I share this from Peggy to show that I stand by her. It is my way of saying I believe she is not in the wrong, and – worse still – she is being actively and purposefully attacked by the very people we educators are meant to trust. This is bullying of the worst order. It is victimisation. A career three decades long is being stripped from Peggy with no evidence of any wrong-doing on her part. Why would a commissioner do that? Why would Ministry allow it? There are some very hard questions to answer, and it isn’t Peggy that should be in the dock.
~ Dianne Khan, SaveOurSchoolsNZ
I need your help. Please don’t just “Like” this post. I am asking you to share it…
Because I am being bullied and I am asking for your help. It may be that after this long weekend I will find myself gagged again.
Ask yourself why we don’t hear about the horrors of what happens to Principals who are exited from their schools?
Answer – because there is a silence of compliance – but the compliance is dictated by a carefully constructed culture of fear and threats.
I am being threatened again to be silent. I am yet to receive notification from the Employment Relations Authority as to their ruling on the request made to them this week that I be re-gagged. So unless I do I believe this Facebook Page provides a forum for free speech in our country.
So what has happened to me this week in this 20 month campaign of horror?
1. I received notification from the Teachers Council today that a “mandatory” notification regarding my dismissal has been made. So after 37 years of service to New Zealand Education I find myself having to defend myself in that jurisdiction as well.
2. I have been accused of attempting to use social media to unfairly influence possible witnesses.
Let’s call the 1300 plus people who signed the petition to reinstate me if they are looking for witnesses. I know 95% of those individuals personally and taught many of them over three decades ago as a young graduate. How well do my current accusers know me – not at all.
Why am I putting myself through this nightmare?
a) I am not the person the Minister of Education was told I am.
b) My Board did not deserve to be dismissed.
c) I have not done anything that would warrant this level of abuse and bullying.
d) Some very good people have been hugely hurt and damaged by this whole horrible process.
Included below is an overview of my story so far. I have been accused of inappropriately sharing this information on social media. Free speech can not be considered inappropriate surely.
It is not me campaigning, it is me providing factual information in a climate of silence and innuendo.
It is nothing more than an overview of what I have been coping with over the past 20 months.
It is not me campaigning, it is me providing factual information in a climate of silence and innuendo.
If I find myself chastised in the Employment Authority for telling the truth on a Facebook Page then we really do have a problem in this country around free speech.
None of the links below were produced by me. I have merely provided them to you in the hope that you will take the time to please share them.
I would like Paul Finch [Support Peggy Burrows Facebook Page co-ordinator] to be able to send the petition to the Minister of Education in September with 2000 signatures on it. We have 700 signatures to find before then and can only do that if you help.
Thank you for your support and kind words as I meet you out and about in Rangiora. When people say to me, “This is dreadful and we are right behind you,” show me that you are by sharing and posting on the Parent Support Facebook Page – Support Peggy Burrows TV1NEWS. “Like” the page and post – don’t remain silent please.
In this third and final invited blog post about the outcomes from the SOSNZ survey on NZ teachers’ experiences of stress, anxiety and depression, I comment on another of the common themes from the results: bullying.
Teachers spend significant energy on preparing and delivering lessons, managing their classrooms and helping students who, for complex reasons, may have difficulties with learning activities, concentrating or getting along with others. For every teacher, continuous pressure from these situations increases risks of suffering from anxiety, emotional exhaustion, stress and depression. And each teacher and teaching context is different.
But what happens when the main cause of stress and anxiety isn’t within the classroom, but outside it? This may be more difficult to overcome because by definition stressful situations like being the victim of bullying are unpredictable and concealed from others.
Often research and policies surrounding bullying prevention in schools are focused on the students rather than the staff and management. But the culture of bullying in the workplace is known to be a significant problem in New Zealand and this is increasingly evidenced in media and employment law.
Allan Halse, Director of Culturesafe NZ – an organisation set-up to raise awareness of legislation and support victims of bullying – believes
“…this problem will increase until there is more accountability. For instance, there should be consequences for all employers who choose to ignore or maintain the behaviours of workplace bullies.”
A large proportion of CulturesafeNZ’s clients are employees within the education sector.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, 10% of the initial 100 participants from our teacher survey commented that bullying – either from management or parents or both – was a major cause of their stress and anxiety.
In the initial 100 responses, additional anonymous comments highlighted teachers’ experiences of stress as a result of being bullied: “The pressure placed on teachers by management in planning and assessment and time management for teachers” or more specifically “A principal can make or break staff” and similarly: “The pressure from management and their unrealistic expectations of their staff”. I predict that when analysis is complete for all 700+ participants, the extent of the bullying problem in New Zealand schools will become more apparent.
Generally, the prevalence of workplace bullying links to commonly debated cultural issues of the New Zealand workplace, for instance the phenomenon of Tall Poppy Syndrome (something I’ve written briefly about elsewhere). What is worrying (as highlighted in my previous post) is that teachers in this survey commented how they did not draw upon (or even know about) coping strategies or helpful free resources like the EAP. In view of the gap in academic literature on this subject, it appears the Ministry are sweeping this problem under the carpet. The NZCER run a survey which includes aspects of bullying, but there is a cost of subscribing. This skews the outcomes because understandably only those principals who see a value to publishing their own school’s results are likely to engage with it. Costs of participating in the NZCER survey are based on numbers of students in the school – which is unhelpful because an analysis of workplace culture would not necessarily be connected to its size – for students or staff.
In light of the new Health and Safety Act in New Zealand (which brings NZ more closely in line with other developed countries) some believe workplace bullies will be exposed and subsequently prosecuted. But WorksafeNZ do not (yet) seem to have fully grasped the well-established links between bullying and the emotional harm it causes; concentrating instead to focus their attention on the more obvious bodily harm, caused by physical workplace hazards.
However, teachers need help, support and protection from all sources of stress, anxiety and depression, and this includes bullying and harassment in the workplace. This is important, not only for the well-being of the staff themselves, but also for students because, let’s be clear, students learn best in a safe, caring and professional environment.
~ Dr Ursula Edgington
There’s a case to be made for positive thinking. It keeps your spirits up, helps you forge forward, gives you energy. It can lower rates of depression, increase your life span and even help you fight of the common cold.
But if one more person shares a meme proclaiming ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ or ‘everything happens for a reason’ in response to some awful situation, I swear I might explode.
Positive thinking doesn’t insist you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s unpleasant situations.
Just think about how insulting that is to the victim of a terrible situation: If you are bullied or sick with hunger and told ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,’ it somehow implies that the awful thing you are going though is not only okay but is good for you.
I call bull on that kind of thinking.
Sure, if something awful happens, it pays to make the best of it. You can’t turn the clock back, it can’t un-happen, so using positive thinking about it can help you face it. But that’s not the same as accepting it happened for some mystical reason in order to help you grow as a person. It didn’t – it happened most likely because someone made a poor choice and you were on the receiving end of it.
Think of some of the dreadful things that happen every day:
Got hit by a speeding driver? ‘It happened for a reason.’
Job paid poorly? ‘It happened for a reason.’
Burgled? ‘It happened for a reason.’
Beaten by someone? ‘It happened for a reason.’
So hungry it hurts? ‘It happened for a reason.’
No! No, it most certainly did not. It happened, sure. But not for some ethereal reason.
You might learn from whatever happened, and you might grow from it, but correlation does not equal causation, and to imply it does is cruel to those who are actually crushed by whatever happened to them.
No-one deserves to be a victim. It is not for a reason.
So please be careful when reacting to someone who’s had an awful thing happen to them. Please, no platitudes and no memes. Instead, listen to them, take their feelings seriously, and ask what you can do to help.
If you need support:
Kidsline is New Zealand’s original telephone counselling service for all kids up to 14 years of age. Kidsline operates from 4pm to 6pm Monday through to Friday. When kids ring they will speak to a Kidsline buddy – a specially trained teenage telephone counsellor.
P 0800 54 37 54
W www.kidsline.org.nz(link is external)
Need support or want to talk? Contact Youthline.
P 0800 37 66 33 or Free Text 234
W www.youthline.co.nz(link is external)
Lifeline’s telephone counselling service provides 24 hour a day, 7 day a week counselling and support. Calls are confidential and free and you will speak to a trained Lifeline counsellor.
P 522 2999 (within Auckland)
P 0800 543 354 (outside Auckland)
0800 726 666
The Education Amendment Bill has been reported back to the House with a recommendation that it be passed.
The legislation will makes it easier for unqualified and unregistered people to act as teachers in charter schools as well as removing the right of teachers to directly elect their own professional body.
“The government has completely disregarded the overwhelming number of submissions which called on it to allow the new teacher representative body to remain professionally rather than politically driven,” says NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter.
“Instead, once the legislation is passed, the Minister will handpick representatives for the new EDUCANZ body being set up to replace the Teachers’ Council.
“What other professional body has their representatives chosen by the Minister of the day rather than electing their own representatives?”
“This legislation is about ideology and undermining the teaching profession – not about addressing the needs of all New Zealand children and ensuring their right to quality public education.
“The government has also disregarded the views of New Zealanders who have made it clear they don’t want unqualified and unregistered people teaching in our schools.
“This is a major step backwards and will put the education of many children at risk.
“I am sure that New Zealanders will see how this legislation completely contradicts the government’s rhetoric about wanting to improve the quality of education.”
In fact, I would argue that if a school has got to the point of needing cameras in order to ensure student safety, it is already a dysfunctional place.
If the only thing that stops a person behaving badly is the fear of being caught, they are just going to find the best ways not to get caught. It is not an incentive to behave well.
A better aim is to educate students such that being a good person is the goal, and alongside that there has to be a firm and clear message that poor behaviour and bullying are not accepted.
Education and a communal focus on good citizenship is the answer.
Parents, staff, students and the wider community need to be on the same page as far as humanly possible. Where that’s not happening, there needs to be a clear plan to improve things. Not just from the school but from other agencies as well.
Put cameras up and anyone determined to bully will just find the blind spots. They will cyber bully. They will bully on the way home. They will find a way.
Cameras are not the answer.
The article below is about the saddest thing I have ever read about education, and fits exactly what I saw starting before I left the UK to come to New Zealand. Sadly, this government is following the UK with this madness, and this horror is now here too. I am devastated. This is a shameful shadow of education and in years to come will be reflected on as a period of utter and total disgrace.
Secret Teacher, writes in The Guardian (UK):
When I began teaching I worked in early years. Back then, personal, social and emotional development was factored into every aspect of the curriculum. It was understood that to become a successful learner you needed to develop a love of learning and feel secure in your abilities to overcome challenges.
I remember rejoicing the first time a painfully shy child answered their name in the register and when another proudly taught the class to say hello in their home language. But these normal everyday achievements did not happen by magic; the children only achieved these things because they felt secure in their school environment and the right opportunities were available to them.
Roll on a few years and I recently found myself teaching key stage 1 in a new school rated good, and aiming for outstanding. But in this quest, levels and targets have become more important than anything – more important than the children, it seemed.
One Autumn morning I was summoned to the assistant headteacher’s office for the first round of target setting for the year. I was asked to predict the levels my year 1 class would get in their year 2 Sats. I should mention that 70% of my class arrived in year 1 below the expected reading age, which posed a problem; my literacy levels did not meet the targets and could not be submitted to the borough. Apparently, my predictions were “not ambitious enough” and were up levelled. The new targets were accompanied by a speech making the pressure of these expectations clear.
As a new member of staff, I was interested to see what approach the school would take to ensure the levels were met. Their preferred method was manipulation, making sure no one had access to enough information for a full picture. Parents were held at arm’s length and assistant headteachers were present in all formal meetings to monitor what information was shared and how. If a teacher was seen talking to a parent for too long in the playground, an assistant head would appear and join the conversation. Nothing quite says you’re not trusted like being watched constantly.
In one meeting I was horrified to witness just how far they were willing to push the pursuit of targets at the expense of the children. My year group included four children that were in the learning support centre. Although they weren’t taught in mainstream classes, they were included in our all-important levels, which unfortunately meant our “quota” of children not at expected levels had already been accounted for.
One child who came under particular scrutiny had been a “problem” in reception. He fidgeted and struggled to manage his behaviour in certain circumstances. Compared to other children I had taught, he had minor behaviour needs, but he was behind academically. With a little bit of nurturing he was improving – the other children were not being affected by him and he was making academic progress. Even so, I was told to put pressure on his parent to take him elsewhere. At the sight of my horrified expression this softened to nudging them gently. Officially, the reason given was behaviour, but I have no doubt that unofficially levels and the extra time he required were the biggest factors in this decision.
When I didn’t follow orders, meetings began taking place that I was not invited to or informed of. I have no idea what the parent was told, but several secret meetings later they must have got the message and made the decision to move him to another school.
Read the rest here.
Food for Thought:
The comments below the article are food for thought. Below are some of the ones that stood out for me.
“This problem is now worsening due to the pressure being put on us by unrealistic performance management targets. If we don’t get the children to a certain place by the end of the year, we now don’t move up the pay scale. Horrid.”
“You aptly sum up why I, with deep regret, turned my back on headship. Loved the job but the conflict between doing what was morally right and what was demanded politically had moved beyond an uneasy compromise and into the territory of being expected to sell one’s soul.”
” This target driven culture comes directly from the DfE (past and present) and is enforced with an iron fist by Ofsted. If a school fails to meet targets it gets taken over, the head will be sacked as may be many other teachers. The only people willing to become heads and deputies now a days are those who are willing to play this game and whose ambition (and often limited talent) drives them to fiddle figures, bully and coerce others into making often impossible targets.”
“It’s obvious that the education system is broken to varying degrees across the country and in many schools. I have seen the type of behaviour, described by the secret teacher, towards children who ‘won’t make the grade’ happening more and more as the performance management has been directly linked with pay rises or lack of them, and the need for more and more children to make targets that are at best challenging but for many completely impossible. Those teachers who don’t get their quota of children to the grades required are not just not getting pay award but also in danger of the competency procedure. It’s a very very sad and bleak world for those children who for one reason or another cannot/ or will not make the expected grades and gain the results schools need to keep ofsted et al off their backs.”
And the last word goes to this commentator, who I think speaks for so many of us when they say “This is just terrible. It’s not what we went into education to do.”
I read the letter below with a heavy heart. Mrs Utting was recently widowed when her husband, a teacher aged 37, died of stress-induced heart attack, and here she writes to Mr Gove, your English counterpart.
Mr Utting was a teacher in England, but could just as easily have been in many other countries, including New Zealand, as the same reforms and policies are pushed on teachers worldwide.
I urge you to change tack. The levels of stress and feelings of mistrust regarding government policy are reaching epidemic proportions.
Mrs Utting says:
I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.
Teachers love their students and care deeply about doing our jobs well – we want support, not workplace bullying.
29th April 2014
Dear Mr Gove,
I am writing to inform you of the death of Mr Gareth Utting, a teacher of English at a secondary school in Shropshire.
Gareth died at the age of 37 of a massive heart attack. There were a few contributory factors to his death, but looming large was the word ‘stress’. He leaves me a widow with three children, aged fourteen, four and one.
This is not the angry rant of a bereaved person. I haven’t got anywhere near angry yet. I am still reeling with shock and wondering if there was anything I could have done to prevent my husband’s death. When these thoughts beset me, I keep coming back to the fact that I should have done more to help him get out of teaching. And how can that be right, to think that? I love teaching. In the few weeks since Gareth died, I have heard and read so many tributes from his students that attest to the positive impact that a good teacher can make. I should be proud that my husband was a teacher. But right at this moment, I’m not. I’m sorry that he was. Because if he had a different job, he might still be with us.
I don’t pretend to know the ins and outs of the changes that have hit teachers in the last few years. I qualified as a teacher myself but have been at home raising our young children, so have not been directly involved. But I can tell you what I see around me.
Teachers like Gareth have changed.
Their hopes for the young people in their care have not changed. Neither has their willingness to go the extra mile to help those young people to succeed. But the work-load that they struggle under and the pressures that are applied to them from above have greatly increased. If this led to better education for our children, then I would be supporting these changes. But I don’t see better education. I see good teachers breaking under the load. I see good teachers embittered and weary. I see good teachers leaving the profession. I see good teachers never even entering the profession, for fear of what lies ahead. I see pupils indoctrinated with achievement targets, who are afraid to veer from the curriculum in case it affects their next assessment; pupils for whom ‘knowledge’ is defined by a pass mark and their position within a cohort.
Within this atmosphere, my husband struggled to help his pupils in every way he could. The comments that they have left on social media reflect a teacher-pupil relationship that was honest, helpful and mutually respectful. He taught them English, and they did well at it. But he also taught them about life, and love, and self-esteem. But he did this in spite of, not because of, the current state of the education system.
Gareth is at peace now. But I have some difficult choices to make.
Do I return to a profession that takes so high a toll? When my four-year-old son says he wants to be a teacher, do I smile or try to talk him out of it? When I see Gareth’s colleagues, do I congratulate them for being so amazing, or encourage them to explore other career options?
Mr Gove, I don’t envy you your job. I don’t know the best way to achieve a high standard of education for all pupils, everywhere. But I do know this: People don’t become teachers to be slackers, for the pension or for the name badge.
Here’s an interesting theory of mine that I was discussing recently with my husband. If you took away all external inspection and supervision, all targets and reviews, if teachers were left to themselves to teach what they wanted to teach, the way they wanted to teach it, what do you think would happen?
This is what I think: Every teacher that I know cares deeply about their subject and their students. They would teach marvellously. They would share knowledge and encourage each other. They would deal with problems (including less-than-perfect pupils and teachers) with the professionalism that they possess in spades.
Of course we cannot remove all monitoring of teachers and schools. But it seems to me that you have forgotten this basic fact: Teachers love to teach, and they want to do it well.
I don’t know what I want to ask of you. All I know is that the situation as it stands is wrong. On behalf of all the teachers and pupils out there, I beg you to go back to the drawing-board. Learn from your mistakes. Gain knowledge.
And please don’t send me your condolences.
There have been many potential such cases but this is the one that has come through; the one that has stayed the perverted course –because Marlene Campbell has shown the courage of a lion not to fold. Might I say, I don’t criticise those who did. The pressure to do so has been close to unendurable.
Let me say loud and clear the case against Marlene Campbell is a put-up job, has been engineered, opportunistically taken advantage of in an attempt to crush an outspoken educationist and to put fear into the system.
The general public and the media have been unable to truly grasp what has been going on in education.
Even in education itself there are those who won’t link the dots. They recognise that particular acts of political and bureaucratic bullying and bad faith are occurring, but won’t link them together to recognise that this government in education has been autocratic, anti-democratic, bullying, persistent in lying and distorting, and reliant on fear and propaganda to hold sway. They won’t conceptualise because to do so would challenge them to some kind of action, pose some kind of moral dilemma.
New Zealanders are loath to believe that an agency of state and its political leaders are not acting in good faith – especially in something so precious as education. They have not grasped, are finding it difficult to believe, that in the five years of the National government, terrible things have occurred.
In the advent of a change of government, there needs to be the equivalent of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal the past and allow bureaucrats and others to come forward to present some of the terrible things they have been instructed or pressured to do.
Let us see how this works out in the political and bureaucratic persecution of Marlene Campbell.
One important idea to hold onto throughout is that if Marlene has been at fault in any way, that fault has been largely manufactured, in that if it occurred at a school in any other circumstances, it would not cause a blip. In other words, the bureaucracies have gone on a fishing expedition with Marlene Campbell – but pulled in nothing of significance. Yet the financial cost to Marlene Campbell, the children at the school has been hundreds of thousands, then there has been the devastating distraction to the tenor of the school – also the cost to the taxpayer.
I don’t want to get submerged in detail so I’m going to concentrate on key junctures.
Perhaps I should add one more observation before I begin: what sort of principal is Marlene Campbell? Well, how can I say this? She is very modern. You would expect the ministry to be delighted with this, it’s all there knobs and all. Marlene Campbell is clearly willing to listen to policy directions, but just as clearly she wants to do it with a sense of free will –that seems to have been at the centre of why she has been so outspoken – she’s a modern Southern woman who won’t be pushed around. She’s a strong individual.
Key juncture one
In June, 2012, the school’s regular ERO visit took place. On the second day Marlene Campbell was told that ERO intended to use the review to investigate anonymous complaints that had been made against her. Marlene Campbell asked for details so she could respond but was refused them; she was steamrolled, the matter was then simply reported to the ministry recommending an investigation.
Predetermination laid bare,
This was a put-up job. The matter was really a carry-on from the Ann Tolley regime. Hekia Parata and the ERO and ministry bureaucrats, though, proved only too willing to continue this terrible thing.
The moment the Marlene Campbell complaint letter arrived at the ERO, the opportunity was seized by the bureaucracies as manna from heaven – and the dye was cast; the letter was quickly passed onto the ministry, being well practised in what to do.
ERO made no judgements as to the merits of the complaint because that might well have contaminated it with the odd fact or two; the intention, I suggest, being to keep the complaint free of detail so the ministry could provide its own, to be magnified beyond belief, mountained to a molehill, imaginatively reconfigured.
How on earth could anyone respond sensibly to an anonymous complaint, by definition absent of context, expressed in general terms?
This is unconscionable.
Key juncture two
Peter McDonald was appointed limited statutory manager. He did two things.
First, he announced almost immediately and without consultation that the only way to solve the matter was for Marlene Campbell to leave. Just like that.
Predetermination laid bare.
Of course, Marlene Campbell refused.
Secondly, a teacher at the school who had, following due process, been demoted by the board of trustees with the agreement of NZEI, was reappointed to a senior position. Just like that.
Are you flabbergasted?
Then, amazing goings-on for a year and a half.
Key juncture three
McDonald in the year and a half that followed, in sinister mode, tried to find fault in Marlene Campbell’s behaviour; find facts, as I see it, to fit a pre-determined judgement – but failed.
The chairperson of the board of trustees and the board then became totally exasperated at the cost and terribleness of the situation so, to force the ministry’s hand, resigned. In doing this, the chairperson reiterated his utmost confidence in Marlene Campbell, declaring her a most wonderful and exceptional principal.
McDonald seems to have panicked. Out of the blue, he accused Marlene Campbell of a specific instance of bullying. (This was, of course, later utterly disproved.)
He put her on leave.
Four days later his term as LSM ended, to be replaced by a commissioner.
Key juncture four
The appointment of commissioner was the signal for frantic efforts to dig the ministry out of the hole it had dug itself into. That hole, however, only became a concern to the ministry when Marlene Campbell didn’t capitulate.
The commissioner said she would finish the investigatory process before the start of the school year. She failed to do so.
Marlene Campbell was dismissed on March 6, 2014.
This is all so terrible and unjust that it is difficult to take in. So gross have been the actions that some actions also serious, but to a lesser degree, can gain an element of acceptance, which they shouldn’t.
Throughout the one and a half years, the bureaucrats have, almost without exception, refused to provide details of allegations – particularly unreasonable given that on the very few occasions when they have been provided, they were proved to be nonsense. The only charges remaining are unsubstantiated generalisations.
Significantly, in her final report, the commissioner pulled back from some of the allegations previously offered as the reasons for Marlene Campbell’s suspension and made some attempts to correct gross procedural errors.
The ministry case, by these very actions, lies in shreds.
Clearly, the delay in presenting the final report involved a going to and fro about how the report could backtrack without making the LSM, the ministry, and the commissioner look complete idiots. The final report failed, because they do.
Think of the harm all this has done to the fabric of education, indeed, New Zealand society – the tearing at the threads.
It is pure Kafkan in its terribleness – and it’s here in our little country.
The motive was malice; the process travesty; the outcome horrendous.
The politicians sat back, confident that no harm would come their way. Their plan had worked before, why not with this prime target? Send in ERO complete with anonymous letter murmuring mysteriously about matters needing investigation and then quickly hand over to the ministry to enable it to appoint a statutory manager who could proceed to take outrageous advantage of the assumption of good faith in authority. The process from there is well established: the principal muzzled; the statutory manager goes fault fishing; the principal’s position destabilised with occasional releases of information to various directions; the cost of the statutory manager is used to turn the school against the principal; time is prolonged in the hope that new elections would bring in anti-principal trustees; and, failing all that, wait for the huge legal cost to make the principal have to excruciatingly balance fighting for justice against welfare of his or her family.
But with Marlene Campbell things didn’t work out per usual. Hence the current situation. This dogged and brave principal deserves our help and support.
I accuse the ministers and ministry of ‘false accusation and misrepresentation of justice’ from ‘lurid obsession.’ An overstated analogy? I say given the New Zealand context it isn’t, and given the elements of injustice involved, worth pondering. Anyway, if you were Marlene Campbell would you be splitting hairs?
The government and the education bureaucracies have declared deep and unrelenting antipathy to the idea of public education. When is the penny going to drop?
When are we going to unite on enough is enough?
by Kelvin Smythe
If you wish to help Marlene fight this, please give to her legal fees fundraising here.
Read also: https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/marlene-campbell-needs-our-urgent-support-by-kelvin-smythe/
Brent was an outspoken critic of national standards, astute, sensitive, but irrepressible.
Brent and his board of trustees after careful consultation with parents, stood out from national standards. There was strong agreement that national standards were not in the education interests of the Pembroke children.
July 1, 2011, the charter was submitted.
August 1, there was a letter from the ministry regarding a non-compliant charter and giving ten days to be compliant.
August 4-9, there were telephone conversations between the board chair and the ministry; statutory intervention was threatened.
Now for a happening that should be a moment of transcendent shame to the ministry and Tolley.
The school was well advanced in planning a fono for the district, partially ministry funded, to benefit the education of Pasifika children.
August 18, there is a call from the ministry threatening to remove the fono from school.
August 19, a charter meeting is scheduled by the ministry for August 22.
The school requests that the ministry stick to the board meeting timeframes and that ministry concerns be detailed prior to the meeting.
Next day the fono is withdrawn from school.
The school protests through the media, pointing out, amongst other things, food and other preparations were well advanced.
Ministry response added up to ha-ha; bad luck your school is not a safe environment.
A charter meeting is set for September 20.
September 20 – at the meeting, the ministry threatens to put in a limited statutory manager.
The board agrees to accept ministry ‘suggestions’ to meet charter requirements and for the principal to attend courses.
(In other words, the moral stand against national standards is over and, the school, having fought the good fight, is now willing to be compliant. But the ministry ‘suggestions’ are just part of the punishment, no-one knew the regulations better than the principal; he had to know them to stand out from them. The ‘suggestions’ are a figment to set up the cold and bitter vengeance to be inflicted. Making a stand against national standards being treated as if a criminal offence.)
No response from ministry regarding their offer to help with the ‘suggestions’.
September 29, a letter arrives from the secretary of education (Karen Sewell – so don’t swan around being the moral educationist Karen, now what would EDG have said Karen? – you know who I mean) putting in a statutory adviser.
27 October, at the signing of the contact, the adviser told the board it would be a long and expensive process.
The principal sends information to support the scoping report.
The statutory adviser was to appear only once at the school, and that was to sign the contract, she had no further contact with the school except for two phone calls.
November 9, the adviser withdraws saying there were a couple of board members she couldn’t work with. This ‘couldn’t work with claim’ came as a considerable surprise to the board. This extraordinary claim needs to be investigated, if not upheld, I think we can say a set up occurred.
November 11, a letter arrives from Kathryn Palmer, surely under instruction, saying she has written to the secretary of education requesting a limited statutory manager be appointed. Wow! What speed! Well done Kathryn admirable efficiency in the interests of the children of Pembroke School. (I want to say that Kathryn’s actions were surely done under instruction. How she responded within the ministry only she knows and her conscience.)
Board writes to Karen Sewell complaining of the process. Hard bickies.
December 13, a new adviser appointed, not a limited statutory manager as threatened.
During 2011 the charter was submitted six times but never found compliant. The charter, however, was quite straightforwardly compliant – the ministry was only playing games.
Cleave Hay was appointed as adviser: a person of admirable qualities, who only charged at the ministry stipulated rate and not for travel time. (A medal for Cleave.)
(Now you might think that the story is about to finally end with something of a cheery note amidst the squalid goings-on – but wait there’s more, a lot more.)
Cleave Hay had really nothing much to do but he turned up from time-to-time, as he was bound to do, almost as a welcome, though remunerated, visitor.
September 29, 2012 is the review date for the intervention, but somehow it is decided to wait until December – no doubt from ministry direction.
At the December meeting with ministry and Cleave, Cleave expresses yet again how happy he is with how things are going.
But the ministry insists the intervention remain until after the board of trustee’s election.
(The motive for this was no doubt to embarrass and undermine the principal and board of trustees in the election period.)
Cleave only attends two meetings in 2013 as he is very happy with board of trustee’s governance.
June 2013, Kathryn Palmer, obviously under instruction, my guess directly from Parata’s office, shifts the goalposts for the adviser’s reporting.
At the June meeting with board, the adviser reports once again how happy he is with the board.
But in the same month the ministry says intervention is to continue because national standards results for writing were not good enough (despite being where most decile 3 schools were).
In July, the board writes to new secretary of education regarding due process not being followed.
End of July, Peter Hughes orders the intervention to be lifted.
At no stage was the request for specific information detailing the risks to the school responded to.
Two and a half years of strife for what?
Where was everybody?
A media that understood?
The school trustees association?
The teacher organisations?
Where was the concern for the children and teachers who so bravely and staunchly continued to care for them?
This is a disgraceful story, amongst many other disgraceful stories to do with ministry interventions.
But there are many more disgraceful stories – stories emanating, for instance, from the behaviours and values of the education review office.
I call on schools and boards, also teachers in universities and those in education agencies, to come forward and tell them. Perhaps there needs to be a Truth and Conciliation process.
This morning we heard once again the mellifluous puerility of the minister, a contribution archetypical of the puerility that has been issued from the review office and ministry for over two decades to a largely accepting public.
Our education system is corrupted and rotten. A commission of enquiry is needed to clear the unworthy from the temple and restore truth, honesty, and openness to our system.
Society needs individuals and groups to take moral stands; it is uplifted and morally enriched by the accumulation. But they paid a cost.
We honour the courage and declare our thanks to the witness.
Read the whole article here.
And if you know of any more schools being treated this way, tell us or contact Kelvin via his page. Because this really does have to stop.
From my piece in today’s The Daily Blog:
John Key is adamant that there isn’t much resistance to National Standards any more, saying that last year “there were about 300 non-complying schools, this year it’s only 13.” He trumpets that “resistance to National Standards is evaporating.”
As one observer noted “How can there be [resistance]? The govt has the ability to overide schools with the strong arm of the law – schools at the end of the day have no choice.”
Because what Mr Key doesn’t tell you in his sound-bite is that schools have all along been, at best, coerced to comply, and at worst, threatened with reprisals by the Ministry of Education if they do not comply with National Standards.
That is why many have had to back down.
Not approval or acceptance, but bullying and fear.
How many good educators are we losing all over the world each week due to the GERM (Global Education Reform Movement)? This one in NZ? This one in the USA? Or this bunch in the UK? Or these twelve in Iberia?
Because judging students just on their scores, or weighting the scores so heavily that the students feel they are judged as people by them, is not a way to educate and grow good people. Students should be and are tested throughout schooling, but it should be done to personalise their learning, with fast turnout and feedback, and about growth not about a line in the sand that is called The Standard.
And what about all of the factors that impinge on student learning? How come they get so little air time from the people demanding reforms left, right and centre and insisting they only care about the kids? Forgive my cynicism, but could it just be that there is no money to be made in solving those problems but heaps to be made in selling educational materials to panicked parents?
It is a sick world we live in where we blame teachers for the ills in our societies and don’t look at the root causes of poverty, ill health, poor homes and hopelessness that factor large for those not achieving all they otherwise might.
Poverty does not automatically mean poorer achievement, but usually it does. The OECD reported that “education experiences remain strongly associated with social disadvantage. In many countries there are large numbers of people with very low education levels whose family origins were impoverished and characterised by disadvantage. Whilst education can break such intergenerational cycles of disadvantage, it can also act to reinforce them: for example, if education policy is not designed with egalitarian notions in mind.” Source (page 7).
That is the disgrace and shame of all so-called first world countries, and that is the reality many countries are facing right now, including in New Zealand.
Is that truly the country you want? If it is, then GERM is your friend- let it run rampant and do its business all over our education system.
But if you want better for our country as a whole, then you need to say “No more”.
No to rampant global reforms in education that are far more about $$$ than they ever were about learning or improving.
Let’s get back to research-based, well-thought-out improvements for all schools that truly are about raising achievement for all.
A long-serving teacher with great evaluations has just quit her teaching job. Why?
She tells her school board:
“[Y]ou have made us information pushers, test givers, and paper passer outers. LET US TEACH!!!”
She tells those in power, those setting up more and more central testing, more and more central and constrictive curricula:
“You are setting teachers up to fail. Teaching was once a noble and creative profession. Learning was once fun! If you want kids to stay in school, make them want to come!!!”
Her letter is powerful, it is honest, is it the clear and plain truth that so many would like to say.
She closes with this:
“If you think getting rid of experienced classroom teachers is the answer, then shame on you! It takes experienced teachers to help new, inexperienced teachers with the overwhelming burdens of classroom management, helping with background knowledge of the information being taught, and learning how to build relationships with the students and the community that these students come from. There is SO much more to teaching then getting in front of a class and giving a lesson!”
And then ask yourself, is this the New Zealand you want?
Because it’s the way we are going, and without some serious resistance THIS is the letter you will be reading from our great Kiwi teachers soon enough.
Way to go, Hekia – nice touch, right up there with the colour-coded ‘fate’ badges you had the principals wear last year when they first head about all of this. You really do know how to communicate information in the most offensive way and at the most outrageous time, don’t you?
And this when the area is still under immense pressure and in much pain. A time when focus should be on sorting out QC and getting people’s home sorted out.
I know many who are still waiting to hear if they are a rebuild, a demolition, whatever – and meanwhile they are still paying rates and what not on a house they cannot live in… TWO YEARS after the big quake. Maybe getting that sorted should be the priority rather than further shaking up a community in pain?
But no – Hekia would rather forge ahead with her plans come hell or high water – or, in fact, heart-breaking, earth-shattering earthquakes.
Hekia Parata, you and the rest of this government are shameful in how you ride rough-shod over people.
I truly have no idea how you sleep at night.
The Parents, The Politician and the Carpetbagger is a short film that follows parents and teachers from Downhills School, England as they try to stop Education secretary, Michael Gove, forcing their school to become part of the Harris academy chain. The parents, teachers and community fight to prevent it happening. Watch it now.
The film challenges Department of Education claims that academies out perform non-academies, which they don’t.
It reveals how local authorities are being bullied into serving up schools for forced academisation, just to keep the Minister sweet.
How they were made to sound like raving Communists.
How they were inspected and found to have good teachers and governance and be improving – then at the behest of Gove they were suddenly re-inspected and found to be failing in all areas.
It shows who is set to profit from the privitisation of schools.
This is a must watch for anyone wanting to know what New Zealand is letting itself in for.