For a Minister so obsessed with data and, in particular, the sharing of data, it is interesting how little we know about charter schools.
Bill Courtney writes:
The game of delaying the release of a vast range of information on the charter schools continues.
The Ministry has promised to release a lot of material, including the formal evaluation of 2015 student achievement, in “April” but has refused to state exactly when. They also need to release all of the 2016 quarterly reports, the 2016 contract variations and the second “annual” installment of the Martin Jenkins evaluation of the charter school initative.
In short, lots of information is being withheld for no apparent reason.
When it is finally released, we will go through it and post our thoughts on what it reveals.
In the meantime, propaganda and marketing material fills the void.
Hekia Parata made a somewhat surprising appearance today at Core Education’s uLearn Conference in Rotorua, prompting again comparisons of her ability to make herself available for certain types of education gatherings and not others:
Still, this is not news, and her appearance this morning was not a total surprise, despite not being on the programme.
At least one person left the room in silent protest.
Some asked questions…
And one, SOSNZ’s very own Melanie Dorrian, made a one-person, silent and very powerful protest.
This prompted a flurry of photos on social media
The protest invoked a lot of positive support from within and without the room.
Melanie, I have never been prouder to call you a colleague. You embody exactly what we want of our teachers and our students – deep critical thinking, a commitment to facts, a determination to hold people to account for their actions, and a social advocacy that puts others’ needs sometimes before one’s own.
To those who praised Melanie, took pics, shared your thoughts, sent her your support – thank you. I hope Melanie’s stance has illustrated clearly that one person can make a difference and your voice – every voice – matters.
Next time maybe you’ll bring your banner, too?
After all, you voted overwhelmingly to stand up to this nonsense.
You can follow Melanie’s own blog here.
Dr Liz Gordon, QPEC convenor, says that QPEC supports the concerns of many other groups about two recently announced policy proposals.
“The first is that additional special education support be given to the early childhood sector. We strongly support the policy of providing early intervention.
“However it is also proposed that this be a zero-cost policy, with funding taken from later stages of education to fund the early interventions. The government is well aware that there is already inadequate funding for special needs in school, and taking from Peter to pay Paul will leave ‘Peter’ with inadequate support.
“QPEC supports additional funding for special needs in education, to give all children the best chance at a full life in the community”.
Dr Gordon notes that the second issue is the introduction of “yet another category of school” into the Education Act.
“The notion of an online school needs much further investigation before it is placed into our Education Act. There are some extremely difficult problems to be overcome before a ‘school’ of this kind can be developed.
“The New Zealand curriculum, which is compulsory in most schools, is not yet available in an online format and this would need to happen (unless the school is to be a private school, which would be a missed opportunity).
“We know that only certain children learn well in an online environment. These are usually high-achieving young people who have the support of well-educated families and communities. This group is not the target of the government’s policy goals, which are to lift the achievement of under resourced children.
“It therefore seems extraordinary that the Minister would champion this policy at this time”.
QPEC is concerned that once again, as with the partnership schools, the Minister is pursuing models that will lead to further privatisation and fewer opportunities in practice.
Dr Gordon concludes: “There is nothing wrong with extra resources in special education or pursuing models of online learning, but the approaches signaled appears out of step with the realities of schooling in Aotearoa.”
Dr Liz Gordon, Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)
On Q&A this weekend it was said that the average teacher’s pay is $74k per year. Teachers up and down the country fainted, asking who this average teacher is!
SOSNZ would love to see what calculations were done to reach that figure, because it seems entirely unlikely to be accurate.
The NZ primary school teacher pay scale is here:
Note the top for most teachers, after many years in the profession, is $70,481.
The most you can get, with a Masters, PhD or Honours Degree is $74,460.
The only way to get more than that is to take on additional responsibilities, at $4k per unit.
Given a huge number of teachers leave within the first few years, it’s unlikely that the average wage is truly $74k as was mooted on Q&A.
Mean, mode, median, smoke or mirrors – I’d love to know how that figure was arrived at.
I have asked Q&A whether they can get details of how that was calculated (does it include principals, specialists, RTLBs, etc?). I have also asked Tracey Martin, Chris Hipkins and Catherine Delahunty whether they might ask about it in the House. I will keep you informed.
If you don’t follow charter school goings on worldwide (and for your sanity, I kind of want to suggest you don’t), you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s just the odd blip here and there. But, to be honest, it’s more like a volley of blips coming thick and fast. In fact, if blips were locusts, we’d have a plague on our hands.
Take just this week’s revelations, for example…
Nga Parirau Matauranga Trust (NZ)
Waipareira Trust (NZ)
The E Tipu E Rea Trust (NZ)
Academy Transformation Trust (England)
NET Academies Trust (England)
Paradigm Trust (England)
Gulen/Harmony Charter Schools (USA)
Michigan study (USA)
Ohio Department of Education invoiced (USA)
Cabot Learning Federation (England)
Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (England)
Oh I could go on… this is but a drop in the ocean… but you get the idea.
The charter schools movement is not about education – it’s about privatisation and diversion of funds. As always, I ask you to follow the evidence and follow the money.
Featured Image courtesy of pixtawan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Taxpayers fund large wages and lavish perks of academy school chiefs , The Guardian, Published online Sunday 24 July 2016 00.05 BST, retrieved 6.59pm NZ 25/7/16
Trust given $500,000 charter school contract without going to tender, NZ Herald, published online 10:43 AM Monday Jul 25, 2016, retrieved 9.18pm 25/7/16
Are charter schools making the grade? – The Nation, TV3, Saturday 23 Jul 2016 10:34 am, retrieved 9.38pm 25/7/16
Charter school a waste of public money – PPTA, Radio NZ, published 7:19 pm on 28 January 2016, retrieved 9.31pm 25/7/16
Parents at Bath Community Academy say school has failed their children and failed them, Bath Chronicle, July 23, 2016, retrieved 9.59pm 25/7/16
Alerted to concerns, I met with a teachers as they completed the Education Council’s Teacher Refresher Course to get a sense of what they thought of the course and the need to undertake it. What I heard was unexpected and alarming.
$4,000. Four Thousand Dollars. That’s how much the 12-week refresher course costs. And that’s just for the course. I expected people to raise concerns about that – I’d already had a few on social media – but there were issues I’d not yet considered.
Yes the course is expensive, they said – but why? Compare it with the cost for the full one year graduate teaching programme – it doesn’t stack up, they said. So I did some research:
All of which begs the question, why it is $4,000 for a 12-week course?
It surprised me, too, to hear that attendees could not apply for student loans to pay for the course. Teachers spoke of putting the cost on credit cards or using bank loans, and of overdraft bills being racked up as costs mounted.
They also pointed out that in addition to the course cost, they’d lost a term’s wages, often had to pay for accommodation, had travel costs (many people were from out of town) and had had to pay for childcare (especially those from out of town). Suddenly the actual costs were far in excess of $4k… For a twelve week course.
All of which, many noted, might be just about bearable if you felt the course was necessary…
One teacher explained that he is an itinerant music teacher. He does no classroom teaching at all, working only one-to-one or one-to-two teaching musical instruments in a number of schools across a large geographical area. The schools he goes to, he says, are very happy with his work – indeed he’s been doing this for well over a decade and everyone was just dandy with the set up – the teacher himself, the schools, the students and the Teachers Council. Then came the Education Council (EC).
Suddenly, this teacher was told he must do the Teacher Refresher Course if he wanted to continue working in schools. “Why?” he asked. He explained to EC that he knows of many itinerant music teachers who are not even qualified teachers, and they were allowed to carry on teaching – so why couldn’t he? He was informed that because he had at one time been a fully qualified teacher, he couldn’t do as the other itinerant teachers and work under a Limited Authority to Teach (LAT), but had to regain his fully registered teacher status. Which means, in a nutshell, he is being punished for having once trained as a teacher!
It makes no sense. If other itinerant music teachers can be unqualified teachers and work under an LAT as specialists, then why can’t he?
This teacher doesn’t want to be a full time teacher or a classroom teacher of any sort. He doesn’t want to take relieving work. He has no wish to do any teaching other than the one-to-one or one-to-two itinerant music teaching he has done for well over a decade. Like his itinerant music teacher colleagues do.
So he has undertaken the Teacher Refresher Course to allow him to carry on earning his living – a course that was focused around classroom teaching, National Standards, paperwork requirements and so on – none of which applies at all to the job he does.
How does the Education Council justify that?
Still reeling from the mind-boggling bureaucratic nightmare of the music teacher’s story, I was approached by a teacher who wanted to speak about their situations as a reliever.
This teacher said she has no wish to be employed as a full- or part-time classroom teacher on a contract, content with working as a relief teacher. She explained she is much in demand, has regular schools that she’d worked with for years, and is up to date with changes in the sector such as National Standards. She’d been teaching for decades.
Prior to the change from Teachers Council to Education Council, she had been able to continue relieving year on year with no problems, but with the Education Council, everything changed. Now, she was told, if she wanted to carry on relieving, she must do the Teacher Refresher Course. No ifs or buts.
So she, like the music teacher, had done the course only to find it focused on things that really had little to no bearing on her work as a reliever. “It’s not as if I’ve learned anything I need,” she said, frustrated that she’d been made to jump through hoops only because of what seems to be a lack of flexibility in the Education Council’s rules.
What interested me with the above scenario was how the information she’d been given compared to the information I’d been given not weeks before by two representatives from the Education Council…
I was informed face-to-face in a room full of senior teachers and principals that I wouldn’t have to do the Refresher Course if I was going to continue “only relieving”. The EC staff were very clear that the Refresher Course was necessary only if I wanted to go back to an actual classroom teaching contract. I could carry on with my Subject To Confirmation status and still be a reliever. Yet this teacher had been told something entirely different and was now thousands of dollars in debt… So which information is right?
Just when I thought I’d heard it all – and I can tell you, my head was reeling by this point – I was approached by this lady…
She has been teaching for decades, too. She sustained a head injury towards the end of her teacher training and as a result has never been able to work full time. This means she never completed the two year induction for new teachers. As a result, the Education Council informed her she must undertake the Refresher Course and become a fully registered teacher to continue teaching in any capacity.
This woman has a brain injury. She can only ever work part time. She can only ever work at the most as a reliever. She is, she explained, unable to sustain what is needed to work as a contracted classroom teacher responsible for planning, testing, report writing and so on. She knows this, her schools know this, and all is well; She is a good reliever, with a number of regular schools that she’s worked for for years.
The Teachers Council would, at re-registration time, receive a doctor’s note explaining her condition and information from the schools she works with, and they would accept that she is a fully competent teacher in the role as part-time reliever. Teachers Council would re-register her. No problem. The Education Council, however, insisted on her undertaking the Refresher Course.
The course had been an enormous strain on her. It is full time, with in-class placements overlapping with research, essays and presentations in what is a busy twelve weeks for even an entirely well person. For someone with a brain injury, it was incredibly hard work. And yet, she was faced with either soldiering on at a potential cost to her health or not doing the course and losing her means of income.
Telling me the whole sorry tale, she looked tired, sounded exasperated, and had an air of defeat. “I don’t understand the reasoning,” she said. No, nor do I.
Everyone I spoke to accepted that teachers who never completed their two years as provisionally registered teachers would need a refresher course, having not had time to put their knowledge into practice and grow as a teacher after first qualifying. The course attendees I spoke to that were in those circumstances said the course had been beneficial and their only concern was the financial cost.
But those teachers who had no intention of being classroom teachers ever again and who usually had years (often decades) of classroom teaching experience felt the Education Council needed to look again at both the criteria for doing the course and the course’s content.
If itinerant and relief teachers are being forced to do it, then the course needs to reflect their roles and their needs. If competency is the issue, then the course must address their competency in the roles they undertake. At the moment, in many cases, it doesn’t – making the whole affair a very expensive and extremely frustrating farce.
27/7/16 – EDITED TO INCLUDE LINK TO ARTICLE RE EDUCATION COUNCIL WANTING FEEDBACK:
Details of courses and requirements: https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/teacher-education-refresh-ter-programme
Itinerant music programme losing teachers due to Education Council requirements: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/81854579/itinerant-music-programme-losing-teachers-due-to-education-council-requirements
Jamie Banks is half white. Or is he? What does it even mean?
Here, in a fabulously funny and thought-provoking speech, and through a reflection on his own personal journey, Jamie reflects on what it means to be white, half white, not white, and how our view of ourselves influences how we view others.
Truly worth watching and thinking about.
If you want to speak to Jamie about his speech or teaching, he can be reached here.
Ka pai, Jamie – love your work.
Jamie Banks is an author, actor, rapper, performance poet and teacher, who has been campaigning since 2008 to get Emotional Intelligence (and now also Financial and Business Literacy) formally introduced into the curriculum.
Professional page: https://www.facebook.com/Banksta.Rapper/?fref=ts
Emotional Intelligence in NZ Schools: https://www.facebook.com/Emotional-Intelligence-in-NZ-Schools-467013176736336/?fref=ts
Business Literacy in Schools: https://www.facebook.com/Business.Literacy.in.NZ.Schools/?fref=ts
A teacher writes:
I love teaching, I love the spark in the eyes of the learners, I love to challenge myself and the kids to achieve the best they can.
I try supporting my colleagues as best as I can, I try hard to be the Teacher I wanted my kids to have. I am not perfect, but I extend myself, I learn, I try to take on board new ideas and new ways forward. I try hard to have an open mind.
I work in a supportive environment, with kind and wonderful people. I am not unhappy in my job.
I am saying that before I write the following because I want to make it clear I am not negative about education. I think there are amazing people out there, I think there is some, new and amazing stuff going on and I want to be a part of it, but…
This week I was at a union meeting again, and again I left angry and disappointed.
Not for myself, but for our students.
The real issues, are being swept under the mat.
The agreement we were presented with was toothless, there were some small steps, actually tiny steps.
The Rep was keen to point out the gains-the small victories, I feel the negotiating team no doubt had a hard job getting any sort of agreement in the current climate. The issue though is increasingly that we are presented with information and told to accept it, that there is no alternative.
Being told that we would be ‘hauled back’ (words of the rep) to more meetings if we didn’t agree to the settlement – sounded like a threat. As did ‘we will lose the back pay if it is not passed immediately’.
To be honest, if their was an alternative-such as fighting for the rights of students, I would gladly give up the pay.
Being told the one day in 2017, was a bargaining chip for further improvements in terms of release time, will be no good to the increasing number of teachers suffering from physical symptoms of stress now. There is not another day in 2018. This is a stepping stone we were told to help further negotiation in the next round. I have a feeling, many of my colleagues in the room may have left the profession by then.
Where is the union’s responsibility to protect its members from undue stress and workload?
So when do we fight the real issues, the reduction of the Teachers in Early Childhood, measuring kids in core subjects before they have truly settled into school, setting unrealistic targets, manipulating funding to make it look like an increase, when in real terms it is a reduction.
Increasing the paper workload due to the nature of the changes and expectations, but not giving teachers time to do this.
Teachers who are so exhausted and stressed they are breaking down. How many high quality teachers will we lose as they burn out? How many have lost the passion they had?
I would gladly forgo pay increases to secure release time benefits for our Teachers and Senior Staff to protect their health.
I would again give back pay increases, to see clear provision of professional development that schools can afford in areas that they need, or that enhance expertise in areas beyond the ‘core’.
I would give back the small ‘gains’ we secured to see my colleagues able to cope again.
Sorry for the rant.
We need the Union to stand up for us and our students and be prepared to help us get the parents on side. It looks as if our union has lost its teeth.
Unions are so important; they need to represent and present, galvanise support and be prepared to go the distance.
The whole point of paid union meetings being in school time was to acknowledge that Teachers needed time to discuss issues in an open forum.
We now have these in our non contact time as a norm. We do not want to disrupt our pupils and their families, but our time is very precious too and it is time we use to support the learning of the students.
A meeting should be about discussion and a level presentation of the alternative to accepting the agreement, and a chance to validate how we are feeling.
I resent being stood over as I consider my vote and being asked for it before I was ready; there was an assumption that there was nothing to consider.
Teachers are too tired to fight, they can barely meet the demands of their jobs. In 10 years of teaching in New Zealand and after 27 years in the profession I love, I am seeing more newly qualified Teachers become disillusioned after a few years, and excellent high quality teachers considering their future in the profession.
Teacher Burnout is a huge issue. The union needs to study it, help us present evidence, and to assist the fight to stop it.
Sorry for the rant. Frustrated.”
What are your thoughts?
Notes: Original post shared with the author’s permission; Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
This from Bryan Bruce:
The day after the budget is announced there is always a blizzard of big dollar numbers that often blind us to the underlining moral decisions that went into producing it.
(Because make no mistake in the end all economic decisions are moral decisions.)
So what moral decisions did our government make this particular budget?
Well, here’s a few.
It’s really their own fault that they are poor. So let’s progressively give less money to them through Working for Families,let’s deny our poorest families the in-work tax credit of $72.50 a week and let’s not increase the maximum rates of accommodation subsidies.
You can read more about this in an analysis by Associate Minister of Economics Susan St John here.
Commissioner for Children Russell Wills reminds us in the article below that in 1993, New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child one of which is the right to an adequate standard of living, including a home.
Yet “50 per cent of Pasifika children and 25 per cent of Maori children live in crowded homes. Forty per cent of families on low incomes spend more than 30 per cent of their weekly income on rent. In South Auckland, rents have increased 25 per cent since 2010, so typical rents for a three-bedroom house are about $400 a week.. and …..The Salvation Army estimates around 10 per cent of garages in South Auckland are being used as a residence.”
You can read more of what Dr Wills has to say here.
The government knows that around 42,000 children a year end up in hospital with chest infections and respiratory illnesses caused by bad housing and that it’s estimated 15 kids a year die as a result .(See article by Dr Wills)
The answer to this on going tragedy is to provide warm dry affordable homes.
Do I see a determined effort to do that in this budget? I do not.
The top 10% of New Zealanders now own over 52% of the Nation’s wealth. We are no longer a fair society yet we know that countries where the gap between the rich and the poor is narrower than our do better in all sorts of areas from lower crimes rates to better education outcomes.
Did this budget do anything to redistribute the nation’s wealth more fairly by making the rich pay their fair share of taxes ? No it did not.
At the beginning of his third term in government Prime Minister John Key said he would make addressing Child Poverty issues a priority .
Well I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen much of an effort being made to address the Child Poverty issues he says he now knows exist in our country.
Truth to tell – this is yet another budget that won’t help poor families break out of the cycle of poverty.
by Bryan Bruce (Source)
NOTE: Bryan Bruce will be on the panel at Waatea 5th Estate at 7pm, 27th May 2016 on Face TV (Sky Channel 083) along with Andrew Little , Helen Kelly and Oscar Knightly talking about events this week. You can watch the live stream here http://www.waateanews.com/Waatea+TV.html
Bryan’s Facebook page is here.
Kindergartens and early childhood education centres will face an even bigger battle to maintain quality teaching and learning following the Budget announcement that there will be no increase in funding.
This is the fifth year in a row that funding for early childhood education has effectively been frozen, says NZEI National President Louise Green.
“This year funding will not even keep up with increased costs that kindergartens and ECE centres will face.
“It undermines quality learning and means that parents will likely have to dig deeper into their pockets .”
“It’s ironic that the government talks of increasing teaching quality while squeezing the funding for this important area of education.
“Quality early childhood education is vital for children, especially those from vulnerable backgrounds, so once again, the government’s actions do not match its rhetoric.”
The $397-m increase in this Budget for ECE will only allow for extra places to keep up with roll growth.
Instead of addressing the underfunding of the education system, this year’s budget has hit schools with a funding freeze for everyday running costs.
Educators are appalled by the freezing of schools’ operational grants which would have a significant impact on already low-paid teacher aides.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green said teacher aides and most non-teaching staff were paid out of schools’ operational grants, so this meant a third of the education workforce could again say goodbye to any hope of a much-needed pay rise.
“The teacher aides helping our most disadvantaged students are on little more than minimum wage and often suffering the effects of poverty themselves,” she said.
Ms Green said that parents faced with increasing school charges and donation requests knew how much schools were struggling to deliver the education we expect for our children.
“We agree with targeted funding, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of overall funding, which was already inadequate.”
Instead of an increase to schools’ operational grants, the government is putting $43.2m over four years into schools educating about 150,000 children who have spent a significant proportion of their lives in benefit-dependent households.
Ms Green said that a separate $10.5m per year for students with special needs would also get nowhere near meeting the demand. It also did not give any extra assistance to special education schools already working with special needs children.
“Let’s be clear, this is peanuts when we know that tens of thousands of children aren’t getting the educational support they need to meet their potential.”
We tell kids all the time that to solve problems we need to work together. We tell them that community is important – we support our peers, our friends, the school community and the wider community outside the school gates. Teamwork: It’s an integral part of the ethos of every school I’ve ever been in.And that’s not just for the students and staff.
Parents are vital to building a strong school community, giving heaps of help in the form of time, goods and money. They volunteer in the classroom, do sausage sizzles and galas, put books away, help with the gardens – you name it, the parents are there. Actually, not just parents – often help comes from grandparents, siblings, aunties and uncles – the whole whanau. It’s all about feeling part of something. Belonging.
It could be argued that the best kinds of schools are those where the links between home, student and school are nurtured, and many schools such a Holy Family School in Porirua are actively working to strengthen these links.
Holy Family School have begun the So’otaga project. The name So’otaga was chosen as it translates to connection in Samoan, and the goal is to strengthen links between home and school as well as between families and other outside agencies. The project has a dedicated member of staff whose goal is to build relationships, share information and help. Helping the whole family, not just the student. That’s connection. That’s community.
Holy Family’s vision is:
“to work with families in order to develop a better understanding of what school should deliver for their child/ren. It is also to boost the confidence of our families in relation to approaching the school so that they fully understand exactly where their child is at with their learning and can ask some harder questions of the school in regard to delivering the high quality education that their child deserves.”
People, connections, respect, listening, helping, supporting – these are the things that good relationships and good schools are built upon.
Indeed, when schools are faced with closure, it is the sense of community loss, and of hard work and goodwill disappearing down the drain that causes many so much pain, as Catherine Savage discusses here:
To grow our students, we need strong schools.
To get a strong school we need a positive and supportive community inside and outside of school gate.
And to remain strong, there must understanding and support from Ministry of Education and the Minister.
Because at the end of the day, what matters most is the people, the people, the people.
Bryan Bruce Interviews Dr Catherine Savage on her work on School Closures, Redsky Television, Retrieved 12.43am 26.05/16, YouTube
20 May 2016
Today’s announcement that the government will fund another seven charter schools and an independent body to support them comes as a huge disappointment to Principals across the nation.
‘Only a few months ago, the Minister was closing the Whangaruru failed charter school which spent $1.6million on a farm and the government has no mechanism to retrieve that money, even though the school is now closed,’ said Iain Taylor, President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation today.
‘We thought that lessons had been learned from that disaster,’ said Taylor, ‘but obviously not.’
‘No one is calling for more of these schools,’ says Taylor. ‘Parents already have more than enough schools to choose from. Charter schools are a political arrangement with the government and the ACT party.’ he said.
‘Charter schools are a business, not a regular school, and businesses market themselves to get more customers by offering enticements. That’s what charter schools do”
‘Kids are not flocking to charter schools. Parents have to be enticed to send their kids there. We see the incentives like free school uniforms, free stationery and no programme charges,’ said Taylor. ‘Charter schools are a business, not a regular school, and businesses market themselves to get more customers by offering enticements. That’s what charter schools do,’ he said.
‘The Minister has often said that the vast majority of public schools of all decile levels in this country are great schools. We want all public schools in New Zealand to be great schools and we don’t need charter schools soaking up precious funds that would make that happen,’ said Taylor.
NZPF President Iain Taylor, media spokesperson
Mob: 021 190 3233
NUT and ATL are not the only teaching unions in the UK, so a merger would not mean all teachers and lecturers were in one single union. It wouldn’t mean one united force for all teachers. But it would bring together the NUT’s 330,000 members and the ATL’s 124,000 members to create a far bigger force of almost half a million teachers and lecturers.
Should NZ teachers’ unions consider the same thing?
In New Zealand, the NZEI has around 50,000 members, whilst PPTA has well over 17,000 members. Joining forces would make one super-union of around 67,000 members – not on the scale of the proposed merger of the NUT and ATL, but significant none-the-less. But is it needed and is it wanted?
NZEI and PPTA often follow the same or similar paths and policies but not always. For example, PPTA refused to put forward candidates for the then soon-to-be-formed Education Council, preferring not to engage at all with what they deemed to be a flawed situation, while NZEI opted to put forward candidates on the basis that if the formation of the Education Council was a fait accompli then they may as well be part of shaping it. Both paths have merit, and I don’t intend to debate them here, offering them only as an example of where the unions have gone down different paths and to ask whether one united voice in an amalgamated NZ teachers’ union is even possible.
Disagreement between members is no barrier to a good, democratic, working union. Indeed, it’s exactly as one would expect in a democratic institution where everyone has a voice. There are already diverse views within each union, and that’s a positive thing. Both NZEI and PPTA are excellent at canvassing their members and making decisions through democratic representation so that the majority voice is represented. So disagreement per se is not a barrier to a merger.
So if amalgamation would give a united front, and all members would still have a voice, why not merge NZEI and PPTA? One thing to consider is that perhaps amalgamation would be a negative thing:
Maybe it’s beneficial to have two distinct sets of representation at the table when changes are being proposed, irrespective of whether those views are different or the same? When there are not many organisations consulted, perhaps two sets of school representation is better than one?
It’s also worth considering whether amalgamation would dilute the strong focus each union currently has on a particular sector, to the detriment of both? Is bigger necessarily better?
For any number of reasons, it may not be what each union’s members want – and if there is no interest from members, then that’s that.
One would hope, given the sustained attack new Zealand’s public education system from ECE to High School is under, the pros and cons of a merger to create a stronger unified voice would be given serious consideration.
I’m interested to hear your thoughts.
Note: These views are entirely my own and do not necessarily represent those of the NZEI, of which I am a member and a branch secretary. I have not consulted with PPTA or NZEI or any other union or body before writing this, merely offering my ponderings as sparked by the news of a proposed merger of UK unions.
The Government announced today that it’s “reviewing the funding systems for schools and early childhood education (ECE) services”, and were keen to reassure observers that the aim is “to improve the overall design of the education system and ensure that all New Zealand children and young people receive the best possible education”.
I’ve read through, and here are my initial thoughts…
The review says it aims to give children “the best possible education”.
However, agreeing what constitutes “the best possible education” is a huge hurdle to begin with. Of course, the matter does need to be addressed; I simply urge caution, as there is huge debate around what education is for, and it is by no means a settled matter.
For example, what I think is important for my child may not be remotely what another parent thinks is important for theirs, and neither view might match with what, say, David Seymour or Hekia Parata think is important. And that’s before we even ask the experts …
So when the Ministry of Education says it aiming for “the best possible education” they really must – before all else can progress – get a very clear idea of what that means.
The system as it stands is not fit for purpose – I think just about everyone agrees on that. The decile system is, as Hekia Parata herself said, “a blunt instrument”, and money is often not there where it is most needed. So it is right to consider how it can be improved.
However, there are myriad ways things could be changed, some for the better, some not so much.
I was struck by the assertion in the Ministry’s terms of reference for the review that “accountability is weak”. What is meant by that? And how will accountability be strengthened? The same section mentions “progression”, but since National Standards have been allowed to embed despite the very clear fact that they fail to map progression in any way that is appropriately matched with child development, I do worry what any progression measure might look like.
I admit that I fear more standards, tick boxes and data-gathering exercises – hoops for teachers to jump – none of which will improve much, if anything at all.
The review document says that any new system must “better support children at risk of educational under-achievement”. This is laudable, of course. But again, we come back to what good support looks like, and given the support from certain quarters for charter schools – which have yet to prove they do anything better than a similarly resourced state school would – one has to wonder what the Education Minister and Under-Secretary view as “better”…
And this thing about property … why is that ringing alarm bells? The review will “…support school leaders to focus more on leading teaching and learning by clarifying property- related responsibilities and accountabilities…” Huh? Anyone got any thoughts on that one? Redcliffs? Peggy Burrows? Te Pumanawa o te Wairua charter school? Anyone?
And despite reports from all manner of experts, including the OECD, saying that school choice has no positive impact on education systems, the review says it will protect “diversity of choice for parents/whānau and consistency and certainty of funding for different types of schools.” That could be a great thing; It depends what it means.
Because, as soon as education reformers bandy around the word choice, you should make like a meercat and be on full alert. In that vein, my GERM BS Spotting Systems are flashing code red, and I can’t help but ask, is “consistency and certainty of funding for different types of schools” just code for promising to fund private schools and charter schools to the same level of state schools? If not, what is it?
The review document states that the Advisory Group is to engage with the Ministry to “comment on the work being undertaken”. However, it can’t comment outside of that … no discussion is to be had without permission, it seems. In fact, it’s very clear that “Advisory Group discussion is also confidential to the group” and “Members may be required to sign a non-disclosure agreement”. So much for transparency.
Forgive me if I appear overly cynical – but, sadly, I know my civil service speak, and I know the convoluted and slippery language of education reformers, and the one thing years of observing both has taught me is that one has to employ one’s best analytical skills to uncover what is really being said.
Or to put it more bluntly, to find out what’s really going on, you have to cut through the crap.
And what’s going on here could be a whole lot messier than it first appears.
We can only hope, then, that all members of the Advisory Group do what is best for school students rather than what is in their self interest, and that they are fairly heard within the group.
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
You can read more about the Advisory Group on the Ministry of Education’s dedicated page, here.