Education Ministry

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Is Hekia Parata planning National Standards for preschoolers?

ECEMany of us who have read it are very concerned about the Education Ministry’s Statement of Intent.

The foreword is an exercise in deduction as, like all of the Minister’s communications, it’s hard to get past the waffle and jargon in order to see what is actually meant.

But this is vitally important that educators and parents DO read and understand it, because this document outlines what the Minister is intending to do next to our education system.

When I first read the Statement, I was torn between horror at what is implied in it and amusement at the circumlocution and waffle.  In fact, I immediately wrote my own parody of the Statement, using about 50% of Hekia’s own words and adding my own spin.

It amused me, briefly.

But that amusement didn’t last long.

In actual fact, the Statement of Intent is very concerning.

Very. Concerning.

Catherine Delahunty picks it apart today in this article, and asks some very salient questions about the Ministry’s intent, in particular regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE).

For those of you that don’t know, the Ministry’s Early learning Information System (ELI) is “an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record children’s enrolment and attendance.”

Delahunty points out that the Education Ministry says it will use its Early Learning Information System:

to help identify particular trends and  the effectiveness of children’s learning…”

Delahunty then asks,

“What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning?

There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ’3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers.”

I agree, it does appear to signal the Ministry is moving towards measuring the academic achievements of preschoolers.

This is worrying.

There are HUGE concerns from the ECE sector and from parents regarding the push towards standardising learning (and, heaven forbid, testing) for preschoolers.

It’s bad enough that the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards is being entrenched in primary schools, but to it is even worse to be forcing formal learning on 2,3, or 4 year olds. The move is not supported by the research and in totally unnecessary in terms of good learning.

Ask yourself, why the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards – what does it achieve?

Has it raised student achievement elsewhere?

The answer is no. But it has created a very lucrative market in testing materials and it has allowed for performance pay for teachers, neither of which benefit the students. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Delahunty says:

“We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Chris Hipkins (Labour) and Tracey Martin (NZ First) at the Tick For Kids ECE forum in Wellington last week.

The focus on reading and writing, and the obsession with pass marks, is narrowing our education system and crippling both teachers and students.

It is not a positive move.

It will not improve educational outcomes.

It is not supported as good practice by research.

So just what is the motive for doing it?


Sources and further reading:

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Delahunty – National’s Dangerous Education Agenda Exposed – The Daily Blog

The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2013 – 2018 (which sets out the key elements of how the Ministry will contribute to the delivery of Government’s priorities for education.)

Beanbags: An Alternative Statement of Intent Possibly from the Minister of Education (or perhaps not)

Hipkins and Martin well received, Parata not so much – what happened at the Tick For Kids Education Forum 12.8.14

Report shows National plan to slash billions from Education Budget

‘false accusation and misrepresentation of justice’ – the sacking of Marlene Campbell, by Kelvin Smythe

hatchet jobThis from Kelvin Smythe:

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.

unfair-justice 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

The original article is here, along with other educational posts.

If you wish to help Marlene fight this, please give to her legal fees fundraising here.

Thank you.


Read also:

Ministry Bullying at Pembroke School.

stop the bullyMore revelations from Kelvin Smythe, this time on the disgraceful treatment of Pembroke School, the local community, Principal Brent Godfrey, and 216 decile 3 children:

 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.

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