Another NZ Herald Editorial on education misses the mark. In a bid to explain why most of the money in the Communities of Learners scheme is going to high decile schools, the writer leans on the tired and weary trope “it’s the unions’ fault”.
The writer doesn’t seem to know the history of the Communities of Learners scheme, from its initial incarnation as Investing in Educational Success (IES) to what’s currently in place Communities of Learners (CoLs). Nor that CoLs came about after a long and hard road of teachers’ unions pushing to improve the original IES scheme, which was, in its first incarnation, really quite dreadful. And the article certainly has no real analysis of the widespread concerns with the policy (by any name).
So here, I’ll fill you in.
Despite the tone of the editorial, teachers (and by extension, their unions) didn’t see the IES announcement and think “Oh yippee, I’ll dust off my pitchfork!” Instead, they looked carefully at the announcement, talked about it in great detail, asked a lot of questions, and found it seriously wanting.
So they did what any co-operative group would – they asked their unions to ask Ministry to go back to the table to make the policy more workable. Not so much mobs with pitchforks, more a hope for the education equivalent of a community farming co-op.
One of the biggest concerns about IES was the plan to pay a select few ‘super staff’ whilst adding to many people’s workloads and giving no extra funds for the students. It takes a team to improve things, and not recognising that was the first mistake. Teachers argued that the money for these select few jobs was over the top and, whilst a bonus for those taking leadership roles may be acceptable, the majority of the IES funding should be directed at the students rather than the staff.
That’s the other big problem educators had: the idea that a few super staff could turn everything around without a cent more for the students. No money for professional development or specialist programmes or teacher aides or therapists or equipment. Really?
And what about this notion that IES aims to encourage schools to work together to improve educational standards?
The IES scheme as government proposed it expected schools to work together whilst simultaneously competing against each other. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, is it not? But since most targets for schools centre around National Standards and NCEA pass rates, the scheme does indeed pose a competitive model. Add to that the fact that both National Standards and NCEA have very well known issues around reliability and parity, and we are opening the system up to all manner of problems.
Another claim was that IES aimed to make students’ transitions through the education system smoother. An immediate question this posed was, why was Early Childhood Education (ECE) completely left out of the equation?
One the one hand, Ministry are extolling the benefits of preschoolers taking part in ECE, and on the other hand they are setting up IES without ECE. The message is contradictory – does ECE matter or not? Is it part of a child’s learning journey or not? Teachers believe it is – in which case any scheme aiming for smooth transitions through the education system and greater collaboration between education providers should include ECE.
So no, unions didn’t dust off their pitch forks for the fun of it. They did what their members asked them to do, which is to go back to Ministry and work to improve this faulty policy. Which, to the best of their abilities and against significant opposition from Ministry and the Minister of Education, they did. And we now have Communities of Learners.
The new incarnation isn’t perfect. It still rests on data that isn’t reliable and still pits schools against each other by comparing pass rates without considering the very many variables at play. But it’s better than it was, and that’s a start.
Improvement takes collaboration. Improvement takes a shared purpose. Improvement takes honesty and trust. And while the Minister of Education and her Ministry are asking schools to do those things, they could do far better at leading by example. Perhaps if they had trusted educators and collaborated with them to form the IES in the first place, it could have been better, sooner.
There’s a lesson in there, somewhere, and if it’s heeded perhaps we can make Communities of Learners better still.
~ Dianne, SOSNZ
Pitchfork and farmer image: Image courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In September, NZEI informed members that we had voted to allow the NZEI Executive to continue working with the Education Minister on the Communities of Learners (CoLs) plan.
The union worded its missive carefully, saying “Seventy-one percent of principal members and 78 percent of primary teachers voting in ballots held around the country accepted the Ministry’s offer.” And this is very true. 78% of teachers and 71% of principals WHO VOTED did indeed say to go ahead. However, that is not the full picture.
What was left unsaid is that a huge proportion of members didn’t vote at all.
And when they are factored in, the ‘yes’ vote was just over 30% of members.
And don’t think this was due to apathy – even stalwarts like myself didn’t vote!
Why, you might ask, would we miss out on having our say?
We had been given very little information to go on, and were being told that we should vote yes without being given clear reasons why. But at the same time, we didn’t have enough information to vote no. In short, we were rather in the dark.
So people abstained.
People walked out of meetings.
Some stopped listening.
People started muttering that they were seriously thinking of leaving the union altogether as they feel betrayed.
And today I heard from a union site rep who wants to resign because she can’t just sell the “dead rat” as she’s being told to do.
This is a disaster.
I love my union and unions in general – the work they do is amazing – so I don’t say this lightly at all, but on this one NZEI dropped the ball. And we deserved better.
I don’t doubt the sincerity of NZEI National President Louise Green when she said the Communities of Learners offer was “a complex and difficult decision for many people”. The union tells us that we must keep “working together to shape the implementation of Communities and their resourcing, in order to get the best outcomes for children.” I know the Executive have worked hard and done their best. But we don’t have faith that this is what’s happening.
What many fear is that the union is making very little progress, if any, in reshaping the actual agenda for education – one that’s been revealed in unsavoury bursts, and usually while schools are on holiday.
The union must take very seriously that so many of their members are unhappy.
Almost 70% of us did NOT vote for CoLs.
It is not popular.
We are not sheep.
We are not going to vote yes just because you tell us to.
This time, please make sure the PUMs are honest, open and give plenty of clear information. Do not make them into a sales pitch like the last ones. Be honest and trust us to make the right decisions based on actual information.
You need to win your members’ trust back, and we deserve nothing less.
About half of those I asked said they voted yes, but every single one of them said they did that because they were told that it would be even worse if we didn’t or that they felt they had no choice. Not one could tell me a single good thing about JI and each one said they weren’t comfortable with it but felt pressured to vote yes.
Just think about that: I couldn’t find one person who said they felt it was going to be a good move and could say why.
I was told time and again that the Joint Initiative union meetings (PUMS) were the tensest people ever recalled having, and one group said they walked out of theirs in anger at what they felt was the union rep’s bullying of them to vote yes.
And I – someone who lives and breathes education policy – didn’t vote at all because the information we had to vote on was pathetic and I refuse to vote blind.
I guess the most telling thing in the end is that whist 78% of those WHO VOTED, voted yes, the turn out was a mere 40% of NZEI members. This means that only around 31% of NZEI members voted for JI, including all those who did so under pressure.
Hardly a mandate, is it?
So why are NZEI walking us into this? If there are good reasons then they have failed to convey them. If, as I suspect, it is being done because they fear there is no real choice and the Minister will force clusters of learning one way or another, then they need to be honest about that.
Because the other thing people keep reminding me is that NZEI members voted in huge numbers and with quite a determined voice to reject IES only months ago, and they are baffled why their union now appears to have rolled over.
NZEI, I love you for so many reasons, but on this one you have a lot of explaining to do.
~ Dianne Khan
I’m very pleased to announce that NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education have agreed to the final outcomes of the first phase of the Joint Initiative. The main outcome is the development of a new “Community of Learning” model, based on what the sector and research told us really works to support children’s learning.
It’s hugely important that teachers speak up and shape system change, not just have it done to us. We can be in no doubt that the IES policy announced last year proposes fundamental changes to our education system. That’s why we progressed the Joint Initiative, taking a member-driven approach, because it’s so critical that educators are genuinely involved in change.
Now it’s time for you to have your say about the outcomes of the first phase of the Joint Initiative.
It is in the hands of members to determine the next steps and decide what direction you give to your negotiating team about whether to vary your collective agreements next month. Because the Community of Learning is a “package” we are proposing to bargain variations to both teacher and principal collective agreements together.
I strongly encourage you to attend your worksite meeting and vote on the outcome. Primary and area school worksite reps have been sent a meeting pack, so please talk to your rep about when your site meeting is taking place.
Key points of the agreement are listed below and you can read the full agreement and the Working Party documents at www.nzei.org.nz/joint-initiative
An important part of the agreement is a commitment to phase 2 of the Joint Initiative. This will look in more detail at possible roles and resourcing for support staff and ECE teachers in the Communities of Learning. Phase 2 will also address Maori and Pasifika learner success, special education and professional learning and development.
We have got this far because NZEI members have fought collectively for a child-centred, workable model that can be responsive to local needs and can change over time.
We believe the new model is an exciting educational development, genuinely shaped by educators. Inevitably, as with any negotiations, we have had to make compromises, but we are confident that the progress we have made will genuinely improve teaching and learning.
Louise Green, NZEI Te Riu Roa President/Te Manukura
What are the key elements of Communities of Learning?
1. Children at the centre
The name “Communities of learning” says it all really — it’s about children’s learning rather than more efficient administrative structures being the key driver for system change. So it includes the critical change of including the child’s whole pathway from early learning up.
2. New teaching roles to support learners’ transitions, cultural competency and better community engagement
Along with a focus on collaborative inquiry and expertise building, communities can chose teaching roles that focus on support for children with particular challenges in transition from ECE to school or within and across schools, or better family and community engagement or cultural competency to meet Maori and Pasifika learners’ needs. For example, an across school teaching role with a focus on transition could help families with special needs kids who need extra support when their child moves from kindergarten to school and/or work with other teachers across their community to ensure all schools and services have effective transition programmes.
3. Shared leadership
Along with a community leader, learning communities can chose from a range of leadership roles their community needs, rather than have one leader doing it all. This means important leadership skills like facilitation, curriculum expertise, coaching and mentoring and teaching skills can be recognised, and reflected in principals’ career pathways.
4. Flexible and responsive
Communities can better meet the needs of their kids and local community because they can choose the money, time and people they need. The model is responsive and flexible, with the choice of time, money and people shaped to a large extent by the community itself, rather than a one-size fits all model imposed by Government. There will still be required roles (teachers working across and within schools and a leader) but there are a range of options for their focus.
5. Pool time and money
Communities will be able to pool time and money to ensure teachers can get together at times that will least impact on their relationships with kids/best suit their own communities. The model recognises that due to the nature of primary schooling and ECE services, more time is a critical component if teachers are to genuinely collaborate together.
You can read the full agreement, details about the next phase of the Joint Initiative and the Working Party’s report at www.nzei.org.nz/joint-initiative
Press Release from NZEI
The latest announcement that just 129 further schools have expressed interest in the Government’s controversial $359 million Investing in Educational Success scheme is a clear indication of the lack of confidence that teachers and principals have in the plan.
It has been more than a year since the Prime Minister announced that the Government was intending to spend millions of dollars creating new roles for teachers and principals.
NZEI President Louise Green says to date less than ten percent of schools have taken the first step towards signing up to the scheme.
“This clearly shows that teachers and principals do not believe in the IES top-down managerial approach or that creating new highly paid roles for some will benefit children’s learning. That’s why the majority continue to reject the IES.”
QPEC wants to know why the extra resources provided by the government’s flagship teacher policy are overwhelmingly being captured by the schools that cater for the wealthiest suburbs of our richest city.
“It is now clear the ‘education for success’ is a policy to keep National and ACT voters in Epsom and Remuera happy, rather than to lift the educational achievement in our poorer communities” says John Minto, QPEC spokesperson.
“The glaring anomaly is that 21 of the 43 new teaching positions doled out in this funding round have gone to very wealthy communities in central and north Auckland.
“This is the government’s one big initiative in seven years to raise student achievement but ‘success’ funding is going to the already successful.
Low decile areas have been promised additional resources – they are the government’s priority. The lowest decile group of schools allocated funding will get only 2 additional teachers, and that is the only group in which most of the schools are serve poor communities.
The policy is supposed to provide expert teachers to support learning in areas that need it, but instead the majority of the resources in this round have gone to many of the richest schools in the country.
“The rich get richer and the poor get zilch”, said John Minto.
High decile schools such as Auckland Grammar are pocketing the majority of funding, while decile 1 and 2 schools are getting just 6%, even though they make up 14% of the schools in the scheme.
NZEI’s data analysis of the first 11 communities of schools (CoS) approved by Education Minister Hekia Parata late last year, shows that the allocation of resources will overwhelmingly favour the groups of large, high-decile schools.`
The Auckland Central and Mid Bays (North Shore) communities consist almost entirely of decile 8-10 schools and between them will have 46% of the in-school lead teachers and 44% of the teacher inquiry time in the current allocation.
Those two communities will also have 21 of the 43 expert teachers who are tasked with spreading their expertise across the schools in their CoS. In comparison, Napier’s CoS of seven decile 1 and 2 schools will have just two expert teachers.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green said primary teachers and principals overwhelming voted “no confidence” in IES last year because the $359 million for the scheme was not going to directly benefit children. Most of the money will go towards pay bonuses for lead principals and teachers.
“this data shows even more clearly that the kids who really need help are not going to get it”
“IES was supposedly about raising educational achievement across the board, but this data shows even more clearly that the kids who really need help are not going to get it. Lower decile schools are even less interested in IES than other schools because it doesn’t meet their students’ needs, so they aren’t bothering to sign up.
“Children need smaller classes for more one-on-one attention, more teacher aides for special needs, 100% qualified early childhood teachers and better resourcing of bi-lingual education for Maori and Pasifika. Highly paid “expert” teachers moving between schools overseen by a highly paid lead principal are not going to deliver the results the Minister wants, because IES is not what the vast majority of schools and students want or need.”
See also: Who has joined IES so far?
Out of over 2,500 schools in NZ, only a small number (listed below) seem to have so far joined the IES (Investing in Educational Success) clusters of schools.
Of the almost 2000 primary and intermediate schools, only 58 have signed up according to this list.
Given NZEI are currently negotiating their Better Plan initiative and the strong NZEI vote against IES in August 2014, it is intriguing that even 58 schools have signed up. There are rumours whirling that some schools were signed up against their wishes, but I have no firm evidence for this, so who knows.
And given the PPTA and high schools’ much more positive reaction to IES, it’s perhaps a little surprising so few colleges that have joined at this point.
It’s interesting to look at the Auckland clusters, where all but three schools are decile 9 and 10 and the lowest decile school is 7, and consider why that might be and how much value that is adding to the overall fabric of our education system. Where are the lower decile schools, and why?
And no charter schools. Why?
Anyway, there is much to ponder, and IES and the Better Plan will unfold as the year goes on.
For now, here are the lists – make of them what you will:
If you know of any not listed here, or listed by accident, please let us know. And, of course, comments are always welcome.
Sources and further info: http://www.education.govt.nz/ministry-of-education/specific-initiatives/investing-in-educational-success/
Following the strong negative vote against the IES in August, NZEI Te Riu Roa has continued to work with the Ministry to find a way forward.
NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education have jointly launched a new initiative to support success for New Zealand children and young people at every level of their learning.
Both our union and the Ministry have agreed it is in the best interests of students and the education system to recognise our differences but to make progress where there is agreement – in particular, keeping students at the centre of teaching and learning, supporting successful collaboration and transitions and developing improved career pathways.
While it is early days, I am confident that members will continue to work together to help develop this into a viable, sustainable and long term alternative to the IES.
The initiative announced is a significant step for all NZEI members and a way forward for NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry. It has come about because members kept true to our values. We rejected the IES and called for a Better Plan. We asked for genuine discussion with educators. We asked for flexible, locally-driven ways to support collaboration. We asked for resourcing to support kids and their learning, not just for new roles. We rejected top-down, one-size fits all models and said we should build off existing successful practice. We voted against National Standards being the determinant of resourcing or roles. We asked for evidence-based approaches.
This new initiative provides a framework that supports our goals and our approach to ensuring all children get quality education. It is what you, as members, have been fighting for, and it takes us into a proactive space where we can work on developing and enhancing what we know is really best for education.
SO WHAT IS THIS NEW INITIATIVE?
The new initiative will seek to identify:
The initiative is comprehensive, looking at what resourcing and roles are needed throughout early childhood education, primary, support staff and special education.
Any new roles identified will be linked to existing career pathways and be negotiated into collective agreements.
Educational achievement is identified in the initiative’s terms of reference as being the vision of student success outlined in the NZ Curriculum, not a narrow National Standards measurement.
Ministry and NZEI joint working parties will also look at existing and potential models of learning communities that encourage greater collaboration and support successful transition. We want to engage with schools and ECE services around New Zealand to identify successful examples of collaboration and transition on-the-ground, as well as through research. You can read the fullTerms of Reference for the joint work here.
We believe this is an exciting opportunity for NZEI members to really help improve the education system, based on what we know works for kids. It includes elements of our Better Plan – isues that members and parents prioritised for more investment. And the agreement means we can look at work being done now in schools to lift achievement and work with the Ministry to build flexible and locally determined learning communities.
HOW CAN YOU BE INVOLVED?
There will be working parties established to look at collaboration, transition and success for Maori and Pasifika learners. These working parties will be looking for examples of successful practice throughout New Zealand.
There will also be a brief video outlining the main points of the new initiative on www.nzei.org.nzshortly.
Principals and BoT staff reps – please inform your Board and school community of this initiative. There is more information here.
The working parties will meet at the start of 2015 and work through to the end of May. However the terms of reference recognise that further work beyond May will be required given the scope of this initiative.
The Ministry will continue implementation of the IES with willing schools but we are confident that this new initiative will better meet the needs of children and our sectors. We continue to encourage schools to stand by the August vote and not engage with the IES but instead put energy into this new way forward.
Have a great festive season and a relaxing holiday.
President Te Manukura
The agreement was reached yesterday and follows the overwhelming rejection by primary principals and teachers of the government’s $359m Investing in Educational Success scheme.
“This new initiative is a great win for children and for good education policy,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Judith Nowotarski.
“It represents a positive way forward and has come about because teachers and principals kept true to our values of quality public education for all children.
“The agreement means we will now work with the Ministry in a genuine, collaborative way to identify and support locally-driven initiatives that put children at the centre of teaching and learning.
“Instead of a top down, one-size-fits-all initiative which is the IES, we will be going out to schools and early childhood education centres and actively finding out what works.
“The focus will be on the child’s learning pathway and how successful collaboration can support that, as well as successful transitions between ECE, primary and secondary schooling.
“The new initiative provides a viable, long term and sustainable alternative to the IES. It supports our Better Plan proposal by looking at the resourcing and roles needed to support children’s learning throughout early childhood education and the primary sector. It will include support staff and special needs requirements.
“For our members, any new roles will be linked to existing career pathways and be negotiated into collective agreements.
“NZEI and Ministry can now begin working with teachers, principals and support staff to develop and enhance initiatives that support genuine collaboration and give all students the opportunity to succeed throughout their learning pathway.
“We will be asking schools and ECE centres to identify successful collaboration and transition practices, as well as the resources and roles that can strengthen this. Our joint working parties will be looking for these on the ground examples.”
– NZEI Press Release
Just 71 individual schools, or groups of schools, out of 2,500 have expressed any interest in the scheme.
“This is hardly a successful result for the Government,” said NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski
“It’s an inevitable outcome and shows what happens when the Government fails to work with school communities before trying to impose a top down one-size-fits-all approach on schools.
“Quite frankly, this is embarrassing for the Government. It shows that it needs to go back to the drawing board and start talking to teachers, principals and parents about how it can use the $359m in the best interests of kids and their education.
“I think this rejection is a win for kids because now it is clear that this scheme is struggling. We need to come up with something that will really benefit all kids’ learning based on what schools themselves identify as important.”
Ms Nowotarski said that this time the focus must be on the needs of students.”
– NZEI Press Release
At paid union meetings held throughout the country over the past two weeks 80.3% voted to include the Community of Schools (CoS) Within School Teacher and the CoS Across Community Teacher positions in Secondary Teachers Collective Agreement (STCA).
27 meetings were held and all voted to include the positions.
PPTA president Angela Roberts was pleased with the way PPTA had been able to work constructively with the government to turn IES into something that could operate well in schools.
“This is a win for collectivism. It is an example of teacher unions being in their rightful place, at the table taking part in the process. Decisions are being made with us rather than for us,” she said.
Roberts acknowledged there would be challenges ahead and that membership support for the IES initiative was by no means universal with 19.7% opposing the inclusion of the positions in the agreement.
“Members have valid concerns that we will continue to push the government to address.”
There was still a lot of work to be done and Roberts advised the government to continue the collaborative approach it has taken so far.
“Internationally countries that do well in education have a robust, functioning relationship between the government and teacher unions,” she said.
– Ends –
Last week I gave a presentation to some Australian and English academics in Sydney (see slides below). I wanted to emphasise the dilemmas faced by the sector and how the opportunity to be ‘in the tent’ and negotiate had heightened rather than reduced those dilemmas. I tried to give a fair representation of the different points of view, along with some of my own framing of course. Here are some of the main responses from the audience (in no particular order):
Professor Martin Thrupp’s expertise is in: Social class and education; the impact of managerialism and performativity in schools; school choice and competition; international policy borrowing; contextualised approaches to educational leadership.
For more information on Professor Thrupp’s work and publications, see here.
Just as primary had a teacher organisation that headed rogue but was pulled back, secondary has one too, the PPTA executive, but not yet reined in. However, great news – from information just to hand, the PPTA is about to be provided with the opportunity to head back to good sense. But it will require its various branches to act decisively, publicly, and soon – soon so that it becomes part of the election debate.
I am now in receipt of a terrific declaration from a PPTA branch, sent to all branches – directly opposed to the PPTA executive support for the IES.
The main points set out in the declaration are:
We believe we are now in a position diametrically opposed to our sister union, NZEI, and such an opposition does nothing for the greater good of state education. We also believe that the IES proposals will not bring about the success envisaged.
This branch believes that the real cause of disparity in educational achievement is to be found in the composition of school rolls and no effective collaboration among schools can occur until the inequity inherent in such compositions can be addressed.
[All hail, the writer of this – whose name I know – you will go down in the annals.]
1. Although PPTA assures us it sought an early collaborative approach with NZEI as the two main state unions involved in the discussions, we believe that our emphasis on policy has outweighed any real attention being given to NZEI’s legitimate concerns.
2. PPTA should not have agreed to participate in confidential negotiations, thereby leaving its membership out in the cold.
3. This branch believes that if $359 million over four years can be found to improve educational success, then there are better ways of using the money than contained in these proposals.
4. This branch believes that the IES proposals will undermine the current working of schools by destabilising administration and teaching, through the removal of key people on an on-going basis.
5. This branch believes that the IES proposals will impact upon all current teacher workloads, not just those of the four categories of teachers envisaged under the scheme.
6. This branch recommends that PPTA should be looking at career pathways differently, to ensure the best teachers have the option of continuing to do what they do best, that is teach. Such scrutiny could involve:
Higher teacher qualifications on entry; a more rigorous teacher selection process; the quality of training programmes; a basic career pay scale that runs for 20 years for a qualified teacher; a separate MU pay scale that offers real incentives and rewards for responsibility both in time and money for middle management.
7. This branch also recommends that PPTA look at assessing the current classroom teacher workload, reviewing NCEA; its initial objectives and form, its subsequent modifications, its impact on teacher and student workload and learning. We propose that we as a union support the position of less assessment in schools.
So there you have it. As regular readers of this site will know, this declaration is utterly consistent with what has been expressed in various postings. And they will be aware of the fierce but defensive arguments in response by members of the executive.
The PPTA signing of the IES has seriously harmed discussion of the education manifestos of the opposition parties (Labour, Greens, and NZ First) and what a tragedy – these manifestos in total being the best manifesto expressions, in my memory, of the needs of children and teachers – early childhood, primary, and secondary. If we go down the farcical and dangerous IES track, it will be a heart-rending loss for education.
Organisers of this declaration, get it out there – this could be huge.
As most of you will know, PPTA and NZEI (the two teachers’ unions) have approached Investing in Educational Success (IES) proposal differently.
This is an overview of the different views and an outline of where NZEI and PPTA are currently at.
The post aims to give bald details in the unions’ own words where possible, without commentary, so that you can think further about the issues yourself.
DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO INITIAL ANNOUNCEMENT
NZEI’s VIEW (in NZEI’s words)
WHAT NZEI WANTS INSTEAD OF IES (in NZEI’s words)
PPTA’s VIEW (in PPTA’s words unless indicated by * in which case I have paraphrased)
I hope that overview helps teachers, parents and others.
I welcome comments and clarification from NZEI and PPTA on the factual content above, as needed, and would be very happy to receive any additional information they have and would like to share.
At the end of the day, and despite different approaches and disagreement on the way forward, I believe we all have the best interests of the students at heart, and so it’s important that all parties are clear on what unions and their members want, where they differ, why that might be, and so on.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
IES_factchecker_27aug2014.pdf (found on PPTA site http://www.ppta.org.nz/events/consulting-on)