Ministry of Education

This category contains 18 posts

Charter School Performance Cover Up

The cover up of the true picture of student achievement in charter schools continued today with the belated release of the second Martin Jenkins Evaluation Report.

The report, with a final publication date of 28 November 2016, was released on Friday 5 May 2017, a delay of over 5 months.

However, even now, the report contains a massive caveat in the section discussing student achievement, which indicates there are still major problems behind the scenes.

Here is the footnote set out under the Evaluation Report’s analysis of Student Achievement:

coverupThe ratings in the May 2016 advice were based on the best information available to the Ministry at that time (and are indicative of the reports that the Ministry had received from schools/kura by then). They reflect the most up-to-date information provided to the evaluation team at the time of writing this report, but are not the Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015.  

Source: Ministry of Education (2016) Education Report: Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua: 2015 Quarter Four and Annual Reports, 30 May 2016

So, a formal policy evaluation signed off in November 2016, cannot go to print in May 2017 with a clear statement of exactly what represents the “Ministry’s final assessments of schools’/kura performance for 2015”?

Excuse me?

The same problem is holding back the Minister of Education’s decision on whether or not to release the retained operational funding that is performance related, in respect of the 2015 school year.  And this is now May 2017!

The major problem relates to the issue which surfaced last year, when the Ministry acknowledged that the interpretation of the secondary schools’ contract performance standards had been incorrect.  As a consequence, the schools had also reported incorrectly against their contracts.

These incorrect figures had been used to determine the Ministry’s ratings in its May 2016 advice, referred to in the footnote.  While the Ministry has now acknowledged that these figures are incorrect, nothing further has since been released.

The poor performance of the primary and middle schools is also evident in the Evaluation Report.  Of the five primary and middle schools, which have contract targets set against National Standards, only one school, the Rise Up Academy, was assessed as having met its contract targets.

And problems are also clearly evident in the assessment of performance against the Student Engagement standards.  Vanguard Military School and Middle School West Auckland performed very poorly against the standards for Stand-downs, Suspensions, Exclusions and Expulsions.

Overall, the main takeaway from the Evaluation Report is a fairly damning indictment of performance to date.

But the continued cover up of the true picture should not be tolerated any longer.

~ Bill Courtney

Dear Santa


What would you wish for?

~ Dianne 

Moving sands when measuring charter school effectiveness

The Education Ministry reported that some of last year’s new charter schools are not doing so well, but says there are good reasons for this.

The reasons given include students arriving at school far behind age-appropriate levels, student transience, the high rate of referrals from Child Youth and Family and the Police and referrals of difficult students from other schools.

Indeed, those are valid reasons for any school struggling to help students.

What I would like the Education Minister and the Undersecretary for Education to explain is how these factors are considered sound reasons for charter schools to struggle to help students and yet are considered excuses for public schools.

~ Dianne

Sources and further reading:’difficult’-students-going-to-charter-schools



Collaboration, competition and pitchforks

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.

The Concerns

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?

Collaboration or Competition?

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.

A Seamless Education System

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.

Trust and Collaboration: Setting the Example

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


Further reading/information:

Pitchfork and farmer image: Image courtesy of Simon Howden at

The victimisation of Peggy Burrows

I share this from Peggy to show that I stand by her. It is my way of saying I believe she is not in the wrong, and – worse still – she is being actively and purposefully attacked by the very people we educators are meant to trust. This is bullying of the worst order. It is victimisation. A career three decades long is being stripped from Peggy with no evidence of any wrong-doing on her part. Why would a commissioner do that? Why would Ministry allow it? There are some very hard questions to answer, and it isn’t Peggy that should be in the dock.

~ Dianne Khan, SaveOurSchoolsNZ

This from Peggy Burrows:

I need your help. Please don’t just “Like” this post. I am asking you to share it…


Because I am being bullied and I am asking for your help. It may be that after this long weekend I will find myself gagged again.

Ask yourself why we don’t hear about the horrors of what happens to Principals who are exited from their schools?
Answer – because there is a silence of compliance – but the compliance is dictated by a carefully constructed culture of fear and threats.

I am being threatened again to be silent. I am yet to receive notification from the Employment Relations Authority as to their ruling on the request made to them this week that I be re-gagged. So unless I do I believe this Facebook Page provides a forum for free speech in our country.

So what has happened to me this week in this 20 month campaign of horror?

1. I received notification from the Teachers Council today that a “mandatory” notification regarding my dismissal has been made. So after 37 years of service to New Zealand Education I find myself having to defend myself in that jurisdiction as well.

2. I have been accused of attempting to use social media to unfairly influence possible witnesses.

Let’s call the 1300 plus people who signed the petition to reinstate me if they are looking for witnesses. I know 95% of those individuals personally and taught many of them over three decades ago as a young graduate. How well do my current accusers know me – not at all.

Why am I putting myself through this nightmare?


a) I am not the person the Minister of Education was told I am.

b) My Board did not deserve to be dismissed.

c) I have not done anything that would warrant this level of abuse and bullying.

d) Some very good people have been hugely hurt and damaged by this whole horrible process.

Included below is an overview of my story so far. I have been accused of inappropriately sharing this information on social media. Free speech can not be considered inappropriate surely.

It is not me campaigning, it is me providing factual information in a climate of silence and innuendo.

It is nothing more than an overview of what I have been coping with over the past 20 months.

It is not me campaigning, it is me providing factual information in a climate of silence and innuendo.

If I find myself chastised in the Employment Authority for telling the truth on a Facebook Page then we really do have a problem in this country around free speech.

None of the links below were produced by me. I have merely provided them to you in the hope that you will take the time to please share them.

I would like Paul Finch [Support Peggy Burrows Facebook Page co-ordinator] to be able to send the petition to the Minister of Education in September with 2000 signatures on it. We have 700 signatures to find before then and can only do that if you help.

Thank you for your support and kind words as I meet you out and about in Rangiora. When people say to me, “This is dreadful and we are right behind you,” show me that you are by sharing and posting on the Parent Support Facebook Page – Support Peggy Burrows TV1NEWS. “Like” the page and post – don’t remain silent please.…/education/school-daze/……/peggy-burrows-in-for-fight-of-her-……/rangiora-high-school-principal-peg……/part-1-rangiora-is-ab…/…/part-2-rangiora-is-ab…/…/ladies-and-gentlemen-…/

Peggy Burrows was suspended in July following accusations she breached a gagging order and leaked information to ONE News.
Questions from Tracey Martin MP in the House:

Have Your Say on the Future of NZ Education


Term 4 isn’t the best time of year for Hekia Parata to announce a consultation as important as this – well, not if you genuinely want plenty of quality responses – but announce in term 4 she did, and so we teachers and parents must do what we do best – roll with it and make the best of things.

At first glance the consultation looks a little overwhelming. The questions are very broad and range over many areas, and the language is somewhat loaded at times, to say the least.  But it’s not as bad as it at first appears…

have_your_say02The first good news is you can answer as many or as few questions as you like.

If nothing else, all teachers and parents should answer at least the first question:

Q1: What should the goals for education be?

This is asking for your own view, so there’s no right or wrong answer. I took to the NZ Primary School National Curriculum to answer it, as I feel it covers things quite nicely already, but you may have entirely different thoughts, and that’s great. Just make sure you share them – that’s the important bit.

The second good news is that there’s no right or wrong format for replying. No-one is checking your spelling or grammar, no-one is expecting a specific layout or certain language. All that matters is that you have your say.

So what are you waiting for – go do it now!

More good news, you say?  Excellent! You can put your responses in online using the Ministry’s natty little submission doohicker. And it gets better – you can either just type in your replies, or you can upload a document if you have written them elsewhere or want to use photos, files or links. Great eh? Couldn’t be easier.

Your_voice_count-337x236I typed mine in as I went, and I answered most questions, and the whole thing only took me half an hour. Easy peasy over a cup of coffee.

I can tell you’re tempted now … go on, be a rebel, click here and do yours…

One last bit of good news – you can do your submission in bits if you want. Do a bit, save it, and go back to it. It doesn’t all have to be done at once. Just don’t forget, if you save it, to go back later and submit it!

The Education Act Update could prove to be one of the biggest upheavals in Kiwi education in around 30 years. Do make sure your voice is heard.

~ Dianne



Update of the Education Act 1989 – some observations

Bill CourtneyI attended the “open to the public” MoE consultation workshop last Friday about “Updating the Education Act 1989.” As a parent and former school trustee I have maintained a keen interest in education policy and wanted to see first-hand how I would be “consulted”.

After all, the foreword in the public discussion document from our Minister of Education clearly said that she was asking the public for our input into the process.

But it was hard on days like last Friday to not come away concerned about how education policy is being developed in a land that has traditionally been very good at educating its young people.

In many ways the consultation reinforced concerns about what many of us call GERM, i.e. the Global Education Reform Movement, as it is popularly known overseas.

Most Kiwis probably don’t understand what we mean by GERM and may even call us cynical and ideological.  But in recent years we have seen too many examples of policy initiatives that have come off the GERM agenda, as Finnish education leader, Pasi Sahlberg christened it.

And here we are again, this time looking at the Education Act itself, but leaving out most of the contentious policy development of the past decade, such as National Standards, charter schools, IES, Education Council, etc, etc.

Let’s list a few things that rankled me:

  • Timing.How can anyone take seriously a Government that opens a consultation process on education at this time of year and allows a mere 6 weeks for responses – closing on 14 December?  Our session had a total of two school principals as the only school-based education professionals in the room.  I wonder how many teachers and principals will get the opportunity to attend any of these sessions?
  • Scope.You can usually tell when a process has a not-so-hidden agenda when the scope of the review excludes most of the controversial topics!
  • Honesty.Why does the foreword from the Minister of Education say “It is time to take a fresh look at it [the Act]”?  I would have thought that a “fresh look” started with a clean sheet of paper, wouldn’t you?  Also, you would think from reading Hekia’s foreword that the Act had not changed in 26 years.  Yeah Right!
  • Double Speak.Hekia again: “We want an Act and a system that puts children at the centre of learning.” “This discussion document outlines a number of proposals for raising educational achievement.”  Note how “learning” and “achievement” are often interchanged, as if they are the same thing?  In the GERM world, only that which is counted – normally by way of standardised testing or assessment – is deemed to be “achievement”. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, in a child’s life there’s a lot that Counts that cannot be Counted.  Learning is much broader than test scores in Reading and Maths.

So, we began our consultation session with the mandatory PowerPoint pack.  The very first slide got me uptight:

“The Act is no longer doing the job it was designed to do.”

Hang on!  The “job” it was designed to do was to implement the competitive model of education that Treasury promoted in its Briefings to the Incoming Government after the 1987 general election!

What are we really saying here?  Is it time to ditch the much despised competitive model, or not?  If so, then what might replace it?

Given the significance of the changes that the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools entailed, the Act was completely rewritten in 1989 to create the structure of self-governing schools, Boards of Trustees and so on.

So, are we really changing our minds on the competitive model, or not?  If we were, then the process to evaluate a replacement model would be significant, as it was in 1987 to 1989.  And, for good measure, it would probably require another substantial rewrite of the Act.  So is it getting a “fresh look”, or a mere cursory glance?

Next up was another bugbear of mine!  Apparently we want to “… make sure everyone knows the goals for education.”  Really?  And have we worked out how we are all going to contribute into a powerful and meaningful statement that will endure?

Or, I wonder if it really means another set of Hekia’s infamous 85% achievement targets?

And another one… “How a graduated range of responses could be developed to better support schools when difficulties arise?

How about taking a different tack?  How about supporting schools better now with greater resources targeted where they are most needed, backed up with support services that are needed today?  Why focus instead on how efficiently we can deliver ambulances to the bottom of the cliff tomorrow?

The concerns continue to flow as we progress through the public discussion document.

“How should schools and kura report on their performance…? What should the indicators and measures be for school performance…?”

More data, in other words, right out of the GERM Handbook for Standardised Education.

But, don’t worry, if your numbers are high, then “… what freedoms and extra decision-making rights could be given to schools, kura and Communities of Learning (Hekia’s new clusters) that are doing well?”

It’s hard not to feel cynical, as I said at the outset, but recent developments overseas, such as the testing Opt-Out movement in the USA, give us hope that GERM policies are under scrutiny for one powerful reason: they just don’t work.

My final thought, and the saddest aspect of Hekia’s consultation, is that, 26 years on, we are just going to tinker.  Where is the genuine major rethink on education that we really need?

In the meantime, what collateral damage will GERM continue to inflict on current and future generations of children?

– Bill Courtney

Make a submission online here. You have until 5pm on 14th December 2015.

Why did the Herald withdraw the ECE ‘War Rooms’ article?

There is much consternation about The Herald withdrawing an education article part way through the day this week and refusing to respond to questions about why that was.

So why was it withdrawn, we wondered? Political pressure? Who knew?

With no real explanation, suddenly, the next day, there was a pathetic (and badly written) “clarification’ in the Herald”

war rooms clarification

But even that doesn’t say the facts were wrong. Just the intference.

And yet reading the released OIA documents, I feel most people with decent reading skills would infer the same.

But don’t take my word for it, take a look at these excerpts (or better still, read the whole OIA request here) and judge for yourselves:

Screenshot (23)


Screenshot (21)


Screenshot (20)

and more ‘war room’ talk…

Screenshot (22)

It seems to be a lot of back and forth and a lot of people involved for something the Ministry is now saying wasn’t an issue, doesn’t it?

It is worth noting that all of this toing and froing includes a whole lot of media staff and not so many education staff. You’d think sharing the undiluted, unspun truth would be better all round …

So was there undue influence or not?

And just how much spin does it take before the spin become untruths?

~ Dianne


Charter school spending – KFC, Burger King and Domino’s Pizza!

ATM withdrawalSchool staff withdraw $4k from school account.

No receipts.

No records.

Can’t explain where it’s gone.

At all.

But it won’t be investigated.

Auditors “raised concerns as to whether some expenses could not considered normal operational expenses” including

money withdrawals from Takeaways

burger king… money withdrawals from BP

… purchases from Cafes,

… Domino’s Pizza,


… and Burger King.

But it won’t be investigated.

Anyone want to take a wild stab at what kind of school it is?




Read more on this here.

Charter Schools: The Shroud of Secrecy continues, by Bill Courtney

We have written before about the “Shroud of Secrecy” surrounding NZ’s charter schools.

The Ministry of Education finally released the ERO Readiness Review of the Whangaruru charter school in February 2015, one complete year after the school opened.

Tui Yeah right - WhangaruruThe school is now under a formal review process to ascertain whether it should continue.  This is after I was told by the Ministry that “all of the identified challenges have now been overcome or are being managed.”  Yeah Right!

We now have more fun and games from the Ministry with their refusal to release the 2015 funding details for the first round charter schools.

This is in response to an Official Information Act request lodged on 21 November 2014.

Despite regular (and cordial) e-mail correspondence, as of early April the Ministry has refused to disclose the 2015 guaranteed minimum rolls and funding details for the five schools.  They tell me that the “contract variations” have not yet been signed by the Minister.  How convenient.

The Guaranteed Minimum Roll is set at the outset of each contract with the proviso that for each subsequent year, it will be agreed by the Minister and the Sponsor in writing by way of a variation to the contract, by the end of the then current year. [Emphasis added].

So, if they were supposed to be in place by the end of 2014 and, of course, cash payments would have been made to the schools at the start of term one 2015, why can’t they now be released?

The charter schools are outside the normal public sector transparency framework that all State and State-Integrated schools must comply with but we were told that relevant information could be obtained via the Ministry itself.  So much for that whopper!

Although we don’t know their 2015 funding details, we can see the opening rolls via the 1 March roll returns contained in the Schools Directory.

Of the five first round schools, only one – South Auckland Middle School – has now reached its Maximum Roll of 120 students.  The attraction of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery is undeniable.

The Vanguard Military School has expanded this year to include Year 13 students for the first time.  Its opening roll is 137, which is close to its Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 144 (at least that’s what we think it is).

But Vanguard will be watched closely again this year to see if its roll falls away during the year, as it did in 2014.  The effect of the Guaranteed Minimum Roll is to ensure that the school is funded for at least that number of students throughout the year, regardless of what the actual roll proves to be.

In 2014, Vanguard was funded for 108 students, even though its actual roll fell from 104 as at 1 March to as low as 79 in October.

Whangaruru charter school is under formal review and its future is uncertain.  Its opening roll of 36 students compares to a figure of 63 in March 2014 and last year’s Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 71.

The third charter secondary school is Paraoa, based in Whangarei.  Their opening roll for 2015 is 76, up from last year’s figure of 50, but this is a long way short of the school’s Maximum Roll of 300.  This figure is the highest target roll of any of the nine charter schools established to date and illustrates just how small these schools are proving to be.

The last of the original batch of schools is Rise Up Academy, a primary school based in Mangere.  Interestingly, it appears to have changed its status from being a Year 1 to 6 school to offering Years 1 to 8.  This may have contributed to its roll increasing from 48 in October 2014 to 70 on 1 March 2015.

The opening rolls, Guaranteed Minimum Rolls and funding details of the four second round schools are set out below:

School Guaranteed Min Roll 1 March Roll One-off Establishment Payment 2015 Annual Operational Funding
Te Kura Maori o Waatea 60 34 $506,694 $637,313
Pacific Advance Senior School 100 36 $1,151,825 $2,171,019
Middle School West Auckland 160 131 $959,121 $1,940,456
Te Kapehu Whetu-Teina 65 40 $512,481 $601,253
Total 241 $3,130,121 $5,350,041

We will watch their progress with interest – subject, of course, to what snippets of information manage to escape through the shroud of secrecy surrounding this controversial initiative.

_ Bill Courtney, Save our Schools NZ

Special Needs Support Sadly Lacking

mazeWhat’s going on in New Zealand? We have the Ministry of Education saying they want to support special educational needs, we have Hekia Parata demanding (quite rightly) that all children are given a fair crack with their learning, we have teachers crying out for support, and we have parents tearing their hair out, being pushed pillar to post and at every turn asked to pay, pay, pay.

Where are the students in all of this?

The system is broken. In fact, calling it a system is being generous – it’s more of a series of disparate services that each tell you they can’t help.

You have a child with behavioural or emotional problems? Tough.  If you’re lucky you’ll be offered a leaflet for a parenting course… or should I say another parenting course. Because the first thing you have to remember when your child has issues is that it’s automatically deemed to be your fault.

Heaven forbid anyone with an ounce of training in child psychology, mental health, spectrum disorders, behavioural issues, or anything useful gets to observe and evaluate your child. If you want a diagnosis, you’re going to have to get battle ready and prepare to fight.

You will also need to prepare to open you wallet. Often. And widely.

All too often I hear of parents asking school for support – school refer the parent to their doctor or child mental health services – they pass the buck back to school – school then tries the next agency – the buck is passed again. Often the school is trying so hard to help, but they are hitting brick walls all the way, just like the parents.

And meanwhile, that child is still waiting for support.

At some point, parents are advised to go private and get help. There are two problems here.

  • First of all, who has $120 an hour spare for a series of sessions? Not everyone by any means, and help shouldn’t depend on whether the child has well off parents or not.  It should be available to all students.
  • Secondly, finding the right help is a mine field,  If you don’t know what the issues are and are searching for a diagnosis, you will often see a raft of people who are not qualified to do that properly. So you try another specialist, and another, and all the time you are paying for this non-help.

Some time ago, Peter Hughes, head of the Ministry of Education, said “When things aren’t working [the Ministry of Education] will own that and work with everyone involved to find solutions.” Well things aren’t working, Peter, truly they aren’t.  So what is being done?

As I said in July, you have a complete overhaul to do, after years of neglect of special needs provision that is to the detriment of all of our students and is a disgrace.

Caring parents and teachers are doing all they can. But we need a good system that supports us to do our part well. And our children deserve nothing less.

~ Dianne

Also read:
Peter Hughes thinks Ministry has work to do on Special Needs provision, does he?

Charter Schools: The Shroud of Secrecy Continues

shhhh secretThe Ministry of Education yesterday released another batch of information relating to the five existing charter schools and the four new ones proposed for opening in 2015.

As we have seen before, the release of such information, often requested under the Official Information Act, was incomplete and continues to make a mockery both of the OIA itself and the rhetoric that processes relating to charter school will be transparent and subject to scrutiny.

On 12 June 2014 I lodged an application under the OIA for the “Readiness Reviews” conducted by the Education Review Office of the five new schools which opened in February 2014.

A Readiness Review, as its name implies, is supposed to be ERO’s view of the state of a new school’s preparedness to open its doors to students.

At the completion of the normal 20 working days OIA time limit, the Ministry of Education wrote and stated that the Readiness Reviews of four of the schools were “soon” to be made publicly available and so my request was refused on those grounds. They also made this statement about the fifth

“The Readiness report for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru has not been completed. Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru has faced a number of challenges, as schools often do when they first open. All of the identified challenges have now been overcome or are being managed. For this reason, the Ministry and ERO have agreed that the review period be extended until the end of August 2014 with a final report in September 2014. Extending the review period allows a fair and reasonable opportunity for the Sponsor to address the issues and demonstrate its capability to operate a successful school.

The report for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru is not expected to be released until the end of September 2014”

 Letter from MoE, dated 14 July 2014

Subsequently, on 6 August 2014, the Ministry released to me the four completed readiness reviews for the other schools.

After a wait of over 3 months, the Ministry finally contacted me again:

“The ERO Readiness Review for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru is not included in today’s release. We are withholding this document in full under section 9(2)(f)(iv) of the Act to allow time for some issues to be addressed. The school is in the process of responding to the delayed review. Once it has done that, the report will be released.”

e-mail from MoE, dated 20 November 2014

In my view, there are several unanswered questions that come to mind when this saga is analysed.

1. A Readiness Review should show clearly whether, or not, a new school is “ready” to open. If Whangaruru was not “ready” then why was it allowed to open?

2. Why did an Education Report to the Minister from the Ministry, dated 28 January 2014, clearly state that: “Overall, all sponsors are committed and well placed to opening their schools at the start of Term 1, 2014.”?

3. What “challenges” and “issues” were subsequently identified by ERO?

4. Have these issues impacted on the ability of the school to deliver a sound education to the students enrolled at the school?

5. What support has the Ministry of Education had to provide to the school to enable it to continue operating?

6. What has been the cost of this additional support?

7. If the 14 July communication stated that “all of the identified challenges have now been overcome or are being managed” then why has this process not been brought to a conclusion? What issues still need to be addressed, as per the 20 November statement?

8. Why did the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board, chaired by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, authorise Whangaruru in the first place? What did the Authorisation Board see in its application that led them to believe that Whangaruru would be a viable school?

9. If the Whangaruru school collapses, what happens to ownership of the farm property where the school is based?

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ


The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction

This is a must read:

“This posting is just a brief introduction to something that, for the fabric of our democracy and the successful functioning of our school system, needs to be out in the open. Only some things can be confirmed in this posting – the degree of collusion between the education ministry and Whale Oil has yet to be established and the level of insidiousness.”

Read the whole thing here: The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction.


Is Hekia Parata planning National Standards for preschoolers?

ECEMany of us who have read it are very concerned about the Education Ministry’s Statement of Intent.

The foreword is an exercise in deduction as, like all of the Minister’s communications, it’s hard to get past the waffle and jargon in order to see what is actually meant.

But this is vitally important that educators and parents DO read and understand it, because this document outlines what the Minister is intending to do next to our education system.

When I first read the Statement, I was torn between horror at what is implied in it and amusement at the circumlocution and waffle.  In fact, I immediately wrote my own parody of the Statement, using about 50% of Hekia’s own words and adding my own spin.

It amused me, briefly.

But that amusement didn’t last long.

In actual fact, the Statement of Intent is very concerning.

Very. Concerning.

Catherine Delahunty picks it apart today in this article, and asks some very salient questions about the Ministry’s intent, in particular regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE).

For those of you that don’t know, the Ministry’s Early learning Information System (ELI) is “an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record children’s enrolment and attendance.”

Delahunty points out that the Education Ministry says it will use its Early Learning Information System:

to help identify particular trends and  the effectiveness of children’s learning…”

Delahunty then asks,

“What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning?

There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ’3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers.”

I agree, it does appear to signal the Ministry is moving towards measuring the academic achievements of preschoolers.

This is worrying.

There are HUGE concerns from the ECE sector and from parents regarding the push towards standardising learning (and, heaven forbid, testing) for preschoolers.

It’s bad enough that the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards is being entrenched in primary schools, but to it is even worse to be forcing formal learning on 2,3, or 4 year olds. The move is not supported by the research and in totally unnecessary in terms of good learning.

Ask yourself, why the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards – what does it achieve?

Has it raised student achievement elsewhere?

The answer is no. But it has created a very lucrative market in testing materials and it has allowed for performance pay for teachers, neither of which benefit the students. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Delahunty says:

“We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Chris Hipkins (Labour) and Tracey Martin (NZ First) at the Tick For Kids ECE forum in Wellington last week.

The focus on reading and writing, and the obsession with pass marks, is narrowing our education system and crippling both teachers and students.

It is not a positive move.

It will not improve educational outcomes.

It is not supported as good practice by research.

So just what is the motive for doing it?


Sources and further reading:

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Delahunty – National’s Dangerous Education Agenda Exposed – The Daily Blog

The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2013 – 2018 (which sets out the key elements of how the Ministry will contribute to the delivery of Government’s priorities for education.)

Beanbags: An Alternative Statement of Intent Possibly from the Minister of Education (or perhaps not)

Hipkins and Martin well received, Parata not so much – what happened at the Tick For Kids Education Forum 12.8.14

Report shows National plan to slash billions from Education Budget

Peter Hughes thinks Ministry has work to do on Special Needs provision, does he?

less talk more actionWell, I think that is the understatement of the year, Mr Hughes.

You say that “[e]very child is unique and teachers and other parents don’t always understand that or get it right.” And yet when teachers are crying out for money to be spent on training and on good provisions for special needs students they are ignored.  When the government want to spend money on change principals and lead teachers via the IES proposal and teachers shout out that they don’t want bonuses but in-class support and training, the Minister says we are whining.

So, when teachers don’t get it right, bear in mind, Mr Hughes, that you and your Ministry are part of that problem.  .

You say that “When things aren’t working [the Ministry of Education] will own that and work with everyone involved to find solutions.”  Really?  Because parents and educators instead talk of huge waiting lists to get help, paperwork mountains no money available, and children having their funding removed whenever a slight improvement is seen, only for they to slip back when the support is removed.

You throw in that $530 Million is spent yearly on Special Needs, but so what?  How much is spent dealing with children who haven’t had good support?  Maybe paying for health problems brought on by the stress of fighting the system for every little thing?  Paid out in years to come to those students who weren’t given the best chance and are not unemployed?  What is spent is a mask for what it costs to *not*get it right, and to throw it in as if it proves how hard Ministry is trying is an insult.

And it hardly helps when the Minister cares so little for special needs provision that she is happy to close special needs residential schools – sometimes illegally.

Let’s face it, Mr Hughes, you do not just have work to do – you have a complete overhaul to do, after years of neglect of special needs provision.  And this neglect is to the detriment of all of our students and is a disgrace.

Start by looking at the lack of good professional development out there for teachers and teacher aides.

Try investigating at the minuscule bit of teacher training that is spent learning about special needs.

Look at the detrimental effect of National Standards on both students and teachers.

Ask parents and teachers how hard it is to get help even for the kids with severe learning disabilities.

Then tell me again you just “have work to do.”


References and further reading:

Follow Save Our Schools NZ on

Category list:


%d bloggers like this: