Prime Minister, John Key, today suggested it was too hard to deal with child poverty because it’s not like just counting rodents. I would suggest the issue is not in the counting or even the method of counting, Mr Key, but in the political will to deal with the problem. Policies that exacerbate the wealth gap, homes that are legally be unhealthy, homelessness, poor health care… these are all political decisions.
The way Mr Key faffed around the issue on Radio NZ today showed how little he actually cares about children poverty. I can only hope he is voted out next year and the next government has more compassion and a will to actually get things changed for these kids.
National President Louise Green says this is money that it was going to have to spend anyway because of population growth and demographics.
“Where is the new funding for education initiatives that will help build a quality public education system and improve quality teaching and learning for all children?
“Parents know that quality education includes smaller class sizes, more funding for children with special needs, targeting vulnerable learners, as well as better funding for support staff and quality early childhood education.
“We know that many schools are struggling financially. In many cases this means having to make tough choices between competing needs such as new equipment, employing more teacher aides or providing opportunities for teachers to upskill to respond to kids’ needs.
“We also need to ensure that teaching remains an attractive career choice so that we continue to encourage good people into the profession and ensure that, once there, they stay in the job.
“There is nothing new in today’s announcement. We want to see a real Budget announcement with new money to help all children get a great education.”
He’s the man John Key picked to chair the “Summit on Employment” in 2009 (1)
He’s also the man John Key picked to lead The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal (2)
He’s also the man who used that position to breach the Bill of Rights Act and force “the advancement of religion” into the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust’s constitution (3)
And he’s the man Cameron Slater (Whaleoil) characterises as “allegedly a friend of John Key” (4)
Slater also asked on October 15 last year “Who will be the first (of many) casualties under Mark “I’m the boss” Weldon at Mediaworks?” with one commenter on that story saying “The man is a tyrant who doesn’t play nicely with others. Frankly, I love the idea of Weldon and John Campbell having to work together …” (5)
He’s also the man whom insiders were picking as a potential National Party candidate for the safe seat of Tamaki (6)
And he’s a man who praised John Key’s program of asset sales announced in 2011 as “bold, it was clear, it was early – and very positive…” and called those who were cautious about it “fearmongering”. That’s the same assets sales program that had to be drastically cut back and became something of an embarrassment to the government (7)
He’s the man who made a substantial personal gain ($6 million) as a result of Key’s asset sales announcement (8)
He’s also the man who, as CEO of the NZX, characterised those who voiced concerns about aspects of the Exchange’s operations as mentally ill (9)
He’s the man who’s already got rid of two of Mediaworks’s main financial watchdogs – chief financial officer Peter Crossan and company secretary and lawyer Claire Bradley (10)
He’s the man of whom blogger Cactus Kate (business lawyer and commentator Cathy Odgers) noted “Mediaworks currently does not employ anyone on your television or radio with a larger ego than Weldon, even Willie Jackson, Sean Plunket and Duncan Garner combined can’t compete” and that “NZX was the greatest reality soap opera in town under Weldon’s leadership, the casting couch of characters was enormous as disgruntled staff left and new bright eyed disciples were employed” (11)
He’s the man Odgers also described (in a blog post now deleted by referenced by another, also right wing, blogger) as a “weasel word corporate-welfared CEO…” and a “shallow self-promoting tool” (12)
He’s the man who said there was no conflict of interest in allowing the NZX to be the provider of NZX services, the supervisor of its members, a listed participant on its own exchange and the market regulator… a statement one broker described as “utter balderdash” (13)
Weldon was also appointed by Key, or one of his Ministers, the Capital Markets Development Taskforce in 2009/10; the Tax Working Group in 2009; and the Climate Change Leadership Forum in 2007 and the board of High Performance Sport New Zealand (2012) and the NZ Olympic Committee (2004 – 2006). Key gave him a QSO in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Now remember that Slater, Odgers and Cresswell are all considered right wingers. They’re certainly not the type of people who’d be found cheering John Campbell’s advocacy journalism on behalf of the less fortunate. Generally, you might expect them to be quite supportive of a man with Weldon’s background who’s chaired the NZX and is friends withe the Leader of the National Party.
With teacher pay bargaining just around the corner and politicians’ wage rises announced today, I thought I would compare the wage increases of primary school teachers and politicians over the past few years:
Very experienced primary school teacher – wages (rounded)
2006 – $56k
2015 – $66k
= increase over 9 years of $10k
Any Backbencher Politician – wages (rounded)
2007 – $126k
2015 – $156k (plus $28k accommodation allowance)
= increase over 8 years of $30k
Slap me with a kipper and call me Arnold, but that doesn’t seem exactly fair.
I won’t even go into the debacle that is Novopay or the fact that some are still being paid wrongly and some are still waiting on wages owed for over a year… No, we won’t open that can of worms. Except to say that Stephen Joyce and Hekia Parata’s $268,500 a year will be rising to about $283,300 and will be paid on time.
David Seymour, parliamentary-under-secretary-for-promoting-charter-schools-at-any-cost, will get a nice 5.5% pay rise on his $175,600 a year, bringing it nearer $185,000 per year. (Mr Seymour’s wages could pay for around three teachers.)
John Key pocketed an additional $23,800 and today said of MP’s pay rises:
“The money turns up in your account. You could say, ‘Well, you could write a cheque or donate it or give it back’, but it’s just not that practical across 121 MPs.”
“What do you do when you get to the next year, and they give you another pay increase? Do we take that one and not the other one?”
Such a difficult decision, Prime Minister – how you must suffer with that one.
Jeepers, people on minimum wage must be planning right now whether to spend that windfall of about $15 per week on a car or a yacht, don’t you think?
And if they can’t decide, then perhaps Hekia Parata can offer some suggestions, as I’m sure she’s been planning how best to spend her extra $283 a week. After all, it must have been a struggle getting by on just $21k a month this past year…
Where’s that kipper again?
Sources and further reading:
Because feeding hungry kids so they can learn is SO last season.
See here for the Children’s Commissioner recommendations on poverty: http://www.occ.org.nz/publications/expert-advisory-group/
Professor Stuart McNaughton has been appointed New Zealand’s first Chief Education Scientific Advisor. His job is to promote the use of sound scientific research in the forming of education policy, and to help ensure that changes are based on this rigorous research.
It’s a positive move, assuming he is listened to and does indeed consider all the research out there. For example, if research were the basis for whether or not performance pay was put in place, it would be a no go as there is a strong body of research out there showing that it does not improve student outcomes and in fact causes harm.
So I welcome him to the role with hope.
What’s not so hopeful is John Key’s endorsement:
“We think it’s a great idea to be focussing on science for our youngsters,” he said.
“I think we can always do better, the main thing is to encourage more youngsters to be actively interested in science – it’s very important for our economy, and it’s very important for how we can perform as a country.”
But here’s the thing, Mr Key … the role is not about teaching science. Not at all. Prof. McNaughton is charged with USING sound scientific principles and research to ASSESS possible education POLICY and make recommendations.
He is not teaching science, teaching science teachers, doing anything with the science curriculum. Okay?
It doesn’t give much faith the role is being taken seriously when the PM is confused about what it’s for.
Good luck, Professor McNaughton.
“PISA shock” is the term that has been coined for the sense of political crisis and knee-jerk policy reaction that typically occurs when a country drops in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s international education rankings.
Almost 100 education experts, including several of us from New Zealand, recently sent an open letter to the OECD’s chief education spokesperson, Andreas Schleicher, pointing out that the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings have become more of a problem than a solution.
In many ways the concern of New Zealand educators is also around the wider influence of the OECD education programme on New Zealand educational politics and policy – perhaps as much “OECD hangover” as “PISA shock”.
New Zealand’s government led by prime minister John Key often draws on the authority of the OECD to endorse its policy direction, using both PISA findings and the related arguments of Schleicher. New Zealand’s minister of education Hekia Parata regularly quotes Schleicher, saying, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.”
But Schleicher is not close enough to the New Zealand context to correct any misuse of the OECD’s results by the Key government, and this causes problems. One example has involved the impact of poverty on student achievement.
Shortly after the latest PISA results came out in 2013, Parata started to say that New Zealand’s PISA results showed that socio-economic status accounted for only 18% of student achievement. This was surprising, to say the least, when a powerful relationship between social class and student achievement has been a theme of international research in the sociology of education for more than 50 years.
Further investigation revealed that the 18% claim was based only on PISA’s narrow definition of family socio-economic influence. Using PISA’s wider criteria that include neighbourhood and school socio-economic factors, about 78% of New Zealand’s latest results became explained by socio-economic conditions. But it is worth noting that some academics, such as Harvey Goldstein at Bristol, point out that PISA is not a long-term study, and so can’t estimate factors like this.
But downplaying the impact of poverty in order to emphasise the responsibility of teachers to raise achievement has been a regular strategy of the Key government. And when faced with the corrected figure by opposition parties in parliament in January, the prime minister still fell back on the authority of Schleicher to argue for the greater importance of teachers and schools.
Adding insult to injury, Schleicher himself started arguing that “poverty isn’t destiny” and arrived in New Zealand for the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in March stressing the power of high expectations in the face of social contexts.
Some of the points Schleicher has been making might be useful if the arguments were employed carefully. Unfortunately, in the national politics of New Zealand – and probably in many other countries – any such subtleties are quickly lost. Instead the OECD/Schleicher arguments become fertile ground for the politics of blaming teachers for the underperformance of students from poor backgrounds.
The OECD hangover in New Zealand goes far beyond PISA. In January, the Key government’s latest school policy proposal called “Investing in Educational Success” was announced. This is intended to introduce a number of new teaching and leadership roles into New Zealand’s schools, providing extra payments for carrying out the required roles as part of a NZ$359m (£184.4m) investment plan.
By February, a four-minute video of Schleicher endorsing the policy had appeared on Parata’s National Party website. This was concerning as although the OECD tries to be non-partisan, here was Schleicher, featuring on a party-political website and endorsing the governing coalition’s announcement of new education spending in an election year.
Watching the highly scripted video clip it also becomes apparent that Schleicher was willing to endorse the new policy without entering into the controversies it would cause in New Zealand.
He leaves out how the policy was announced by the Key government after a cabinet decision, without prior consultation and only subsequent input into the detail rather than the thrust of the policy. Not mentioned are worrying shifts in the power relations between the New Zealand government and teachers and between New Zealand teachers themselves that are likely to be caused by the policy.
Also not mentioned is the involvement and reinforcement of other New Zealand education policies that have been causing concern such as the new National Standards for primary schools, as well as many practical considerations. Instead, Schleicher discusses the policy only in an abstract, non-contextualised way. As the Quality Public Education Coalition pressure group said, his endorsement evokes the “best of all worlds”.
With Schleicher’s endorsement of the policy there can be no claim of misinterpretation by the Key government. It is more that Schleicher is not being careful enough about how the OECD’s support would be used in a local setting.
Our open letter concluded by suggesting the OECD had become the “global arbiter of the means and ends of education around the world”. In New Zealand, the OECD risks becoming known as a stick to beat educators with. Its reputation is unlikely to improve until it starts genuinely listening and acting on local concerns.
When John Key announced the Investing in Educational Success (IES) plans to spend $359 Million creating new teaching and principal roles, the education sector was cautiously hopeful. More investment is needed in so many areas, so teachers, principals and parents waited with bated breath. Sadly, the announcement left many underwhelmed, and this is why…
The Government plans to invest $359 million over four years in a highly paid cadre of new management roles in schools.
Change principals will be paid $50,000 a year to turn around “failing” schools.
Executive principals will oversee 10 schools and get paid an extra $40,000 a year.
Expert teachers will also work across schools and get $20,000 extra a year.
Lead teachers will work within their own school and be paid an additional $10,000.On this page are materials to support your discussions about the Government’s “Investing in Educational Success” initiative with colleagues, parents and Boards
There are concerns about consultation, as the announcement was made without any discussion with the education sector about where best to spend the money. Consultation after the fact has also left many uneasy as to whether it is genuine or for show only, a criticism that some feel is harsh but others feel is justified after so many sham consultations by the ministry of late.
Many parents, teachers and academics feel the IES plan is money being spent unwisely that could have a far greater positive impact on students’ education if spent elsewhere. There is no research to say this type of intervention will improve student outcomes – and conversely there is research that shows other initiatives would help significantly. In essence, adding more management is not going to help.
A parent-led petition is underway, that asks “Why not consult teachers and principals who know what is most needed to support children’s learning, as to what they believe will be the best use of this money?”
The video below is an introduction to the Government’s planned new teacher and principal roles – Investing in Educational Success (IES). It explains how IES fits within the wider reforms and what it might mean for children, teachers and schools, and people outline what their questions and concerns are.
teachers, what do you think about IES? Do you think the original plan was good or not? Do you think government will change the plan after consultation with the education sector? Parents, how do you feel about it – do you understand the plans, and do you support them or not? I’d be very interested to know.
In the new teacher and principal roles announced this week, the Key Government is reinforcing its education policy direction through a new mode of control, a new financial incentive to those who will promulgate its messages and through divide and rule of an ‘un-cooperative’ teaching force. The new roles will have different impacts in primary and secondary schools but it is in primary schools where they will be particularly horrendous. This is because of the small size and organisation of primary schools and because these schools will now face greater pressure to embrace unwanted and damaging reforms in this area such as the National Standards.
There are to be four new roles. There are ‘lead teachers’ (10% of teachers paid an extra $10,000 a year), ‘expert teachers’ (2% of teachers paid an extra $20,000 per year) and ‘executive principals’ (about 250 of them paid an extra $40,000 per year).
These are all ‘super’ roles in the sense that those who take them up will be required to work across other schools as well as their own, indeed the executive principals and expert teachers will only be back in their own schools three days a week. It seems to be the plan that there will be enough of these new roles to cover the system as a whole. For instance if 250 executive principals are supervising around ten schools each, this would cover the approximately 2500 schools in New Zealand.
The fourth category is the ‘change principals’ one. These are to be in a full-time role (about 20 of them paid an extra $50,000 per year). This is a ‘super’ role in a different sense, paid more to apply to be principal of a troubled school but ‘super’ in the sense of being expected to turn that school around quickly.
The new super roles are clever politics because they have been presented as a new investment in the sector. This line has been swallowed by most commentators and even by some of the teacher organisations, at least initially. For instance well-known political commentator Bryce Edwards described it as ‘National’s super-smart step to the left’. But no one should imagine the latest reform represents the leopard changing its spots. It is not a move to the left because the politics of the super roles are managerial rather than redistributive.
None of the $359 million to be spent over the next four years around the new roles will go into new resources for schools such as extra teachers or teacher aides or even into general programmes of quality professional development for existing teachers and principals where it could have done great good. Instead the money will mainly go towards lining the pockets of those teachers and principals who are willing to be selected for and prepared for the new super roles and then willing to take them up.
Within the sector, Principals’ Federation President Phil Harding welcomed the proposals as enhancing ‘collaboration between schools’. But the problem is that the new collaborative arrangements between schools will certainly be intended to be of a required ‘on-message’ kind rather than more organic and genuine. The brief for the super roles are likely to require close adherence to Government perspectives, policies and targets and this is what those in the super-roles will then be driving into the classrooms and schools of those allocated to work with them. The new roles would be less of a problem if current education policies were more favourable. But the practices that those in the super roles will have to insist on will continue to be deeply flawed in both educational and social justice terms.
For those working under executive principals or expert teachers it may become something like having an ERO reviewer popping into the school on a regular basis and insisting on adherence to government policy rather than every few years as they tend to now. In fact under these reforms ERO might as well be disbanded: the people in the super roles will effectively be doing much of their work apart from the reporting to the public.
The relationships between school staff will become much less cohesive and trusting as the new roles are developed amidst resentment from colleagues. This resentment will be about problems such as who gets the roles, who seems to be hardly involved in the school these days, and who is intruding on successful practice in a particular setting. Ironically, the day before the release of the policy I was telling a teacher conference in Wellington how important collaborative staff relations had been to the six primary schools I have been studying over the last three years (the RAINS project).
The super roles proposal is also remarkably naïve about the impact of the different contexts and historical trajectories of schools. It is not that a skilled and knowledgeable teacher or principal couldn’t go into another school or classroom and help, but to get it right this involvement would need to be in the spirit that there would be much to learn and of needing to be slow to comment or judge because schools and classrooms are so different and the differences need to be properly understood in order to provide good advice. This is not at all the model anticipated by the new super roles.
So what will happen now? The new super roles represent deeply cynical politics because well-meaning teachers and principals committed to public education are
going to be bribed to undo it and they will often feel no option but to take up the offer.
Apart from the extra salary, the new super roles will become the markers of career progression, whether one takes up such a role or is looking for a job reference from the super role person to whom they are reporting. Even highly ethical teachers and principals may feel under pressure to take up executive, expert and lead positions on the grounds that if they don’t, unknown (and/or possibly unrespected) others certainly will. Better to take up the role than be working under someone else where you and the children in your care might no longer be as safe.
Actually, teachers and principals who want the best for the children will be damned if they do and damned if they don’t. My advice is not to be first cab off the rank and to be very clear about what the super roles will involve before expressing any enthusiasm and signing up. In the meantime the teacher organisations have a lot of work to do to mediate the worst effects of yet another bad education policy from this Government, its most destructive so far.
Over the longer term, when the substantial money going into the super roles doesn’t bring the intended improvement in PISA achievement (as it surely won’t, most of the problems are outside of the control of schools), the stage will become set for the further privatisation of our ‘failing’ school system. But as I told the conference in Wellington this week, I intend fighting for public education until my dying breath. This is because it is only a public education system that holds the promise of delivering a high quality education to all New Zealand families, regardless of how rich or poor they are.
Sometimes humour says it best, and this says it brilliantly:
“Outlined sweeping changes to education. It’s my belief that schools will function a lot better once we roll out changes to sweeping. The floors of many of our schools need to be swept regularly. It’s not good enough to run a broom over the floors once or even twice a week; dust and dirt builds up quickly, and it doesn’t look nice.
I came from a family that didn’t have much. But my mother taught me the value of a clean floor.
I went on to have a successful career, and enjoy wonderful and relaxing summer holidays in Hawaii. Unfortunately too few of today’s children will ever pick themselves up off the floor, especially if it hasn’t been swept.
My government will combat the problem by creating four new roles.
Executive Sweepers will provide new brooms.
Change Sweepers will recycle old brooms.
Lead Sweepers will act as role models to students who aspire to join the sweeping workforce.
Expert Sweepers will be responsible for identifying minor problems in schools such as poverty, hunger, violence, and a deep sense of futility, and sweeping them under the carpet.”
Kelvin Smythe once more hits the nail on the head, identifying that these latest proposals aim to bring in both performance pay and the entrenching of National Standards within NZ education. If those getting the extra pay do not jump on the National Standards bandwagon and promote it to others, they can say goodbye to the role and the money, and a more compliant puppet will be brought in.
Here are Kelvin’s observations:
“Because the education system is hierarchical, narrow, standardised, autocratic, and fearful – the new proposals will yield meagre gains. The proposals, if implemented within this education straitjacket, will have the appearance of a system suffering from ADHD.
The suggested proposals, because of the difference in the way secondary school knowledge is developed, structured, and presented will work somewhat less harmfully for secondary than for primary.
The proposals are a move by the government to buy its way to an extreme neoliberal and managerialist future for education – one part of these proposals is performance pay, the other, and associated, is a managerialist, bureaucratic restructuring:
There is performance pay to develop a cash nexus as central to education system functioning.
There is performance pay to divide NZEI and eventually destroy it (as we know the organisation), NZPF also.
There is performance pay and the wider proposals to divide NZEI from PPTA (PPTA is dithering).
The information I have is that there will be some obfuscation about the role of national standards but in practice performance pay will, indeed, be based on them.
There is making permanent the national standards curriculum by selecting expert and merit teachers on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to a narrow version of mathematics, reading, and writing and their willingness to promote it.
The proposals are intended to set up an extreme neoliberal and managerialist education system:
The executive principal for the cluster system will usually be a secondary principal, if one is not available, a primary school principal friend of the government will be employed.
This cluster structure will form the basis for the ‘rationalisation’ of schools when that process is decided for the cluster area.
The executive principal will be a part of a bureaucratic extension upward to the local ministry and education review offices then to their head offices, and downward to clusters, individual schools, and classroom teachers.
This executive principal will have the ultimate power in deciding expert and lead appointments.”
Read the rest of Kelvin’s insightful piece here.
This is no way to run education. If we treat the system and those within it this way, what on earth does it tell our students? That what matters in bowing down to money even when you know it’s wrong? That it’s okay to leave behind all that your expertise tells you, so long as you’re okay? That it’s every man for himself? What great lessons for life they are. Not.
We must insist our unions tread very carefully here, and not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said National Standards data remained invalid and unreliable. An NZCER survey published last November found only 7 percent of principals thought they were robust.
“National Standards outcomes do not show the true educational progress of a student and are therefore an absurd and insulting way to identify great teachers.
“Linking large pay bonuses for teachers to narrow student outcomes in this way risks ‘teaching to the standard’, as well as making unfair judgements about teachers of students with special needs or learning difficulties.”
Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the creation of financial incentives for approximately 6000 teachers and principals, with the aim of raising student achievement – a move that fails to address the inequity and poverty that are the key cause of student underachievement.
Ms Nowotarski said this policy was clearly not thought through.
“The Prime Minister has rushed to create ‘good news’ ahead of creating sound policy. He needs to come clean with the full details of this scheme,” she said.
Cartoon responses to Key’s education announcements:
President Angela Roberts said Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that $359 million would be invested in teaching and school leadership over the next four years was a positive one.
She praised his commitment to ““support a culture of collaboration within and across schools” and said the creation of principal and teacher positions to provide leadership and support across communities of schools marked the beginning of a collaborative approach long sought by PPTA.
“Enabling schools to support each-other rather than compete against each-other is a good response to a problem that has bedeviled our education system since the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools,” Roberts said.
Acknowledging that this required resources to sustain was also a positive step, she said.
Roberts praised the strategy’s focus on providing time for principals and teachers to share their resources instead of dangling a financial carrot.
“It’s not just about rewarding individuals it is about providing them with time and enabling them to share what they know to support their colleagues across schools – and that rewards everyone.”
While Roberts was supportive of the new proposals she cautioned they would not solve all the problems New Zealand education faced.
“This policy won’t be a silver bullet, but it will be a very good place to start.”
Roberts also welcomed Key’s commitment to consult with unions about the proposals.
“We look forward to being involved in the development of these roles,” she said.