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Parents Fight Back

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Mum waiting over a month (so far) for response from Hekia Parata

hekia-mana-newsletter-1Andrea Matheson writes:

Today, as a Mana [Porirua] resident, I had the ‘pleasure’ (amusement) of receiving the Minister’s MANA MATTERS newsletter. It has a feedback section, in which I particularly like the comment:

“I’m always interested in hearing your feedback and learning more about which issues matter to you. I’d appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey below.”

Well Minister, I would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to read and respond to the TWO letters I have sent you where I outlined very clearly what issues matter to me! So I really don’t think you ARE interested in hearing about what issues matter to me or anyone else for that matter!

And I’m intrigued by your statement in the letter:

“We are expanding the ORS and the Intensive Wraparound Service to ensure that every child is catered for, no matter their circumstances”

How, pray tell, are you planning to achieve that, when you have made it quite clear there will be no increase to the special education budget!?

Andrea’s full letter to Hekia Parata follows:

Dear Ms Parata,

I am very disappointed that it has now been a month or so since I sent you my letter regarding the proposed overhaul to Special Education funding and I have not yet had a reply from you. I had very high hopes that my words would make a difference – I guess I am a glass half-full kind of girl.

You state in your opinion piece on Stuff, dated September 25th that “I will work with any groups or individuals that are seriously committed to improving children’s learning and raising achievement.” Well, Ms Parata, we have been trying to get your attention for WEEKS now – parents as individuals and as part of wider groups, have written letters, organised education rallies across the country, commented on news articles, commented on your Facebook page (and been blocked for their efforts), spoken to the media, left messages on the Ministry’s phone line and signed petitions. These efforts have been plastered all over social media – you surely cannot have missed these actions by passionate, proud, exhausted, anxious parents who are praying that the dire situation of inadequate funding in special needs is rectified, and fast.

The lack of response has given me additional time to think of more important questions I need to ask you as well as provide you with some further thoughts that have arisen during this long wait.

In several articles I have read in recent weeks, you have stated that no child currently receiving funding will lose that funding. This implies that individuals such as myself only care about their own child/children and will be satisfied with this reassurance. BUT – I wrote to you expressing my concern about the education system as a whole – I am NOT an individual parent who likes to whinge, who only cares about the impact for her own child – I care deeply about what will happen to children who desperately need funding who do not have any to begin with. So whilst your statement on this point seems to imply that my son will not lose the ORS funding he currently has, he was NOT my only concern. I am not that selfish. Therefore your ‘reassurance’ is of no comfort to parents of children about to enter the school system without ORS funding or teacher aide support, or to parents like myself who care about the bigger picture in education.

Could you please outline any school visits you SPECIFICALLY made as a part of the ‘consultation’ process to help you create your cabinet paper on inclusion? For example, did you:

Visit and personally meet with a wide range of children who have additional learning and physical needs?

Spend time with them in their school environment to understand how crucial additional funding is to ensure their success?

Observe a wide range of learning and physical difficulties, eg: neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, GDD and ADHD, physical disabilities, genetic disorders and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia etc?

Ensure that you saw the VAST differences between what a teacher, teacher aide, child and parents can achieve with adequate funding, versus a teacher and child who have no additional funding or teacher aide support?

Or was consultation done without the real-life context of what it is like to be struggling to meet the demands in the classroom without support?

How do you propose to support children in primary school who do not meet the criteria for ORS funding? There is currently not enough funding to support children with learning difficulties or disorders, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and autism. If a school cannot meet their needs through their operational or SEG grants, what becomes of these children? Are they supposed to struggle through their school years with little or no support? What will the outcome be for them when they have to enter society as an adult? It is a frightening prospect. We are meant to be a forward thinking and innovative country but at the heart of it, we are not supporting the children who are struggling through every day and having their confidence eaten away bit by bit. I am sure I am not the only person in New Zealand who strongly feels schools need targeted funding to meet the needs of children with these disorders if they do not achieve ORS funding (and we all know the vast majority of children with these disorders do not). We all know these disorders are on the rise Minister – what does your government plan to do about this issue?

We have repeatedly asked you how you plan to improve services to ECE without increasing the overall budget for special education. No satisfactory answer has come from you as yet. Instead we have to listen to radio interviews and read articles where the majority of journalists have not dug deeper to properly dissect the information that is being fed to them. But we as parents have a vested interest in the changes to funding and we know how to read between the lines. We will not be satisfied by the usual vague statements such as “The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander” and “Everything I’m working towards is about putting children and their achievement at the centre of the education system.” Are these statements intended to keep us quiet? I’m afraid they won’t. I guess the giant governmental PR machine may have underestimated our fortitude and determination.

Whilst we can appreciate the sentiment behind your statements, which I’m sure is genuine, you have not given us the answers we are seeking. How will you achieve better funding to students through ‘streamlining’ and what will streamlining look like? Until we get those answers we will continue to be noisy (deafening in fact).

We as parents are striving 24/7 to raise children who can become happy, appreciated, well-understood and productive members of society. All we ask for is that you work with us to better understand their needs, and the successes they can achieve with better funding and more support. Please LISTEN to what we are trying to tell you.

We want to be listened to, we want to be heard. You say that you want to work with us – why are you not responding to our questions? Why are you deleting perfectly reasonable questions and comments from your Facebook page? As a passionate parent and advocate recently suggested, we see plenty of pictures of you planting trees and other lovely photo opportunities, but where are the photos of you working alongside children with additional, high or very high needs, trying to understand how teachers meet their needs with no funding? Where are the photos of you talking to parents whose children have been turned away from schools or stood down because there are no teacher aides to help the teacher support their learning and behavioural needs? Where are those photos Ms Parata?

I respectfully ask (again) that you respond to these thoughts and concerns with REAL answers. We WANT to be involved in the direction that these changes will go, nobody knows the needs of children with ‘special’ needs better than their parents. We want to give you the benefit of our guidance. I am not setting out to be a trouble maker. I have spent an hour and a half on this letter, an hour and a half I could have spent playing with my son. But I am forced into this situation because I need to fight to be heard. Please respect our combined knowledge and experience, there is so much that we could add to help you lead an education system that we can ALL be proud of.

With kind regards,
Andrea Matheson
Mum to a super special, endearing, pride-inducing and heart-warming wee lad.

Letter reproduced with Andrea’s kind permission.

 

For all parents who think National Standards a good idea

GUEST POST:

The Government introduced National Standards for one purpose – to appease those parents who wanted to know that their child was achieving. There is nothing wrong about knowing if your child is achieving, but you actually need to think about a much bigger picture!

As a parent you will fit into one of the following two categories:

  1. If your child has achieved National Standards ask yourself have they actually been extended to their full potential? National Standards will not tell you this.
  2. If your child has not achieved National Standards ask yourself where are they and what progress are they making? National Standards will not tell you this.

But don’t worry, if your child is attending a good school then despite having to complete copious amounts of paperwork to comply with National Standards your school will be keeping the other records they have always kept (and god forbid they are ever forced to stop), which informs them about the PROGRESS of your child.

PROGRESS IS EVERYTHING FOR ALL CHILDREN NO MATTER HOW WELL THEY ACHIEVE

Firstly let’s look at a school where the children come from homes where they have been read to since they were babies and where literacy and verbal communication has played a large part of their lives, plus they’ve been to kindergarten and/or other socialising environments before coming to school.

A graph of National Standards for 100 of these children could probably look like this:

National Standards graph 1

After 2 years at school (7 years old) the odd few have caught up and all 100 children have reached and continue to show their achievement to the National Standard.

Fantastic!

But what about if the reporting included by how much children were progressing above National Standards? ie how much the children were being extended?

Parents could be informed like this:

National Standards graph 2

Even better information and if your school is giving you this type of data then they should be commended. But National Standards do not require them to do this. They do it because they are excellent educationalists and want every child to progress and do their best at all times.

Using the above diagram, it would be quite natural for parents to want their children to be in the red block and raises the question whether National Standards needs to be higher for them!

Let’s now look at 100 of the children who aren’t so fortunate.

They probably don’t have many books at home, or parents who can read to them and English is not necessarily a first language for their parents. These children might even have moved around to live with various different people in the first five years of their life.

A graph of National Standards for these children could look like this:

National Standards graph 3

Notice that it takes years to bring the 100 children up to achieving the National Standard and some may sadly never make it, especially if they continue a pattern of continuing to move and change schools.

The schools working with these children have an enormous challenge to meet National Standards. Testing and measuring against the National Standard, particularly in the early years is something they certainly do not need to do. They know only too well that their children would not achieve the arbitrary target.

National Standards has done nothing to help them, in fact quite the opposite. They now have huge additional workloads which detract from what they want to do, which is to progress these children much faster than those in other schools. How can the time required to report against National Standards possibly be justified to these schools?

In my mind these schools need the highest level of commendation. Not only have they been forced to take on the extra workload created by National Standards, they are still committed educational professionals who use their integrity and focus everything on the children’s

PROGRESS

Sadly though the Government does not commend them, because they do not believe in PROGRESS they are only interested in achieving National Standards.

There was an example of the Education Review Office (ERO) criticising a school for saying their students have met expectations (a positive statement which is encouraging and reflects an achieving progress level). The school was instructed to change the wording to say that the students have failed to meet National Standards.

What a very sad and demoralising state of affairs.

But let’s not blame poor ERO, they are driven by Government policies so National Standards really do say more about the Government’s understanding of education. Do we really not understand why the committed professionals working in our schools were totally against the initiative?

Yes we need some form of school reporting but it should be based on PROGRESS. So long as a child is progressing to the best they can possibly be that is all that can be expected of them and what must be expected of ALL schools!

Written by a parent, BOT member (1989-1999), school advisor (1989-2007) and concerned future grandparent and member of the public (2014)

Who ruined the education system? We did.

history is being written now

Your choice – actively work to change the direction of these reforms or accept that you are as much to blame as the reformers.

This from HuffingtonPost:

As I watch the education “debate” … I wonder if we have simply lost our minds.

In the cacophony of reform chatter — online programs, charter schools … testing, more testing, accountability … value-added assessments, blaming teachers … blaming unions, blaming parents — one can barely hear the children crying out: “Pay attention to us!”

None of the things on the partial list above will have the slightest effect on the so-called achievement gap or the supposed decline in [our] international education rankings. Every bit of education reform — every think tank remedy proposed by wet-behind-the-ears MBAs, every piece of legislation, every one of these things — is an excuse to continue the unconscionable neglect of our children.

As Pogo wisely noted, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” We did this to our children and our schools.

We did this by choosing to see schools as instructional factories, beginning in the early 20th century.

We did this by swallowing the obscene notion that schools and colleges are businesses and children are consumers.

We did this by believing in the infallibility of free enterprise, by pretending [our country] is a meritocracy, and by ignoring the pernicious effects of unrelenting racism.

We did this by believing that children are widgets and economy of scale is both possible and desirable.

We did this by acting as though reality and the digital representation of reality are the same thing.

We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.

We did this by allowing poverty and despair to shatter families.

We did this by blaming these families for the poverty and despair we inflicted on them.

We did this by allowing school buildings to deteriorate, by removing the most enlivening parts of the school day, by feeding our children junk food.

We did this by failing to properly fund schools…

We did this by handcuffing teachers with idiotic policies, constant test preparation and professional insecurity.

[The] children need our attention, not Pearson’s lousy tests or charter schools’ colorful banners and cute little uniforms that make kids look like management trainees.

[Our] teachers need our support, our admiration, and the freedom to teach and love children.

The truth is that our children need our attention, not political platitudes and more TED talks.

Read the rest of the article here.

Boards of Trustees unhappy with $359M IES plan

“We are concerned about the lack of democracy in these processes.”

“We are concerned that the changes are for political purpose rather than for sound educational reasons based on evidence.”

“We are concerned for the future of education in New Zealand.”

 

Below is a message sent home from Fergusson Intermediate to parents, explaining the very real concerns regarding IES (Investing in Educational Success).  It explains the concerns of many, and is well worth reading and sharing with your teachers, BOTs and parents so they, too, can consider the consequences of the proposals being mooted.

 

danger turn back

 

“Important Message from the Board of Trustees

At the last Board meeting the Board discussed and passed the following resolution.

That the Board

  • Endorses the need for further investment in education and in schooling
  • Notes that the Government’s proposed ‘Investing in Educational Success’ initiative has far reaching implications for teachers, schools and schooling
  • Expresses concern the government has not adequately engaged with or consulted Boards of Trustees on the initiative and its implications
  • Commits to engage with staff and the wider school community in a discussion about the initiative, its implications and the development of a whole-of-school position with regards to it.

These concerns arise as the Government forges ahead with its hastily announced initiative to spend $359m on education with ‘Investing in Educational Success’ (IES). None of this $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 improving teacher pupil ratios 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 salaries and allowances for 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, creating a new level of public servants within education.

We are concerned that this money is not being appropriately spent on areas where there is evidence it would have an impact.

As we have seen of this Government, the way these changes are sold to us does not necessarily relate to the actual outcomes.  They would have us believe that appointing Executive Principals to oversee 10 schools (while still doing their job in their own school) and Expert Teachers to go into other schools 2 – 3 days a week (while still doing their job in their own school) will improve student achievement. There is no evidence that this will work and we fail to see how removing a Principal from the running of their own school, or a teacher from the classroom for 2 days every week, will have any benefit for the students of that school and very possibly could be detrimental.

We are concerned about the effect on our students.

It appears that these Principals and Teachers will be appointed based mainly on their National Standards results – the unproven, unreliable and flawed system that this Government has introduced to measure one school against another.

We are concerned about the weight given to these unreliable measures.

Boards of Trustees, and those they represent – our community, have not been consulted, yet the management structure and the way in which staff are employed will change significantly under this initiative. We will lose the ability to staff our school as we believe best meets our needs. We, because of our success, would be penalised by losing our good teachers and management 2 – 3 days a week with no compensation.  We, as the community, are the consumers of this service, by far the biggest sector within education, with the good of our children, and tomorrow’s children, at heart, yet we have had the least input.

We are concerned that there is no ‘community’ voice, and that schools will lose their autonomy and individual character.

In addition to the IES changes the Minister has stated ‘The most successful funding systems narrowed the gap between high-achieving rich kids and under-achieving poor kids by strongly incentivising pupil progress (NZ Herald, March 16, 2014). We are concerned that changes to how schools are funded won’t be around the need of the school or its students but rather the academic results. This would see high decile schools most able to meet achievement targets and therefore meet ‘incentives’ for funding, while lower decile schools with poorer resources, less able to achieve targets, penalised – effectively the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

We are concerned that this competitive model will create greater inequity in education.

As part of the ACT/National Confidence and Supply agreement (the tea cup meeting), the Government has initiated a review of the Education Act next year, already stipulating what will and will not be reviewed. They will not allow ‘matters that are currently the subject of Government initiatives, National Standards or new school types (Charter Schools) to be reviewed. However, it will review governance and management matters with a view to creating ‘increased regulatory flexibility’.

We are concerned that they will only review what they want to change – the Governance and Management model that is the key to Tomorrow’s Schoolsand that this could spell the end of a community voice in education. We are concerned that there is no opportunity to review the most recent and drastic changes to our education system.

We are concerned about the lack of democracy in these processes. 

We are concerned that the changes are for political purpose rather than for sound educational reasons based on evidence. 

We are concerned for the future of education in New Zealand.

We ask that you make yourself aware of the changes afoot. Think about not only today’s students, but those in 10 and 20 years time – your grandchildren, and their ability to access a quality education. Will the world that they live in give equal education opportunities to those less fortunate? Will we as parents and a community have a say? Will our children be on a treadmill from preschool onwards? Will we be growing great citizens?”

 

Read the rest of the article here.

Dear Principal, we are opting out of National Standards …

opt out redThis great article on the Cheeky Kids blog sums up my own feelings and those of many I speak with regarding current education policy and, in particular, National Standards.

As the author says, Hekia Parata so often says she is doing this or that because parents want it – yet many don’t.  And we are not consulted or listened to.

The whole article is well worth reading (in fact, if I were you I would bookmark the page and also follow the Facebook page, as they are very good), but best of all is the letter she has sent to her child’s principal – a letter I think many of you may wish to use or adapt for yourselves.

Enjoy.

~ Dianne

 

The letter:

Letter To Our School Principal:

“We are very supportive of the work *** primary and in particular **’s classroom teacher does to meet the individual learning needs of **. We value, as parents, feedback received regarding **’s current learning levels and suggestions for her next steps in her learning progression. However, we do not value having ** placed next to other peers her own age in a comparative format to determine whether she is making progress satisfactory to an arbitrary standard. The National Standards, in their current form, do not factor into account the many facets of our daughter’s ability to learn, her strengths and weaknesses, along with her far more valuable talents such as measures of her creativity, problem-solving, risk-taking and social skills. It does also not measure her true happiness and engagement in the learning process. It is these skills that, as parents, we value most importantly, and not where she fits next to other children her own age, or whether or not she is meeting a ‘standard’.

Because of this, we now request that future reporting to us regarding ** learning progress be devoid of any reference to the National Standards. Furthermore, we request that feedback given to ** regarding her progress, either verbally or in written format, also make no reference to the National Standards. We welcome any correspondence from the classroom teacher that gives us information regarding her current learning levels, and suggestions for her next steps. We also do not want to add to the already enormous workload classroom teachers are under and are quite happy to simply have current reporting templates left blank in the areas mentioned.

Once again, we appreciate all the work the staff, including the classroom teacher, do for our daughter’s learning. She is enjoying all the opportunities afforded to her by attending ** Primary School”.

 

opt-out

 

Read the whole article here: http://cheekykids.wordpress.com/2014/06/04/making-a-stand-not-what-we-wanted-for-our-children/

See also:  https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/another-family-says-no-to-national-standards/

A comprehensive education manifesto for New Zealand schools

Below is the Networkonnet Manifesto, the only comprehensive education manifesto I have seen.  Please read it and see if it meets your own vision for what our education system should be.  If it does, please either sign it here (below in the comments) and I will forward those comments to Kelvin, or click through HERE and sign it directly on the Networkonnet site.

Likewise, if you have suggestions for changes, please share them in as much detail as you can.  The aim is to craft a manifesto that speaks to what the majority of teachers, academics, parents and students would like our education system to look like.

~ Dianne

The networkonnet manifesto: sign up to have your ideas heard

by Kelvin Smythe with Allan Alach

The manifesto is intended to gather signatures then, with media release attached, distributed to media, teacher organisations, and a range of interest groups.

Readers can sign up by putting their names and position in the comments box HERE or e-mailed to ksmythe@wave.co.nz  or allan.alach@ihug.co.nz

At the moment, it could be widely understood that teachers have no specific budgetary or system demands beyond opposition to substantial parts of government policy.

For the sake of our children, our own ideas need to be heard.

The networkonnet manifesto is intended to jog the teacher organisations to set out such specific budgetary and system demands and to publicise them intensively and imaginatively.

Readers will note that the networkonnet manifesto is based on a philosophy expressed as governing ideas. The government is working to a philosophy, brought in from outside and economics: we need to work to ours developed from our education heritage and social democracy. The hammering of public primary schools – the scapegoating, the disenfranchising, and the financial and spiritual impoverishment, is not government whim but engrained ideological policy as part of global capitalism and a shift of civilisation. That policy needs to be confronted with our own set of cohesive ideas.

We urge readers to sign up and encourage others in your school and beyond to do so as well.

The manifesto is open to change and addition, but if you support the general direction, then we suggest you take the positive step of signing up in support.

Readers might be interested to know that one significant political party has called the manifesto a ‘great read’ and remarkably close to theirs.

Kelvin Smythe and Allan Alach

 

read meNETWORKONNET MANIFESTO

Governing ideas

The key idea in the policy recommendations that follow is that the education system should be based on valuing variety – and fundamental to this, the idea of collaboration and shared knowledge development. It is not just accepting variety or tolerating it, it is valuing it – valuing it as part of living in a democracy and as the best means to help children’s learning.

Valuing variety would mean changes to regulations, allowing a wide interpretation of the curriculum – within broad guidelines – in school charters and evaluation practices. Eventually the curriculum would need to be revised to concentrate on principles and aims, leaving schools to decide how to interpret those – at the moment National Administrative Guidelines (NAGS) and the demands of the education review office (using national standards) exert a stultifying control of classrooms.

The Lange government, through Tomorrow’s Schools, introduced into education a philosophy antithetical to Labour Party philosophy. (Most Labour mps of the time find this hard to accept holding on to the idea that Tomorrow’s Schools was, in fact, about giving more power to schools.) While this neoliberal philosophy was diluted in the Clark years, it still remained and remains dominant.

In education that philosophy is expressed as managerialism.

As it pans out, the basic tenet of managerialism is that any issue in education, including the education effects of poverty – indeed, especially the education effects of poverty – can largely be resolved by management changes to do with the organisation and direction teachers. This always involves overstating the role of the teacher in learning so that when schools fail to overcome sufficiently the education effects of poverty, schools are blamed, providing an excuse for shaping schools into the political right’s own ideological image.

An implication in this top-down philosophy is that there is someone knows and that person who knows is a political leader informed by a certain category of academic.

The present education system is substantially a command one – a command one based on excluding teachers and parents from genuine participation in policy making, also on fear, control, propaganda, and corrupted statistics.

The education system needs to be democratised.

One very important effect of bringing in parents and teachers into policy making would be to broaden the curriculum to counteract the trend of an ever narrowing one.

A managerialist-based education system requires a curriculum that is amenable to command and control, also one that can be understood by politicians and bureaucrats – that curriculum is a fragmented one organised for measurement.

New Zealand primary education has a culture of being holistic, in other words, not fragmented for ease of measurement and control. (Many of the most important things in learning are immeasurable; in a measurement-based education system those things are neglected.)

A measurement-based classroom is possible in a holistic-based education system but a holistic-based classroom isn’t possible in a measurement-based system (an important point in considering an education system based on valuing variety).

The present primary school education system is governed by fear and bureaucratic command, and protected by propaganda and corrupted statistics.

The contract system is important to the government control of universities: a key way to restrict academic freedom of speech.

Within schools, the major source of fear and control comes from the education review office – it is unaccountable and used in a variety of ways to generate fear and ultimately obedience; it is really the review office that determines the nature of the curriculum.

The heavy use of statutory managers is another source of fear, control, and indirect propaganda.

People outside the education system have little appreciation of the extent and depth of the fear, control, and use of propaganda that exists within it.

Perhaps the key idea to be developed should be that just as a healthy economic system needs a free exchange of ideas so does a healthy education system.

And central to that is the idea of a shared view of the way knowledge is developed.

All parts of the education system need to be freed up so that all parts can share in the generation of knowledge: teachers, curriculum advisers, academics, parents, and government education agencies.

Teachers should be freed to colonise the curriculum (that is, make curricula work) and to establish their knowledge in the form of successful established practice.

Teachers and schools should function within fairly wide curriculum guidelines.

Academics sought for advice should come from groupings much wider than the current headlining quantitative academics; in particular, that means advice should also be sought from qualitative academics and curriculum academics with significant classroom experience.

 

More specific policies as an outcome of governing ideas

A call should be made for a grouping of countries to join together to develop an international testing system that functions transparently and concentrates on a broader view of the curriculum. (However, the government should stay in the present international system until that is achieved.)

The 359 million dollars intended for the government cluster policy should be spent directly on helping children in classrooms, not on giving large pay increases to a few teachers and principals.

In a whole series of ways, policies and increased funding to meet children’s special needs should be a priority.

First, there should be a substantial lift in support teacher numbers as well as moves to make support teacher staff better paid and to provide them with a greater sense of permanency.

Following that, there should be improved staffing ratios (gradually introduced) to give flexibility to schools enabling them to provide more individual attention to children’s learning needs, including some appointments for specialist learning (for instance, science, or maths, or Maori language, or drama) as set out as an emphasis in schools’ charters.

Also for improving home school relations (a priority).

An important idea to understand is that the government in implementing national standards ostensibly to lift learning in lower decile schools has used the opportunity to achieve its long-held objective of a narrow 3Rs curriculum for all children.

Improvements in staffing and support teachers and in other areas should be described as being there to help the learning of all children, not just the ones who are struggling  (children of all abilities are being badly served by the present system).

A non-contestable fund to promote Maori language should be established to which schools can apply to fund part-time teachers, support teachers, and Maori language labs.

There should be improvement to special needs services including making RTLBs (Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour) more accessible and less bureaucratic. Their role should be extended to work more closely with families – an improved version of the former visiting teacher positions.

The SAF (Student Achievement Function) should be removed with money saved being allocated to other and wider forms of advisory support.

Reading Recovery should be increasingly well funded.

The best home-school reading programme for lower decile schools, one already in operation in miniscule way, is Jeanne Biddulph’s Reading Together programme which binds home and school together in a harmonious and joyful way.

A Committee of Inquiry into making education more collaborative for successful learning should be established – though this should not mean changes to education won’t begin immediately (Committee of Inquiry for Collaboration for Better Learning).

School charters at the moment are a major source of control and bureaucratisation – school charters should be freed to allow schools to develop programmes, within broad guidelines, that suit them. (As discussed above.)

The education review office needs to be staffed by teachers and principals of the highest quality; deliver its work in schools in a different way; and be made accountable (it should also be made fully compliant with the Official Information Act).

There should be a Review Office Appeal authority appointed to hear appeals from schools (a priority).

A cross-sector review office advisory board should be established.

The review office should concentrate on work in schools, not producing reports – those reports should be done by universities on the basis of proper research design.

The School Trustees Association should be restricted in its work to providing direct services to members (a priority).

The statutory management system should be restructured: a more comprehensive conciliation system before statutory management should be established and perverse incentives removed. In particular, the cost of statutory management should fall on the ministry not the school.

Schools and colleges of education should develop a better balance between general education courses and ones directly related to classrooms (though both should be considered equally important) – this might mean rehiring some academics who possess both academic and classroom knowledge.

As one part of the advisory function, a permanent advisory service should be re-established attached to universities to function within broad guidelines (a reasonably free advisory service is an important source of practicable knowledge).

The Teachers Council or its equivalent should be reorganised to reflect the policy of collaboration. As well, it should concentrate on the safety of children. (All teacher organisations are doing well on this one, so I am not elaborating.)

Teacher organisations should be represented as of right on policy, curriculum, and administrative groupings.

Charter schools should be funded and administered on the same basis as other privately-run schools and the money saved allocated to meeting the education needs of low decile schools.

National standards should be removed and with the money saved used to re-establish NEMP (National Education Monitoring Project) formerly based at the University of Otago – more money than before should be allocated and the previous directors asked to advise on its establishment, functioning, and staffing (NEMP was a collaborative institution much admired and appreciated by schools).

NMSSA (National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement) based at the University of Otago should be removed, with the money saved used in the re-establishment of NEMP (see above).

Clusters established on a voluntary basis should receive some government funding.

How to bring parents into education on a national basis is a difficult one: my suggestion is, on a regular basis, NZCER to undertake a survey and some research as the focus for parent discussion (within schools) – the outcomes of this discussion to be reported to a body to consider and sometimes develop matters further.

A broad curriculum should be encouraged in anticipation of the outcomes of the results of the Committee of Inquiry (see above).

An important part of that broad curriculum is an understanding that attention to the 3Rs is mutually supportive with attention to flexible thinking – a mutual supportiveness that should be acted on from children’s first days at school.

The greater freedom for schools to shape their curriculum within broad guidelines will have major implications for the work Colleges of Education, advisory services, and education review office.

The use and resourcing of computers should be approached carefully: there needs to be a broad-based permanent grouping set up to provide schools with guidance on computer use in schools (at the moment it is growing helter-skelter with the curriculum quality being given insufficient attention); also government money would seem to be better allocated for professional development and computer maintenance rather than for directly purchasing computers and other digital devices. (Free technical support is crucial, along with extensive ICT support through advisers.)

The curriculum area of mathematics should be given special attention: a curriculum committee to report in three months, meanwhile, conferences should be organised around the country and extra finance made available to schools working on innovative ideas. (Bobbie Hunter from Massey and University and Jodie Hunter her daughter are doing some excellent work in junior maths with implications for older children.)

The Novapay system, from computer programming to data gathering and Novapay reception, has inherent faults within it – a new system should be introduced (either that or funding for office staff both schools and Novapay reception, be substantially increased).

 

The Beeby statement I like is the one he made in 1942 following a meeting with the South Canterbury NZEI management committee: ‘There seems to be a common desire on the part of teachers to ask the Department for detailed instructions regarding such things as the changes that are taking place in infant education, rather than to embrace the freedom the Department has given and to participate co-operatively in the working out of up-to-date practice in the infant room.’

 

Some excerpts from comments made by readers on the initial posting of what is now the networkonnet manifesto

Bruce Hammonds said: 

The 2007 New Zealand Curriculum introduced by the last Labour government needs to be emphasised – it is highly regarded by teachers. National is about standardisation and competition while Labour needs to focus on personalisation and collaboration.

 

Underwhelmed with ‘Investing in Educational Success’ plans

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…

 

WHAT DOES IES PLAN TO DO?

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

 

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?

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?”

 

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR MORE INFO

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.

~ Dianne

 

The global attack on public schools

STANDARDIZED Lies, Money, & Civil Rights: How Testing Is Ruining Public Education.

This documentary focuses on the proliferation, business,and inadequacies of state-mandated testing in our public schools.

It focuses on America but is every bit as pertinent to what is happening in New Zealand; we may not be as far down the track as the USA , but we are on the same path.

Whenever a new education policy is announced, I would ask you to come back to this:  follow the money.

Who stands to benefit?  Because with testing now a multi TRILLION $$$ industry worldwide, you can bet your bottom dollar it isn’t students or parents that are the main concern.

The doco will be out later in the year, but here is a sneak peek.

Parents support teacher strike

teachers on strikeThis is the text of an actual letter sent to a primary head teacher in England, in response to a notice sent home to parents informing them of an impending strike action.

“Thank you for the letter re the NUT industrial action on the 26th March. Please do not feel the need to apologise for any inconvenience, as we fully appreciate the reasons why the teaching staff are striking to defend quality education and their terms and conditions. As parents we understood the two issues are completely connected and have no problem at all fully supporting the action of the teachers recognising the excellent work they do all year around.

We appreciate as well, the dilemma of some staff being in the ATL union and on a personal level we would urge them to join the NUT too so they can fully participate in the industrial action, but that is of course their choice. However as parents we are not prepared to undermine the sacrifice that other teaching staff are making in their stand on the 26th at Ashmead and elsewhere. Additionally we are not satisfied that a partially opened school is fully health and safety compliant. We are therefore putting our children first before any political pressures from the town hall to keep any unsafe school open with inadequate staffing numbers.

Besides we believe for our children that the day of action will in itself be a fantastic educational opportunity to see their teachers, their mentors, engaged in an inter generational act of solidarity that protects the principles of free education and the living standards of all teaching staff.

When our children ask why this is all happening we will happily explain to them. That’s why our kids will all grow up being socially aware, politically conscious human beings and appreciate their collective power to change things for the better in society. After all that’s what a good education should be for too shouldn’t it?

[names witheld]” Source

I know so many parents in New Zealand would offer that same support, as they too have had enough of what’s going on in the name of reform.

teacher strike action England

we love teachers

Not choice, bro – I want to opt out

I am a mother.  My banshee is 5.  He just started school.  He was excited – I was excited – school is fabulous.  We both knew he would have a ball, learning new things, meeting new friends, having super experiences – and indeed he is.  He loves it.

Thankfully has no idea of the GERMy things infecting his happy world of learning:

Tracked

He has been allocated a National Student Number to track him throughout his education.  His results, standards, and lord knows what else is being stored against this number. I can’t opt him out of this – trust me I have asked.  He and every child in or entering the system as of the 2014 school year has an NSN, and god only knows what they are recording about him.

The data can be passed on by government to anyone they deem suitable.  See that little bit there on the Ministry page that says the “National Student Number (NSN) is a unique identifier that can be used by authorised users for .. research purposes.”  Yes, about that..

barcode freedomJust who decides who is authorised and what constitutes research?

Because given this government’s record with our private data, and given its record on favouring business over academics, I have to say I worry. In the USA, student data is given to private companies and the likes of The Gates Foundation without any permission sought from or given by parents.  And Mr Gates has his own agenda.

But it’s okay, because “The Education Act 1989 includes an offence provision, with a penalty up to a maximum of $15,000, for a conviction of misuse of the National Student Number (NSN).”  Oh that’s fine then – a hefty fine like that is sure to scare off your average education reformer billionaire.

So, should we worry?  Well, hell yes.

Of student data collection,  Diane Ravitch said “If anyone thinks for one New York minute that the purpose of creating this database is simply for the good of teachers and students then that person is credulous in the extreme.”

My child and yours are now a government commodity.

Labelled

labelled national standardSoon, he will be deemed well above, above, at or below standard for numeracy, reading and writing.  Those labels will be added to the above data set. They are not there for him or for his teacher (who is marvellous, I might add).  They are there for politicians.  Make no bones about that.

And what joy for those students in small communities where they are easily identifiable, who find themselves highlighted in the national press as failing.  What a treat when a student’s results are displayed in the classroom for all to see.

That must be a real inspiration for them.

Because nothing motivates someone to improve more than telling them they are below standard and then sharing that information far and wide.

Pushed

Sooner or later, there will be pressure for the banshee to get up to speed with anything he is “behind” with.  I don’t mean encouragement – I mean pressure.  The majority of teachers will resist political pressure and carry on teaching to his interests and strengths, moving him forward appropriately from where he is to the next level.  But when the message teachers are getting is that all that matters is National Standards levels, eventually pressures come to bear:

“So a couple of weeks ago when his new teacher told me he had to stay in at lunchtime to complete his writing, I was shocked. I understand he is a dreamy and imaginative child, and that he needs supervision to complete tasks sometimes (which drives me mad), but I have no idea how any teacher EVER thinks it’s ok to keep a five year old in at lunchtime. Really, what kind of system thinks punishment is a motivator?” Source

These are children, not robots.  They learn like they grow – in fits and bursts, not on an easily measured path.  Of course their learning needs to be tracked – in fact teachers always have tested in-class and tracked growth, so that students and teachers know what the next goals will be. But to be pushed to learn at a certain speed, as if all kids should hit targets at the same time, is not sound practice.

jump through hoop of fireSadly, National Standards is encouraging just that, and this is the type of thing we will see more and more of: Whether his teacher or school tries to mitigate it or not, education establishments are under pressure to hit politically-motivated targets, and this will inevitably filter down.  Most schools do a great job of not letting students see the pressures on the school to hoop jump, but if things carry on the way they are going, teachers may not find it so easy to keep that pressure out of the classroom, even for new entrants.

The USA is years down this data-obsessed, privatisation-motivated path of lunacy, and this is what successive reforms have reduced them to:

“My kindergarteners had their standardized computerized test today. There were over 100 questions. Answers were selected by drop and drag with a trackpad, no mouse is available. One class took five hours to finish. Kids crying in 4 of 5 classes.” Source

How long until this is the fate of Kiwi kids?

Choice, bro

You might be thinking “Oh, well, it sounds dodgy, but you can always opt out of the National Student Number and/or National Standards if you dislike them so much.”

Well, you would think so, eh?  The child being mine, and all.

But no, you cannot opt out.

No, You Can't.

No, You Can’t.

Just let me say that again – you, the parent, or you the student cannot opt out of having a National Student Number and having your data collected and stored and shared around by the government with whoever they see fit without your permission.

You the parent or you the student cannot refuse to be part of National Standards.

So, next time government tell you all of these changes are about parental choice, ask them about your choice to opt out.  Where did that go? **

Possibly the same place it went for these US children who were pulled out of classrooms by CPS investigators for individual interviews about this month’s test boycott —  without teacher or parental permission.

Intimidating children?  Ignoring parents?  This is where 20 years of reforms has got the USA.  New Zealand is only a few years down the line of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), but already we are seeing the same disregard for what parents want.

I ask again, where is my choice to opt out?

The GERM is upon us, New Zealand

There is a good reason this post listing the things this government has imposed on the New Zealand education sector is going viral.

People – many for the first time – are joining the dots and seeing that it’s not a few little things here and there but a concerted plan to change the face of our education system to an increasingly privatised one.

A crisis is being manufactured that just does not exist.

You want to now who’s pulling the global strings behind the GERM?  You could start by reading this to see Bill Gates’ part in it all.

Like Monkeys at a Tea Party

Whanau and Educationalists want to improve our education system.  It’s good but it could be better, and they recognise that. They do not want it to stand still.

  • They want to help groups that they system has not best-served by finding sound ways to give them their best chance.
  • They want students with special needs to have access to appropriate assistance, to give them their best chance, too.
  • They want all children, of all skills, interests and abilities, to have quality teachers and useful resources.
  • They want all students to become life-long learners with a sound ability to adapt to changes.
  • They want to be able to use innovative methods and resources in their teaching.
  • They want to learn from each other and share best practice.
  • And they don’t just want to teach – they want to carry on learning, so they grow as professionals and serve students well.

Students and teachers have much in common: they do their best work when supported, encouraged and know that what they are doing is of value. And neither achieves their best when pressured, bullied and given unsound hoops to jump through, like monkeys at a tea party.

who benefits

 

So, when next Hekia Parata tells you that what she is doing is in the interests of the children, ask yourself this:

Is it really for the children?  

Who else stands to benefit? 

.

** NOTE:  “”Differences from state schools:
Private schools are not required to follow the Government’s National Education Guidelines. This means that they do not have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum or comply with the National Standards’ requirements.”” http://www.ero.govt.nz/Review-Process/For-Schools-and-Kura-Kaupapa-Maori/Reviews-of-Private-Independent-Schools – which rather begs the question of why not, if they are meant to be sooooo darned useful?

.

.

You want to speak out but don’t know how? Look no further.

don't just st thereClick here if you want to write to a New Zealand newspaper.  

The site allows you to input your letter and details, tick the newspaper you want, and hit send.  Easy.

 

let your voice be heardClick here if you want to email an MP, a Minister, or the PM.  

The page allows you to search for MPs by party and name, and is easy to use.

 

Top Tips:

– type your letter in a word processor, spell checker it, proof read a final time and then paste the text of your letter back over to the web page ready to send.  (The web page doesn’t spell check your letter.)

– if you want to write to more than one newspaper and stand a good chance of being published, bear in mind that newspapers usually want exclusive letters (i.e. not the same letter sent to multiple newspapers).  It pays to rewrite/re-edit your letter for each newspaper, so that you have more chance of them being published.

– speak to the issues not about the people involved.

Also, you may wish to:

– Share this page and encourage others to do their bit.  No matter where you are in the debate, all voices are essential for a healthy discussion.

– Share your letter with others to inspire them

be heard

Thank you for doing your bit.  Every voice counts.

Oh, and one more thing, please be sure to…

vote button

Sign the petition against performance pay for teachers

If you DO NOT support performance pay for teachers, please sign this petition to Hekia Parata.

She says teachers are in favour of it.  If we are not, we need to make sure she is very clear that isn’t the case.  It will also serve to inform the wider public that teachers do not want performance pay as it is detrimental to the very teamwork and best practice we need to do our jobs well.

Thanks, Dianne

PP joke 6

 

PP joke 3

 

PP joke 4

 

Teachers and parents, you want to be heard? What can you do?

Judging by the huge response to the questions Why are Kiwi teachers not up in arms?, it’s clear that many people want to do something. Want to be heard. And rightly so.  It seems that many feel helpless and are not sure what they can do.  But never underestimate the power of even one more voice.

This is what YOU can do:

don't panic organiseSHARE STUFF

Talk to others, share articles, blog posts (like this), memes, and so on.  Share on your own blog pages, on Facebook, on Twitter, in groups and forums.  Most people will scoot past, for sure, but there is always the chance one or two people will start to pay attention.  Every voice counts.

All action is valuable – do your bit.

JOIN THE KIWI BATS (BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION)

If you think the education reforms hitting the Kiwi public school system are not in the best interest of students, come and join us, whether you are a teacher or not, in a union or not, whatever your political persuasion, and make your voice heard.  We all need to speak together, and we will make sure our collective voices are heard in simple but effective ways.  https://www.facebook.com/groups/KiwiBATS/

MAKE SURE THE UNIONS ARE ACTING FOR YOU

If you are in the primary sector, make sure you go to your Paid Union Meetings (PUMS) that take place between 24th March and 4th April.  A full list of when and where they are is here.   Attend, find out what is going on, ask questions, make your own views heard, and discuss the issues with others.  The unions can only speak for you if you let them know what you want of them.

BE HEARD IN YOUR COMMUNITY

Write to your local MPs, newspapers and school Boards of Trustees (BOTs) and make your voice heard.  A list of MP and newspaper addresses to get you started can be found right here.

Parents, you in particular in are in a good position to make a difference – you have a lot of sway – your voices count, and count a lot.

RUN FOR OFFICE

Hey, go for gold.  Just imagine what you could do if you were on a board or in the Beehive.

keep calm and organise

WE have got to fix it

When hard-working students are blocked at every turn, and good people are fighting hard for them but getting nowhere… when that happens, the system is broken.  The Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) has broken so many school systems and ruined the chances of so many students.  It’s happening worldwide.

This from Humans of New York:

“Let me tell you what’s happening to me. I’m on the PTA at my child’s school, the Secondary School of Journalism in Park Slope. I’m currently advocating on behalf of my child, and seventeen other children whose parents don’t speak English. These kids are from Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, everywhere.

AnnetteThese kids have all done very well on their Regent’s exams– I’m talking 90/95th percentile. Very smart kids. They were on their way toward qualifying for an Advanced Regents government scholarship,that would give their parents badly needed money to help in their education. But the fine print of that scholarship says the children need three full years of a foreign language. 

And the principal at the school FIRED the Spanish teacher. She is not hiring another foreign language teacher for an entire year, effectively disqualifying all these kids from that scholarship they need. When we try to talk with her about it, she acts like she doesn’t owe us an explanation. When we try to call the Board of Education, they tell us to put it in writing. They get us all excited. They have us think if we write a nice letter, and use good grammar, and use all the correct punctuation, something will happen. Meanwhile another year passes, and nothing. And the kids don’t get their scholarship. You know something like this would never happen at a nice Manhattan school like Stuyvesant.

We’ve got a new mayor and a new chancellor. So we aren’t blaming them. But they need to know how impossible they’ve made it to help our kids. Trying to get something fixed in these schools is like praying to some false God. You call and email hoping that God is listening, and nothing happens. Meanwhile the kids suffer.

All these parents that I’m representing are good, simple people. They say: ‘Don’t worry Annette, God is going to fix it. God will make it right.’ I love them. And I love God. But I tell them: ‘God won’t fix it! We’ve got to fix it!‘”

The school’s own mission statement says:

We envision our school as a community of learners where all constituencies, students, staff and parents are actively engaged in the process of learning. We strive to achieve academic excellence for our diverse population of active learners. The mission of theSecondary School for Journalism is to provide a comprehensive college preparatory and career exploration program for all students in a nurturing environment.

I would suggest the school principal starts to look at that mission and put it into practice so that these students stand a chance of getting the scholarships they have worked so hard for and so richly deserve.

Do not let the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) get a hold on your education system.

The National Standards Dilemma

Parents and teachers continue to report their dismay at National Standards and how it is narrowing the curriculum, how some children are being overlooked in favour of others, and how the stress of it all is even upsetting Year 1 students.

This is from Russel Norman, Leader of The Green Party.

Over the weekend I got a first hand account of the disastrous impact of “national standards” on poor kids’ education. I spoke with some young teachers at a low decile primary school. I have known them for some time. The kids at the school are really struggling and most are failing the standards due to things like transience, poverty, lack of food etc. The principal and teachers are getting it in the neck from central govt because their kids aren’t making the standard.

So now they have been forced to focus their efforts on the small number of kids who are close to meeting the standard but just below it. If they can get this small number of kids over the line then they will get a tick from the government. But what it means is that those kids who are well below the standard get less teacher attention than ever before, and those very small number of kids well over the standard also get neglected.

In practical terms, one of the teachers has a class of well over 30, none of whom are over the standard but less than 10 of whom could make it. So now this teacher is being directed to put his effort into the small number of kids who might make it to the detriment of the rest.

How is this good for our kids and our society? And it is very demoralising for the teachers who went into the profession, and specifically into low decile schools, to make a difference.

We need to support our teachers to be great not force them to neglect our most vulnerable. And we need the Green party’s community hubs program to give kids the basics so they have a chance to get a good education.

Source

This is not what education should be about.

The trouble is, this government will not listen to teachers or principals, not even to Professors of education.  The only people that can force an end to this is parents.  Together, parents can force a rethink.

don't panic - organise

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