Teacher Cuts

This category contains 14 posts

Who ruined the education system? We did.

history is being written now

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

This from HuffingtonPost:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We did this by demeaning the teaching profession.

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

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

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

We did this by failing to properly fund schools…

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

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

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

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

Read the rest of the article here.

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

Why were over 2000 teachers sacked?

you're firedIn Chicago this week, 2100 teachers were laid off.  Given notice.  No more work.

See ya.

4% of Chicago’s teachers sent packing just like that.

Why?  Budget cuts, they said.  They can’t afford to pay the teachers.


Swap experience out for cheap labour

At the same time as this happened, Chicago’s Board of Education voted to increase its payment to Teach For America (TFA) from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits…

So let’s get this right.  They lay off over 2000 qualified teachers and aim to replace them with guys who had 6 weeks’ training and then are sent into the classroom full time.  These ‘teachers’ commit only to 1 or 2 years in the classroom and almost universally leave the classroom after that and go on to more highly paid work.  Indeed TFA promotes itself as a stepping stone to other, far grander careers.

Nice to know they respect the job of teaching so much.

Lifelong teachers, people committed to honing and improving their teaching skills mean nothing to reformers like this.  The kids mean nothing, either.  Teaching is simply a way for new grads to improve their CVs and for reformers to make $$$$$.

How does the impact Aotearoa New Zealand?

Kiwis beware – we have Teach First NZ, a similar programme.

England also has it.

New grads get a 6 week programme and then are sent into schools to start work.  And note they are only sent into low decile schools, not into schools where children of those promoting the programme are studying.  Funny that.

The argument that TFA, TFNZ and other incarnations worldwide are needed to fill gaps where there are not enough teachers doesn’t wash.  In NZ we have trained teachers searching for non-existent jobs.  In Chicago and elsewhere they are laying of veteran teachers to take on TFAers.

It’s not about filling a gap.  It’s about undermining teaching as a profession and crippling the unions so there is no collective voice.

A long and winding but well-planned path…

Kiwi education is similarly at the hands of those determined to undermine our schools and teachers at every turn.

It’s only a matter of time until this is happening here, too.  Indeed we are on track already.

Kiwis need to be aware that this  is the goal of reforms that start slowly and creep, creep, creep until before you know it the unions are smashed, teachers are being laid off and replaced with short-term, expendable staff, and the reformers move in with their testing and money-making and our children have ceased to be students but have become a commodity.

It sounds dramatic, even fanciful, but if you spend even an hour looking at what is happening in the USA and England, you will see, this is a well trodden and well-planned path.

We must be committed to stopping it in its tracks before it’s too late.


Further reading: (read the comments below, too)

And the students are not always impressed, either…

An animated fairy tale about just who the big bad wolf in society really is…

Tax the rich An animated fairy taleWho creates the issues and then who they blame for them to divert attention…  Does this sound at all familiar to you, New Zealand?

Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale 

(Narrated by Ed Asner, with animation by Mike Konopacki. Written and directed by Fred Glass for the California Federation of Teachers.)

An 8 minute video about how we arrived at this moment of poorly funded public services and widening economic inequality.

Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don’t want to pay taxes any more.

They tell the people that there is no alternative, but the people aren’t so sure.

This land bears a startling resemblance to our land.

For more info,

© 2012 California Federation of Teachers


dedicated to my friend Nikki and her kids  


Matt Damon Loves His Teachers

The man talks complete sense.

He knows what teaching is.

He knows what learning is.


I love him.

Who in New Zealand would like to do the same for our teachers, before we end up in the same pickle the USA is in?

We need your voices now.



Whining Teachers and Idiot Parents

That’s what Education Minister Parata would have us believe was at the heart of this week’s backlash against proposed changes to pupil:teacher funding ratios in New Zealand’s public schools.

It seems she and her government think that the parents are all fools who don’t understand, well, anything, bless them…

…and the teachers just want to be paid heaps to do beggar all and have half the year off, all the while moaning moaning moaning, and all because they are mostly rubbish and don’t want to be found out.

Okay, good to know we’re all held in such high esteem.

So, why were we really shouting from the rooftops?

Some people, those who knew a little about student:teacher ratios, instantly became concerned when the budget was announced, noting that the new ratios would mean larger class sizes and cuts in some subjects altogether.

They became further concerned when wee calculations on the back of envelopes showed that Ms Parata’s promises of minor losses were just not right.

So they started to ask questions.

More and more people asked whether the Government had indeed  got their figures wrong – very wrong.  They became concerned when they heard the questions and queries, and saw the avoidance tactics that took the place of clear answers.

Then folk started to ask whether Government actually had any idea what they were doing…

– Did they actually check things like this carefully and understand outcomes before agreeing new policy?

– Or…  was it that they knew the outcomes but had put such a huge level of spin on the facts that they’d become worthy of Walter Mitty.

In other words, people began to ask, was Government incompetent or lying?

Do I need to go on?

Government Back Down on Class Size Changes

This afternoon the Minister of Education announced that the changes to teacher:student staffing ratios will not go ahead.

Congratulations to everyone who talked, wrote, emailed, phoned, and discussed this issue, keeping the issue alive leading to the Government scrapping this ill-thought-out policy – great job.This back-down came after enormous pressure from the education sector and the public in general, working together with one very loud voice saying enough is enough.  It’s great to see what can be achieved when people are fighting for the same cause.

However, please don’t feel the battle is over.  This was just one skirmish of many that is needed in order to protect New Zealand’s public education from constant undermining by Government.  We still have to ask questions about:
  • standardised testing (National Standards) – why are we adopting them, how do they work, do they help raise achievement, are they reliable indicators of learning?
  • proposals for performance pay – how is this going to raise the standard of teaching and learning?  Will it lead to the danger of  teachers merely ‘teaching to the test’?
  • the introduction of charter schools – why are we closing schools then paying more out to have another privately run school open in its place?  What evidence is there that Charter Schools lead to any improvements, and why not use the money to invest in measures to help the school currently there?
  • the publication of primary school league tables – what are they for, who do they help, how are they calculated?
and more.
You’ve been amazing in getting one policy stopped.  Now please take the time to find out about and challenge more.
Save Our Schools

Have a Voice – Protest the Changes

Muttering, yelling, champing at the bit, and screaming at the TV are all well and good, but if you want to have a voice that matters, do something:

Sign the petition to tell John Key that what is being done to our education system is NOT okay


Email John Key at Parliament


Join a social media group to hear what’s going on:

Share information with your friends, via Facebook, Twitter, conversations, or whatever.

Make sure people hear what’s going on.

Education leadership group unites over flawed Budget class size decision


Education leadership unites on flawed Budget class sizes

Tuesday, 5 June 2012, 4:42 pm
Press Release: Joint Press Release

5 June 2012

The sector meeting acknowledged the current economic climate and agreed that the Government’s Budget announcements, including increases in class size, are educationally flawed, contrary to the best interests of students and are collectively rejected by teachers, principals and Boards of Trustees.

We urge the Government to reverse the staffing announcements made in the Budget, including increases in class size, and enter into immediate discussions with the joint sector leadership group on how to sustain and continually improve the quality of teaching and the achievement of students.

We ask the Government to listen to the combined voice of the school sector, parent and public opinion and scrap this policy before damage is done to our children’s education.

The group has asked for an urgent meeting with the Minister of Education and has called for a halt on any implementation of the Budget decision.

• NZEI Te Riu Roa
• NZAIMS – NZ Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling
• NZSTA – NZ School Trustees Association
• PPTA – Post Primary Teachers Association
• NZPF – New Zealand Principals’ Federation
• SPANZ – Secondary Principals’ Association of NZ
• PPTA Secondary Principals Council

Pressure Mounts On Politicians

I’m not sure the government realised how incensed people would be about planned changes to school funding in this last budget.  I am guessing government thought there would be a little ooohing and ahhhing and muttering, then it would all die down.  In reality,  it seems the cuts have been the final straw for many, and pressure is mounting for them to reverse them.

Why?  Well, the proposals mean that:

  • About 1100 teaching positions will be lost at the start of the next school year.
  • Class sizes will increase.
  • It’s probable that some technology classes will cease altogether.

The mainstream media are keeping up the pressure too, with a number of articles in The NZ Herald, on the news and so on questioning the logic of the proposals.  These interviews on Breakfast this morning with NZEI president and two head teachers are worth watching and explain the overall issues well.

Why are people angry?  Because it seems that our education system – one that is well respected throughout the world – is being repeatedly undermined whilst at the same time plans to privatise parts of the public education system are being shoe horned in.

And class sizes is not the only issue facing our schools right now.  At the same time as this is happening, we have the government proposing to or in the process of :

  • closing high schools and replacing then with privately-run charter schools
  • closing special schools that cater for those in most need
  • bailing out private schools with $3 million of taxpayer money
  • bringing in standardised tests despite much of the world giving up on them as a failed exercise
  • making the curriculum more and more prescriptive in public schools whilst at the same time allowing charter (and private) schools to set their own curricula
  • make those who have done a three year Bachelor of Education degree do a further postgraduate course in order to become qualified (whilst at the same time allowing a 6-week postgraduate teacher-training course for those with a degree including a degree that has nothing to do with education) – source
  • bring in performance pay for teachers without any explanation for how it will be judged or managed.
  • and a whole lot more.

It’s just bizarre!  It’s often wildly contradictory.  And it’s not even based on sound research.

So why all these changes?  Who benefits from these changes?  Students?  Parents?  Teachers?  Support staff?

What do you think?

Hekia Parata: Raising achievement for all – Budget Speech 2012 in full

Hekia Parata: Raising achievement for all in Budget 2012

Wednesday, 16 May 2012, 9:15 am
Speech: New Zealand Government

Hon Hekia Parata
Minister of Education

16 May 2012

Speech Notes

Hekia Parata: Raising achievement for all in Budget 2012

· I’m here today to talk about our education plan. Education is a subject that’s dear to my heart and head – and indeed yours, as future employers and business associates of the generation of young New Zealanders who are coming through our education system today.

· I’ve been around the education sector for many years and as you know I have been the Education Minister for five months. I’m passionate about education and what a good education can do for our young people.

· We have an education system that is among the best in the world. It gives our students a platform to compete here at home and internationally. Four out of five kids are successfully getting the qualifications they need from school and we must celebrate their success and the professionals in our system who make that possible every day.

  · But our Government’s education plan is about getting five out of five.

· We want all our kids to be leaving school with the skills they need to reach their potential in the modern economy. That means lifting up those who are being left behind, and encouraging those who are doing well to do even better.

· Too many of the kids falling behind because they are not getting the quality teaching and leadership that all the evidence tells us makes the difference are Māori and Pasifika learners, those who come from low socio-economic homes, or have special needs.

· We can, and must, do better for them. We don’t have a generation to waste.

· New Zealand is a small country that must make up for size with smarts. We must out-think our competitors. We need our investment in 21st century technologies to be matched by new and skilled thinking that reflects the best teaching practices and our natural cultural advantages.

· Education can make a two-fold contribution to our country. It builds our social and cultural strength, and our productivity. That’s important for our economy, and it’s important for New Zealand.

· I’m here today to talk about raising achievement for all New Zealanders, realising the potential of all our learners, creating Kiwis that can fly. We want to ensure a world-leading education system that equips our kids with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful people in the 21st century.

· Today I can confirm that Budget 2012 will increase overall spending on education for the fourth Budget in a row. This has happened despite tight fiscal times, and against a backdrop of a recent global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes.

· That is a track record which reflects the priority the National-led Government places on our plan for education. Education is a winner in Budget 2012.

· We are ambitious to see all our children reach their potential and that’s why we aim to have 85 percent of all 18-year-olds having achieved a minimum of a Level Two qualification, NCEA 2 or equivalent by 2016. This is a passport to a better life – because learning is earning.

· Reaching that target will be challenging. But it is possible. It requires more of what counts and perhaps less of what’s comfortable – and it is vital that we get there.

· So we must ensure our money – your taxes – is being spent to realise the potential of each and every learner. If it’s not raising the achievement of our kids in big or small ways, if we can’t see progress in tiny steps or leaps and bounds, unless we can see positive growth, however we measure it, we should not be doing it. We need to give our learners the best possible education we can. That means making good choices with the money we have.

· Right from the earliest years of a child’s life, we know that quality early childhood education gets kids ready for learning at school. We want kids to go to primary school confident, able to engage, and eager to learn That is why our plan for education has a target of 98% participation in early childhood education by 2016.

· We have increased spending on ECE by a third since 2008 and we now spend the most ever on this important start to life. The 34 per cent increase since 2008 is spending that complements and reinforces the positive parenting that occurs in the vast majority of homes all over NZ, while also providing for our most vulnerable children.

· We are continuing to target areas of high need in early childhood education and you will see more of that on Budget day.

· After early childhood education, parents then send their most cherished creation – their young child – to school. We entrust schools with our children and with the high expectations we have of and for them.

· The platform for learning is formally built in these critical primary years. All of us want to understand at regular intervals how well the building of that platform is progressing and strengthening.

· With the introduction of National Standards by our Government, data and information is being collected and reported to show if kids are doing well, how their learning is improving, and what needs to change for better learning. Parents are pleased to have this information about how much their child’s learning has progressed as well as where their child’s achievement sits in the classroom and nationwide.

· Ensuring that our Year 8 students arrive from primary school prepared and ready is essential for their success at senior school levels. Our plan for education includes clarifying tertiary and vocational pathways so students can consider early the best options for them.

· The challenge for our secondary schools is to retain all students, especially through those vulnerable years 9-10, and to ensure that they can secure a passport to a better quality of life. At present one in five of our 15-16 year olds is dropping out. We want all 18 year olds to have a minimum of an NCEA Level 2 qualification, or equivalent. Why? Because learning is earning.

· We are also doing a lot to invest in 21st century learning environments. This includes setting aside the first $1 billion from the Future Investment Fund to create modern learning environments, and spending between $300 million and $400 million on the Network for Learning, which will ensure our students can make the most of all the opportunities that are coming from ultra-fast broadband. The classroom your child learns in today is very different to the classroom you and I learnt in. And their learning spaces will continue to evolve and change.

· We are doing a lot to raise student achievement in schools but there is more we can do. There are two main investments we can make to raise achievement – they are in quality teaching, and quality professional leadership. I’d like to talk a bit about these now.

· Our biggest value investment is our education profession — the approximately 50,000 teachers and 2,500 principals, with 35,000 non-teaching support staff. These numbers have increased by nearly 6,000 teachers over the past 10 years and to be honest at the same time our student achievement results have plateaued.

· We have $3.69 billion invested in teachers’ and principals’ salaries. That’s just under half of the Education Vote for that sector. The salary bill has increased by around 55%, well over inflation, since the year 2000 with only an incremental increase in achievement – and not by all learners

· Even so, our National-led Government is committed to improving the quality of teaching through an ongoing investment of just over $300m over the next four years in professional learning and development.

· Today I am pleased to announce that in Budget 2012 we will invest a further $511.9m of new money into quality frontline education services.

· Quality teaching is about holding high expectations of, being able to relate to and finding what works for every single child in the classroom. That’s what every one of our teachers needs to be able to do.

· A good example is Oturu School in the Far North, where with great professional leadership and outstanding teaching, students and their whole school community have participated in an engaging cross curriculum programme. It has seen strengthened literacy and numeracy through a number of initiatives such as growing, harvesting, and marketing olive oil, as well as developing effective local remedies for skin and hair conditions. Learning, earning, and having fun!

· Another good example is Amesbury School, here in Wellington, where the students are engaged through art, music, dance, multi-media activities, expressed equally naturally in beautiful English and te reo Māori, and across all age groups.

· We are embarking on a two year work programme to retain and grow, as well as attract, the best talent into the profession. To do that we will:

1. Invest an additional $60 million over four years to boost new teacher- recruitment and training

2. Ensure that student teachers are equipped with the best teaching practices for 21st century learning

3. Shift to a post-graduate qualification for new teachers

4. And give stronger mentoring and coaching for those teachers working towards full registration.

· We will develop better career progression pathways, introduce a new pre-principalship qualification that will strengthen the recruitment and selection of school leaders, and review the Teachers Council to secure a stronger professional body.

· We are investing in better teaching. We need to find ways to recognise and reward our outstanding teachers as well as work with those who have potential. We also need to identify those who are not keeping up, or who are just going through the motions.

· To raise teaching quality, we have to identify who is delivering successful practice and make that common practice.

· To this end we will collaborate in the development of an appraisal system focusing on driving up quality teaching and quality professional leadership. Performance pay is but one of a basket of options to reward and recognise that.

· Teaching is a profession; professions have a number of characteristics of which accountability for performance – good, great, outstanding, unacceptable – is one.

· The reality is that we are in a tight economic environment. In order to make this new investment in quality teaching and leading, we have to make some trade-offs. As I have already outlined we are opting for quality not quantity, better teaching not more teachers.

· We will fund the improvement in teaching quality by making a small change to teacher: student ratios. These changes will free up just over $43 million, on average, in each year over the next four years.

· We will continue to emphasise the most critical transition years of new entrants and senior secondary school. The way we will do this is by maintaining or lowering the ratios at new entrant year 1 and years 11-13, and making a small adjustment to achieve consistency of teacher:student ratios in the mid-years of schooling.

· Ratios will remain as they are for new entrant year one at 1:15, and for students sitting NCEA in years 11-13, will be standardised at 1:17.3.

· In the middle years 2-10 there is currently a wide range of ratios, ranging from 1:23 to 1:29. To give schools consistency and certainty about how they manage their resources, we will standardise this ratio at 1:27.5.

· What this means is that 90 per cent of schools will either gain, or have a net loss of less than one Full Time Teacher Equivalent (FTTEs) as a result of the combined effect of the ratio changes and projected roll growth. These changes will take effect over the next five years.

· To be clear, these ratios are a funding formula – they are how we as the Government funds schools. The actual number of children in a classroom is set by the school.

· Every year a school’s roll changes because families move or make different education choices. And every year schools reset class sizes according to those changes in their roll. These more consistent ratios will be fairer and give schools greater certainty over their resourcing from year to year.

· My primary school teacher tells me that my class numbered 42! The important point here is that all the evidence tells us that it is the quality of teaching that makes the difference to learning and achievement, not one or two extra students in a class.

· The money we free up from these small changes will be reinvested into improving teaching quality. It is the single most important thing we can do to raise student achievement.

· In our education plan, success in the compulsory primary and secondary sector means better leadership and better teaching. It means:

1. delivering measurable improvement in learning, and reporting that to parents every six months at primary or intermediate school (years 1-8)

2. Year 8 students transitioning to secondary school able to read and write and do mathematics at a year 9 level

3. Year 9 and 10s participation and engagement keeping them in school and readying them for the NCEA years

4. 85 % of 18 year-olds achieving in NCEA Level 2 (or equivalents) by 2016.

· One of the National-led Government’s key priorities is to deliver better public services to New Zealanders within tight fiscal constraints. Raising educational achievement, while ensuring value for money, is central to this.

· We want to ensure a world leading education system that equips all New Zealand students with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful people in the 21st century.

· We are completely focused on giving children and young people the opportunity to succeed from early childhood learning, though schooling and into vocational and tertiary training and education.

· So I am pleased Budget 2012 invests more in education than ever. Education is a priority for our Government despite the tough economic environment we are in and you will see more of our plan in the Budget on May 24.

· We know the single most important thing we can do to raise achievement is to improve teaching quality so that’s why we are investing in better teaching, not more teachers.

· Education is a passport to a better life. Learning is earning. That’s why our education plan is focused on raising achievement for five out of five of our kids. We want all our learners to realise their potential, and we want to create Kiwis that can fly!

· The actions we have taken to date and those we undertake in this term in Government reflect our education plan to raise education achievement and deliver on building a brighter future for all New Zealanders.

Bigger class sizes – this is our brighter future?

“The increases in class size will affect 90 percent of schools, according to the Minister.

The “savings of $43 million” a year means 215 million dollars worth of primary teacher positions lost over the next five years.   The Government says the savings will be used to beef up “teacher appraisal”.

This looks like bigger class sizes will pay for performance pay.

No other country that has adopted standardised testing and then used student results to measure teacher performance has improved their student outcomes. Many – like the US, UK and Sweden – are way below New Zealand, and tracking downwards, on international PISA results.

Class sizes matter, particularly to the students who are struggling the most.

Excerpt from NZEI website, retrieved 3.6.12

The Complexities of Teaching


The celebrated American educator, Lee Shulman compared the work of medical practitioners and teachers.  He noted that a teacher is confronted not with a single patient, but with a room filled with youngsters.

He gives the example of a primary school reading lesson in which “the teacher must simultaneously be concerned with the learning of decoding skills, with motivation and love of reading as well as word-attack, and must both monitor the performance of the six or eight students in front of her while not losing touch with the other two dozen in the room.

“Moreover, individual differences among pupils are a fact of life, exacerbated even further by the worthwhile policy of mainstreaming… The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable complexity would be in the emergency room of a hospital during or after a natural disaster” (p.258).

 Reference:  The Wisdom of Practice (2004). Shulman, L.S.


This anecdote is not to diminish the critical work of medical practitioners but to affirm the complex work of teachers.  What is more, we need to recognise that teaching is more than just an intellectual activity.  In a very busy workplace teaching has complex emotional and social dimensions as well.

As a society, we need to view educational achievement in its broadest context.  We all expect that children and young people have an inalienable right to enjoy their education, to feel respected and accepted by their teacher, to be able to form a warm and meaningful relationship with a valued adult outside the domain of parents and whānau.

If teachers are to be able to do this, we need to provide appropriate support and resources for this vital task.

Reference: Warming the Emotional Climate of the Primary Classroom (2012). Evans, I.M. & Harvey, S.T.

(Reproduced from a New Zealand Teachers Council Newsletter, received by email 3.6.12)

Ms Parata – Please Redo Your Homework on Teacher Cuts and Class Sizes

A storm has blown up this week in New Zealand as people reacted to plans in the budget to cut teacher numbers, primarily affecting intermediate schools.

The whole sorry saga was a shambles.  Once it became clear that some schools would lose up to 7 teachers, the government hastily backed down and found a mysterious $20 Million with which to cap losses  at two teachers per school.   Parents and teachers and even many pupils were suddenly moved to ask what the government is doing to our education system, what its plans are, and whether it actually thinks things through very carefully before trying to implement them.  After all, if they can miscalculate the rejigging of technology teachers, what else might they be getting wrong?

When Hekia Parata, Education Minister, was challenged in Parliament about the effect of the 2012 Budget on class sizes, this was her response:

Catherine Delahunty: When she told schools like Papatoetoe Intermediate School, which will lose seven teachers in 3 years’ time, that it was their choice how they cut staff, did she consider increasing class sizes to 40 or cutting technology altogether a fair choice?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Successive Governments have provided a funding formula to schools. It is based on a number of aspects and responsibilities. Then the professional leadership of a school makes the decision as to how it will deliver the national curriculum—

(see whole exchange here)

So let me be clear.  Government removes the funding for the teachers but it is the school’s fault the classes are too big (or removed entirely) as they decide how to implement the policy.  Eh?  Really?  And the alternatives are what, exactly, Ms Parata?  Because if you know some magic way to deal with that policy in another less painful manner we’d all love to hear it…

Oh wait – I remember now, the figures had been wrongly calculated and you are now so very generously capping the losses at two per school.


A knock-on effect of all of this debate has been that many educators and parents are once more asking questions about growing class sizes and their impact on student learning.

Ms Parata has also stated that she was in a class of 42 and it didn’t do her any harm (I’m paraphrasing – can anyone give me a link to the actual quote, please).

The government is saying that bigger class sizes are fine, they are no detriment to the learner or the teacher, and all will be well in the world.    But at the same time as assuring us that all is well with the world, we know that many ministers choose to send children to private schools that boast of small class sizes as a key selling point.  So what people want to know is this – does it matter, or does it not matter, and why are we getting hypocritical and contradictory answers from government.

“Prime Minister John Key’s son attended King’s College in Otahuhu, which said on its website:

“Class sizes are limited and our policy of a low pupil-to-teacher ratio

ensures students are given greater individual attention in the classroom.”

Mr Key’s daughter attended St Cuthbert’s College,

which similarly advertised the fact that it limited classes to 15 students

“to allow for individual attention to each student”.”


Let’s be very clear – myself and many others are not arguing there shouldn’t be private schools.  One concern is that government doesn’t check its figures, correctly resulting is wild miscalculations.   We worry, too, that the government does not take high quality factual information into account before launching policies.  And we worry that key individuals are hypocritical and contradictory about important issues.

Maori Party education spokesman Te Ururoa Flavell said:  “We are not convinced that the debate is adequately informed by evidence around what is the ideal ratio between teachers and students, and how much this matters to lifting achievement.”  –source

The Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone  said the “Ministry would ideally like to have “very small class sizes” and the resources to put into professional learning and development to improve the quality of teaching.  Those things are going to have the biggest impact on student outcomes.”  -source

So, does class size matter?  What do you think?


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