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Teachers’ Own Words

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Secret Teacher NZ: On the kids that “don’t belong”

An NZ teacher writes:

I’m having a remembrance day.

I remember sitting on a couch with a boy who was around six. He was drawing a purple cat under a turquoise scribbly sky. He had dark hair and deep brown eyes. His teacher was across the room from us. Not too far. She said- so very vehemently – “I don’t want him in my class” and pointed at the boy next to me. He lifted his head. Looked at his teacher. Looked at me. I was reeling in shock at the outright rejection I’d just heard so he probably noticed that the smile I gave him – that was meant to be reassuring – was quite wonky.

I remember standing in a long and narrow “resource room” of a secondary school with the head of the English department and a curly haired, hugely built, usually tall but at that moment curve shouldered and stooped teenager. The same teenager that had written me a naïve but still detailed with understanding sympathy card when he had found out my father had died. The HOD was rifling through a grey filing cabinet, outlining all the ways the teenager was failing. She gave me his behavioural contract (lots of red marks and red pen comments from an assortment of teachers.) She gave me unfinished assignments. I recognised the student’s penciled printing and could easily imagine him writing every letter sooooo carefully. She gave me pristine textbooks with relevant pages marked and “The Diary of Anne Frank” which she wanted the teenager to summarise. She kept saying “He needs to take responsibility for this poor performance” and she gave me a deadline for when everything she was shoving my way was due in for him. I was feeling like I’d just been tackled by someone not unlike Jonah Lomu, so the teenager probably noticed the wobble of my voice as I faux merrily said “Do you want to grab all that stuff, mate……my bag is full of lollies and booze……”

I remember walking with a child from my class after school. A colleague came up to me. Very upset. Telling me very loudly in front of the child from my class that one of my other students shouldn’t be allowed at our school. She could see how this child “just didn’t belong with us”. She had seen how this child behaved. She had told the mother of this offensive student that her daughter shouldn’t be here. She was on the way to tell the principal that the child needed to go. I looked at the student from my class. She looked at me questioningly. Then looked down at the ground. So she missed my fake wink – again supposed to reassure that at least one of the adults on the scene wasn’t going to go nuclear.

All these young people I was so, so privileged to work with and have in my life for a while had special needs. And they were all treated so badly.

In my time in special education – and mainstream – I have heard and seen monstrously unfair things. Things so cruel they made me revert to the question children ask of each other when they can’t believe an injustice they’ve just been dealt. “Why are you being so mean?”

I’m a full grown adult – yeah, all altruistic and “overly emotive” (actual quote) – but I still ask “Why are they being so bloody mean?”

As an adult I know – The teacher who didn’t want the child with ADHD and Autism in her class was getting no ongoing support or understanding from her management team.

The HOD had no understanding of the teenager’s diagnosis. She had no idea what to do with him. She was hyper aware of the judgment that was being flung her way over the failing mark in her departmental bell curve of achievement that the teenager represented.

The colleague that was railing at me was also ignorant. And scared. And angry about something that probably wasn’t even to do with me or my student. I can’t rightly say what her exact issue was.

What I can say is that when I first saw and heard these monstrous things and felt like I’d been punched in the solar plexus, a part of me thought “I’ll probably get used to this.”

I haven’t.

Yesterday – for reasons long and complicated – a person who has also been in special education for a long time walked into my mainstream classroom. I was relieved to see her. From the moment she started talking I realized how long I’d been worrying for, fighting for and trying to protect this particular student and her parents from “the mean people.”

It was like seeing the cavalry coming.

I can’t describe the relief.

It was only yesterday I figured out that as an “overtly emotive” person I’m never going to get over the shock of people willfully and fearfully misunderstanding others and trying to punish them and isolate them instead of trying to address their own ignorance.

It ALWAYS sucks when people are treated this way , and I will always, always remember it.

~ Secret Teacher NZ

 

Teacher Stress & Anxiety in New Zealand Schools


This is a further summary of findings from the SOSNZ survey undertaken by Dianne Khan and Ursula Edgington. We ran the survey for 3 months from March – June 2016 when it was closed with a total of 684 participants.

Previous analyses of the survey data can be found herehere and here.

Summary of the survey respondents

Most of the respondents to our survey worked in the Primary sector (79%), with relatively equal numbers from intermediate and secondary (5% and 6.5% respectively).

A small number of respondents (2.6%) were from Early Childhood and 3% worked in ‘Other’ schools which were mainly connected to provision of Special Educational Need, with some defined as ‘Area’ provision.

The survey did not separate private school from public provision, although this would be an interesting area for further research on the subject.

Stress and Anxiety in NZ schools

Probably the most significant question of our survey was Question 5, which asked ‘Whether medically diagnosed or not, have you ever taken time off due to stress and anxiety?’

The results clearly illustrate the extent of the problem of stress and anxiety in NZ schools today: the majority, 54% of respondents (365) answered Yes.  44% (296) answered No, and understandably, due to the sensitivity of the subject, a small number 1% (11 respondents) declined to answer. These results are extremely concerning because no matter how subjective, for a majority of teachers to feel it is necessary to take time off in order to recover from workplace stress and anxiety, there will inevitably be consequences for the health and well-being of staff and potentially for the quality of teaching and learning in NZ.

In line with existing research in this area, those respondents who confirmed they had received a formal medical diagnosis of stress and anxiety (Question 4), numbered roughly equal to those who had not (300 respondents, compared to 355), with 22 (3%) declining to answer.

What do NZ teachers do when suffering with stress and anxiety?

Responding to Question 3, which asked for examples of coping strategies, 87% of respondents said that when they suffered from stress or anxiety from the workplace, that they tried to ‘carry on regardless’. question-3-responses

This was reflected in the responses to Question 6, which asked how many days have you taken off work, as a result of stress and anxiety? Most respondents (519 or 77%) had only taken 0-3 days off over the past year. 15% had taken 4 – 7 days, with 3% taken 8-12 days and a small minority (5%) 34 respondents having taken more 13 days or more.

The finding that most respondents to the survey ‘tried to carry on regardless’ despite suffering stress and anxiety, is very concerning because knowing where to find and being able to seek out help in times of distress is crucial in order to prevent the situation from escalating. Worryingly (and confirming our findings from the preliminary data of the first 100 respondents) the main resource for public sector staff seeking help – the EAP – was largely unknown: Over 85% of respondents denied knowing anything about EAP. Of the 11% of respondents who DID know that their school subscribed to EAP, they had not used it (although reasons for this are unclear). Only 3% (25 respondents) had made use of the EAP service, either at their past or current school.

Further concerns about the health and well-being of NZ teachers can be seen in respondents’ descriptions of what they DID do when feeling stressed and anxious. In line with other studies on the coping strategies of individuals coping with stress, 39% find solace in comfort eating, 37% try to extend their sleep, 26% turn to drinking alcohol,  7% self-medicate and 6% find that smoking helps them cope. Only 8.5% book a GP appointment which hopefully in turn would help them find different resources of suitable support. Perhaps most worryingly, nearly 2% (11 respondents) admitted to taking drugs to help them cope.

Looking deeper at some of the qualitative data, for some staff, it seemed a culture of fear existed at their workplace, as additional comments included the following theme:

“Everyone is too afraid to take action, as they fear it can affect their future job prospects.”

Similarly, others described the challenge of feeling pressure to hide their emotions :

“Breaking down and having a good cry and then trying to pick myself up and carry on so that no one knows what is happening to me”.

Some of the comments were heart-breaking, for example those who described how they have taught for many years, but now did not have the strength to carry on in a profession who could not offer the support they needed:

“[I’m} Coming to the realisation that this is just how it is and if I didn’t like it then I should have chosen a different profession.”

“Gave up smoking [but] I did not realise how much of a strong coping mechanism it was. This term I pretty much broke down and am now being treated for severe depression. I am truly passionate about children’s wellbeing and education, but I now don’t know if I want to stay in the job.”

“I will be handing in my notice and will not be returning. I have decided to walk away from this career that I have loved for nearly 20 years and I will focus on helping small groups of children because I don’t think I can teach effectively in the current set up.”

Difficult and high levels of workload were common themes throughout the responses to our survey questions.  It followed then that sharing tips on how to best manage workload and what to prioritise formed a popular way of coping with stress.  

On a positive note, some teachers reported taking constructive steps to reduce levels of stress and anxiety and 40% reported taking exercise  – for instance in the gym, horse-riding or going tramping – as a strategic way to relieve their personal symptoms of stress.

Talking with colleagues, family and friends was the most common additional comment in this section of the survey, illustrating the importance of a community of practice and sharing experiences with those around us. This contrasts sharply with the responses from the first part of the survey, where teachers cited as some colleagues and managers as the source of stress and anxiety, rather than being supportive in trying to alleviate it. Similarly, engaging with trivia on social media platforms was also a popular way that many staff found relief from workplace stress. Reading – both academic and creative texts – were also a popular way that teachers coped with feelings of stress and anxiety.

Key learnings from this section of the survey

  1. Those schools subscribing to EAP need to raise awareness of the benefits of the service and to promote its use more widely. Any potential negative attitudes and stigma attached to using the service needs to be addressed to improve the health and well-being of all staff.
  2. Those schools NOT subscribing to EAP could consider joining, or providing another similar source of help and support.
  3. Teachers at ALL stages of their career need access to help and support that is appropriate for their needs. The complex causes of stress and anxiety (discussed in the previous post) need to be addressed and symptoms of reported stress should be taken seriously and not be subjected to stigma or further bullying.
  4. Provision of healthy ways to relieve stress and anxiety – exercise opportunities and reading groups for example – could be more widely promoted in schools.
  5. Talking with others – colleagues and whānau and others – is an under-developed, under-researched but highly valued coping strategy for teachers in every sector, all over the world. In view of the causes of stress reported in the previous post, school managers could provide more open opportunities for sharing experiences, advice for managing workloads and encouraging ongoing professional dialogue between and within groups of teachers, students, parents and governors.

~ Ursula Edgington & Dianne Khan

Further Reading

What is really stressing NZ teachers?

Stress, anxiety and depression in the teaching profession – part 1

SOSNZ Teacher Stress Survey – Part 2

Survey reveals crisis in beginning teacher workforce – NZEI

NZ Speech Therapist asks Education Select Committee to create a truly inclusive education system

November 11, 2016

To the Education and Science Select Committee Submission on the Education (Update) Amendment Bill

From Shannon Hennig

As a speech-language therapist and inclusion education consultant, I have dedicated my career to ensuring that students with moderate to profound speech, language, and communication differences can access education and learning in an inclusive setting.

My areas of expertise are autism, AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication), and teaching literacy skills to children with limited speech. I am a PhD level researcher who collaborates internationally on disability issues, assistive technology, and communication disorders.

I also write as someone who grew up in a truly inclusive school system overseas. I was educated alongside children with mild to profound disabilities. As an academically gifted student, I never once felt held back by quality inclusive practice. Instead it made my teachers better, my principals more thoughtful, and my learning richer. I have family members with disabilities as well.

I wish to share my comments, which primarily address the following sections of the bill: 

  • Schedule 2, Part 2: Powers and Functions of Board of Trustees
  • S38: Part 3A Communities of Online Learning
  • S43: Teaching and Learning Programmes, Monitoring and Reporting Student Performance
  • S47: Off-site locations for school
  • S48: Establishment of Communities of Learning

I urge you to make sure that the Update be amended so that it ensures that all children have access to a publicly funded, meaningful, and appropriate education, as is their right.

In its current form, the urgent unmet needs of students with disabilities and their families are not addressed.

Initially, I welcomed the introduction of this bill as a long overdue update to an Education Bill that does not currently meet the needs of all students. However, many students – particularly those with mild to moderate learning differences, children with autism, and students with mental health conditions – have significant challenges in accessing a free and appropriate education in New Zealand.

Before we introduce experimental ideas, such as CoOLs, I urge parliament to delay passing this bill until the funding, equity, and quality of our inclusive education system is brought up to international standards for developed nations. Funding and training are the biggest barriers for achieving this – but not insurmountably so.

Legal provisions need to be created that allow speedy, affordable, and transparent recourse when exclusionary practices occur. Such exclusionary practices are surprisingly common and include encouraging students to attend other schools, stand-downs and exclusions without appropriately providing a functional learning environment for the student, or the more insidious (and often inadvertent) practice of schools that do not include (or cannot afford to provide) universal design. Over time this can foster a state of such anxiety and needless academic failure that a student refuses to attend school. I personally know of at least 6 families in which a student is not in school because their learning environments were unable to accommodate their learning needs.

Without providing adequate resources, policy, and legal provisions to address historic and systematic gaps in inclusive education provision, NZ will be in violation of our international commitments and create future financial liabilities.

For example, there are tangible societal costs to not getting inclusion right:

  • increased underemployment for students in the future
  • increased underemployment for parents of current students
  • reduced educational staff moral and job satisfaction (leading to attrition of trained teachers)
  • mental health conditions from school bullying, academic anxiety/failure, and/or social isolation
  • increased incarceration rates

Of course, the real reason for making positive change should be the children. And their families. And all of us in the teaching professions who are working so hard under such difficult conditions.

The Ministry of Education urgently needs to conduct a consultation that properly considers the concerns of students, professionals (confidentially, without fear of employment repercussions), and families.

Having attended some of the consultation sessions last year, a significant number of parents (a) did not know about the meetings and/or (b) felt that the format firmly steered the conversation away from the issues they felt were most pertinent to their child’s learning. The term “rubber stamping” was frequently used to describe these sessions by parents. There were tears at many of the meetings and angry conversations in the parking lots. The issues they raised do not appear to be well addressed (if at all in some cases) in this bill.

Having previously practiced as a school-based speech therapist in the USA, I believe it would be prudent to get inclusive education policy right as well-crafted policy and legislation, rather than allow it to be created piece-meal through litigation for rights violations. As I am sure many have written, there are concerns that current practice is not aligned with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Equally, the Ministry of Education urgently needs to collect meaningful data that accurately reflects the reality on the ground. Before we focus on student outcomes, we need to understand what is actually happening (or not) to ensure that students are in school, being taught effectively, and feel safe.

Before holding students accountable to standards that may or may not be appropriate for their goals, we need to ensure that we collect meaningful, concise data on what the system is and isn’t doing to create environments conducive to learning. Do all teachers have training in autism? Are there discriminatory patterns in enrolment and expulsion? Do all children with learning and/or communication disabilities have access to appropriate accommodation, assistive technology, and interventions? This is the type of information that must inform policy going forward. I believe it is more relevant and of greater interest than national standards data at this time. Before we can improve student outcomes, we need to measure and address practices that may be setting students up for failure (or success, as the case might be) without being punitive to teachers.

We need to get this update right.

It needs to build on what we are already doing well, and effectively remedy what is not, in a futureoriented manner using NZ centric solutions.

It needs to directly address the issues I frequently observe that I believe conflict with (what I hope is) the spirit of NZ Education policy is. Specifically,

  • I observe families paying privately for teaching assistants in order for their child to attend school
  • I observe families offering to pay for teacher and teaching aid training and being denied this (and no training being offered)
  • I see children with disabilities being denied literacy and communication instruction who have the skills to learn from such methods
  • I see children with mild-moderate learning disabilities being placed in mainstream classrooms without specialised instructed to address their skills gaps, nor resources and training for the teaching staff regarding how to support their learning
  • In some cases, I observe what appears to be well-meaning practice that is outdated, ineffective, and closer to childminding than educational instruction
  • I see bullying being allowed to persist and inappropriate comments from teaching staff reflecting outdating thinking about children with communication impairments. Sometimes these are even said in front of the student (e.g., “they’re just being naughty,” “remember how lovely and quite it was before he learned to talk,” “She doesn’t need this communication device” etc.)
  • Most worrying, I see teachers aching, pleading, and begging for resources, release time, teaching assistants, and training to help them better teach children who learn, think, and understand differently. They are too often being denied such requests, or don’t know how to tap into the limited resources out there.

Specifically, we need an update to our Educational Law that ensures that (and provides provisions for) all of the following:

  • Removal of the introduction of CoOLs until the education system first addresses the systemwide, unmet needs of students with learning needs – including students with mild to moderate learning needs. These students are completely underfunded at this time and CoOLs will not provide the small group and 1:1 face-to-face, personal instruction they need. Many of these students struggle with executive functioning disorders, which by their nature make online learning, self-discipline, and non-differentiate instruction a poor fit for their learning needs.
  • Seclusion should have no place in our education system.
  • Appropriate training, staffing, school culture, and access to specialist knowledge (including parent expertise) is needed so that inhumane practices, like seclusion, do not occur.
  • Transparent and enforceable mechanisms are needed to address any and all violations to students’ right to a free and appropriate education.
  • Inclusive practices need to be reported to the MOE and effectively audited. These should not be cumbersome.
  • Schools with exclusionary practices need to be held accountable. Parents need to have clear pathways for dispute resolution, and all results need to be communicated to families in writing.
  • There need to be clear, enforceable timelines for when concerns are raised about a child’s learning and when appropriate support and interventions are expected to be put into place.
  • Teachers need access to effective training in how to support language development, teach children with learning differences, and have the resources to teach in smaller groups when that is what is what is needed.
  • Teachers-in-training need to have sufficient training in how to understand and teach children with autism, children with limited speech, and those who struggle to use and understand spoken language.
  • Schools and ECEs currently are financially penalised for including students. The reverse needs to be true. All children should be able to attend their local schools with appropriate funding and support. The system should not have policies that make a child with learning needs a “financial burden” for school. This only encourages exclusionary practices.
  • Students’ emotional and mental health needs to be supported at school – funding and support for guidance counsellors needs to be increased.
  • Students’ speech, language, and communication skills are fundamental to school learning and participation. All schools should have access to a speech-language therapist who is available on a weekly basis to provide just-in-time support, demonstrations, and specialised intervention. They should be as valuable and integrated within the school community as music and physical education teachers.

I also want to specifically highlight the concerning proposal to focus funding of specialist support and intervention on the youngest students. To be clear, early intervention is essential. It makes a difference and saves money. That said, many impairments only become an issue when academic and social demands increase in the older years.

Specifically, clinically the following are well known “service request bumps” to any school-based speech therapist from America (where we serve all children with a documented speech-language communication impairment that significantly interferes with their ability to access the curriculum):

  • Around 8-9 years of age, children transition from learning to read to the act of reading to learn. This is a stage where many subtle language differences start being significant challenges. But this marks one of the cut-off ages when speech-language input tends to be reduced in New Zealand.
  • Around 12-14, students need to learn to apply language skills in more abstract ways and process more complex language. This is another period where more kids start to struggle because of subtle underlying language differences. They often didn’t need support before, but now do.
  • In year 10, behaviour support options drop off in our system, however this is when our young people are thrown into a pressure cooker of high stakes tests that are linguistically demanding (even in maths) while attempting to navigate the social pressures of high school. Those with weaker language skills and/or social communication challenges need support and intervention at this stage – often for the first time in their lives. It is a shame to throw away a 10 year investment in a child just as they are about to finish education – for us and for the student.

My impression is that the Update, by design, does not address the concerns listed above. Given this, the following should be omitted from the Update:

  • Global funding – without an appropriate increase in funding levels and school attitudes, global funding is expected to increase exclusionary practices if students with disabilities are perceived to increase budgetary pressures on local schools.
  • CoOLs– children who have difficulty learning without specialised and individualised instruction are unlike to benefit from this model. Furthermore, it goes against the basic principles of inclusion.
  • Giving too much power to school boards without proper checks and balances puts many students at risk. We need an independent organisation to investigate complaints and enforce child rights regarding education.

In summary: while the Education Law in our country needs an update, it must be done correctly and in a matter that targets the known, pressing issues our schools face. This bill does not appear to address these matters adequately.

The Ministry of Education needs to be given the resources, power, and direction to ensure that all children in New Zealand, regardless of any sensory, cognitive, or physical impairment, have access to a publicly funded and appropriate education. Exclusionary practices should be prevented through appropriate funding systems, staff development, and promotion of inclusive attitudes. If exclusionary practices continue, principals and boards of trustees must be held accountable.

The NZ education is positioned to become a world leader in Inclusive Education, but only if this update is amended in such a way that ensures all of our young people will experience school as a place of security, learning, exciting challenge, and community. Families should not be expected to foot the bill for this essential public service.

ALL children are our collective responsibility as a society and we all benefit from inclusive education policy and practice. We are watching closely, and wish you well on this important piece of legislation.

– Shannon Hennig

Dear Friends, forgive us a few hours to try and safeguard the future of all Kiwi kids

teacher voiceDear Friends, Neighbours and carers of NZ kids,

There will be press criticism of teachers and unions here in NZ, over the meetings our unions have called.

The unions have done this to provide information, and a discussion forum about the new funding system Govt. is pushing through, which is an old, over-burdening and ineffective one, under a newish label.

It is a serious issue that will impact on the quality and the equality of our education system here in NZ for years to come.

That organisations are uniting on this one is surely a huge indicator of the seriousness of this latest move. Teachers are not a militant profession, despite what press would like you to believe. They usually get vocal when the well-being of students is threatened.

The issues are far bigger than the Govt would have the public believe.

It is a monster, that will leave boards and Principals with great difficulties, as all funding is lumped into one without protected components, such as the basic level of a set pot for Special Needs, (already not enough), that most schools choose to supplement, but some can’t. So when schools don’t have to account for it, it will all depend on the individual ethos of the Principal and Board.

To achieve funding for highest needs there are complex processes, with serious paperwork, however, on the back of these changes, there will be changes imminent there too and they will not be driven by better provision, but by cost.

New ways of identifying how much is allocated to meet high need schools, will be very challenging and provide another complex layer to battle through to secure appropriate funds for a school.

The result will likely be a hike in class sizes, with reduced support, and inaccurate fallible data about class size being bandied about as ‘proof’ class size doesn’t matter.

Believe me it matters to the quiet kid in the corner, the kid with APD, ASD, DYSLEXIA, to all the kids who need extending, or who have a query to be answered in a lesson and to the mental health of the teacher leading the class.

Also the elephant in the room of salaries. Schools with higher numbers of experienced staff, will have less income to spend on other aspects of school management. The pressure then shifts to how to cut bills in other ways. What would you be happy to see axed from your child’s educational experience? That arts group experience that makes them want to attend each day?

School budget management is already challenging, but increasing the responsibilities of Principals and Boards creates a massive learning need for them, so pushing it through will add extra strain to a stressful job.

So remember, reports in the News, and comments in the Media, are written by those who do not work in the profession, and are subject to their individual bias.

Remember that Ministers and most politicians currently do not listen to teachers, do not recognise the tremendous efforts and sacrifices they make, and undervalue the profession. They seem to see us as agents to deliver a very set prescribed agenda.

Teachers teach because they want to help their students to be the best they can be. They are driven to support their students, often at huge personal cost to their health and well-being, and that of their family.

So forgive us a few hours to try and safeguard the future of all New Zealand kids and the sanity and health of the individuals who go the extra mile daily.

Thanks for supporting us in our efforts to keep NZ education great and fair.

~ Carrie Sherring, NZ Teacher and SENCO.

PS If you could query the use of public funds to prop up Private Sector education with the Govt. , that would be awesome.

Shared with Carrie’s permission. 

Further Reading: http://betterfunding.org.nz/

#betterfunding

What is really stressing NZ teachers?

This is the first of a series of posts looking at the data from the full Health and Wellbeing Survey conducted earlier in 2016. Our earlier posts looked at the survey’s first 100 responses, but this series considers all 684 responses and looks at the written feedback teachers shared in the open comments sections.*

How many teachers are suffering from stress & anxiety?

Teachers report high levels of stress, with over 80% of respondents saying they felt stressed or anxious at work half of the time or more.  Over 35% said they felt this way most of the time, and a staggering 7% said they felt like this always.

Only three respondents said they never felt stressed, representing 0.44 of respondents.

wellbeing survey q 1 graph

What causes teachers’ stress and anxiety?

Teachers were then asked what they judged to be the main causes of any stress, anxiety or depression they felt due to work. A comments box was included. There were 2028 box ticks and hundreds of comments from the 670 respondents to this question.

 

wellbeing survey q 2 graph

Summary of the findings of Question 2

Clearly workload is a key contributor to teachers’ workplace stress with 79.4% of people identifying it as a main contributor. Pressure from Management was identified by just over half of the respondents, and Students’ needs and students’ behaviour were identified by 44.8% and 45% of respondents respectively.

Lack of support in school was identified as a contributor to stress by just over 31% of respondents; Changes in educational policies stressed over 28% of respondents, and ERO/audit  almost 23%.

Interestingly, the comments were sometimes weighted quite differently.

Workload

Overwhelmingly, teachers identified workload as a key issue, with 532 respondents ticking that box and a 29 comments specifically mentioning it as a concern.Comments included:

“Not enough time in the day to complete everything that needs to be done. Increase[d] load of paperwork and assessment.”

“Too many meetings… 3 a week…”

“The requirements for tracking student progress; reporting to parents; and engaging family involvement in student learning (to name but a few)…”

“The paperwork (sometimes in duplicate) takes over.”

“Too many tasks to complete in an eight hour day.”

“I feel stressed that I cannot be both a good mum and a good teacher because of workload and being exhausted most of the time.”

“Paperwork, meetings, balance of work and family time”

“When a 55-60 hour week is the exception, not the norm”

Alongside these and other general comments on workload, some specific areas were mentioned:

Professional Development: Comments identified Professional Development as a specific source of pressure, either because of the volume of it (5 comments) or because it is done and then never implemented (3 comments) which staff said left them feeling that precious time was wasted.

“…so little time to create meaningful lessons because of professional development. Always navel gazing and not producing results…”

“we do what is asked of us then it kind of goes nowhere”

“…our school doing every initiative going…”

National Standards and Testing: Also mentioned were National Standards and the volume of testing (11 comments) and fast-changing education policies (3 comments).

“Seemingly back-to-back testing”

“having to assign a below OTJ [Overall Teacher Judgement] to children at 40 weeks, when I know that they will be totally fine by 80 or 120 weeks, they just need a little more time”

“too much assessment of 5 year olds”

Management and Colleagues

A large number of respondents commented on the negative impact of colleagues, mentioning staff bullying (25 comments), poor leaders (16 comments), pressure from management, poor teamwork and disrespectful behaviour (7 comments) and overly negative colleagues (3 comments) as causes of stress and anxiety.

Comments on management:

“Not enough realistic support from management.”

“Principal blaming poor ERO report on teachers… Seeing colleagues depressed and talking of suicide”

“Unrealistic expectations from management that teachers say yes to because they are all scared to tell the truth.:

“We have a dysfunctional senior management…”

“Poor management … lack of communication, lack of follow up…”

“Bullying Principal who has systematically gotten rid of teachers who support the policies and work of the previous principal…”

“Bullied by Principal, DP and AP”

Comments on teams and colleagues:

“Leading a frustrating team…”

“Trying to work with adults who don’t want to change their practice.”

“Being made to feel inadequate by teaching colleagues”

“Workplace bullying”

“I am an experienced teacher… I have had derogatory comments… considered a ‘dinosaur'”

“Politics between staff.”

“… have an extremely difficult staff member in my team and am continually handling complaints from parents and other staff about [that person]”

Parents: Perhaps surprisingly, the factor most frequently mentioned in the comments as causing teacher stress was pressure from parents (35 comments), with only two mentions of the lack of parent support being an issue and 33 commenting on this. Comments included:

“unrealistic expectations from parents”

“pushy aggressive parents”

“…expectation from parents that teachers should be able to ‘fix’ students who are not meeting standards… that it’s not part of a parent’s role to assist students in their learning”

“parental gripes”

“Parents … not allowing their children to develop their key competencies”

“Parents not reading emails, paper newsletters or notice boards and then getting frustrated that they were not well informed.”

“Parent behaviour”

“Parent demands”

“Parent expectation/pressure/lack of support has also been a factor at times.”

“Overbearing parents”

Students: It is, perhaps, telling that student behaviour was very rarely identified in the comments as the cause of stress (3 respondents), with much more focus on concerns about meeting students’ educational, emotional and health needs adequately (over 20 respondents). Of these, eight specifically mentioned special educational needs, five mentioned lack of funding or resources to support students as being of concern, and three mentioned out-of-school factors such as poor housing and health concerns.

(This feedback should be considered alongside that relating to testing and National Standards (above), which also had at its heart concern regarding the impact on students.)

Comments included:

“It’s about the lack of adequate funding to resource the support systems we need.”

“We need a calm space in the school…that is manned by a counsellor for our students whose lives are just too challenging today.”

“5 students, 1 supported… others not diagnosed”

“…teachers are parenting, feeding, psychoanalysing children as well as getting the child to national standard”

“hugely diverse needs of my learners … never enough time to plan and deliver a fully differentiated programme…”

“No help for children who come from a terrible home life to school…”

“children with special needs or high learning needs taking ages to be diagnosed at CDC and even longer… before funding is available for extra assistance…”

“Social issues in families and the wider community”

“Having children with special needs who don’t get funding or a diagnosis quick enough to help support them.”

My thoughts on what needs to change?

Clearly there are many and diverse, often overlapping, causes of teacher stress and anxiety, but certain themes are evident. Workload is the most glaring issue, closely followed by internal and external pressures on teachers who do not always feel adequately equipped to deal with those pressures or supported in doing so.

Management, you should be querying your own practice and asking where you can make changes to limit stress and also build collegiality. make sure your staff are properly supported and not overloaded, and ensure PD is targeted to actual needs.

Parents, you must work with teachers. They cannot solve all of society’s ills, and it isn’t reasonable to expect them to do so. Also, bear in mind that they are at the mercy of systems and processes usually outside of their control. It’s easy to become frustrated with the messenger, but it isn’t productive. Most importantly, talk to your children’s teachers – form relationships, be present where you can – truly that is a huge step towards helping your child achieve the best they can.

Teachers, please support each other. Teaching can be the most collegial job in the world, and teamwork can be what makes a difficult work situation otherwise bearable. So actively build those relationships. Where you do have concerns, you can call your union’s helpline, contact EAP (if your school is a member), or call one of the other available helplines.

Whatever you do, please reach out for support. You are worth it.

~ Dianne

* Thank you to NZEI Wellington Council for providing financial support to allow us to access the full data set and undertake this analysis. 

Image of woman with red folders courtesy of marcolm at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Related Posts on this Survey:

https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/05/04/stress-anxiety-and-depression-in-the-teaching-profession-part-1/

https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/05/07/sosnz-teacher-stress-survey-part-2/

An NZ teacher asks, why am I so racist

Jamie Banks is half white. Or is he? What does it even mean?

Here, in a fabulously funny and thought-provoking speech, and through a reflection on his own personal journey, Jamie reflects on what it means to be white, half white, not white, and how our view of ourselves influences how we view others.

“…although I had been a victim of racism, I was racist myself”

Truly worth watching and thinking about.

 

If you want to speak to Jamie about his speech or teaching, he can be reached here.

Ka pai, Jamie – love your work.

~ Dianne

Jamie Banks is an author, actor, rapper, performance poet and teacher, who has been campaigning since 2008 to get Emotional Intelligence (and now also Financial and Business Literacy) formally introduced into the curriculum.

Professional page: https://www.facebook.com/Banksta.Rapper/?fref=ts

Emotional Intelligence in NZ Schools: https://www.facebook.com/Emotional-Intelligence-in-NZ-Schools-467013176736336/?fref=ts

Business Literacy in Schools: https://www.facebook.com/Business.Literacy.in.NZ.Schools/?fref=ts

Why NZ should care that teachers in England are on strike

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On Tuesday 5th July 2016, thousands of teachers in England are striking, and the reasons that are doing so are very pertinent to what is happening in New Zealand.  Everything that is happening there is already being put in place here, bit by bit by bit.

Here, Charlotte Carson explains the reasons that the teachers are striking and why parents should care:

Parents – are you a wee bit pissed off that teachers are on strike again? And it’s all about their pay?!!

I am a teacher and I will be on strike on Tuesday. I want to explain why.

1. It’s not really about pay.
As a profession I think we are well paid. That is why we have good quality professionals working hard to teach children, inspire them and look after them. But this is about to change.

2. The White Paper
The government’s latest white paper proposes DEREGULATION of teachers’ pay and conditions. Currently all local authority employed teachers in England are paid according to the same contract. Like nurses and doctors, we have automatic pay progression (so the longer you serve the more you get – an incentive to stay in the profession), pay portability (if we move schools we get the same basic pay – they can’t pay us less – this stops a competition between schools for teachers based on money – without it richer schools will always poach good staff from poorer schools) .

3. What is performance-related pay?
The introduction of performance related pay will mean that teachers get paid according to exam results. As a parent I would never want a teacher to look at my child and think ‘is he going to wreck my data and stop my pay rise?’ We are not working in sales – it is hugely problematic to pay us based on exam results.

4. Why should non-teachers care about teachers pay and conditions?
Deregulation also means that our working hours, holidays, pay, sick pay and maternity pay will be individually decided by the employer – the academy that is. An Academy in Manchester has in its contract that maternity pay will be ‘subject to affordability’. Who will become a teacher if the terms and conditions are unattractive?

A mum said to me yesterday ‘but in my job I don’t get good maternity pay – why should I care about teachers?’. My answer is this: public sector pay and conditions set the bar for private sector pay and conditions. If we get screwed you will get screwed too.

5. What’s the problem with academies and free schools?
Academies and free schools are businesses. That means their primary concern is money. The government is paving the way for them to become profit-making businesses. Already many academies double up as wedding venues, conference facilities etc. No harm in generating revenue eh? Well only if it’s being ploughed back into the school and the children. Let’s remember schools are about children aren’t they? It seems not.

Many academies including Harris academies have recently got in trouble for deliberately excluding ‘problem children’ and paying local authority schools to take them off their hands – because they wreck the data. How can you publish your excellent GCSE results if some stubborn children just won’t make progress! The answer in some academies is to get rid of them – then you don’t have to report their results.

So if the money isn’t spent on the kids where does it go?

Good question!
Do a Google search on Haberdashers Free School account fraud. He ran off with £4million! How did he manage to do that? Answer – because he was only accountable to the board of governors and the head teacher. Local authority schools are overseen by a democratically elected local council. Academies don’t have to bother with that level of accountability. And the government also wants to get rid of parent governors. This would mean that academies would only be accountable to themselves. We’re talking about millions of pounds of public money. Already there have been many documented cases of fraud in academies and free schools.

6. Qualified teachers v. unqualified teachers
Academies and free schools don’t have to employ qualified teachers. Unqualified teachers are cheaper of course. But I know which one I want teaching my children.

This is all I have time to write just now.
The problem is that most teachers are so busy that they haven’t taken time to communicate all this with parents. I think we need to get much better at doing that.

But just think about your children’s teachers – do you trust them? If you do then please trust that they are on strike for the right reasons – for the future of our jobs and our schools – defending education from privatisation.”

New Zealand parents, take note – this is all coming our way, too.

~ Dianne

“I love teaching, but…” Asking are the unions doing enough to fight poor reforms?

A teacher writes:

I love teaching, I love the spark in the eyes of the learners, I love to challenge myself and the kids to achieve the best they can.

I try supporting my colleagues as best as I can, I try hard to be the Teacher I wanted my kids to have. I am not perfect, but I extend myself, I learn, I try to take on board new ideas and new ways forward. I try hard to have an open mind.

I work in a supportive environment, with kind and wonderful people. I am not unhappy in my job.

I am saying that before I write the following because I want to make it clear I am not negative about education. I think there are amazing people out there, I think there is some, new and amazing stuff going on and I want to be a part of it, but…

This week I was at a union meeting again, and again I left angry and disappointed.

Not for myself, but for our students.

The real issues, are being swept under the mat.

The agreement we were presented with was toothless, there were some small steps, actually tiny steps.

The Rep was keen to point out the gains-the small victories, I feel the negotiating team no doubt had a hard job getting any sort of agreement in the current climate. The issue though is increasingly that we are presented with information and told to accept it, that there is no alternative.

ID-10067205.jpgBeing told that we would be ‘hauled back’ (words of the rep) to more meetings if we didn’t agree to the settlement – sounded like a threat. As did ‘we will lose the back pay if it is not passed immediately’.

To be honest, if their was an alternative-such as fighting for the rights of students, I would gladly give up the pay.

Being told the one day in 2017, was a bargaining chip for further improvements in terms of release time, will be no good to the increasing number of teachers suffering from physical symptoms of stress now. There is not another day in 2018. This is a stepping stone we were told to help further negotiation in the next round. I have a feeling, many of my colleagues in the room may have left the profession by then.

Where is the union’s responsibility to protect its members from undue stress and workload?

So when do we fight the real issues, the reduction of the Teachers in Early Childhood, measuring kids in core subjects before they have truly settled into school, setting unrealistic targets, manipulating funding to make it look like an increase, when in real terms it is a reduction.

Increasing the paper workload due to the nature of the changes and expectations, but not giving teachers time to do this.

Teachers who are so exhausted and stressed they are breaking down. How many high quality teachers will we lose as they burn out? How many have lost the passion they had?

I would gladly forgo pay increases to secure release time benefits for our Teachers and Senior Staff to protect their health.

I would again give back pay increases, to see clear provision of professional development that schools can afford in areas that they need, or that enhance expertise in areas beyond the ‘core’.
I would give back the small ‘gains’ we secured to see my colleagues able to cope again.

Sorry for the rant.

We need the Union to stand up for us and our students and be prepared to help us get the parents on side. It looks as if our union has lost its teeth.

Unions are so important; they need to represent and present, galvanise support and be prepared to go the distance.

The whole point of paid union meetings being in school time was to acknowledge that Teachers needed time to discuss issues in an open forum.

We now have these in our non contact time as a norm. We do not want to disrupt our pupils and their families, but our time is very precious too and it is time we use to support the learning of the students.

A meeting should be about discussion and a level presentation of the alternative to accepting the agreement, and a chance to validate how we are feeling.

I resent being stood over as I consider my vote and being asked for it before I was ready; there was an assumption that there was nothing to consider.

Teachers are too tired to fight, they can barely meet the demands of their jobs. In 10 years of teaching in New Zealand and after 27 years in the profession I love, I am seeing more newly qualified Teachers become disillusioned after a few years, and excellent high quality teachers considering their future in the profession.

Teacher Burnout is a huge issue. The union needs to study it, help us present evidence, and to assist the fight to stop it.

Sorry for the rant. Frustrated.”

What are your thoughts?

~ Dianne

Notes: Original post shared with the author’s permission; Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

Dear Hekia, I don’t want to be an All Black

Hekia Parata shared this meme on her Facebook page today, and good on her.  As all good Kiwis know, we must never miss a chance to link something – anything – to the All Blacks.

Hekia all blacks meme

However, the analogy is entirely faulty.

Does she propose we take just the top, say 15, students in the country and throw all we have at them. Fund them the most, give them the very best equipment, best medical care, best physiotherapists, best food, best buildings and sports fields, best transport, and all the positive support a country can muster?

But what about the other students? No, that can’t be what she meant.

Perhaps she meant the teachers are the All Blacks?

That might work, because we do and always have used data to inform us in our classrooms and schools, and we do try to improve and have fun. Excellent, that must be it.

Oh, wait… I presume The All Blacks don’t have to run their planned moves by the Minister, though? Or send their data in a couple of times a year for some civil servants to check over? Or get sudden edicts from the Ministry or Minister saying how they should play from now on. Hmmm… so the analogy falls apart again.

Of course it falls apart no matter which way you look at it, because it’s just a soundbite and means nothing.

Teachers are not the All Blacks. Nor are we the All Black captain.

We coach the ones who play well, the ones who don’t,

the ones with boots, the ones without,

the ones who would rather have a punch up than play to the rules,

the ones who want to play but are too shy or unsure,

the ones who think they are Richie McCaw when in fact they are more Ritchie Valens,

the ones who try so hard but never quite get to the top team,

the ones who blow your mind by making great leaps forward,

the hungry ones who can’t focus,

the depressed ones whose minds are somewhere else,

the ones going home to a warm dry house and the ones going home to mould,

the ones who can’t see the ball,

the ones who run the wrong way,

the ones who’d rather draw the ball or redesign it,

the ones who want to be an All Black

and the ones who don’t –

the ones who can be an All Black

and the ones who can’t.

What we are is the coach of all the teams – ALL of them – and we can’t and shouldn’t pick our players. We should teach the team we get.

So, if being an All Black teacher means picking only the very best, I’d rather be a little league coach any day.

~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ

Reducing teachers to remote-controlled robots

What on earth is happening to teaching? There’s a wave of almost unbelievable practices appearing in classrooms. This is the latest jaw-dropper and, truly, I am stunned:

“Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing.

It c3powas supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing *immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.* In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies.

I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. (Source)

Where to begin?

The teacher is forbidden to speak in whole sentences.

The teacher must narrate what is happening in the room: ‘Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.’

The teacher must speak in a monotone voice.

The teacher must stand on both legs and not favour one over the other.

The teacher, it seems, mustn’t teach but must manage, and do it in the most robotic way possible.

It sounds as though there’s no room for joy, no room for praise, no room for individualisation. No room for the human, personal connections that are vital to a healthy learning environment. Just a teacher with an earpiece being directed from the back of the room by three people selling a product:

robot teacher Jetsons“*Give him a warning,* said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did as instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use.

But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again.

*Tell him he has a detention,* my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom *coaches* huddled around a walkie talkie.

*Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!*”

Teachers, when you look back ten, fifteen or twenty years, did you ever imagine it could ever come to this?

And yet it has.

New Zealand teachers please don’t be complacent and think this is just the Americans, we wouldn’t ever do this.  We are not immune to madcap and ill-thought-out education reforms, nor are we immune to the lure of the chance to make a dollar or two from selling snake oil. This will especially be a danger once the TPPA is signed and free trade overrides education policy.

KIPP charter school chain, who sell this method, have their beady eye on NZ and have been here to visit business groups and the Minister…

Like it or not, one way or another, US education reforms deforms seem to eventually find their way to Aotearoa, no matter how far away they seem at the start.

Unless you want an earpiece, three coaches and a complete castration of your teaching skills, you must actively resist.

Kia kaha, teachers. Stay strong.

______________________________

Source: http://edushyster.com/i-am-not-tom-brady/

Further readings:

https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2012/10/28/nacts-vision-for-nz-education-you-scratch-my-back-and-ill-scratch-yours/

http://dianeravitch.net/2012/08/23/a-challenge-to-kipp/

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

Dear Peter Hughes, we need to talk about discriminatory teacher pay scales…

Fair-unfair wagesAn open letter to Secretary for Education, Peter Hughes…

Dear Mr Hughes

I am sure you are aware that a group of devoted and experienced teachers have been receiving an appallingly unfair remuneration deal in this country for a number of years now. I am of course referring to teachers who completed their qualifications either before or during the period in which the degree qualification was phased into Teacher’s Colleges.

I’m also sure you will agree, that it reasonable that these teachers who are can often be equipped with over thirty years of experience (and that’s after completing three years of education with world-leading institutions to boot) should be able to earn the same as their equally dedicated and hard-working colleagues that have more recently graduated.

The current scheme is not just puzzlingly inequitable to a number of dedicated and expert teachers, but it also undermines the reputation of our education system. By instituting such a needlessly dichotomised strata, we are now implying that the teachers who completed qualifications during this period are not worth as much as teachers who have studied more recently. Which as you can imagine is pretty insulting to people that have dedicated their life to education.

To illustrate the issue, the following is a real life example of a teacher in this situation:

Teacher X graduated studied for three years at The University of Waikato and graduated with a Hamilton Teachers College Diploma with Commendation in 1981. She has been teaching for over 20 years and each year has completed professional development, which has been very relevant and useful and has included training in Reading Recovery, Literacy Leadership and specialised teaching in The Arts.

In a role at her previous school Ms X held a permanent unit for leading The Arts and a fixed term unit for Literacy Leadership. The permanent unit allowed her to progress to a higher pay scale, but still not to the same rate as a younger, more inexperienced teacher who also completed three years of study with the same or any other university (just at a later date when it was called a degree).

Ms X then moved to a new location due to a change in her husband’s career. She was appointed a position at a local primary school on the spot at her first interview due to her experience, expertise, and glowing references. Her new role included a unit to lead literacy with a focus on writing, but because schools have the autonomy to decide how units can be used, she discovered that all curriculum units at her new school are fixed term and therefore went back to the maximum salary on the Q1 scale ($56,177) plus the unit allowance.

You must agree that this is somewhat confusing when comparatively teachers with a three-year Bachelor of Teaching degree can earn $68,074 after only seven years in the classroom. Especially when you consider teachers in the same position as Ms X also completed three years at Teachers College. The younger teachers have done nothing wrong and should be celebrated for having the courage to undertake an increasingly thankless career that has become cynically devalued by a government looking to shift the blame for their own social failings onto their most dedicated public servants. But it simply does not make any sense whatsoever for us to divide our teachers along these lines, when they are all there for the same reasons and are all equally qualified to do this work.

I realise this is an issue that the NZEI has been attempting to address for years with no resolution in sight. The Advanced Classroom Expertise Teacher (ACET) allowance is not an appropriate resolution. While it might help a few selected teachers who are employed by schools which are supportive of the scheme, it does not really address the inequity and it will take a long time to be implemented. The other issue with the already problematic ACET allowance is that it does not help rectify the damage done to the reputation of the education system or educators who gained their qualification from this period, who received sound professional training.

The most logical and easy solution that would completely eradicate the issue would be for The Ministry of Education to simply recognise the qualifications of those in the position of Ms X, and who are still teaching, as the equivalent of the current degree credentials (which they are). I fail to see any explanation of why this has still not happened, especially considering the relatively small number of teachers this would affect in 2015.

Mr Hughes, addressing the discriminatory system for older experienced, effective and dedicated teachers who haven’t had the opportunity to complete degrees is long over-due. I strongly urge The Ministry to remember that these teachers, who despite facing substantial financial disadvantages when compared to several of their colleagues, have made a significant contributions to young lives in this country for a number of years. It is well beyond time that their professionalism, expertise, commitment and loyalty is acknowledged and rewarded accordingly.

I look forward to the day these teachers are given a fair go. In fact I look forward to the day when all teachers are given a fair go.

Regards

Bevan Morgan

Punishing poor children to prove a point is bad economics as well as cruel – Bevan Morgan

defend the children of the poor

Bevan Morgan writes:

“I’ve written a lot recently about our government’s pathetic effort last week in shutting down the food in schools legislation. And I’ve learned a few things since then.

“The biggest takeaway has been that we have a major problem with how people conceptualise issues. Listening to people’s attitudes about poverty in New Zealand it is clear that it’s not simply a case of people not knowing about poverty – it is that that they don’t actually understand the very concept at its core foundation. Describing the reality and impact of poverty to people from middle NZ is like trying to explain string theory to someone who has never even heard of the term ‘physics’. You may as well be speaking Cantonese.

“There have been a lot of people tell me various myths, misconceptions, and out right lies about the poor in New Zealand. But even if all of those things were true (which they are not) not one single person has been able to explain to me how anything that poor parents may do wrong is the fault of the children.

“Not one single person.

“Because people are so angry at the poor for being poor, they have no problem with the wealthy ripping us off by $9.5 billion a year. And they have no problem feeding the future generation to the wolves despite the fact that they profess to love kids. That’s insane.

“Even if we look at it selfishly, people are so angry at people for being poor and daring to want assistance that they are literally willing to punish potential future doctors and engineers just to make a point.

In pure dollars and cents terms, our attitude to poor children is an absolute waste of future money: We are throwing away future billions for the cost of some Weetbix.”

“This is so counter-intuitive to human nature it is absolutely staggering. But sadly our leaders have done such a good job of hiding poverty that nothing is going to change any time soon. Unfortunately things will only change when inequality becomes so ridiculous that we have lost our middle class.

“But then again if the USA is anything to go by, this won’t even make a difference.”

– Written by Bevan Morgan and shared with permission.  Read more by Bevan, at https://bevan-morgan.squarespace.com/

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