In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s election year, and that means it’s time to look at the various political parties’ education policies.
So, because we are helpful souls here at SOSNZ, here’s a handy alphabetical list of NZ political parties with links to their education policies online (or, where no education policy is yet published, a link to their general policy page):
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies are here.
Conservative Party Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies here.
Labour Party Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies are here.
Maori Party Education Policy – not on party web page. Other policies are here.
United Future Education Policy – none on party web page. Other policies are here.
Hekia Parata made a somewhat surprising appearance today at Core Education’s uLearn Conference in Rotorua, prompting again comparisons of her ability to make herself available for certain types of education gatherings and not others:
Still, this is not news, and her appearance this morning was not a total surprise, despite not being on the programme.
At least one person left the room in silent protest.
Some asked questions…
And one, SOSNZ’s very own Melanie Dorrian, made a one-person, silent and very powerful protest.
This prompted a flurry of photos on social media
The protest invoked a lot of positive support from within and without the room.
Melanie, I have never been prouder to call you a colleague. You embody exactly what we want of our teachers and our students – deep critical thinking, a commitment to facts, a determination to hold people to account for their actions, and a social advocacy that puts others’ needs sometimes before one’s own.
To those who praised Melanie, took pics, shared your thoughts, sent her your support – thank you. I hope Melanie’s stance has illustrated clearly that one person can make a difference and your voice – every voice – matters.
Next time maybe you’ll bring your banner, too?
After all, you voted overwhelmingly to stand up to this nonsense.
You can follow Melanie’s own blog here.
Dr Liz Gordon, QPEC convenor, says that QPEC supports the concerns of many other groups about two recently announced policy proposals.
“The first is that additional special education support be given to the early childhood sector. We strongly support the policy of providing early intervention.
“However it is also proposed that this be a zero-cost policy, with funding taken from later stages of education to fund the early interventions. The government is well aware that there is already inadequate funding for special needs in school, and taking from Peter to pay Paul will leave ‘Peter’ with inadequate support.
“QPEC supports additional funding for special needs in education, to give all children the best chance at a full life in the community”.
Dr Gordon notes that the second issue is the introduction of “yet another category of school” into the Education Act.
“The notion of an online school needs much further investigation before it is placed into our Education Act. There are some extremely difficult problems to be overcome before a ‘school’ of this kind can be developed.
“The New Zealand curriculum, which is compulsory in most schools, is not yet available in an online format and this would need to happen (unless the school is to be a private school, which would be a missed opportunity).
“We know that only certain children learn well in an online environment. These are usually high-achieving young people who have the support of well-educated families and communities. This group is not the target of the government’s policy goals, which are to lift the achievement of under resourced children.
“It therefore seems extraordinary that the Minister would champion this policy at this time”.
QPEC is concerned that once again, as with the partnership schools, the Minister is pursuing models that will lead to further privatisation and fewer opportunities in practice.
Dr Gordon concludes: “There is nothing wrong with extra resources in special education or pursuing models of online learning, but the approaches signaled appears out of step with the realities of schooling in Aotearoa.”
Dr Liz Gordon, Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)
The ACT party education policy proclaims that:
“all parents should have a chance to send their children to Partnership Schools. The best way to achieve this is to allow all State and Integrated Schools to choose whether they want to convert to Partnership School status.”
Despite the fact that charter schools do not have to have parents on their board of trustees, the ACT policy goes on to say that:
“Partnership Schools are accountable to parents and students.”
How, I wonder, if parents are not on the board and most information about the school can be kept secret due to it being a private business.
It is incredulous that ACT is still arguing that privatisation (of anything) automatically raises standards. It is patently untrue, as shown by the prisons saga and power companies.
What is true is that once a service is privatised, more money goes into CEOs’ back pockets and less to the workers or those they are meant to serve.
“Education is supposed to be for the benefit of New Zealand’s children.”
Ask yourself, who would privatisation benefit?
~ Dianne Khan
To make sound education policy, we need sound data – isn’t that what we keep hearing? Then why do we continue to rely on research that hasn’t been verified?
Valerie Strauss notes that “For more than a decade, school reformers have said that education policy should be driven by “research” and “data,” but there’s a big question about how much faith anyone should have in a great deal of education research. “
The Washington Post article continues: “This is so not only because the samples are too small or because some research projects are funded by specific companies looking for specific results, but because in nearly all cases, it appears that nobody can be certain their results are completely accurate.” (my emphasis)
If we are to use research findings to making policy (which seems entirely sensible), then any research surely should first be replicated and deemed reliable and trustworthy before being accepted as correct? Otherwise we are opening ourselves to using research that could be skewed for all manner of reasons.
Students (and teachers) deserve better than to be used as guinea pigs.
~ Dianne Khan
Sources and further reading:
A shocking statistic about the quality of education research – The Washington Post
Facts Are More Important Than Novelty: Replication in the Education Sciences – Matthew C. Makel1 and Jonathan A. Plucker
It is worrying that in today’s NZ Herald Hekia Parata again conflates poverty and socio-economic status, and to further confuse matters throws in decile ratings as if the three things are the same. They are not.
Either she doesn’t know the differences or she chooses to ignore them, and I’m not sure which. Either way, she continues to mislead to public.
The Difference Between Socio-Economic Status and Poverty
Socio-economic status is far more complex than poverty. SES takes into consideration a far wider set of factors such as parents’ education achievements, occupation, social status, neighbourhood and so on.
Researchers looking at the impact of SES on student achievement will look at such things as how many books a home has in it, what art work it has, whether there is a desk to work at, how many parents there are, even considering matters such as mental health, birth weight and drug habits.
SES is not merely about income. SES is not the same as poverty.
Expert Opinion on the Impact of Socio Economic Status on a Student’s Educational Success
The 18% in the early part of the PISA report that Parata likes to quote actually refers to the effects of poverty alone – not socio-economic status. Remember, they are not the same thing. The same report she misquotes goes on to say that the impact of socio-economic status is around 75%. That is in stark contrast to Parata’s assertions, is it not?
Stephen Machin, in his 2006 OECD report on Social Disadvantage and Educational Experiences, notes:
“The evidence from empirical research is that education and social disadvantage are closely connected and that people from less advantaged family backgrounds acquire significantly less education than their more advantaged counterparts.
This translates into significantly reduced life chances as individuals’ economic and social outcomes as adults are significantly hampered by lower education levels owing to social disadvantage.”
The fact is, whilst teacher quality is a big *in-school* factor for student success, the out-of-school factors – the socio-economic factors impacting the student every single day – have by far the biggest impact overall.
And if we are not addressing those adequately, we are merely tinkering at the edges.
~ Dianne Khan, SOSNZ
Sources and further reading:
Hekia Parata: Socio-economic factors are often overstated, NZ Herald, 6/11/15
or, to put it another way…
Both pieces made some good points that are worthy of consideration.
But neither spent much time examining how this observed outcome might be one example of how the infamous “Law of Unintended Consequences” plays out in the education reform debate.
Consider the interplay of the following factors and how these have played out over the past 25 years:
So much of the effort put in to the resistance against the education reform movement, or GERM, as Pasi Sahlberg has christened it, has been to raise the spectre of how things can go wrong, no matter how well intentioned the reformers believe they are.
Each of the reform initiatives listed above has played some part in contributing to the outcomes we see today.
How can schools as isolated silos employ all the teachers and resources needed to support a full curriculum, including foreign languages?
And if small schools in particular struggle to do this, why introduce small secondary charter schools with such a limited subject range?
Why have we systematically dismantled many of the support mechanisms we used in the past, as we rushed to implement the quasi-competitive stand-alone model?
Or, in other words, why have we ignored the reality that the unit of production is really the “system” as a whole and not individual schools on their own?
Is it any surprise that schools (intentionally or not) are encouraging students to take less demanding academic subjects, that will assist their NCEA % pass rates to climb ever higher with each passing year?
Is it all that fluoride in the water that makes each successive cohort of students supposedly smarter than all those who passed before them, or is there something else at play?
And lately we have Steven Joyce, as Tertiary Education Minister, expounding at length about how STEM is all that counts in education in the eyes of the current government!
Professor Robert Greenberg, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland, gave an address defending the value of an Arts education at the Wellington alumni gathering last year.
He quoted from several of the University’s distinguished alumni on the worth of their Arts degrees and the value of what they have learned from their studies.
Cultures, Languages & Linguistics, along with Social Sciences and Humanities (as we now call Social Studies) are the major schools within the Arts Faculty at Auckland.
Another aspect of Humanities education has been at the forefront of our minds over the past month, as we helped our children do their ANZAC projects at school.
The incredibly moving events of ANZAC weekend underscored the importance we still place on history and learning from our past mistakes.
But will the architects of the modern education system of today learn from their recent mistakes?
Do we have any confidence that today’s education leaders and policy makers have understood the folly of the past 25 years and the unintended consequences that have arisen?
What will it take to bring about a sea change in the education debate starting with no lesser a question than “What is the purpose of education”?
Only then might we start to move together and to break down the silos and the competitive mindset that has caused so much damage.
We live in hope.
– Bill Courtney
Bill is a parent and former school trustee who writes for Save Our Schools NZ.
Hekia Parata, quoted in stuff.co.nz, Monday 17 November 2014:
“The profession and academics of New Zealand determined that those were the right steps to be taken in each progression through our education system,” Parata said.
Well, Hekia, some of us beg to differ. National Standards has always been a highly contentious policy. But there is no excuse for anyone making statements about the system that are simply not true.
We need to ensure that historical fact is recorded and is not distorted by contemporary political spin.
Many parents, media and commentators might assume that the National Standards were set correctly and were properly tested.
But those of us involved in the debate over time know that there are several issues around the construct of the Standards that have never been resolved.
Let’s check the history:
•The Standards were developed by two small teams of developers (one wrote the Reading and Writing Standards and the other wrote the Maths Standards);
• These people were chosen by the Ministry of Education and mainly included external contractors;
• The Standards were written in a very short period of time in the first half of 2009;
• A brief “consultation” period ran from May to July 2009, during which three draft Standards were available for consideration by the teaching profession and the public;
• The full set of 24 Standards (Reading , Writing and Maths across 8 ages and year levels) was released at the official launch by John Key, in October 2009.
But was the teaching profession involved in the process of setting the Standards?
Frances Nelson, President of NZEI, certainly didn’t think so:
“Not only have the Standards been developed under a cloak of secrecy, the small number of practitioners who were invited into the “inner circle” were – apparently – required to leave all material in the room and sign confidentiality agreements to ensure they didn’t go back and share what they’d been doing with other colleagues, board members or parents!”
Frances Nelson op-ed, Dominion Post, December 2009
Nelson had responded to an op-ed published earlier by the Minister of Education, Anne Tolley:
“There will be no concessions, there will be no trial period. Parents want national standards and they are going to get them from next year. There will be constant evaluation, the tenders are just being let, and if adjustments need to be made, then that will happen.”
Anne Tolley op-ed, Dominion Post, November 2009
To this day, the Standards themselves have never been tested in any trial of any kind.
People forget that the 2010 nationwide petition, organised by NZEI and known as “Hands Up For Learning”, did not call for outright opposition to National Standards but rather for them to be trialled:
“The petition of William Michael Courtney, requesting that the House of Representatives note that 37,617 people have signed a petition requesting that National Standards be trialled in our schools before being introduced nationally.”
Petition no. 2008/90 tabled in the House by the Hon Trevor Mallard, 28 June 2010
The government-commissioned evaluation of the National Standards system did not make any significant recommendations and no “adjustments” of any sort have been made to the Standards.
So, any flaws in the construct of the original Standards have remained.
And what did the academics think?
Professor John Hattie, a leading supporter of the concept of National Standards, was critical of this set of Standards when they were released:
“The success of national standards will be related to the quality and dependability of the standards. The current approach of developing standards by committee is not good enough.
The glossy, recently published New Zealand literacy and numeracy standards have no data, no evidence, and no evaluation – they are pronouncements without evidence. If there is evidence outside committee contemplations, where is it? Until there is evidence, the standards remain untested and experimental.”
Hattie: Horizons and Whirlpools, November 2009
The Parliamentary Library prepared a research paper on National Standards in June 2010. Here is an extract from the section “Speed of design and implementation”:
“The lack of a trial period or testing of the Standards has caused concern. Education sector groups and academics sought a phased introduction of the Standards, as opposed to full implementation in schools during 2010. Concern has also been expressed that with no trial of the Standards, there has been no opportunity to establish whether they have been set at the correct level, or to see how they relate to actual patterns of student progression over time. Not all students follow the same developmental trajectory to get to the same level of performance over time.”
Parliamentary Library Research Paper, National Standards, June 2010
One of the most concerning aspects of the system is the lack of evidence underpinning the Standards and the “One Size Fits All” trajectory they assume. This is important, as in standards-based assessment, achievement is defined as being “in relation to the standard”, as opposed to norm-referenced assessment, for example, which shows student achievement in relation to a student’s peer group.
So it is important for parents and commentators to understand that if there are concerns about the level at which the Standards are set, and how appropriate they are to individual student achievement and progress, then there must be real doubt about the validity of any assessment results arising from using such a system.
~ by Bill Courtney, SOSNZ
Associate Professor Peter O’Connor takes another look at NZ charter schools 3 years after they were first announced.
Here, he discusses the model, funding, conflicting messages from government, the way charter schools are being rolled out into high growth areas in place of state schools, and more.
The video’s well worth watching. It’s also worth sharing in staff or union meetings for discussion.
Charter schools do not make a difference across the system. It is a failed model.
Peter’s first video about charter schools is here, and if you haven’t seen it is also well worth watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9XNG-S7uFQ&feature=youtu.be
My research is looking into how the media discursively constructs ‘the teacher’ in Aotearoa New Zealand; specifically in mainstream media such as newspaper editorials or right-wing blogs, as against alternative media such as teacher-blogs and social media, which confer some degree of control to those represented. At the heart of this is a highly political discursive struggle to define the role of the teacher, and so more broadly, the purposes of education.
The signifier ‘quality teacher’ has become a political tool within Global Education Reform Movement (GERM) policy frameworks. The highly controversial Treasury’s Advice on Lifting Student Achievement in New Zealand: Evidence Brief (2012), stated that class sizes were less important than the quality of teaching, therefore rationalizing that the legal limit on class-sizes could be raised. The government, fortunately, was forced to back down on this. However, what has remained is the reasoned argument within the text:
The holes in this nice simple argument have been pulled apart by Massey University’s Education Policy Response Group; namely that the evidence simply isn’t there that New Zealand’s minorities are performing badly in comparison to other OECD nations, especially considering New Zealand’s high-levels of inequality, and that “socio-economic background and prior experience of students are the main influences on learning”.
Nevertheless, the rationale has now taken a life of its own; New Zealand teachers are currently of poor-quality, and that this is impacting both the futures of minority students, and the country’s hopes of being economically prosperous down the line.
This rationale works to legitimize the policies of National Standards and Investing in Educational Success, and also future policy directions such as teacher pay and professional development to be linked more directly to National Standards data (see the New Zealand Initiative’s World Class Education?: Why New Zealand must strengthen its teaching profession).
National Standards as a policy was introduced to the public with a populist rhetoric, which was all about holding the school system and teachers to account to the taxpayer and to empower parents by facilitating their “‘voice’ and ‘choice’ in discussions about their children’s educational progress” (O’Neill, 2014). The neoliberal logic is that teachers could not possibly be motivated by professional ethics or an altruistic concern for students. In today’s ‘audit society’, in order to raise the quality of teaching, teachers must be held accountable through the audit systems of New Public Management; the three E’s of ; ‘economy’, ‘efficiency’ and ‘effectiveness’ (Power, 1999).
This logic is prevalent within mainstream media discourse. Mike Hosking’s 2012 editorial piece National Standards hold schools to account presents a common-sense ‘we the people’ rhetorical position: we are all already held to account by data and work in high-competition environments, so why not teachers? Anyone that refuses to be held to account by numbers (equated with truth), are implicitly lazy, incompetent, and over unionized:
They also don’t like it of course because numbers tell the truth. Numbers are the facts and the facts are that in some schools, in some subjects, in some regions, things aren’t what they should be. Where once you could fill the room with enough hot air to bluster your way through it, numbers bust the myths.
One of the great lessons of life is we need to be held to account. Held to account in all areas and aspects of our lives by all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. These figures start to hold our schools and the systems in which we teach our kids to account. That can be no bad thing.
The teacher in mainstream policy and media discourse, therefore, tends to be represented by two extremes (often simultaneously): potential saviour of the economy and/or lazy, incompetent and unaccountable (Taubman, 2009).
The purpose of this research therefore is to explore the potential of alternative media for teachers to take some control over their own representation, which gives them a voice often denied in neoliberalized mainstream media (Couldry, 2010). As Nick Couldry said, in these times of increasing privatization of public spaces, education and broadcasting, voice matters.
Alternative media is therefore defined as oppositional media; a voice which challenges the representations, logics and definitions of the status quo.
As well as blogs such as this one and Kelvin Smythe’s, I want to conceptualize the NZEI’s various media practices such as their website, their magazine Education Aotearoa, and their Stand Up For Kids Facebook group page as alternative media. Such spaces offer vitally important sites for alternative conceptions of what it means to be a teacher and the purposes of education itself going forward.
by Leon Salter, School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing, Massey University Wellington
Couldry, N. (2010). Why voice matters : Culture and politics after neoliberalism. London: SAGE.
Education Policy Response Group. (2013). The assessment of teacher quality: An investigation into current issues in evaluating and rewarding teachers. Institute of Education, Massey University
Hosking, M. (2012, September 24). Mike’s Editorial: National Standards hold schools to account. Retrieved from http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/opinion/mikes-editorial-24sep2012
Morris, J., & Patterson, R. (2014). World Class Education?: Why New Zealand must strengthen its teaching profession The New Zealand Initiative.
O’Neill, J. (2014). Rationalising national assessment in New Zealand. International Education Journal: Comparative Perspectives, 12(2).
Power, M. (1999). The audit society: Rituals of verification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taubman, P. M. (2009). Teaching by numbers : deconstructing the discourse of standards and accountability in education. New York; London: Routledge.
The Treasury. (2012). Treasury’s Advice on Lifting Student Achievement in New Zealand: Evidence Brief.
I sit here typing this at 6.20 in the morning because that is the only spare time I have to do this. I hear all the time of teachers who leave their job at 3.30, that start at 9 and have loads of holidays to do as they will.
I just wish I was one of those.
I have been teaching now for 19 years and this should be easier.
I spend at least 2 hours every day marking just to keep up.
We have fabulous new ideas called ‘responding to marking’ which means marking in depth, setting new activities or ‘gap tasks’ and ensuring the children complete those before the next lesson. I have a large amount of stickers and stamps but have still used up the ink in 6 purple pens since September.
We have been told Ofsted do not require unnecessary levels of marking so we will see if things change but I won’t hold my breath.
Our education system is now based on finances and results.
My pay is now dependent on my children achieving the results that were set before I even started working at the school. I get observed 3 times a year and have to achieve 60% outstanding to be seen as value for money.
The observations will be carried out by those ultimately responsible for managing and setting the school budget. You can make your own observations about that!
Tests and more tests are the everyday life for children in our schools.
They start in year 1 with our now legendary phonics screening check that measures decoding skills and is passed off as a reading test. The children get a nice little tag with pass or fail on it at 6 years old. As a teacher this goes against everything I believe. I am forced to label my children as failures at only 6 years of age.
If the children in your school struggle with these tests and your results suffer then you are exposed to the OFSTED machine that descends upon schools and puts them into a state of fear and misery.
Then if they are judged as failing, the whole school can then be sold off to the highest academy bidder. Land is then sold off, new uniforms ordered, a bit of new building works to impress parents and off you go.
Teachers are forced into school at 7am, expected to work including after school clubs until 6pm. There are even Saturday school sessions where staff are expected to attend.
We have a dedicated work force who have put up with a lot over the last years but there are signs this is changing.
We have teachers walking out of the profession even in difficult financial times.
I honestly feel if this does not change you will have a teacher shortage and a dominance of teachers who are so beaten down they cannot hope to perform to the best of their ability.
And who will suffer? The children who our government say are at the heart of what they do……
by Jennie Harper, UK Teacher
For those of you that think how New Zealand structures teacher training in future isn’t an issue to be concerned about, take time to read this and see how, in the UK, outstanding university courses in Teacher training have been shut down since their equivalent scheme, School Direct, started.
The Department for Education boasts that take up for the scheme is great:
…there will be 17,609 places for School Direct trainees in 2015 and 15,490 higher education postgraduate places
Proponents cite the increasing numbers of applications year on year as evidence that School Direct works. I would posit that it is evidence that would-be teachers can no longer afford to go to university and prefer to earn money while training. Who wouldn’t? But that in no way means the scheme is superior in terms of training.
There are another concern, too.
As universities shut down their teacher training programmes, there will eventually be a lack of places even for School Direct trainees to get their uni-based components:
Under School Direct, schools recruit trainees directly and link up with universities to provide out-of-classroom training. Trainees have an “expectation of employment” at their school at the end of their training.
But critics are concerned that the shift to School Direct may destabilise the teacher training system because universities cannot guarantee student numbers – and so funding – year on year.
And there’s a teacher shortage looming in the UK…
Hey, but who cares, because when push comes to shove the government will scream !!!TEACHER SHORTAGE!!! and decree that teachers don’t have to be trained at all.
You know, like they don’t in charter schools already….
See the link?
Cheap, disposable labour – seemingly the government’s goal for all employees these days.
I think the most telling part of the article is when the Department for Education spokesperson said:
“The School Direct programme is a key part of our plan for education.”
Yes. I bet it is.
Alllllll part of the bigger plan.
I’m telling you, people, we are on one hell of a slippery slope.
Sources and further reading:
You might wonder why this is. You might think it’s a terrible move. But from National’s point of view, it’s a clever move, and here’s why:
Firstly, National can point to ACT as the reason for dreadful policies like charter schools and the soon-to-become-real horror of a voucher system. The hope is that ACT can take the party blame and National can deflect as much as possible.
The second, similar, reason is that by putting Seymour in an education role they hope that anger at unpopular policy will be pointed at him personally, much as it is with Hekia Parata at times. The hope will be that people will focus on ACT’s 0.7% vote or that they have only one MP.
DO NOT FALL FOR IT.
That ACT got 0.07% and one MP is frustrating, but the fact is that ACT is in now and we must resist the urge to talk about the person and instead focus on the policy.
POLICY is what matters.
Every time a new policy is suggested, read it, consider it, ask what effects it may have, read the news, the blogs, talk to others about it.
Do not take anyone’s word for what might happen as a result of any new policy – not my word, not Seymour’s, not Parata’s, no-ones.
Think about it yourself.
Read, learn, question.
And if you decide the policy is going to damage our education system, I implore you to fight it.
Because this next three years is going to be one hell of a roller-coaster for education.
In the words of Bachman Turner Overdrive, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet.