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Protest – Have a Voice

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A coalition of the unwilling, by Prof. Martin Thrupp

Speech to World Educators’ Day Rally, Garden Place, Hamilton, Saturday 29 October 2016 

Prof Martin ThruppKia ora koutou, thank you for being here this morning.

Today we celebrate and thank teachers, and we thank those who provide leadership and those who provide support at every level of our education system.

And we also thank all of you who help and support our educators here in Aotearoa as spouses and partners, family and friends, parents and children.

I think it can be a good job being a teacher or working in education, it can be satisfying and you can often make a difference. But working in education is rarely straightforward and it is very busy and sometimes exhausting.  

Teachers and schools get blamed for a lot, and most of it is unfair. I have written quite a few books and articles about this problem, it’s what I call the ‘politics of blame’.

I heard Mike Hosking say on TV during the week that the regions including the Waikato are surging ahead, we are ‘on fire at the moment…doing brillantly’ he said. Well that’s one view of it.

But actually this is also a region where many people are struggling. I’ve become involved in Poverty Action Waikato, they put out a report recently and it’s such a shocking read.

And I know that if it wasn’t for the very good caring and teaching work being done in the sector then many children and young people and their whanau would struggle even more.

Did you know that the latest round of PISA test results organised by the OECD will come out on 6th December? That’s the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It’s when the education systems of 72 countries and regional economies within large countries get ranked against each other.

I don’t know where New Zealand will come in the rankings this time. But I do know that if we do well the Government will happily take the credit! If we don’t do well then you teachers will get the blame!

Last time we did badly and Hekia Parata was asked if she would resign. And now she is going to resign. Maybe she knows something about the PISA results coming out in December that the rest of us don’t yet.

The Minister, Hurricane Hekia, that was what the Herald called her, she does have a forceful manner and she can also be very charming. But mostly I think she is on a hiding to nothing because this Government doesn’t want to put more money into public education than it absolutely has to.

The budget this year had overall education spending forecast to stay about the same through to 2020, that means it is falling as a share of GDP and on a per student basis.

Actually, this Government doesn’t want to put more spending into any social or public spending than it really has to which is mainly to meet its promises around superannuation. It’s why poor people in this country are no longer falling through the cracks, they are falling through gaping holes.

A lot of us are here because of concerns about education funding. The problems are complicated because it’s a mixture of under-funding and of spending good money on policies and interventions that are not helping.

But I think the NZEI and PPTA are right to think that the global budget idea is a case of ‘secret plans and clever tricks’. Because once you move away from national scales for pay and the operations grant, the Government can put an even stronger cap on educational spending.

It can wash its hands of class sizes, the casualisation of the workforce and the real needs within the system in terms of operational funding.

Then there is the social investment approach to funding. It is very much about trying an intervention, measuring it, and discarding it quite quickly if it doesn’t work in order to try something else.

Unfortunately education interventions rarely make so much difference or so quickly and there is a great likelihood of useful programmes being thrown away before they have really had a chance to work.

The social investment approach also puts great weight on the significance of specific indicators like having a parent in prison, it’s less about the general context of deprivation or poverty.

But while Hekia Parata says that socio-economic factors are often overstated in education I think they are more usually understated. It’s that politics of blame again.

What I’m most worried about in education is that we will look back on these Key Government years as the period where privatisation of our public education system really took off.

The period when public education was run down.

The period when public education got dismantled.

The period when we let down not just our generation but generations to come.

I can see a hollowing out of educational processes happening all over the sector whether we talk about professional learning and development, professional resources, educational research, teacher education, curriculum coverage, special education or support for leadership.

In fact where New Zealand education is not in decline it is often because educators are working against the grain of policy rather than being supported by it.

But I also believe that when people look back on this period in our nation’s history, teachers will come out of it quite well. This week I was looking again at the campaign against National Standards, it would have to be one of the most impressive campaigns against any education policy to be found internationally in recent years.

And you might say it didn’t work but it many ways it did work, it raised questions about the National Standards and stopped them from being used to do some of the political work that was hoped for.

But it’s still a challenge we all have, recognising the neo-liberal framing up of our outlook and not losing our capacity to think and to care.  If you get a chance go to Finland, I’ve just been there and it’s a real eye-opener about how things could be different – and better.

But even Finland has some global neo-liberal pressures coming on it through that OECD. Last year Helsinki, the capital of Finland, hosted the OECD’s first Global Education Industry Summit.

The aim was to establish a dialogue between ministers of education and the global education industry. And really it is about privatisation, about public education being opened up to the private sector more and more.

Hekia Parata went to that conference last year and she went to the second summit in Israel this year. And when Hekia did her speech in Israel she talked about building a coalition of the willing back here in New Zealand.

You can see where I am going with this.

When it comes to the privatisation of education, I want New Zealand educators to form a coalition of the unwilling. I want you to be unenthusiastic, hesitant, dragging of your feet and generally difficult. I want you to show only token interest and to be the last cab off the rank and not the first one.

Because it was Helen Kelly’s big farewell ceremony in Wellington yesterday and we are not all going to be as brave and as strong and as outspoken as Helen was. But what we can do is join together, PPTA, NZEI and our many friends and supporters who care about public education and form a coalition of the unwilling.

Martin Thrupp 

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.

 

The Power of One: a small, silent and very strong protest against Hekia Parata’s Global Funding plans

Hekia Parata made a somewhat surprising appearance today at Core Education’s uLearn Conference in Rotorua, prompting again comparisons of her ability to make herself available for certain types of education gatherings and not others:

  • Education industry events – tick
  • Education union events – cross

Still, this is not news, and her appearance this morning was not a total surprise, despite not being on the programme.

At least one person left the room in silent protest.

p7

Some asked questions…

p16

And one, SOSNZ’s very own Melanie Dorrian, made a one-person, silent and very powerful protest.

p15

p14

This prompted a flurry of photos on social media

The protest invoked a lot of positive support from within and without the room.

Melanie, I have never been prouder to call you a colleague. You embody exactly what we want of our teachers and our students – deep critical thinking, a commitment to facts, a determination to hold people to account for their actions, and a social advocacy that puts others’ needs sometimes before one’s own.

To those who praised Melanie, took pics, shared your thoughts, sent her your support – thank you. I hope Melanie’s stance has illustrated clearly that one person can make a difference and your voice – every voice – matters.

Next time maybe you’ll bring your banner, too?

After all, you voted overwhelmingly to stand up to this nonsense.

betterfunding-1

You can follow Melanie’s own blog here.

 

Special education funding cuts revealed

220916-rally-1Special education funding cuts have been revealed on eve of rally at Parliament to support inclusion education.

Educators are joining with disabled people, families and service providers to rally at Parliament tomorrow, Thursday 22 September, to let Government know that their Special Education Update is totally inadequate and it is time to invest in inclusion.

“NZEI is concerned that the Special Education Grant (SEG) paid to schools through operational grant funding is failing to keep up with wage inflation and roll growth,” said Louise Green NZEI Te Riu Roa President.

“Between 2009 and 2016, the SEG fell by 1.8% when labour cost increases are taken into account, according to information released to Education Aotearoa under the OIA.

“In the same period, school rolls have risen from 760,859 students to 776,816 and the identification of students with special education need has increased dramatically. So there really needs to be much more funding going into SEG than the Government is current providing to ensure the value of the funding per student increases.

“The SEG is mainly spent on teacher aides to help meet students’ special education needs. The inadequate levels of funding puts real pressure on a school’s ability to provide the best education possible for all their students.

“Any parent or teacher of a special needs child can tell you that the level of learning support funded through the Ministry of Education is inadequate, and in many cases non-existent.

“The recent Special Education Update proposal to shift resources to pre-schoolers, without putting any additional funding into the system won’t work in the best interests of all children who need the support. They need more funding.

“We strongly support greater investment in early intervention, but that should not come at the expense of those who need support when they are older. Funding should be based on the need for intervention and support, not age,” said Louise Green.

220916-rally-2RALLY DETAILS

Education for All Rally

Where: Parliament forecourt

When: Tomorrow, Thursday 22 September 4.30-5.30pm

Organised by Education for All, a collaboration involving the disability and education sectors, including NZEI Te Riu Roa

Facebook Event Page

New Zealand, a warning: The forcible conversion of England’s schools to Academies (Charter Schools), by John Palethorpe

no academy

I could never work in an Academy. As an educator, a professional and a passionate believer in universal education, they represent a corruption of the principles of equal access to free education. Not only that, the long litany of problems involving finance, curriculum alterations and mistreatment of students and staff clearly outline that Academy schools aren’t great places to work. A friend of mine wrote beautifully on the subject a little while ago now.

In New Zealand we have Charter Schools a half formed cargo cult version. They’re already in trouble due to finance, curriculum and mistreatment of students and staff. Sounds awfully familiar.

The first UK Academy opened in 2002. Their introduction was aimed at reinventing inner city schools with significant results and management problems. Then sponsors got involved, either rich individuals or corporations (including educorps). They were supposed to bring in private sector best practice and management, like most privatisation is supposed to.

In May 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) Coalition came to power in the UK. There were, at the time, 203 Academies in the UK – mostly Secondary Schools.

nut-no-academies-placard1The term of the Tory education secretary Michael Gove saw a radical expansion of Academies. This was often as a result of OFSTED inspections, some of which classed schools as failing only a year or two after they had been called outstanding. Some schools were forced into becoming Academies, against the will of pupils’ parents.

Today there are 4,516 academies; 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools and 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools. The expansion was so rapid that many private Academy trusts took on more schools than they could cope with, leading to those schools failing and being taken back by the DfE until another Academy group could be found to take over. The free market of schools.

“It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher”

It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher. I’ve no plans to move back, I love Aotearoa New Zealand, but the crunching finality of knowing that there’d be no place that I could conscientiously work was sudden and upsetting.

In the Budget, Chancellor George Osborne (not the pig tampering one, the one who looks like a pig) announced that all English schools would be converted into Academies by 2020. Every single one of them.

What does this mean? Well, given the evidence already available it would mean none of the UK’s schools would be bound to teach the National Curriculum, instead being charged to provide a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum. So what you’re taught in one school may be radically different from another. Not teaching style, actual content.

It’s not great for pupils, in more ways than one. Many Academies have operated a subtle and not so subtle selection process, choosing only pupils who are likely to be able to improve their results. Others, when dealing with those who are disruptive or failing, have placed pupils on study leave during exam or inspection periods, or placed them in study support centres outside of the school. This can take the form of pupils and parents being asked to leave by the school, rather than being excluded (which would show up in the all important league tables). Now that every school is to become an Academy, where do those pupils go?

Academies have, over the long term, not been proven to raise results any more significantly than schools in the UK operating under the LEA’s (Local Education Authorities, which will soon be defunded and dissolved). In fact, Academies have come under fire for exactly the same issues that LEA schools had in management, results and organisation, the same issues which saw the schools be forced to convert! Conversion turns every school into an individual Ltd company and scythes out the level of local support and oversight that was previously provided by the LEA. On such a huge scale, that’s far too much for the Department for Education to handle.

It’s going to cost money too. Newly converting Academies get a 10% funding boost, at a time when state funded schools have seen budgets cut year on year. But due to the rapid expansion of Academy schools and the lack of oversight, many have had to be bailed out by the Department for Education. I guess bringing in the ‘best of the private sector’ does mean being utterly sure the Government will spend millions trying to salvage the mess you make.

Overall, it’s had a huge impact on the profession. Academies are not bound by the collectively negotiated pay structure, meaning the UK’s Teaching Unions will have to bargain with individual Academy Trusts and schools. They’re also not bound by the negotiated terms and conditions of contract for teachers, which means many teachers find themselves on-call permanently or schools have employed teachers on the equivalent of zero hours contracts. The trend for Academies to lack unionisation, because of the ease with which you can be dismissed, makes this even harder.

NUT-save-our-schoolsIt’s not great for Academies, either, though. Without a national pay structure, schools who can find more money will get the better teachers. Schools with wealthy backers will have more than schools that don’t.

As a male Primary teacher, I’m relatively certain that I’d be paid more than a female doing the same job with the same experience. Why? Because I’m rarer. Teaching is one of the few professions where pay equality was built in already. And they’re getting rid of it.

“Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers”

There’s also the question of professionalism itself. Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers. And hidden in the announcement of Academisation was the change to Qualified Teacher Status.

Previously, Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) were assessed over the course of a year or two to see if they were able to meet the standards for a qualified teacher. With a huge teacher shortage looming in the UK, the plan is to allow teachers to teach for longer in the classroom and be certified by their Headteacher and a Senior Staff member.Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says this will drive up standards, and drive is an important word. She announced that allowing teachers longer to qualify and removing the strict schedule teachers had to meet will allow those NQTs who struggle more chances to make it.

As an experienced teacher, I look back on my NQT period as far, far less intensive than doing the job in the years that followed. It’s being presented as like a driving test, just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re a bad driver, right?

“…reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff”

Fair enough, but with one report saying teachers would have up to a DECADE to pass, it makes you ask – if it takes you ten years to pass your driving test, maybe you’re just not a driver? Buy a bike. Or walk. Some people just aren’t meant for the classroom, some people just aren’t teachers and the attempt to try and fill the rapidly depleting profession by reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff.

It also makes it trickier for teachers to do as I did and head overseas. There’s been a mass exodus of teachers from the English system, coincidentally or otherwise, in the last six years. By shifting the QTS award to something less substantial, overseas authorities may very well view them as insufficient evidence of an ability to teach. I’m glad I left when I did; others in future may not be so lucky.

There is already a growing and vocal opposition to all of the plans outlined above, as well there should. Announcing you’re ditching LEA oversight and support of schools, dumping the need for any school to employ qualified teachers, dropping the National Curriculum, scrapping nationally negotiated terms and conditions and placing schools in a bidding war for new teachers is a huge and complete evidence free attack on the quality and professionalism of education in the UK.

“For me there’s sadness.”

For me there’s sadness. My love of teaching was developed, as a student, in the UK system that’s now being explosively dismantled. I spent the first five years of my teaching career safe in the knowledge that I was a public servant, providing fair and equal education to all of my children as a professional. I was paid the same as anyone else who was experienced as I was, and I could talk with teachers from around the country about the curriculum and its delivery in the knowledge that we were all working together as equals. It was an education system for the whole country. If these plans are implemented, it won’t be any more.

In Aotearoa we should take lessons from the way in which Academy failures were written off or marginalised to the public and how concerted political pressure on inspection agencies led to the dramatic spread of privatised schools. The few Charter Schools in this country are already struggling, and what has happened in the UK this week shows us the future of education if they’re allowed to spread further.

no-to-an-academy_nut.jpg

~ John Palethorpe

Further reading:

Michael Rosen on academy schools: ‘Local democracy bites the dust’ – Guardian

England’s largest academy chain ‘failing too many pupils’ – BBC news

New academies laws were passed by Parliament last night: here is what they mean for you and your school – Time Educational Supplement (TES)

Anti Academy Alliance

 

 

Education Act Update – my submission

This is my submission. It’s my personal response, you can take it or leave it, and I welcome feedback.

Please make sure you do a submission, too. You can answer as many or as few questions as you want, and it’s very easy to do.

My Submission

1. What should the goals for education be?

To ensure all students become confident, connected, actively involved lifelong learners, as outlined in the New Zealand Curriculum document.

All children should have the same opportunity to engage in free, fair and equitable state education system that meets their needs.

 

2. What process should be used for setting a national priorities statement for early learning and schooling?

The education sector, education academics, students and parents should be consulted and listened to.

There should be a select committee that listens without agenda and uses good research and feedback to determine the way forward.

 

3. What should the roles and responsibilities of a school or a kura board be?

Schools boards’ responsibilities should include:

– ensuring all students are given the opportunity to work to their own best potential.

– ensuring all students have fair and equitable opportunities in school.

– ensuring parents, whanau and the wider community are consulted where appropriate.

– ensuring school is a mentally and physically safe place to be.

– ensuring the board puts the students at the forefront of their decision making.

– setting a strategic plan that reflects the goals and priorities of its students, their parents and the wider community.

A school board should NOT:

– in any way take part in evaluating staff performance.

– put government’s wishes ahead of students’, parents’ and the community’s wishes.

 

4. What changes should be made to simplify planning and reporting?

Support to allow school boards to plan together with other boards seems sensible so long as schools are explicitly allowed to retain their own methods and/or focus if they wish to and are not subsumed or swallowed up by others, for example, in a Community of Learning.

 

5. How can we better provide for groups of schools and kura to work together more to plan and report?

Have independent liaison staff that boards can call on to support them working together, to ensure all parties are given a fair chance to be heard and take part.

Have a fund to support those board members who have to miss paid work to attend meetings, professional development, etc. (Especially crucial for those doing shift work or working in other inflexible situations).

 

6. How should schools and kura report on their performance and young people’s achievements to parents, family, whanau and communities?

This should be a matter for each board and community to determine, so that whatever method is used it is what students. parents and the wider community want.

 

7. What should the indicators and measures be for school performance and student achievement and well-being?

Well-being should be ascertained through student and parent/whanau surveys, through reviewing information and data on such things as attendance and bullying, and through discussions with the student body as appropriate.

Student performance should be measured and evaluated in a number of ways, including teachers’ overall judgements, in-class testing, student self evaluation, school management evaluations or check on OTJs, and external tests and exams at post-primary level where appropriate.

School performance should be evaluated by the board of trustees, students, parents/whanua, the wider community and ERO, using observations, test data, students’ in-class work, teacher interviews, etc.

 

8. What freedoms and extra decision-making rights could be given to schools, kura and Communities of Learning that are doing well?

This is a loaded question – what is meant by “doing well“? Until that is determined, it is impossible to say what additional freedoms would be appropriate.

 

9. What ways could boards work more closely together?

Boards could be supported by external independent advisers/liaison personnel to allow them to meet and share best practice, discuss ideas and problems, and work more closely. External support for this is vital so that all voices are heard and all boards given a fair and equal chance to have input.

 

10. What do you think about schools and kura having the flexibility to introduce cohort or group entry?

It sounds like a good idea in principle but could be tricky in practice. For example, if a child moves from a school using 5th birthday entry dates to one using cohort entry and therefore finds themself unable to continue their school after starting already.

 

11. What do you think about making attendance compulsory for children once they have started school or kura before they turn six years old?

Excellent plan.

 

12. What additional supports or responses could be used to address problems that arise in schools and kura?

There should be a level of support available prior to a school needing serious intervention. If a school self-identifies or is made aware of an issue, there must be available support to help the school remedy the situation before it escalates. This should be promoted and seen as something positive and proactive rather than punitive.

 

13. How should area strategies be decided, and how should schools, kura and communities be consulted?

Area strategies must be decided in open, honest and fair consultation with the school community and all stakeholders, from the Ministry of Education to the students themselves.

It must be recognised that good schools are not just a place of education but are also the heart of a community and that this in itself is valuable and should be part of any consideration regarding mergers or closures.

Consultations MUST begin without a predetermined agenda.

Consultations should include written submissions, interviews, meetings, workshops and other methods that are appropriate the the community involved.

 

14. What should be taken in to account when making decisions about opening, merging or closing schools?

– area demographics and predictions

– the role of the school in the community

– other available provision for the students

– safety (mental and physical) of the students, staff, parents and wider school community

– cost

– quality of provision  

 

15. What do you think about the proposed changes to improve how enrolment schemes are managed?

The proposals as outlined look reasonable.

That’s my submission. Now go do yours. You have until 5pm on 14th December 2015.

~ Dianne

Have Your Say on the Future of NZ Education

engage

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

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

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

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

Q1: What should the goals for education be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Dianne

 

 

When is a consultation not a consultation? – Education Act Update Workshops

One gets the distinct feeling the Education Act Update is already written and these workshops are simply a merry dance to make us feel like we are being consulted…

la-la-la-not-listeningIt sounds cynical, I know, but after closely following the antics of Hekia Parata for the past few years, the only conclusion any sane person could come to is that her consultations are a sham and done only to fulfil the requirement to hold one, not to actually listen or learn or change anything.

I’m thinking of Christchurch, Salisbury, Redcliffs… of select committees and consultation with unions. I’m thinking of ECE reforms.

The plans are predetermined; consultation done in name only.

So why, you may ask, did I bother dragging myself to an Education Act Update Workshop this week? I could have stayed home and put the tree up. I know my 6 year old would have been far happier not to have to sit there for 2 hours – the iPad and the superb scones could only hold his attention for so long. But drag myself (and child) to the workshop I did, and here’s why.

It is important to make our voices heard.

It is important to hear what other have to say and to discuss issues with them.

And it is vital our views are recorded, in writing, on the Ministry’s wee feedback forms.

This is crucial even when the Minister isn’t listening. Perhaps especially when she isn’t listening?

If we don’t have a voice, the Minister can rightly say we don’t care what happens. She can say we agree with her plans – taking silence to be tacit approval. She can carry on with impunity, implementing her reform agenda. And that would be a disaster.

It must be on record that we stood up to this. It must be on record what parents, teachers, support staff, principals, whanau and students DO want. Because when the tide turns – and at some point it will – we must be able to point to evidence of what we were asking for and how things must change.

Our voices do matter.

A list of the workshops is here: please do go and be heard.

You can submit online here.

Wonka - not listening

 

National testing of primary school students is political not educational

The letter below is from Beth Beynon, a mother in the UK, distressed at the impact of testing on her child.

Please, NZ, trust us that have seen both countries’ education systems first hand when we say NZ had it right in the first place by having in-class testing that was not made public or used to label children.

Please don’t let the already poor National Standards mutate gradually into this horror story – which it will, if we just sit by sighing and muttering but fail to stand up and be counted.

Testing should be there to inform the teacher and the student about what is learned already and where they might go next. It is a learning tool. It is not a labelling tool. Or, more accurately, it shouldn’t be.

Read the letter and consider where NZ is going:

“Dear Prime Minister,

crying childToday my daughter got her Year 6 SATS results. Level 4 across the board which, my years of teaching experience tell me, is absolutely spot on for Year 6.

So can you tell me why she has spent today in tears? Why she’s lying on her bed sobbing, because she knows she’s not good enough?

There’s a part of me that barely has the energy to write this. To ask you why you insist on putting 10 and 11 year olds through a system that takes nothing of child development or good pedagogy in to account, or why you put relentless pressure on schools to up their expectations, so what was once seen as good progress is suddenly a failure. But why bother? Why bore you with analogies of weighing pigs that nobody fed? You won’t listen to highly qualified education experts, or even people who, you know, actually teach. So I’m under no illusion that you will listen to me.

I do however want to tell you what is happening in my house tonight.

My funny, intelligent, artistic daughter has received a message today.

She’s average.

The government has told her so.

And that’s not good enough.

The fact that she has rhythm in her soul, a stunning singing voice and takes people’s breath away when she dances, the fact that she thinks about the meaning of life and loves to ponder the great questions like why are we here and what our purpose could be, or the way she cared for her dying Grandmother – painting her toe nails and singing to her, the way she puts her younger sister into her own bed because she woke with a bad dream.

These things that make the whole person that my daughter is. It’s all irrelevant.

She’s just average. And that’s not good enough. You’ve told her so.

Another one bites the dust.

Thing is Mr. Cameron, my daughter is wise to you. At eleven she has learned that SATS are just a game.

“I’ve not learnt anything this year Mummy,” she told me during the harrowing and stressful weeks leading up to the SATS “Just how to pass some stupid test for the stupid government”.

From the mouths of babes, Mr. Cameron, from the mouths of babes.

And so here we are. Your SATS results are in. You can number crunch to your heart’s content. You can order schools from best to worst, rank them, categorise them and make them work for you. Numbers are clever , aren’t they? Look what they did for bringing all those children out of poverty! Clever old you.

And meanwhile my daughter will go to sleep tonight despising a government that has squandered a year of her education so they can tell her she’s no more than average. And that it’s not good enough.

Oh, one more thing. She brought home her Grade Three ballet certificate today. She got a distinction.

But I don’t suppose you’re the slightest bit interested in that.

~ Beth Beynon

This is what happens when testing is done for political rather than educational reasons.

No-one in their right mind wants a testing regime that leads to so many distressed children who are doing perfectly well but now believe themselves to be ‘less than’.

As teachers, we must think seriously about what we are being complicit in, and we must ask ourselves when we are going to say “Enough”.

~ Dianne

Source:

Beth Beynon’s letter, published on Facebook

Further reading:

National Stigma – two teachers speak out

National Standards Should Not Be Published, by Prof. Martin Thrupp

Dear Principal, we are opting out of National Standards

Pearson Publishing met with global Protesters

pearson-always-earning750dpiPearson executives work hard to justify the company’s actions and frame their motives as some sort of kindness – almost a humanitarian effort. The trouble is, more and more people are convinced they are in it only for the money.

Pearson’s tagline “Always Learning” has been co-opted by those unhappy with its reach, to say “Always Earning” – understandable when the company is taking over everything from text books, to tests, to teacher certification and now owning its own schools. Its tentacles go far and wide, like a leviathan.

Yesterday SOSNZ took part in a Twitterstorm focused on Pearson Plc’s dubious behaviour around education. The protest was timed to coincide with Pearson’s AGM in London, and I was honoured to represent NZ alongside the UK and USA is spreading the word about the company’s behaviour.

At the AGM, Pearson executives had to face questions about the company’s behaviour in promoting and running for-profit schools in some of the poorest places on earth, where the daily rate to attend can be as much as half of a family’s income.  As if charging such a high rate of such poor people was not bad enough, the lessons are on tablets and must be read word-for-word by the teacher at a pace set by the app not the teacher (tough if you have a question or need to pause for any good reason). All this to classrooms crammed with 60-200 children.

A joint letter from National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and Global Justice Now, delivered to the Pearson CEO John Fallon at the AGM, read:

“From fuelling the obsessive testing regimes that are the backbone of the “test and punish” efforts in the global north, to supporting the predatory, “low-fee” for-profit private schools in the global south, Pearson’s brand has become synonymous with profiteering and the destruction of public education.”

The USA’s voice was also heard:

“We fight this kind of profit making to get kids a good education and fight for governments which gives students a high quality education.”

said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who had flown to London to attend the AGM and be heard.

As well as pushing privatised schooling, there have been many and repeated concerns about the role of Pearson’s in promoting high stakes testing, notably in the USA.  Concerns have centred around the quality of the tests, the secrecy around them, the fact that markers are found via Craigslist and need have no educational training, and the scandal of Pearson monitoring students’ online activity for mention of the tests,

It’s shocked many to discover Pearson are not beyond tracking down a student and reporting them to the school authorities to deal with – all for Tweeting about a test.  The fact that they misrepresented the student’s actions by getting the timing and the content of the Tweet wrong is of huge concern. A multinational company chasing down one student all based on incorrect information. Big Brother would be proud.

Regarding Pearson’s infiltration of all things education, Schools Week UK reports that ATL general secretary Mary Bousted said

“School curricula should not be patented and charged for. Tests should not distort what is taught and how it is assessed.

“Unfortunately, as the profit motive embeds itself in education systems around the world, these fundamental principles come under ever greater threat leading to greater inequality and exclusion for the most disadvantaged children and young people.”

Indeed. When the education ship is being steered by those concerned mainly with profit, it is seriously off course and in danger of sinking, taking our children’s education with it.

Sources and further reading:

Protesters gatecrash Pearson’s annual general meeting over education privatisation concerns – Schools Week UK

#TellPearson Stop Cashing In On Kids

Unions and NGOs lobby Pearson to end support of low-fee private schools in Africa – Schools Week UK

Everybody hates Pearson – Fortune

Should Pearson, a giant multinational, be influencing our education policy? – The Guardian

Bill Gates, Murdoch, Pearson and other education chancers – SOSNZ

PPTA and NZEI must stand shoulder to shoulder steadfast against EDUCANZ

Stand UnitedThe Education Amendment Bill (2) has passed meaning the dissolution of the New Zealand Teachers Council this year to be replaced by EDUCANZ, a body that will be entirely made up of members hand-picked by the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata.

This is not democracy.

Currently, teachers get to vote on their representation on the Teachers Council: That will be over.

Currently, teachers register every three years: It will become an annual registration, all paid for by teachers.

Currently, teachers are bound by a Code of Ethics: This is to be placed by a Code of Conduct written by the hand-picked members of EDUCANZ, and is likely to attempt to gag teachers from speaking out against education reforms they consider damaging to children and the education system as a whole.

Be under no illusion, this is a full frontal assault on educators.

We Must Stand United

This assault must be met head on by a united PPTA and NZEI. They must stand shoulder to shoulder saying no. There must be no wavering; this is a time for solidarity of purpose.

The New Zealand School Trustees Association should support teachers in this action and be staunch in doing so.

Whether the New Zealand Principals Federation (NZPF) or Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand will stand shoulder to shoulder, too, is debatable. I would hope they would show the courage.

Standing up to the changes this Bill imposes is no small feat and would not be undertaken lightly. But there comes a time when every one of us must say enough, and this is that time.

We must be united.

PPTA and NZEI, we are looking to you for leadership, guidance and strength.

~ Dianne

See also: https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2015/02/11/education-amendment-bill-2-passed-news-round-up/

Government moves to sideline teachers’ voice – NZEI Press Release

nzei logoThe Government has once again shown its disregard for the teaching profession by pushing through legislation removing democratically elected teachers from their own professional body.

The Education Amendment Bill, which had its 3rd reading in the House last night, replaces the Teachers Council with a new body, EDUCANZ and removes the right of teachers to vote for representation on the new board.  Instead, the Minister of Education will appoint all members.

NZEI National President Louise Green says that this is another attempt to reduce the influence that teachers have on decisions affecting their daily practice.

She says teachers have particular concerns around the introduction of a Code of Conduct which could effectively gag their ability to speak out and advocate for children.

“This is not about improving education for children, this is about trying to remove the professional voice from teaching.

Louise Green says that despite this latest move, teachers will continue to speak out against policies that undermine our public education system.

“Teachers are not state servants, we are public servants.  We have commitments to learners, families and society under our Code of Ethics.  This means we have a responsibility to advocate for the right of all children to have a great education.

“Parents need to ask why the Government is targeting the teaching profession in a way that it wouldn’t dare target doctors, accountants or lawyers.”

Teachers *Must* Keep Up With Education Politics, No Matter How Busy

sb-get-informedIn a chat with some teachers tonight, one commented that she doesn’t have time to keep up with politics because she is too busy teaching.  I hear that a lot, and to be honest, I was exactly the same when I was in the classroom. Note to Hekia Parata and David Seymour, if you want me to be quieter, I need a job.

Seriously, though, between the planning and marking, the social issues, special educational needs, my own professional development and reflections, staff meetings, art exhibitions, camp trips, paperwork, and heaven knows what, there is little space left in many educators’ minds for anything else. Doubly so if they have a family.

It’s hard to strike a balance between being informed and having one’s head in the sand. We want to know what’s going on, but we don’t want to become overwhelmed, which can so easily happen in teaching as in many jobs. So what do we do?

Well, there are a few simple ways to keep up with what’s going on in education politics:

Your Union 

1) Make sure your union has your email address and you get the regular updates sent out.

1a) Take a minute to read the emails from the union. Seriously, just having them in your in-box doesn’t count, much like the pile of dieting books on my shelf aren’t helping me lose weight.

2) Attend union meetings and ask questions.

3) Check the PPTA and/or NZEI web sites now and then.

Social Media

Clearly you use social media because you are reading this. Excellent – I like the cut of your gib. Now maybe you would like to follow some of these marvellous people so that you can find out what’s going on via them, too:

Facebook

Twitter

On Facebook and Twitter you will find new people and pages to follow, some will come, some will go, and you will find your tribe. It’s invaluable – I can totally recommend it for the best PD around, quite aside from keeping up with education politics.

In School

Ask other teachers to tell you what’s going on. You don’t have to accept their viewpoint or what they’re saying without question, but you will still get an idea of the issues of the moment and some of the concerns.

Read those magazines, leaflets and posters in the staff room to find out the latest.

Ask your union rep. If the rep isn’t clear, ask someone else.

Pick What Works For You

You owe it to yourself, your profession, your students and their parents to be informed. Changes will happen – they always do – but you must be clear of the possible impact of those changes so you can choose whether your input or action is needed.  Being passive is not really an option.

Pick whatever methods work for you. If you are on the computer a lot for work, maybe join a Facebook page or group (or two), and consider Twitter to link to other educators (well worth it, I promise).

Whatever way you do it, find your tribe and get yourself informed.

~ Dianne

PS, thanks for the work you do in our schools. We parents appreciate it more than we might let on.

Testing politicians are testing my patience re testing

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good test.  Especially the PROBE reading test – all those quirky squiggles we have to do, not too erroneous for the student, and bingo, a reading age and pointers towards strengths and weaknesses.  Hurrah.

Same with maths – administer a test or two and lo and behold you have the student’s maths stage.

And in New Zealand primary schools we are still very lucky to be able to test one on one with our students in a relaxed way. We can discuss their test and their results right there and, should we wish, set to work on the goals immediately. It’s very useful.

I’m not so keen on the National Standards bit, but the tests themselves if done sensibly and well are actually really helpful.

feeling_testy_mugSo why am I all testy about testing?

I’ll tell you why: Because politicians worldwide have gone test-crazy and it has not a jot to do with improving education.

Nicky Morgan, UK Education Secretary, yesterday announced a “war” on illiteracy and innumeracy. Yes, a war. Because apparently teachers aren’t trying to teach these things anyway, despite the many hurdles, so it needs threats and a war cry to get anything done…

Or, it could be that there’s an election looming and she’s talking through her hat. There’s always that.

Either way, Ms Morgan has found a magical and ingenious way to change the fate of these illiterate and innumerate kids!  Are you ready for this – you need to be seated (possibly with Rescue Remedy to hand, or wine) …. Ms Morgan insists that by age 11 all children must get 100% in a times tables test.

All.

100%.

No wiggle room.

Yep, time tables will solve everything apparently, but only if every kid gets every single one right.

Special needs student? Learning in another language? Battered? Hungry? Disengaged? Drugged up? Got dyscalculia?  Tough, it’s 100% or you’ve failed.  Well, way to go, Ms Morgan, you clearly know something about pedagogy and about learning that escaped Piaget, Ken Robinson and most of the teaching profession.

I should mention at this point that Ms Morgan couldn’t answer the cube root of 125 when asked recently, and today refused to answer basic multiplication questions posed by journalists.  Hmmm… was it that tricky 7×8 that got her, I wonder?

And if the students in a school don’t ALL get 100%, what then?  Well then the school will be forcibly turned into an Academy, of course – yes, you guessed it, if in doubt, privatise.

All this despite Academies in England getting terrible exam results compared with non-Academy schools.

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Almost like the test is set impossibly high to facilitate forced privatisation… Gasp!

And then we have the USA.

You know education reforms have gone cloud cuckoo land when 6 year olds are being given standardised tests sat in rows at computers, having to manage the computer, the mouse, follow the written instructions and all in silence. No one-on-one friendly teacher testing in a calm way for these kids – or teachers.

And then the results are sent off to a testing company. They aren’t there to discuss or to inform the student or teacher about strengths or weaknesses. How can that possibly be considered a good way to run an education system?

And if you don’t think that’s bad enough, consider the special educational needs students and ill students forced to take these tests.  Or the dying student.  Yes, you read that right:

Last year, Ethan, who was born with brain damage, has cerebral palsy and is blind, was forced to take a version of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test over the space of two weeks last year because the state of Florida required that every student take one.

Now his mom has to prove that Ethan, now in a morphine coma, is in no condition to take another test this year.

Source

And Ethan’s not the only one:

“Fourth-grader Joey Furlong was lying on a hospital bed, hooked up to various monitors for pre-brain surgery screening, when a teacher waltzed through the door holding a New York State standardized test”

Source

Or the 6 year old US kindy student who was:

“…denied a bathroom break in her kindergarten class and was forced to sit in her diarrhea during a test session at school.”

Source

Yes, the global education reforms march steadily on, creating a crisis via rhetoric and ridiculous tests so they can justify privatising schools.  And all the time there are children, parents and teachers in the mix who are being very badly served and who are fighting tooth and nail for some sense to come to the plate.

Is in any wonder I’m feeling testy.

Are ACT’s charter schools fiscally responsible? – PPTA

 

PPTA ACT cahrter schools flier 1

 

 

 

PPTA ACT charter schools flier 3

 

 

PPTA ACT charter schools flier 3

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