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Forum on the Productivity Commission and Tertiary Education


The Clocktower Building is where they have filmed the latest series of Mastermind and also where QPEC held its 2016 forum and AGM on Saturday 30 April.  The crowd was fairly small but we had a great range of speakers.

The focus was the Productivity Commission’s review of the tertiary education system.

David Cooke, our tertiary spokesperson, started off by discussing the ‘buzz words’ adopted by the Productivity Commission in it 78 questions, and what these were likely to mean in terms of policies as tertiary education becomes reduced to a cost-cutting economic system.  David suggested we needed to respond positively by offering alternative visions to that of the Productivity Commission.  One point that a couple of speakers raised was the view of the system as characterised by inertia.  Anyone who knows tertiary education, it was pointed out, is very clear that it is far from ‘inert’, whatever that means.

In response, Jane Kelsey said that there were some real issues with the review.  The system of tertiary education is governed by the Education Act (1989) and its amendments, and yet the Act is never even mentioned in the Productivity Commission’s  background papers.  She said the principles of the Education Act, especially the critic/conscience clause, are being undermined by the review.

Ian Shirley gave a wonderful talk about the history of the struggle against the New Right, and I will not be able to do it justice here. He went right back to the 80s and reminded us that Treasury frame education as a private good, not a public good, right back then.  Treasury’s work at that time constituted what Ian called the “expansion of markets into spheres of life where they do not belong:.  We have been living the legacy of that ever since.

He called on us to reframe the whole debate – to reframe the debate from econospeak to societyspeak, and to have our own vision of what tertiary education should look like – beyond critique to reconstruction.

Sandra Grey carried on a number of these themes, especially the need to agree on what tertiary education is for.  She took us through the actions the TEU is carrying out to engage with the Productivity Commission, including taking them into universities and polytechnics to see what happens inside.  The alternative view to the ‘inertia’ claim is a sector that is diverse, innovative and creative, dedicated to what they do, focusing on resolving the issues of our times and to lifelong learning.

She outlined an alternative model for tertiary education based on te Tiriti, responsible autonomy (death to steering at a distance!), diversity of provision, the people, and well-supported workforce and student body.

Finally, Linsey from the NZUSA outlined student concerns for a tertiary system oriented to student need.

Later, at the AGM, the teacher unions, the TEU and QPEC made a joint pledge to meet later in the year to nut out a shared vision of, of course, a ‘Quality Public Education’ system.  We are very excited about this, and think it will be very productive.

Liz Gordon

Chair, Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)





An Invitation to the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC): Education Forum, 26th April

QPEC logo no borderYou are invited to attend the Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) Education Forum this Saturday.

It will be a great chance to hear the latest experts such as John O’Neill, Martin Thrupp, Warwick Elley, and the chance to discuss your own concerns at the Teacher Forum – and all for FREE.

The Teacher Forum is focusing on Investing in Success (IES) and, to my mind, is not to be missed.  Many well informed people are attending, including Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, who will discuss how a group of principals have joined forces to form the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP because of serious concerns around IES plans.

You can attend any or all of the forum, so do feel free to drop in even if you have only one speaker you really want to hear.  (But truly, you should stay for more than one session – it’s not often you get to hear from all of these people first hand and for free.)


WHEN: Saturday 26 April 2014, from 10am.

WHERE: St Columba Centre, 40 Vermont Street, Ponsonby, Auckland

COST:  FREE to all




10:00 Bill Courtney

Welcome and Overview


10:15 John O’Neill

Treasury Business Process Theory and the Assessment of Teacher Quality

The major research paper, “The Assessment of Teacher Quality” was released late last year by the Massey Education Policy Response Group, led by Ivan Snook. EPRG member, John O’Neill, will give an overview of this major paper, containing a wealth of information on many topics relevant to current discussions: the Treasury Business Process policy agenda; assessing teacher effectiveness; Value Added Measurement; and High Stakes Assessment of teachers.


10:45 Teacher Forum

“Investing in Educational Success” – the NZ Government initiative.

What are the potential positives and what are the concerns around the NZ Government proposal to create a new set of positions for principals and teachers? QPEC’s initial position was set out in a release issued in January. Martin Thrupp has also released a personal statement and Warwick Elley has had an op-ed published in the NZ Herald.

Liz Horgan of St Joseph’s, Otahuhu, will discuss the CONCERNED NZ PRINCIPALS GROUP’s views.

Representatives from PPTA and NZEI present different perspectives on how these new positions could impact on schools and teachers.

11:15 Martin Thrupp

National Standards and RAINS: where to now?

Martin’s 3-year case study of six individual schools has now concluded. He presents an overview of his findings and gives an update on other developments, including further publication of NS achievement data last year.


11:45 Warwick Elley

What Can PISA tell us about NCEA and National Standards?

Warwick has been a concerned critic of standards-based assessment for many years. He has analysed the recent PISA 2012 results and he has a stark warning: “As professionals, teachers are charged to give highest priority to the needs of their students. If we persist with these ill-starred standards-based schemes, we will surely be neglecting those needs. As a nation, too, we are now heavily involved in a race to the bottom.”


12:15 Bill Courtney

Charter Schools: What’s The Buzz?

The first five charter schools have now opened. Bill gives a quick update on current issues that have arisen so far, including details of the funding given to each school, which has received a great deal of media attention. Applications for the next round of allocations closed on 11 March.


12:45 General Discussion – Other Sectors


LUNCH BREAK 1.15-2.00


2.00 Dianne Khan

Using Social Media to Disseminate Information & Encourage Involvement

Dianne has joined QPEC during the past year. Dianne publishes her own website, Save Our Schools NZ, and she is also one of the regular contributors to The Daily Blog. Dianne will talk about her website and using social media to stimulate interest in the site.


2:30-3.00 QPEC AGM

Please note that the QPEC AGM 2.30-3.00 is members only.


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