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Pressure Mounts On Politicians

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

Why?  Well, the proposals mean that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

(see whole exchange here)

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

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

CLASS SIZES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

source

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

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

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

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

~MrsK

For more, read:

http://www.nzcer.org.nz/research/publications/class-size-first-years-school

http://www.ppta.org.nz/index.php/-issues-in-education/class-size

http://thestandard.org.nz/class-size-backdown/

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7028432/Class-size-backlash-grows

http://www.3news.co.nz/Teacher-backlash-provoked-inquiry-Labour/tabid/1607/articleID/255822/Default.aspx

http://thestandard.org.nz/sacking-only-400-teachers-good-news-say-nats/

http://thestandard.org.nz/an-open-email-to-hekia-parata/

http://m.nbr.co.nz/article/nz-politics-daily-hekia-paratas-avoidable-mess-ck-120023

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