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NZEI calls for inquiry into quality of early childhood education

nzei logoThe rapid rise of market-driven early childhood education is putting many children at risk of missing out on quality learning in their early years.

NZEI National President Louise Green says there is no evidence that market forces provide quality education in the compulsory public education sector.

“So why has the government allowed the market to become so prevalent in the early childhood sector?

“There appears to be no Ministerial interest or responsibility being taken in the provision of quality early childhood education.  The government has simply said that the market will sort it.

“We need an inquiry into why the government believes market forces will work in the early childhood sector when they patently don’t work in the compulsory sector.

“This week’s investigation by the NZ Herald backs up what we know has been happening in the sector for some time – that quality early childhood education is under threat.

“Early childhood education is far too important to be left to market forces.”

– ENDS

Is Hekia Parata planning National Standards for preschoolers?

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

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

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

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

It amused me, briefly.

But that amusement didn’t last long.

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

Very. Concerning.

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

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

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

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

Delahunty then asks,

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

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

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

This is worrying.

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

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

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

Has it raised student achievement elsewhere?

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

Delahunty says:

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

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

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

It is not a positive move.

It will not improve educational outcomes.

It is not supported as good practice by research.

So just what is the motive for doing it?

 

Sources and further reading:

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

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

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

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

Report shows National plan to slash billions from Education Budget

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.

 

Poll shows paltry public support for new school roles

In the lead-up to the 2014 Budget, less than 6% of people think the government’s plan to establish new leadership roles for some principals and teachers is a good use of increased education funding, according to a new poll.

The poll, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, surveyed a cross-section of New Zealanders last month and found little support for prioritising the $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which has also been widely panned by teachers.

Respondents were somewhat supportive of the package (56%), but when asked what were the most important areas of education in which to spend extra money, the components of the policy were bottom of the list by a wide margin (paying $40,000 to executive principals to oversee a group of schools – 1%; paying $50,000 to experienced principals to turn around struggling schools – 6%; paying $10,000 to experienced teachers to work with teachers in other schools two days a week – 3%).

The poll showed that the public was more interested in

  • reducing class sizes (32%),
  • employing only qualified and registered teachers in early childhood centres (31%), and
  • more administrative support so teachers can focus on teaching and learning (29%).

See the poll results here.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said the poll showed that teachers were not alone in believing putting the money into frontline teachers and support would be a far more effective way to lift student success.

children“The government dreamed up this policy with the idea that it would somehow benefit students. It’s a great pity they didn’t bother to consult anyone who knows anything about what students need for educational success,” she said.

Parents are starting to ask questions about the lack of consultation in the spending of this significant amount of money.

An Auckland mother has set up an online petition asking the government to consult teachers, principals, boards of trustees and parents before implementing the policy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski: ph 027 475 4140
Communications Officers: Debra Harrington ph 027 268 3291,
Melissa Schwalger 027 276 7131

Kids at the Heart of Education – latest dates

 Kids-at-the-Heart-Title-only

Catherine Delahunty and Metiria Turei are on a speaking tour to explain and discuss the Green Party’s education policies.  They will discuss the Greens’ plans for more community involvement in schools, community hubs, nurses in school, and their plans for such things as National Standards and Charter schools, amongst other things.

It’s a great chance to hear from the horse’s mouth what alternatives there are to what is being implemented now, and to ask questions.  There are also some great guest speakers.

To keep up with new events/speakers, you might want to follow Catherine Delahunty’s page on Facebook.

I attended the Lower Hutt event, and it was hugely interesting to not only hear from Catherine but also to hear from people working at local schools, undertaking innovative and hugely successful projects that encompass the whole community.  It was informative and very inspiring, and I can’t recommend the talks enough.

 

These are the latest conformed dates:

 

Auckland – 30 April, 6-7.30pm 

Catherine Delahunty

17 Mercury Lane, Newton Auckland

Join or follow this event on Facebook

 

Gisborne – 6 May, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Ilminster Intermediate School Library, De Latour Road

Guest speaker: Peter Ferris, Principal of Illminster Intermediate.

 

Tauranga – 12 May, 5.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Gate Pa School Staffroom, 900 Cameron Road

Guest speaker: Jan Tinetti, Principal of Merivale School.

 

Thames – 13 May, 7.00pm (NOTE THIS IS A CHANGED VENUE & TIME)

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Grahamstown Community Hall.768 Pollen St, Thames

 

Whakatane – 14 May, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Knox Presbyterian Church, 83 Domain Road

 

Whangarei – 19 May, 7pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Old Library, 7 Rust Avenue

 

Rotorua – 22 May, 6pm

Catherine Delahunty

Haupapa Room, Rotorua District Library, 1127 Haupapa Street

 

Auckland – 22 May, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei

Te Atatu South Community Centre, 247 Edmonton Road, Te Atatu South

 

Hamilton – 16 June, 6pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Stack Space, Hamilton Library, 9 Garden Place

Guest speaker: Martin Thrupp, Waikato University Institute of Educational Research

 

New Plymouth – 18 June, 7pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Beach Street Hall, 40 Beach Street

 

Auckland – 26 June, 7.30pm

Metiria Turei and Catherine Delahunty

Mangere East Community Centre, 372 Massey Road, Mangere East (Behind the Library)

 

Whanganui – 23 July, 7.30pm

Catherine Delahunty and Dave Clendon

Alexander Research and Heritage Library (Venue now confirmed)

 

Palmerston North – 25 July, 7.30pm

Catherine Delahunty

Palmerston North City Library, 4 The Square

Guest speaker: Professor John O’Neill, Massey University Institute of Education.

 

If National, Labour or any other party plan a similar tour, I will share that as well, but as yet only the Greens are fronting up.  Do let me know if you spot any talks (from any party) that I don’t seem to know about.  Thank you.

 

Kindy kids sit standardised tests – 100 questions, all on computer

Be very, very clear on this, New Zealand parents – this is where National Standards, charter schools, performance pay and all of the other Global Education Reforms (GERM) lead.  It is no accidental path.  Stay quiet if this is what you think is right – if this is what you want.  But if it’s not, then you really do need to start learning what is happening and start speaking out.

 UPDATED WITH MORE INFORMATION HERE (22/3/14)

This from a fellow teacher in California.

“My kindergarteners had their standardized computerized test today.

crying childThere 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. Multiple computer crashes (“okay, you just sit right there while we fix it! Don’t talk to anyone!”). Kids sitting for half hour with volume off on headsets but not saying anything. Kids accidentally swapping tangled headsets and not even noticing what they heard had nothing to do with what they saw on the screen. Kids having to solve 8+6 when the answer choices are 0-9 and having to DRAG AND DROP first a 1 then a 4 to form a 14. Some questions where it was only necessary to click an answer but the objects were movable (for no reason). No verbal explanation that you must click the little speaker square to hear the instructions. To go to the next question, one clicks “next” in lower right-hand corner…..which is also where the pop-up menu comes up to take you to other programs or shut down, so many shut-downs or kids winding up in a completely different program.

If this is not what you want for your kids and grandkids, you’d better start making some noise. Ten years ago we would’ve thought this would be literally impossible.”

.

Teachers in the USA – you may want to join BATs in fighting these reforms.

Teachers in New Zealand you may wish to join the Kiwi BATs to raise your teacher voice.

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The List: What National has done to New Zealand education

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?

  1. Speak up. Talk about the issues with others – encourage them to think about what’s going on and what it means in the long run;  and most importantly,
  2. Vote.  VOTE.  Definitely vote. And encourage everyone you know to vote, as well.

Because three more years like this and the list above will look like child’s play.

~ Dianne

one person stands up and speaks out

Ravitch - public schools under attack

Kiwi Kindergarten teachers celebrate bargaining breakthrough

Gandhi - you winNZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education have reached a proposed settlement on a new kindergarten collective agreement that would see teachers retain parity with their primary colleagues and a new allowance for head teachers.

Last week’s sudden turnaround came after months of the ministry insisting that kindergarten teachers could have parity or the allowance, but not both.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said it was the commitment and engagement of almost 1500 kindergarten teachers that made the difference.

“We held a Green Day of Action across the country and rallied outside the Minister’s office last Friday. I think the Government could see that teachers were 100 per cent supportive of our bargaining position and were not willing to back down on this.

“Head teachers earn just a fraction more than other teachers, despite the increasing demands of the role. We have been asking for 10 years for head teachers to receive a small additional allowance, and teachers were not willing to back down on this again. Teachers were certainly not prepared to surrender the primary teacher parity that they fought so hard to gain.”

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