It is astounding the list of wrongs done to the Kiwi education system in a few short years. I’m not exaggerating – it is just beyond belief. To the point that when I try to think of it all, my head hurts and a thousand conflicting issues start fighting for prominence rendering me unable to sort through the spaghetti of information and in need of a big glass of Wild Side feijoa cider.
I live and breathe this stuff, and if I find it bewildering I can only imagine what it does to the average parent or teacher, grandparent or support staff.
So I am truly grateful that Local Bodies today published a post listing the long list of things public education has had thrown at it since National came to power.
This is the list. It needs to be read then discussed with friends, colleagues, family, teachers, students, MPs and the guy on the train. Because this is it – this is what has been thrown at education in a few short years. It is no overstatement to say that New Zealand Public education is under attack.
Take a breath, and read on:
A National led Government was elected and New Zealand’s public education system came under heavy attack:
You can add to the list the change to teacher training that allows teachers to train in 6 weeks in the school holidays and then train on the job in one school without varied practicums, just as Teach For America does to bring in low cost, short term, untrained ‘teachers’. (Coincidentally great for charter schools, especially those running for profit.)
The full Local Bodies article is here. It is well worth sharing and discussing (share the original, not this – the full article is better)
Please be aware that what has already gone on is just the preamble to far more extensive measures getting increasing more about Milton Friedman’s “free market” than about good, equal, free public education for all.
Unless you want NZ to descend into the horrors being seen now in England and the United States, you need to act. How?
Because three more years like this and the list above will look like child’s play.
The Ombudsman’s annual report is out, along with a summary in the Office’s spring newsletter, and it makes for some rather disconcerting reading.
To my mind, it speaks volumes about the workings of this current government that the Ombudsman’s Office is dealing with “a 29 percent increase in complaints and other work coming in compared with the previous reporting year”
and that the Office “received and completed the highest ever number of complaints and other contacts about state sector agencies.”
Add to that the fact that “Official information complaints increased overall by 92% this year” and you have yourself something to seriously ponder over.
The complexity of the issues regarding the way Christchurch school closures and mergers have been dealt with is such that the Ombudsman has had to extend its review period in order to gather all the relevent information:
“Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem is continuing her investigation into the way in which the Ministry of Education undertakes consultation on school closures and mergers.
While the information gathering stage is mostly completed, and many affected schools have taken the opportunity to meet with investigators assisting the Chief Ombudsman, the complexity of the issues have necessitated an extended period of review. Dame Beverley is currently working with the Ministry of Education in order to assure herself that she has all information needed to form robust conclusions. This requires a number of further meetings and interviews with key Ministry staff.
It is important to bear in mind that any aspects of the processes which occurred at the Minister’s direction, including actual decisions about individual schools, are outside the scope of the Chief Ombudsman’s investigation. Rather, the focus is on whether, over a range of closure and merger processes, the Ministry undertook fair and meaningful consultation within the confines of its role.”
Also of interest is the Ombudsman’s findings on the government’s refusal to release funding information relating to charter schools. With a swift rap on the knuckles, the Ombudsman points out that, seeing as the decisions about how charters would be funded had been made when the request was made, there was no good reason to withhold the information.
Good to know the government is working honestly and openly for the good of all New Zealanders, isn’t it… Tui.
In a ruling just released, the Ombudsman, Prof Ron Paterson, has found that the Ministry of Education had “no good reason” for refusing to release the names of organisations expressing an interest in setting up a charter school.
The “indications of interest” process was run by the NZ Model of Charter School Working Group, chaired by Catherine Isaac, and preceded the formal authorisation process currently underway by the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board, also chaired by Ms Isaacs.
NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski says it shows that there is a need for more transparency instead of the secrecy that has surrounded charter schools so far.
NZEI took the complaint to the Ombudsman following the Ministry of Education’s earlier refusal to release the names and identities of the organisations.
In its submission to the Ombudsman, the Ministry claimed there was no strong public interest in the release of the information at this stage in the process.
It said it was concerned that those who had expressed an interest would be lobbied by charter school opponents and would receive news media enquiries. It said that there was no necessity for applicants to submit an initial expression of interest therefore those who did would be at a disadvantage.
The Ombudsman’s report was also critical of the fact that Authorisation Board chair Catherine Isaac had earlier assured two organisations that their identities would remain confidential.
Judith Nowotarski says that the Ministry of Education and charter school proponents need to be reminded that there is strong and valid public interest in this issue, with taxpayer’s money and the health of the public education system at stake.
“We strongly believe it is important to have the discussion and debate before the final decisions were made. But it would appear that the Ministry preferred to keep public debate and information to as minimum level as possible.”
She says while the Ombudsman’s findings may be a win for openness and transparency in this case, the secrecy surrounding Charter Schools will continue because they will not be subject to the Official Information Act despite being publicly funded.
The Ministry told the Ombudsman it plans to publish the names of the organisations on July 31st on its website, once final decisions on approved charter school applications have been made.
Ach, just when you think you have heard it all, Hekia manages to open her mouth and spew forth another gem.
Despite Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem deeming the Christchurch schools closures and mergers consultation process to be questionable enough to warrant an investigation, Hekia is yet again flying in the fact of the facts.
An Ombudsman’s probe last year found the ministry “acted wrongly” in how it handled official information requests on proposals affecting Christchurch schools.
But there’s nothing at all wrong and nothing to worry about at all, apparently.
No, Hekia says it’s all good: “Ms Parata says she did everything she could.”
In fact she goes one further and says that the process was ” a pretty good job”. Source
Run that by me again.
” a pretty good job”
Tell that to the schools, parents and others who tried to get information through the OIA and were fobbed off.
The teachers’ union, NZEI, put out a statement yesterday saying “We also hope the Minister of Education is prepared to listen seriously to the Chief Ombudsman’s findings and engage with Christchurch school communities in a way that is more respectful and credible than in the past.”
It’s not looking promising, is it, NZEI, let’s be honest.
And it’s not just Christchurch schools that have been rail-roaded by Hekia and the Ministry – Salisbury School for special needs girls has been treated despicably, too, and now – having won a court case to halt its closure – is finding the Ministry is employing underhand tactics that will see it close eventually anyway. Truly, these actions are not just despicable they are quite possibly illegal, too.
Christchurch schools have to have their submissions in tomorrow. The inquiry is to be done the second half of the year. Many commentators have pointed out that the Ombudsman’s investigation could well lead to legal challenges once decisions are announced regarding those schools.
This is no way for a democracy to run.
This is no way to treat our communities, our children, our education staff or our parents.
If there is a true and rigorous reason for a school to close, so be it. If that is the case then there should be no need for hiding facts, refusing to share information, obfuscation and downright lies.
So why, Hekia? Why are you treating schools this way?
And who is next?
Anyone who has information relevant to the investigation should contact the Ombudsman:
– Telephone on 0800 802 602,
– File an online complaint at www.ombudsman.parliament.nz
– Email info@ombudsman. parliament.nz