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This tag is associated with 25 posts

Mum waiting over a month (so far) for response from Hekia Parata

hekia-mana-newsletter-1Andrea Matheson writes:

Today, as a Mana [Porirua] resident, I had the ‘pleasure’ (amusement) of receiving the Minister’s MANA MATTERS newsletter. It has a feedback section, in which I particularly like the comment:

“I’m always interested in hearing your feedback and learning more about which issues matter to you. I’d appreciate it if you could spare a few minutes to complete the survey below.”

Well Minister, I would appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to read and respond to the TWO letters I have sent you where I outlined very clearly what issues matter to me! So I really don’t think you ARE interested in hearing about what issues matter to me or anyone else for that matter!

And I’m intrigued by your statement in the letter:

“We are expanding the ORS and the Intensive Wraparound Service to ensure that every child is catered for, no matter their circumstances”

How, pray tell, are you planning to achieve that, when you have made it quite clear there will be no increase to the special education budget!?

Andrea’s full letter to Hekia Parata follows:

Dear Ms Parata,

I am very disappointed that it has now been a month or so since I sent you my letter regarding the proposed overhaul to Special Education funding and I have not yet had a reply from you. I had very high hopes that my words would make a difference – I guess I am a glass half-full kind of girl.

You state in your opinion piece on Stuff, dated September 25th that “I will work with any groups or individuals that are seriously committed to improving children’s learning and raising achievement.” Well, Ms Parata, we have been trying to get your attention for WEEKS now – parents as individuals and as part of wider groups, have written letters, organised education rallies across the country, commented on news articles, commented on your Facebook page (and been blocked for their efforts), spoken to the media, left messages on the Ministry’s phone line and signed petitions. These efforts have been plastered all over social media – you surely cannot have missed these actions by passionate, proud, exhausted, anxious parents who are praying that the dire situation of inadequate funding in special needs is rectified, and fast.

The lack of response has given me additional time to think of more important questions I need to ask you as well as provide you with some further thoughts that have arisen during this long wait.

In several articles I have read in recent weeks, you have stated that no child currently receiving funding will lose that funding. This implies that individuals such as myself only care about their own child/children and will be satisfied with this reassurance. BUT – I wrote to you expressing my concern about the education system as a whole – I am NOT an individual parent who likes to whinge, who only cares about the impact for her own child – I care deeply about what will happen to children who desperately need funding who do not have any to begin with. So whilst your statement on this point seems to imply that my son will not lose the ORS funding he currently has, he was NOT my only concern. I am not that selfish. Therefore your ‘reassurance’ is of no comfort to parents of children about to enter the school system without ORS funding or teacher aide support, or to parents like myself who care about the bigger picture in education.

Could you please outline any school visits you SPECIFICALLY made as a part of the ‘consultation’ process to help you create your cabinet paper on inclusion? For example, did you:

Visit and personally meet with a wide range of children who have additional learning and physical needs?

Spend time with them in their school environment to understand how crucial additional funding is to ensure their success?

Observe a wide range of learning and physical difficulties, eg: neuro-developmental disorders such as autism, GDD and ADHD, physical disabilities, genetic disorders and learning difficulties such as dyslexia, dyspraxia etc?

Ensure that you saw the VAST differences between what a teacher, teacher aide, child and parents can achieve with adequate funding, versus a teacher and child who have no additional funding or teacher aide support?

Or was consultation done without the real-life context of what it is like to be struggling to meet the demands in the classroom without support?

How do you propose to support children in primary school who do not meet the criteria for ORS funding? There is currently not enough funding to support children with learning difficulties or disorders, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and autism. If a school cannot meet their needs through their operational or SEG grants, what becomes of these children? Are they supposed to struggle through their school years with little or no support? What will the outcome be for them when they have to enter society as an adult? It is a frightening prospect. We are meant to be a forward thinking and innovative country but at the heart of it, we are not supporting the children who are struggling through every day and having their confidence eaten away bit by bit. I am sure I am not the only person in New Zealand who strongly feels schools need targeted funding to meet the needs of children with these disorders if they do not achieve ORS funding (and we all know the vast majority of children with these disorders do not). We all know these disorders are on the rise Minister – what does your government plan to do about this issue?

We have repeatedly asked you how you plan to improve services to ECE without increasing the overall budget for special education. No satisfactory answer has come from you as yet. Instead we have to listen to radio interviews and read articles where the majority of journalists have not dug deeper to properly dissect the information that is being fed to them. But we as parents have a vested interest in the changes to funding and we know how to read between the lines. We will not be satisfied by the usual vague statements such as “The proposed changes that we’re making in education are all about putting our kids at the centre of the education system, lifting the educational success of every young New Zealander” and “Everything I’m working towards is about putting children and their achievement at the centre of the education system.” Are these statements intended to keep us quiet? I’m afraid they won’t. I guess the giant governmental PR machine may have underestimated our fortitude and determination.

Whilst we can appreciate the sentiment behind your statements, which I’m sure is genuine, you have not given us the answers we are seeking. How will you achieve better funding to students through ‘streamlining’ and what will streamlining look like? Until we get those answers we will continue to be noisy (deafening in fact).

We as parents are striving 24/7 to raise children who can become happy, appreciated, well-understood and productive members of society. All we ask for is that you work with us to better understand their needs, and the successes they can achieve with better funding and more support. Please LISTEN to what we are trying to tell you.

We want to be listened to, we want to be heard. You say that you want to work with us – why are you not responding to our questions? Why are you deleting perfectly reasonable questions and comments from your Facebook page? As a passionate parent and advocate recently suggested, we see plenty of pictures of you planting trees and other lovely photo opportunities, but where are the photos of you working alongside children with additional, high or very high needs, trying to understand how teachers meet their needs with no funding? Where are the photos of you talking to parents whose children have been turned away from schools or stood down because there are no teacher aides to help the teacher support their learning and behavioural needs? Where are those photos Ms Parata?

I respectfully ask (again) that you respond to these thoughts and concerns with REAL answers. We WANT to be involved in the direction that these changes will go, nobody knows the needs of children with ‘special’ needs better than their parents. We want to give you the benefit of our guidance. I am not setting out to be a trouble maker. I have spent an hour and a half on this letter, an hour and a half I could have spent playing with my son. But I am forced into this situation because I need to fight to be heard. Please respect our combined knowledge and experience, there is so much that we could add to help you lead an education system that we can ALL be proud of.

With kind regards,
Andrea Matheson
Mum to a super special, endearing, pride-inducing and heart-warming wee lad.

Letter reproduced with Andrea’s kind permission.

 

Have Your Say on the Future of NZ Education

engage

Term 4 isn’t the best time of year for Hekia Parata to announce a consultation as important as this – well, not if you genuinely want plenty of quality responses – but announce in term 4 she did, and so we teachers and parents must do what we do best – roll with it and make the best of things.

At first glance the consultation looks a little overwhelming. The questions are very broad and range over many areas, and the language is somewhat loaded at times, to say the least.  But it’s not as bad as it at first appears…

have_your_say02The first good news is you can answer as many or as few questions as you like.

If nothing else, all teachers and parents should answer at least the first question:

Q1: What should the goals for education be?

This is asking for your own view, so there’s no right or wrong answer. I took to the NZ Primary School National Curriculum to answer it, as I feel it covers things quite nicely already, but you may have entirely different thoughts, and that’s great. Just make sure you share them – that’s the important bit.

The second good news is that there’s no right or wrong format for replying. No-one is checking your spelling or grammar, no-one is expecting a specific layout or certain language. All that matters is that you have your say.

So what are you waiting for – go do it now!

More good news, you say?  Excellent! You can put your responses in online using the Ministry’s natty little submission doohicker. And it gets better – you can either just type in your replies, or you can upload a document if you have written them elsewhere or want to use photos, files or links. Great eh? Couldn’t be easier.

Your_voice_count-337x236I typed mine in as I went, and I answered most questions, and the whole thing only took me half an hour. Easy peasy over a cup of coffee.

I can tell you’re tempted now … go on, be a rebel, click here and do yours…

One last bit of good news – you can do your submission in bits if you want. Do a bit, save it, and go back to it. It doesn’t all have to be done at once. Just don’t forget, if you save it, to go back later and submit it!

The Education Act Update could prove to be one of the biggest upheavals in Kiwi education in around 30 years. Do make sure your voice is heard.

~ Dianne

 

 

When is a consultation not a consultation? – Education Act Update Workshops

One gets the distinct feeling the Education Act Update is already written and these workshops are simply a merry dance to make us feel like we are being consulted…

la-la-la-not-listeningIt sounds cynical, I know, but after closely following the antics of Hekia Parata for the past few years, the only conclusion any sane person could come to is that her consultations are a sham and done only to fulfil the requirement to hold one, not to actually listen or learn or change anything.

I’m thinking of Christchurch, Salisbury, Redcliffs… of select committees and consultation with unions. I’m thinking of ECE reforms.

The plans are predetermined; consultation done in name only.

So why, you may ask, did I bother dragging myself to an Education Act Update Workshop this week? I could have stayed home and put the tree up. I know my 6 year old would have been far happier not to have to sit there for 2 hours – the iPad and the superb scones could only hold his attention for so long. But drag myself (and child) to the workshop I did, and here’s why.

It is important to make our voices heard.

It is important to hear what other have to say and to discuss issues with them.

And it is vital our views are recorded, in writing, on the Ministry’s wee feedback forms.

This is crucial even when the Minister isn’t listening. Perhaps especially when she isn’t listening?

If we don’t have a voice, the Minister can rightly say we don’t care what happens. She can say we agree with her plans – taking silence to be tacit approval. She can carry on with impunity, implementing her reform agenda. And that would be a disaster.

It must be on record that we stood up to this. It must be on record what parents, teachers, support staff, principals, whanau and students DO want. Because when the tide turns – and at some point it will – we must be able to point to evidence of what we were asking for and how things must change.

Our voices do matter.

A list of the workshops is here: please do go and be heard.

You can submit online here.

Wonka - not listening

 

Update of the Education Act 1989 – some observations

Bill CourtneyI attended the “open to the public” MoE consultation workshop last Friday about “Updating the Education Act 1989.” As a parent and former school trustee I have maintained a keen interest in education policy and wanted to see first-hand how I would be “consulted”.

After all, the foreword in the public discussion document from our Minister of Education clearly said that she was asking the public for our input into the process.

But it was hard on days like last Friday to not come away concerned about how education policy is being developed in a land that has traditionally been very good at educating its young people.

In many ways the consultation reinforced concerns about what many of us call GERM, i.e. the Global Education Reform Movement, as it is popularly known overseas.

Most Kiwis probably don’t understand what we mean by GERM and may even call us cynical and ideological.  But in recent years we have seen too many examples of policy initiatives that have come off the GERM agenda, as Finnish education leader, Pasi Sahlberg christened it.

And here we are again, this time looking at the Education Act itself, but leaving out most of the contentious policy development of the past decade, such as National Standards, charter schools, IES, Education Council, etc, etc.

Let’s list a few things that rankled me:

  • Timing.How can anyone take seriously a Government that opens a consultation process on education at this time of year and allows a mere 6 weeks for responses – closing on 14 December?  Our session had a total of two school principals as the only school-based education professionals in the room.  I wonder how many teachers and principals will get the opportunity to attend any of these sessions?
  • Scope.You can usually tell when a process has a not-so-hidden agenda when the scope of the review excludes most of the controversial topics!
  • Honesty.Why does the foreword from the Minister of Education say “It is time to take a fresh look at it [the Act]”?  I would have thought that a “fresh look” started with a clean sheet of paper, wouldn’t you?  Also, you would think from reading Hekia’s foreword that the Act had not changed in 26 years.  Yeah Right!
  • Double Speak.Hekia again: “We want an Act and a system that puts children at the centre of learning.” “This discussion document outlines a number of proposals for raising educational achievement.”  Note how “learning” and “achievement” are often interchanged, as if they are the same thing?  In the GERM world, only that which is counted – normally by way of standardised testing or assessment – is deemed to be “achievement”. To paraphrase Albert Einstein, in a child’s life there’s a lot that Counts that cannot be Counted.  Learning is much broader than test scores in Reading and Maths.

So, we began our consultation session with the mandatory PowerPoint pack.  The very first slide got me uptight:

“The Act is no longer doing the job it was designed to do.”

Hang on!  The “job” it was designed to do was to implement the competitive model of education that Treasury promoted in its Briefings to the Incoming Government after the 1987 general election!

What are we really saying here?  Is it time to ditch the much despised competitive model, or not?  If so, then what might replace it?

Given the significance of the changes that the introduction of Tomorrow’s Schools entailed, the Act was completely rewritten in 1989 to create the structure of self-governing schools, Boards of Trustees and so on.

So, are we really changing our minds on the competitive model, or not?  If we were, then the process to evaluate a replacement model would be significant, as it was in 1987 to 1989.  And, for good measure, it would probably require another substantial rewrite of the Act.  So is it getting a “fresh look”, or a mere cursory glance?

Next up was another bugbear of mine!  Apparently we want to “… make sure everyone knows the goals for education.”  Really?  And have we worked out how we are all going to contribute into a powerful and meaningful statement that will endure?

Or, I wonder if it really means another set of Hekia’s infamous 85% achievement targets?

And another one… “How a graduated range of responses could be developed to better support schools when difficulties arise?

How about taking a different tack?  How about supporting schools better now with greater resources targeted where they are most needed, backed up with support services that are needed today?  Why focus instead on how efficiently we can deliver ambulances to the bottom of the cliff tomorrow?

The concerns continue to flow as we progress through the public discussion document.

“How should schools and kura report on their performance…? What should the indicators and measures be for school performance…?”

More data, in other words, right out of the GERM Handbook for Standardised Education.

But, don’t worry, if your numbers are high, then “… what freedoms and extra decision-making rights could be given to schools, kura and Communities of Learning (Hekia’s new clusters) that are doing well?”

It’s hard not to feel cynical, as I said at the outset, but recent developments overseas, such as the testing Opt-Out movement in the USA, give us hope that GERM policies are under scrutiny for one powerful reason: they just don’t work.

My final thought, and the saddest aspect of Hekia’s consultation, is that, 26 years on, we are just going to tinker.  Where is the genuine major rethink on education that we really need?

In the meantime, what collateral damage will GERM continue to inflict on current and future generations of children?

– Bill Courtney

Make a submission online here. You have until 5pm on 14th December 2015.

Underwhelmed with ‘Investing in Educational Success’ plans

When John Key announced the Investing in Educational Success (IES) plans to spend $359 Million creating new teaching and principal roles, the education sector was cautiously hopeful.  More investment is needed in so many areas, so teachers, principals and parents waited with bated breath.  Sadly, the announcement left many underwhelmed, and this is why…

 

WHAT DOES IES PLAN TO DO?

The Government plans to invest $359 million over four years in a highly paid cadre of new management roles in schools.

Change principals will be paid $50,000 a year to turn around “failing” schools.

Executive principals will oversee 10 schools and get paid an extra $40,000 a year.

Expert teachers will also work across schools and get $20,000 extra a year.

Lead teachers will work within their own school and be paid an additional $10,000.On this page are materials to support your discussions about the Government’s “Investing in Educational Success” initiative with colleagues, parents and Boards

 

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?

There are concerns about consultation, as the announcement was made without any discussion with the education sector about where best to spend the money. Consultation after the fact has also left many uneasy as to whether it is genuine or for show only, a criticism that some feel is harsh but others feel is justified after so many sham consultations by the ministry of late.

Many parents, teachers and academics feel the IES plan is money being spent unwisely that could have a far greater positive impact on students’ education if spent elsewhere.  There is no research to say this type of intervention will improve student outcomes – and conversely there is research that shows other initiatives would help significantly.  In essence, adding more management is not going to help.

A parent-led petition is underway, that asks “Why not consult teachers and principals who know what is most needed to support children’s learning, as to what they believe will be the best use of this money?”

 

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR MORE INFO

The video below is an introduction to the Government’s planned new teacher and principal roles – Investing in Educational Success (IES).  It explains how IES fits within the wider reforms and what it might mean for children, teachers and schools, and people outline what their questions and concerns are.

 

teachers, what do you think about IES?  Do you think the original plan was good or not?  Do you think government will change the plan after consultation with the education sector?  Parents, how do you feel about it – do you understand the plans, and do you support them or not?  I’d be very interested to know.

~ Dianne

 

Poll shows paltry public support for new school roles

In the lead-up to the 2014 Budget, less than 6% of people think the government’s plan to establish new leadership roles for some principals and teachers is a good use of increased education funding, according to a new poll.

The poll, commissioned by NZEI Te Riu Roa, surveyed a cross-section of New Zealanders last month and found little support for prioritising the $359 million Investing in Educational Success policy, which has also been widely panned by teachers.

Respondents were somewhat supportive of the package (56%), but when asked what were the most important areas of education in which to spend extra money, the components of the policy were bottom of the list by a wide margin (paying $40,000 to executive principals to oversee a group of schools – 1%; paying $50,000 to experienced principals to turn around struggling schools – 6%; paying $10,000 to experienced teachers to work with teachers in other schools two days a week – 3%).

The poll showed that the public was more interested in

  • reducing class sizes (32%),
  • employing only qualified and registered teachers in early childhood centres (31%), and
  • more administrative support so teachers can focus on teaching and learning (29%).

See the poll results here.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said the poll showed that teachers were not alone in believing putting the money into frontline teachers and support would be a far more effective way to lift student success.

children“The government dreamed up this policy with the idea that it would somehow benefit students. It’s a great pity they didn’t bother to consult anyone who knows anything about what students need for educational success,” she said.

Parents are starting to ask questions about the lack of consultation in the spending of this significant amount of money.

An Auckland mother has set up an online petition asking the government to consult teachers, principals, boards of trustees and parents before implementing the policy.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski: ph 027 475 4140
Communications Officers: Debra Harrington ph 027 268 3291,
Melissa Schwalger 027 276 7131

Hoping for some honest answers on charter schools

 

bagbreatheTeachers don’t often switch off.  A good friend refers to holidays as “non-contact” time. And given our government’s habit of pushing through major education legislation during the holidays, you start to feel like those kids in Jurassic Park, sheltering and hyper-aware of every movement as the velociraptors keep testing for gaps in the perimeter.

Saturday’s the one morning I do try to disengage the teacher brain and enjoy a meander round our local farmers’ market with my mum. But this weekend, the Act party were on the “community group” stall – including the Epsom candidate, David Seymour, who assisted John Banks with the drafting of Act’s charter schools policy.

I’ve read and archived more than 500 articles and op-eds on the decimation of American public schooling in favour of charter schools; that virtual pinboard records the same cynical treatment of state schools in the UK – and now here. It fills me with a cold anger that this is being done to students, teachers and schools. Community as a concept is avidly being unpicked. And schools are some of the nicest communities I’ve ever experienced, held together by a lot of personal sacrifice. Targeting them seems like the educational equivalent of harp-seal clubbing.

So this was a chance to talk to the people who are doing things to education – and fair play, Seymour was fronting up in public. Some other politicians who are neck-deep in this aren’t very good at that.

The charter schools pilot makes me want to grab a paper bag and breathe into it vigorously. Part of my job is to promote scientific thinking in children. It’s the simplest of bottom lines: you keep all variables but the one you’re examining the same for it to be a fair test. Charter school students were receiving more funding per head than public school students, and class sizes were 12-15 compared to 28+ in public schools. So that was one of the questions I put to Mr Seymour – how can this test be called “fair”?

The information on funding is “untrue”  and class sizes “will grow,” he said. But, I said, that’s not what some charter schools are advertising on radio.
I was then informed that it was a “natural experiment”, and results would be “corrected”, controlling for covariates after the trial.  I did a bit more reading later on – yes, they are an option when testing in science. The following gave me slight pause:
“Natural experiments are employed as study designs when controlled experimentation is extremely difficult to implement or unethical, such as in several research areas addressed by epidemiology (e.g., evaluating the health impact of varying degrees of exposure to ionizing radiation in people living near Hiroshima at the time of the atomic blast) and economics (e.g., estimating the economic return on amount of schooling in US adults.”

(Also see this paper  and this paper for a deeper discussion of this type of test.)

Apparently I’m a ‘conspiracy theorist’ for believing that charter schools are the beginning of privatisation by stealth, no matter how much evidence there is for it in America and the United Kingdom. But you heard it here first, and I asked if I could quote him on it: schools will not be forcibly privatised against the wishes of their communities, as is happening in Britain. I look forward to following that up.

I asked him about the effect of competition on the thing that makes good education: sharing of knowledge and resources. He hadn’t heard of the charter school in New York visited by a New Zealand teacher, where all doors, windows and cupboards are locked – not because it’s a dangerous neighbourhood, but because teachers are worried about others “stealing” their ideas.

Seymour challenged me on what I would do with a middle school like the one he attended, where children were apparently allowed to run around and do whatever they liked. (Aren’t there mechanisms in place already? Commissioners?) He also asked if I had visited any of the charter schools myself – the people behind them were all good people, doing good things. I asked him if he’d visited any of the schools in the area where I work to see the good things they were doing, too.

Seymour was lukewarm on the idea of National Standards – shock! common ground? – but it’s because they run counter to Act’s ideas of “freedom” from government control. It was my first real-life encounter with someone who believes so fervently in decentralisation, and it was a strange feeling. Like standing on opposite sides of a Wile E Coyote canyon and trying to make ourselves understood.

It was also fairly heartbreaking to hear an older supporter on the stand, someone kind enough to volunteer to read with children at a school in an area of very high need, ask “Why can’t we just give it a go? Why can’t we have a choice?”

If it really was just about choice, and getting the best deal for our kids, and the public system wasn’t steadily being undermined at the same time, maybe I wouldn’t be so angry.
So I left, feeling like I’d engaged in some harp-seal clubbing of my own in directing that beam of fury at the two ACT supporter ladies. (And embarrassed that I’d lost track of time and stood Dianne up for breakfast.)

Funny how a day can pan out, however. Later at the Quality Public Education Coalition forum, chairman Bill Courtney caused heads to swivel when he greeted Alwyn Poole in the audience before giving an update on charter schools. Poole is the principal of Mt Hobson Middle School. He’s also a member of the Villa Education Trust, whose South Auckland Middle School is one of the first in the charter schools pilot.

What a magnificent thing it was to be able to ask questions openly of someone involved in this, and to receive frank answers. (At last!) And to know that this person has extensive experience in education (and multiple teaching qualifications).

Courtney’s talk used South Auckland Middle School’s figures to explain how funding has been allocated. He also made the point that the charter school model has been hijacked by the privatisation movement. One of the first proponents of the idea, Albert Shanker, saw it as a way to allow teachers greater autonomy, to engage the students who weren’t being served by normal schools.

This sounds like what Poole’s schools have been able to do: Poole said he works with children with needs like dyslexia or Asperger’s, or kids who need a “boost” at middle school level. He was asked why couldn’t he achieve it within the system as a special character school. In 2002, that option was “blocked”. They were looking for “ways of expanding what we do”, so applied for the partnership school option.

The school doesn’t carry the same infrastructure as state schools, principals do admin and teach, and they have “a nice lease agreement”. They also have qualified teachers and teach to the New Zealand Curriculum.

Poole was also asked if some of the biggest barriers to learning faced by many schools in Manukau, such as transience, were problems for his school. Transience, less so, but they have had a small degree of truancy (10 hours), and two students had a conflict and left during the school day.

 

Chest

Class size, and the basic mathematics of time for giving one-to-one support, seems to me to be the elephant in the educational tent. It’s splitting it at the seams as most politicians studiously try to avoid treading in its dung.

Unlike many politicians, Poole openly acknowledges that their 1:15 ratio is part of their success in helping students. Why not campaign for the same ratio for state schools? an audience member asked.
Poole:  “We love our 1:15 ratio and we would advocate for it very strongly.”

Poole said that they’ve also applied to the Ministry for funding to evaluate their model with the help of the University of Florida.

I went up to him afterwards to say thank you, and realised he must have seen some of my trail of articles on charters on the SOSNZ Facebook page (eek).

We touched on something that came up when he spoke to us: dyslexia. When I was a BT, I had a fantastic student who was also dyslexic.  I also had a fairly big class and very basic training in how best to support him, but fortunately, he had a proactive mum who could share her knowledge. I still collect resources now based on what I wish I could have done for him.
Poole started to talk about the things they do, and there was that moment, that neat spark you get when you meet another teacher who might have the solution for the child that you want to help, who will no doubt share it with you, because that’s what we’re both here for, after all.

And that’s what I find hardest to accept: we have educators being pitted against educators in this. Experience, training and knowledge is being dissed.

When stuff like this is happening, the problem is now having faith that the current Ministry of Education is “getting out of bed every morning”, as Courtney put it, with their main aim being to guarantee every child a quality education.
But as Courtney notes, there is no official, publicly available ‘Isaac Report’ to enlighten us on the findings of Catherine Isaac’s working party.  There is no attempt to be scientific and explain how the government intends to evaluate the pilot schools, and the concept. Instead there’s a second round of schools funded before any meaningful data has been generated by the first.

There’s not a recognition that public schools overseas are still managing to deliver results, even though they’re being treated like the Black Knight in Monty Python, battling on and squirting blood as another limb gets lopped off.

I got a lot of answers on Saturday. Now I have a new question. Will all educators – partnership school and state – be willing to dare to do what annoyed Tau Henare so much about the Problem Gambling Foundation: stand together to “bag the hand that feeds them” and oppose the secretive development of policy that serves ideology – not kids?

Screen-Shot-2014-03-21-at-7.47.40-pm

Petition: Have your say before New Zealand’s education system changes

A petition has been started protesting the government’s fast-tracking of a policy that will see $359 million spent on changing the management structure of our education system in New Zealand without proper sector and parent consultation.

The petition is not an SOSNZ initiative, but I fully support it.

sign the petition

The petition says:

The Government is fast-tracking an initiative that will see $359 million spent on changing the management structure of our education system in New Zealand.

It goes on:

It would be a shame if this was lost because of an initiative that is pushed through without prior consultation with those who will be directly affected.

It asks:

Why not consult teachers and principals who know what is most needed to support children’s learning, as to what they believe will be the best use of this money?

Why is the voice of parents and Boards of Trustees not being heard about what their schools need to ensure all children get a chance to succeed?

It quotes a letter from four NZ principals, that was shared on SOSNZ:

“While acknowledging the commitment in making New Zealand’s education system second to none, pumping $359 million into schools without transparency and meaningful engagement with the sector is throwing the money away. We urgently ask that the government first lift its constraints already placed around the funding and secondly, consider without prejudice, the overwhelming evidence around what can best be done to support our children and ultimately our society as a whole…

Rather than inject a large single resource at the top via salaries, we say give the money to the kids as early as possible in a real effort to effect long term change that will benefit children, families, and society as a whole.”  (whole letter here)

It says:

Your signature is valued and much appreciated to raise our voice, so that we can have a say in how our schools are managed.

You can read the whole petition here, and sign if you agree.

sign the petition green button

School closures about saving Hekia, not kids

The National Government’s decision to merge Phillipstown and Woolston
schools is another disaster for Christchurch and proves this Government is
more interested in saving face than in what is best for children, the Green
Party said today.

“Hekia Parata’s stubborn refusal to budge on her closure plans is a
tragedy for the children who fought so desperately for their school to remain
open,” Green Party education spokesperson Catherine Delahunty said.

“This is about Hekia Parata trying to save face after a litany of
back-downs, U-turns and policy failures, but it’s come at the expense of
hundreds of little children and their families.

“The children of Christchurch have become a scapegoat for Hekia Parata’s
incompetence.

“Even in the last few days, evidence has emerged that the second round of
consultation over the closure plans has not been fair, or accurate.

“This is not a ‘new decision’, as the Minister claims. She went in to
this second so-called consultation process with her eyes closed and her mind
made up.

“From the very beginning Hekia Parata lost sight of what was the best
decision for the children of Christchurch and has set out to use the
earthquakes to reinforce her hard right agenda to damage and dismantle public
education.

“If she had really listened, and engaged in proper consultation from the
beginning, the children of Phillipstown and Woolston would have had some
certainty, instead many have found themselves fighting the very person who
should have been working in their interests.

“The Green Party stands with the communities of Phillipstown and Woolston
and wishes them well in their attempts to do what’s best for their kids,”
Ms Delahunty said.

headdesk

The opening phrase that Hekia Parata doesn’t use

“I’ve been talking to many teachers, and….”

 

 

ask the experts

 

 

Education: First be clear on your goals…

It’s great to see so many people from all walks of life discussing education and how we can best make improvements.  Even better that so much of the discussion is calm and reasoned.

Not everyone agrees with each other – that’s impossible – but it is brilliant that we are talking about it.

discuss talk share listenIt is so important people share their ideas, thoughts and concerns, and be honest about them so that a true and honest dialogue begins with parents and teachers at the heart of it, alongside academics, politicians, iwi, and in fact everyone in the country.

Every voice matters.

I’m serious.  Not one of us knows it all.  I don’t have the answers – neither do you.  But together we can share what we know, synthesise the ideas, and begin to unpick what might work best to further improve our schools.

It’s important, though, that we are clear on the goals we wish to achieve.  My own would be to improve public education for all children and to keep education free and equitable.  (Equitable doesn’t mean same for everyone, it just means fair for everyone).

I realise my goals may not be your goals.  This is why any discussion must focus on our goals first, to gain clarity, consensus and direction.

Half the problems come when the parties involved either haven’t thought in any detail about what they truly are aiming for.

Some of the issues occur when they have thought about it choose not to be honest about what they want or why.

That’s not good enough.  

To get anywhere, we all must be honest and then stand by what we believe, whilst listening to and considering fairly the other points of view.  

It is totally fine to disagree.  It is fine to debate and challenge and reconsider things – in fact, not much of any value happens without doing that. But we must be prepared to take on new evidence and reconsider our stance.

And we absolutely must be honest. Saying one thing while believing another will help no-one.

Worse still is saying one thing while doing another.

It all starts with openness and honesty and listening.

Only then can we get an truly inclusive, wide-ranging dialogue going.

Now why not do some thinking and sharing of your own, by joining in the discussions here:

Our education system ain’t broke, yet, by Brigid McCaffery (Stuff Nation)

Stop Playing Politics With Education, by Stephen McCartney (Stuff Nation)

Trust teachers to teach your children, by Mike Boon (Stuff Nation)

Education No Political Football, by Tracy Livingstone (Stuff Nation)

Get politics out of our schools, by Judy Johannessen (Stuff Nation)
 

Teachers must not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold

No Joke - Kelvin SmytheKelvin Smythe once more hits the nail on the head, identifying that these latest proposals aim to bring in both performance pay and the entrenching of National Standards within NZ education.  If those getting the extra pay do not jump on the National Standards bandwagon and promote it to others, they can say goodbye to the role and the money, and a more compliant puppet will be brought in.

Here are Kelvin’s observations:

“Because the education system is hierarchical, narrow, standardised, autocratic, and fearful – the new proposals will yield meagre gains. The proposals, if implemented within this education straitjacket, will have the appearance of a system suffering from ADHD.

The suggested proposals, because of the difference in the way secondary school knowledge is developed, structured, and presented will work somewhat less harmfully for secondary than for primary.

The proposals are a move by the government to buy its way to an extreme neoliberal and managerialist future for education – one part of these proposals is performance pay, the other, and associated, is a managerialist, bureaucratic restructuring:

There is performance pay to develop a cash nexus as central to education system functioning.

There is performance pay to divide NZEI and eventually destroy it (as we know the organisation), NZPF also.

There is performance pay and the wider proposals to divide NZEI from PPTA (PPTA is dithering).

The information I have is that there will be some obfuscation about the role of national standards but in practice performance pay will, indeed, be based on them.

There is making permanent the national standards curriculum by selecting expert and merit teachers on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to a narrow version of mathematics, reading, and writing and their willingness to promote it.

The proposals are intended to set up an extreme neoliberal and managerialist education system:

The executive principal for the cluster system will usually be a secondary principal, if one is not available, a primary school principal friend of the government will be employed.

This cluster structure will form the basis for the ‘rationalisation’ of schools when that process is decided for the cluster area.

The executive principal will be a part of a bureaucratic extension upward to the local ministry and education review offices then to their head offices, and downward to clusters, individual schools, and classroom teachers.

This executive principal will have the ultimate power in deciding expert and lead appointments.”

Read the rest of Kelvin’s insightful piece here.

This is no way to run education.  If we treat the system and those within it this way, what on earth does it tell our students?  That what matters in bowing down to money even when you know it’s wrong?  That it’s okay to leave behind all that your expertise tells you, so long as you’re okay?  That it’s every man for himself? What great lessons for life they are.  Not.

We must insist our unions tread very carefully here, and not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold.

New Education Roles – Working Group – Have Your Say

shoutMake sure the new teacher and principal roles announced by government work out the way you want them to…

Please take note of this information from Kaimanga, newsletter of the New Zealand Teachers Council, and contact your reps to have your say:

Have Your Say
The Government plans to have these roles in place from 2015 with full implementation in 2017.
A working group made up of education sector representatives, including unions, will be charged with fleshing out the details of this initiative.
The following sector representatives have been invited to be a part of the sector working group:

  • Lorraine Kerr, President, New Zealand School Trustees’ Association
  • Nancy Bell, Chief Executive, Te Tari Puna Ora o Aotearoa and member, EDUCANZ Transition Board
  • Judith Nowotarski, National President, New Zealand Educational Institute
  • Angela Roberts, President, Post Primary Teachers’ Association
  • Philip Harding, President, New Zealand Principals’ Federation
  • Tom Parsons, President, Secondary Principals’ Association of New Zealand
  • John Garner, President, New Zealand Area Schools’ Association
  • Toni Waho, TiamanaTe  Rūnanga Nui ō ngā Kura Kaupapa Māori ō Aotearoa
  • Arihia Stirling, Ngā Kura a Iwi o Aotearoa and member, EDUCANZ Transition Board
  • Ross Tyson, President, New Zealand Association of Intermediate and Middle Schooling
  • Unasa Enosa Auva’a, President, Pasifika Principals Association

Teachers should contact and work with these representatives to influence the detail that emerges in the implementation of this initiative.

Principals express concern about charter school

charter fooledThe Mangere Principals Association, says the Government’s decision to finance a Charter School in the area without any consultation with neighbouring school communities flies in the face of the community efforts to raise educational achievement. The Chair of the Association, Fiona Cavanagh, says that the Ministry of Education’s failure to engage with the educational community of Mangere over the matter has damaged trust.

“We had no idea that there was a plan to license a new school in our neighbourhood,” says Fiona Cavanagh. “There are 23 schools in our Mangere cluster and the professionals who work in them know, more than anyone, the educational needs of our community. Yet we were not consulted.”

Ms. Cavanagh says the Principals’ Association wants to know what criteria were used to decide that money be put into a charter school in the area, rather than towards funding innovation and achievement in existing schools.

“Schools in Mangere are very focused on student success. We are working collegially and students’ results this year show that we’re making a real difference in raising achievement in our schools,” says Fiona Cavanagh.

She points to cross-school professional development as an example of the kind of innovation being made across Mangere.

“Collective professional development enhances teaching and improves the learning of children throughout Mangere. We are about to hold a workshop of 130 teacher-leaders who will develop a strategy for schooling improvement across our low-income community. The Ministry of Education ought to be putting its resources into supporting initiatives like this, rather than pouring money and energy into a small school that will cater for a limited number of students.”

Ms. Cavanagh also points to the partnership between the schools and the Mangere-Otahuhu Sports Association, which has improved the quality of sports days in the area and created opportunities for students to excel.

“There are so many good things happening here that are about helping all of our children and are pro-active and forward thinking. Sadly the same cannot be said of the Ministry of Education’s actions in putting a lot of money and resource into a small charter school.”

Parata did “a pretty good job” consulting Christchurch schools. Tui.

Why is information being withheld?

Why is information being withheld?

Ach, just when you think you have heard it all, Hekia manages to open her mouth and spew forth another gem.

Despite Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem deeming the Christchurch schools closures and mergers consultation process to be questionable enough to warrant an investigation, Hekia is yet again flying in the fact of the facts.

An Ombudsman’s probe last year found the ministry “acted wrongly” in  how it handled official information requests on proposals affecting Christchurch schools.

But there’s nothing at all wrong and nothing to worry about at all, apparently.

No, Hekia says it’s all good:  “Ms Parata says she did everything she could.”

In fact she goes one further and says that the process was ” a pretty good job”.   Source

Sorry?

Run that by me again.

” a pretty good job”

WOW!

Tell that to the schools, parents and others who tried to get information through the OIA and were fobbed off.

The teachers’ union, NZEI, put out a statement yesterday saying “We also hope the Minister of Education is prepared to listen seriously to the Chief Ombudsman’s findings and engage with Christchurch school communities in a way that is more respectful and credible than in the past.

It’s not looking promising, is it, NZEI, let’s be honest.

And it’s not just Christchurch schools that have been rail-roaded by Hekia and the Ministry – Salisbury School for special needs girls has been treated despicably, too,  and now – having won a court case to halt its closure – is finding the Ministry is employing underhand tactics that will see it close eventually anyway.  Truly, these actions are not just despicable  they are quite possibly illegal, too.

top secretChristchurch schools have to have their submissions in tomorrow.  The inquiry is to be done the second half of the year.  Many commentators have pointed out that the Ombudsman’s investigation could well lead to legal challenges once decisions are announced regarding those schools.

This is no way for a democracy to run.

This is no way to treat our communities, our children, our education staff or our parents.

If there is a true and rigorous reason for a school to close, so be it.  If that is the case then there should be no need for hiding facts, refusing to share information, obfuscation and downright lies.

So why, Hekia?  Why are you treating schools this way?

And who is next?

*****************

Anyone who has information relevant to the investigation should contact the Ombudsman:

– Telephone on 0800 802 602,

– File an online complaint at www.ombudsman.parliament.nz

– Email info@ombudsman. parliament.nz

__________________

Read more

 The Press – Ombudsman probe into 5 years of school closures

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Whanau Tahi welcome investigation

The NZ Herald – Ombudsman to investigate Education Ministry’s handling of closures

How to lodge a complaint with The Ombudsman (NZ)

Campbell Live’s investigation into the MoE’s treatment of Salisbury School.

Save Our Schools Christchurch

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