communities to message the Education Minister to reverse the funding freeze.

~ENDS

#betterfunding

Dear Friends, forgive us a few hours to try and safeguard the future of all Kiwi kids

teacher voiceDear Friends, Neighbours and carers of NZ kids,

There will be press criticism of teachers and unions here in NZ, over the meetings our unions have called.

The unions have done this to provide information, and a discussion forum about the new funding system Govt. is pushing through, which is an old, over-burdening and ineffective one, under a newish label.

It is a serious issue that will impact on the quality and the equality of our education system here in NZ for years to come.

That organisations are uniting on this one is surely a huge indicator of the seriousness of this latest move. Teachers are not a militant profession, despite what press would like you to believe. They usually get vocal when the well-being of students is threatened.

The issues are far bigger than the Govt would have the public believe.

It is a monster, that will leave boards and Principals with great difficulties, as all funding is lumped into one without protected components, such as the basic level of a set pot for Special Needs, (already not enough), that most schools choose to supplement, but some can’t. So when schools don’t have to account for it, it will all depend on the individual ethos of the Principal and Board.

To achieve funding for highest needs there are complex processes, with serious paperwork, however, on the back of these changes, there will be changes imminent there too and they will not be driven by better provision, but by cost.

New ways of identifying how much is allocated to meet high need schools, will be very challenging and provide another complex layer to battle through to secure appropriate funds for a school.

The result will likely be a hike in class sizes, with reduced support, and inaccurate fallible data about class size being bandied about as ‘proof’ class size doesn’t matter.

Believe me it matters to the quiet kid in the corner, the kid with APD, ASD, DYSLEXIA, to all the kids who need extending, or who have a query to be answered in a lesson and to the mental health of the teacher leading the class.

Also the elephant in the room of salaries. Schools with higher numbers of experienced staff, will have less income to spend on other aspects of school management. The pressure then shifts to how to cut bills in other ways. What would you be happy to see axed from your child’s educational experience? That arts group experience that makes them want to attend each day?

School budget management is already challenging, but increasing the responsibilities of Principals and Boards creates a massive learning need for them, so pushing it through will add extra strain to a stressful job.

So remember, reports in the News, and comments in the Media, are written by those who do not work in the profession, and are subject to their individual bias.

Remember that Ministers and most politicians currently do not listen to teachers, do not recognise the tremendous efforts and sacrifices they make, and undervalue the profession. They seem to see us as agents to deliver a very set prescribed agenda.

Teachers teach because they want to help their students to be the best they can be. They are driven to support their students, often at huge personal cost to their health and well-being, and that of their family.

So forgive us a few hours to try and safeguard the future of all New Zealand kids and the sanity and health of the individuals who go the extra mile daily.

Thanks for supporting us in our efforts to keep NZ education great and fair.

~ Carrie Sherring, NZ Teacher and SENCO.

PS If you could query the use of public funds to prop up Private Sector education with the Govt. , that would be awesome.

Shared with Carrie’s permission. 

Further Reading: http://betterfunding.org.nz/

#betterfunding

Educators join forces for better funding for learning

bulk funding nzei and ppta joint meme

PPTA and NZEI Joint Press Release

Educators from early childhood to secondary schooling are uniting to respond to the government’s latest funding proposal, saying it could result in fewer teachers and larger class sizes.

The government has also refused to explore any increase in funding for education.

PPTA and NZEI Te Riu Roa today announced they are holding combined meetings of their 60,000 members in September.  The meetings are to plan a response to the government’s “global funding” proposal, which is effectively a return to the failed bulk funding experiment of the 1990s.

The education unions have never before undertaken joint meetings of this scale, involving principals, teachers and support staff from ECE to secondary.
The government’s renewed attempt to propose bulk funding would mean all staffing and school operational funding would be delivered to schools on a per-student basis in the form of cash and “credits” for staffing.

This would mean parents on Boards would have to make trade offs between the number of teachers they employ and other non-teaching costs of running a school. This would incentivise:

  • Fewer teachers and larger class sizes
  • The loss of guaranteed minimum teacher staffing for specific year levels such as new entrants and senior secondary classes
  • Increased casualisation of teacher jobs which could undermine quality of teaching
  • Further downwards pressure on support staff hours and pay, which is already bulk funded through schools’ operational grants
  • Removal of the government’s responsibility for issues such as class size and curriculum breadth
  • Removal of certainty about increases in funding to keep up with cost increases or population growth.

bulk funding ppta

Early childhood education has languished under bulk funding for many years and most services have had to make cuts, hire fewer qualified teachers and increase fees to parents. Schools would face a similar threat.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green and PPTA President Angela Roberts announced the nationwide Paid Union Meetings at a joint media conference at Wellington Girls’ High School today.

Ms Roberts said bulk funding was simply another back-door attempt to increase class sizes, which outraged parents when it was last attempted three years ago.

“This proposal would result in parents on school boards being forced to do the government’s dirty work the moment the budget gets squeezed. The complexities of juggling credits would also undermine the board focus on improving children’s learning,” she said.

Ms Green said early childhood education and support staff had suffered under a form of bulk funding for many years and to extend that across the sector would be disastrous.

“The past five years of a per-child funding freeze in ECE have forced many centres to compromise quality by reducing the number of qualified teachers. There is no reason to think bulk funding would work any differently in schools,” she said.

The Paid Union Meetings will be held around the country between 5 and 16 September, starting with Auckland Town Hall on 5 September, Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre on 6 September and Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena on 7 September. 

Meetings will be held at either 9am or 1.30pm to minimise disruption to teaching programmes, children and parents.

Find more details on betterfunding.org.nz.

bulk funding nzei and ppta joint meme

 

A week in the charter school universe…

If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.

Take just this week’s revelations, for example…

Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)

  • David Seymour confirms that as yet not a cent of the $5.2 Million the failed Northland charter school received has been recovered. The school was open for just one year.

Waipareira Trust (NZ)

  • Waipareira Trust pulled out of charter school negotiations in part because Government refuse to include the Treaty of Waitangi in the contract. (What’s that again, how ACT say this is all for the benefit of Maori students…)

The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)

  • This new body is set up by government to promote and support charter schools and given half a million dollars without even going to tender. (Very expensive cheer leading.)
  • Apparently it’s a charity, so it’ll have charity tax exemptions.

Academy Transformation Trust (England)

  • Ian Cleland, chief executive,”…spent £3,000 of taxpayers’ money on first-class rail travel, while dining expenses racked up on his taxpayer-funded credit card include a meal with other staff at Marco Pierre White totalling £471, and the Bank restaurant in Birmingham, at a cost £703.45″ Yes, teachers eat this way all the time in the staff room. More Moët anyone?
  • He also leased a XJ Premium Luxury V6 Jaguar car and put his wife on the insurance, clocking up £3,000 in service bills alone. Because what head teacher doesn’t need a Jag?

NET Academies Trust (England)

  • Maxine Evans spent over £9,000 on executive taxis to travel between schools (and they have been sometimes made to wait outside, meter running, for the duration of her visit!)

Paradigm Trust (England)

  • An OIA shows that the Trust pays for broadband at CEO Amanda Phillips’ holiday home in France. (Clearly it’s hard to afford when one only earns £195,354 (NZ$400k) a year.)

Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)

  • Charges filed against them alleging  US$18M fraud (One of a raft of scandals related to the Gulen charter school chain over the years)

Michigan study (USA)

Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)

  • Diane Ravitch reports that Geneva Area City Board of Education invoiced the Ohio Department of Education, stating that “[o]ver the past 16 fiscal years, $4,265,924.70 has been taken away from Geneva Area City Schools via State Foundation Settlement deductions and sent to under-performing charter schools.”

Cabot Learning Federation (England)

  • Bath-based school is closed due to insufficient students, leaving current students without a school. Parents were not consulted.
  • The school was inspected in May and judged to be inadequate.

Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)

  • The Trust decides it doesn’t want to run the schools any more and looks to find someone new to take over. (Like passing on a franchise…)
  • The BBC reports: “In November, the Regional Schools Commissioner’s Office issued a pre-termination warning notice to the trust over “unacceptably low” standards at Marshlands Academy in Hailsham.”
  • The BBC also reports: “The commissioner said the number of pupils reaching level four or above in reading, writing and maths had fallen by 20% and was “significantly below the floor standard”

Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.

The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.

~ Dianne

Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sources:

Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016

Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 

Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16

Charter school a waste of public money – PPTA, Radio NZ, published 7:19 pm on 28 January 2016, retrieved 9.31pm 25/7/16

Gulen-led schools in Texas accused of $18M fraud, World Bulletin, published 15:14, 12 July 2016 Tuesday, retrieved 9.46pm 25/7/16

Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, published July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16

The brave new world of school funding – Liz Gordon

This from Liz Gordon:

It is a basic fact of schooling worldwide that children from advantaged homes arrive at school education-ready, while the disadvantaged are not. Children from advantaged backgrounds are often able to read and calculate, hold complex conversations and have a grasp of current events. Many children from disadvantaged backgrounds may not know how to hold a book. Good early childhood education can inject a level of school-readiness but cannot entirely overcome the disadvantage. The best estimates of the average learning gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged groups, top to bottom, is about two years of learning at school entry.

Since the school reforms of 1989, school operational funding has included an element of measuring disadvantage, based on census data, to provide additional support for schools and hopefully improve learning outcomes. The model was very simple. Find out where the children from a given school live (in census terms, the ‘mesh blocks’), examine the social characteristics (income, benefit, household crowding etc) of the mesh blocks, calculate the level of disadvantage of that school and provide funding on that basis.

THE DECILE SYSTEM

The much maligned ‘decile system’ came about because, in order to simplify funding arrangements, funding was allocated not to the school’s individual situation but on the grouped ranking with other schools. Decile 1, for example, contained the schools with the ten percent of most disadvantaged students.

This system has endured because it is relatively simple, data driven and easily updated every five years. It is hated by the sector because decile has become associated, in the mind of the public, with school quality. This was foreseeable and inevitable, as every single piece of research carried out on the reasons for school choice highlight social characteristics as the main factor influencing choice. Thus, higher decile equates with better children, thus better quality, in the mind of ‘choosers’.

MAKING CHOICES

And how could it be otherwise, really, when all our teachers are taught in the same institutions, school upkeep is relatively even, there is a national curriculum and the only significant variation in schools is the children populating the classrooms? As my research found in 2015, there has been massive white flight from the lowest decile schools over 20 years, which has meant that, on average, decile one schools are now 2.5 times smaller than decile 10 schools. This is a problem, of course, that abolishing deciles will not fix, but will simply become invisible and non-measurable.

The myth is that, in getting rid of deciles, the flight from disadvantaged schools would be halted. But it is the school choice system that has facilitated the ethnic/class flight, not the decile labels. In the absence of deciles, parents find other labels to put on schools, such as “gang”, “brown”, “violent”, “not children like ours”. We know this because other countries with choice and no convenient decile labels experience the same population movements.

NEW FUNDING MODEL

To get rid of the perceived decile problem, the Ministry could simply fund each school on the census characteristics without doing the ranking and decile-making process. This would involve quite a lot more work with having to consider what each school should get on its own merits and in relation to other schools. It would increase bureaucracy without changing much in terms of actual funding. There would, as ever, be winners and losers in a zero-sum funding system.

However, Ministry eyes are now set on a richer prize. The census is about old technology. It only happens every five years and is based on paper and pencil. In the new technological world, there must be a better way!

DATA SHARING – FUNDING CHILDREN ON BENEFIT STATUS OF PARENT

And there is. The generic term is called data-sharing. It comes in two types. The first would be a direct comparison between other agency records ( in the current budget proposal, MSD benefit records) and school enrolments. As far as I can tell, no such data-sharing agreement exists, and it would arguably constitute a major potential breach of privacy to allow such databases to be matched. This probably is not the route intended by the budget announcement.

Second, is the relatively new ability to anonymously match data from different administrative systems, for example tax records, educational enrolment or outcomes, benefit records, student loans, ACC and health through a personal unique identifier (UID). The system, called the IDI, is administered by Statistics New Zealand and provides exciting opportunities for researchers and others to answer key population-based questions.

But, and it is a huge but, the wonderful indicators able to be compared for research purposes lie under an immoveable blanket of confidentiality. Were the data to be identifiable, it would be Orwell’s ‘Big Brother’ come to life. The question is whether using the IDI for funding purposes is a bridge too far in terms of preserving the utter confidentiality of the system. There is also a second question, given that many disadvantaged children are not cared for by their own parent/s, but by grandparents and other carers, as to whether the IDI is up to the challenge. However, we will put that aside for the moment. People who want to read up on the use of IDI data to identify disadvantage should refer to Treasury report 16/1.

The data that would need to be matched would be in three databases (at least) – parent to child (such as birth data, but this would exclude children born out of NZ), school attendance for the children (by school name) and length of time on benefit for the parent. In statistical terms it is a pretty simple match. The Ministry would not know exactly who would be receiving the funding, so basic confidentiality could be maintained.

But, at the margins two very worrying elements emerge. The first is the inaccuracies caused by post-birth migrants, unusual family formations, foster families and so on, that probably make up 10% of all students and a larger share of the disadvantaged. It would take a lot more work to count them (you would need to also look at immigration data and CYF data, for example).

The second concern is that there would be plenty of schools in the higher deciles where only a handful of children come from long-term benefit led families. If funding were received, for example for five children in a school, you might as well put a rubber stamp on their head reading ”I am from a long term benefit dependent family”. Also, as the IDI scheme does not allow data for less than 3 cases (for obvious reasons), there would be a necessary marginal error in smaller groups.

NEXT STEPS

My first concern as a researcher on school funding is to try and find out exactly how the scheme is going to work. I suspect that it has essentially been designed as a test case or pilot scheme in using administrative data for funding purposes, and I am sure there will be widespread interest in how it works, and how much it will cost to implement. Then they will need to work through the ethical implications of such models. I have begun by asking a series of OIA questions which have been put to the Ministry. These are below.

A PRICE ON EVERY HEAD?

There are also some policy issues to be sorted out. For example, the IDI provides the possibility that each child could become a walking voucher offering schools a certain amount of funding for education based on personal and familial characteristics. There is certainly ongoing interest in school voucher systems by some groups, and the IDI would provide a finely tuned ability to cost out each person according to their individual disadvantage. But the social and ethical questions this would raise hopefully put it beyond any serious scope.

The important implication would be that a ranking of school characteristics for funding purposes would be replaced with a ranking of individual characteristics.

OFFICIAL INFORMATION ACT REQUEST

I have sent to following OIA request to the Ministry of Education to attempt to better understand the scheme as announced.

Please provide the following information under the OIA 1982. In the Minister’s published speech to the National Cross-Sectional forum on 27 May this year, she noted:

To this end, Budget 2016 targets an additional $43.2 million over four years to state and state-integrated schools educating up to 150,000 students from long-term welfare-dependent families.

These students are one of the largest identifiable groups within our education system that is most at risk of educational underachievement.

Please answer the following questions related to this announcement:

1. Please provide copies of any briefing papers, policy papers or cabinet papers related to this announcement.

2. What data matching approach will be used to discover how many students from long term welfare dependent families attend each school, so that the funding can be allocated?

3. How is ‘long term welfare dependent families’ to be defined?

4. What legal basis allows for data-matching for such a purpose?

5. We gather from the Minister’s statement that the $42.1 million (as it shows later in the Minister’s speech) includes: “$15.3 million for an extra 1250 students to access in-class support.”

6. This leaves a net $26.8 million for allocation to the long term welfare dependent families over four years. Is that figure roughly correct?

7. This then indicates an annual sum of around $6.7 million available for allocation. Is that figure roughly correct?

8. This appears to translate to an annual sum per long term welfare dependent student (if there are 150,000) of just under $45. Is that figure roughly correct?

9. What is the total estimated cost to the Ministry of Education in developing, testing, implementing and administering this scheme over the four years of its life?

10. What are the next steps in developing and implementing the programme?

– Liz Gordon, Pukeko Research

Early childhood education faces yet another funding squeeze – NZEI

all kids need the best start.jpgKindergartens and early childhood education centres will face an even bigger battle to maintain quality teaching and learning following the Budget announcement that there will be no increase in funding.

This is the fifth year in a row that funding for early childhood education has effectively been frozen, says NZEI National President Louise Green.

“This year funding will not even keep up with increased costs that kindergartens and ECE centres will face.

“It undermines quality learning and means that parents will likely have to dig deeper into their pockets .”

“It’s ironic that the government talks of increasing teaching quality while squeezing the funding for this important area of education.

“Quality early childhood education is vital for children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds, so once again, the government’s actions do not match its rhetoric.”

The $397-m increase in this Budget for ECE will only allow for extra places to keep up with roll growth.

Education is being hijacked by profiteers

Education reformers like to say they are doing it for the kids. That the reforms will improve the education system. Mountains of evidence shows this is poppycock and that education reforms overwhelmingly lead to profits being more important than the children’s education.

England As An Example

In England, the government has ruled that by 2020 Academies (charter schools by another name) will take over ALL state schools. Forcibly.

Whether parents and students want it or not. Whether the staff want it or not. Whether the school board wants it or not. Whether the school is doing badly or brilliantly.

It’s been mandated: ALL England’s public schools will be handed over to Academies.

Do Academies/Charter Schools Improve Education Systems?

If Academies raised standards, perhaps it would be understandable that the government wishes to hand all schools over.  Acceptable, even. But they don’t.

Pro-reformers will point out this school or that as being improved under the charter school model. But the truth is, they are the exception. Under this model, there is a raft of bad practice: Suspensions rise. Inclusion goes down. Cherry-picking of students takes place. And when similar cohorts are compared between public and charter schools, it is clear that charter schools do not improve results.

Even the UK Department of Education’s own analysis shows that, overall, England’s state schools do better when run by the Local Education Authority than by an Academy Trust.

Which surely begs the question of why this is being done.

Follow The Money

If you want to know the reason for reforms, follow the money.

Ask yourself, who benefits from these changes?

It isn’t the students: England’s national and international test results have fallen since Academies were put in place.

It isn’t teachers: Classroom teachers’ work conditions and pay are often far worse in Academies.

So just who is raking in the money? You might want to take a look at Academy Trusts’ CEOs. And while you’re at it, have a look at the misappropriations and frauds that have already happened in Academies. (A reminder – that’s your tax money they are taking. Money that is meant to be used to educate students.)

And where are savings being made, to pay these CEOs? Excellent question.

Are Academy CEOs such brilliant businessfolk that they are able to use money so much more wisely than LEAs and school principals ever did? Is running a thriving carpet empire or a successful mobile phone business what it takes to make an education system great?

No, not so much.

UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb recently said, in a speech championing Academies, that “[n]o child should have to spend one day more than necessary in an underperforming school and as an urgent matter of social justice we are determined to spread educational excellence to every corner of the country.”

But does the rhetoric match the reality?

Indeed not, and the list of failures grows daily, with evidence showing that in England LEA schools out-perform Academies.

So what is really going on?

Cost Cutting and Untrained Staff

Let’s take this Academy school as an example.

Hatfield Academy primary school was, in 2015, rated inadequate at many levels.  The OFSTED report specifically said that teaching was inadequate and stated that the school must “[u]rgently improve the quality of teaching”.

And yet this failing Academy is happily advertising for someone with no training at all to teach its students: 

Academy job cropped

No training.

No knowledge of pedagogies. No research of good practice. No understanding of child development or psychology.

No. Training.

None.

To put this further into context, this is a school where a school survey of parents showed that:

  • 27% felt their child/ren were not making good progress at the school.
  • 45% felt the school is not well led or well managed.
  • 42% felt the school does not deal well with concerns raised, and
  • 40% of parents said they would NOT recommend this school to another parent.
This is a school that thinks, with all of the above in mind, that employing untrained staff to teach students is acceptable.

This is global education reform.

~ Dianne
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