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Why NZ should care that teachers in England are on strike

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On Tuesday 5th July 2016, thousands of teachers in England are striking, and the reasons that are doing so are very pertinent to what is happening in New Zealand.  Everything that is happening there is already being put in place here, bit by bit by bit.

Here, Charlotte Carson explains the reasons that the teachers are striking and why parents should care:

Parents – are you a wee bit pissed off that teachers are on strike again? And it’s all about their pay?!!

I am a teacher and I will be on strike on Tuesday. I want to explain why.

1. It’s not really about pay.
As a profession I think we are well paid. That is why we have good quality professionals working hard to teach children, inspire them and look after them. But this is about to change.

2. The White Paper
The government’s latest white paper proposes DEREGULATION of teachers’ pay and conditions. Currently all local authority employed teachers in England are paid according to the same contract. Like nurses and doctors, we have automatic pay progression (so the longer you serve the more you get – an incentive to stay in the profession), pay portability (if we move schools we get the same basic pay – they can’t pay us less – this stops a competition between schools for teachers based on money – without it richer schools will always poach good staff from poorer schools) .

3. What is performance-related pay?
The introduction of performance related pay will mean that teachers get paid according to exam results. As a parent I would never want a teacher to look at my child and think ‘is he going to wreck my data and stop my pay rise?’ We are not working in sales – it is hugely problematic to pay us based on exam results.

4. Why should non-teachers care about teachers pay and conditions?
Deregulation also means that our working hours, holidays, pay, sick pay and maternity pay will be individually decided by the employer – the academy that is. An Academy in Manchester has in its contract that maternity pay will be ‘subject to affordability’. Who will become a teacher if the terms and conditions are unattractive?

A mum said to me yesterday ‘but in my job I don’t get good maternity pay – why should I care about teachers?’. My answer is this: public sector pay and conditions set the bar for private sector pay and conditions. If we get screwed you will get screwed too.

5. What’s the problem with academies and free schools?
Academies and free schools are businesses. That means their primary concern is money. The government is paving the way for them to become profit-making businesses. Already many academies double up as wedding venues, conference facilities etc. No harm in generating revenue eh? Well only if it’s being ploughed back into the school and the children. Let’s remember schools are about children aren’t they? It seems not.

Many academies including Harris academies have recently got in trouble for deliberately excluding ‘problem children’ and paying local authority schools to take them off their hands – because they wreck the data. How can you publish your excellent GCSE results if some stubborn children just won’t make progress! The answer in some academies is to get rid of them – then you don’t have to report their results.

So if the money isn’t spent on the kids where does it go?

Good question!
Do a Google search on Haberdashers Free School account fraud. He ran off with £4million! How did he manage to do that? Answer – because he was only accountable to the board of governors and the head teacher. Local authority schools are overseen by a democratically elected local council. Academies don’t have to bother with that level of accountability. And the government also wants to get rid of parent governors. This would mean that academies would only be accountable to themselves. We’re talking about millions of pounds of public money. Already there have been many documented cases of fraud in academies and free schools.

6. Qualified teachers v. unqualified teachers
Academies and free schools don’t have to employ qualified teachers. Unqualified teachers are cheaper of course. But I know which one I want teaching my children.

This is all I have time to write just now.
The problem is that most teachers are so busy that they haven’t taken time to communicate all this with parents. I think we need to get much better at doing that.

But just think about your children’s teachers – do you trust them? If you do then please trust that they are on strike for the right reasons – for the future of our jobs and our schools – defending education from privatisation.”

New Zealand parents, take note – this is all coming our way, too.

~ Dianne

Education is being hijacked by profiteers

Education reformers like to say they are doing it for the kids. That the reforms will improve the education system. Mountains of evidence shows this is poppycock and that education reforms overwhelmingly lead to profits being more important than the children’s education.

England As An Example

In England, the government has ruled that by 2020 Academies (charter schools by another name) will take over ALL state schools. Forcibly.

Whether parents and students want it or not. Whether the staff want it or not. Whether the school board wants it or not. Whether the school is doing badly or brilliantly.

It’s been mandated: ALL England’s public schools will be handed over to Academies.

Do Academies/Charter Schools Improve Education Systems?

If Academies raised standards, perhaps it would be understandable that the government wishes to hand all schools over.  Acceptable, even. But they don’t.

Pro-reformers will point out this school or that as being improved under the charter school model. But the truth is, they are the exception. Under this model, there is a raft of bad practice: Suspensions rise. Inclusion goes down. Cherry-picking of students takes place. And when similar cohorts are compared between public and charter schools, it is clear that charter schools do not improve results.

Even the UK Department of Education’s own analysis shows that, overall, England’s state schools do better when run by the Local Education Authority than by an Academy Trust.

Which surely begs the question of why this is being done.

Follow The Money

If you want to know the reason for reforms, follow the money.

Ask yourself, who benefits from these changes?

It isn’t the students: England’s national and international test results have fallen since Academies were put in place.

It isn’t teachers: Classroom teachers’ work conditions and pay are often far worse in Academies.

So just who is raking in the money? You might want to take a look at Academy Trusts’ CEOs. And while you’re at it, have a look at the misappropriations and frauds that have already happened in Academies. (A reminder – that’s your tax money they are taking. Money that is meant to be used to educate students.)

And where are savings being made, to pay these CEOs? Excellent question.

Are Academy CEOs such brilliant businessfolk that they are able to use money so much more wisely than LEAs and school principals ever did? Is running a thriving carpet empire or a successful mobile phone business what it takes to make an education system great?

No, not so much.

UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb recently said, in a speech championing Academies, that “[n]o child should have to spend one day more than necessary in an underperforming school and as an urgent matter of social justice we are determined to spread educational excellence to every corner of the country.”

But does the rhetoric match the reality?

Indeed not, and the list of failures grows daily, with evidence showing that in England LEA schools out-perform Academies.

So what is really going on?

Cost Cutting and Untrained Staff

Let’s take this Academy school as an example.

Hatfield Academy primary school was, in 2015, rated inadequate at many levels.  The OFSTED report specifically said that teaching was inadequate and stated that the school must “[u]rgently improve the quality of teaching”.

And yet this failing Academy is happily advertising for someone with no training at all to teach its students: 

Academy job cropped

No training.

No knowledge of pedagogies. No research of good practice. No understanding of child development or psychology.

No. Training.

None.

To put this further into context, this is a school where a school survey of parents showed that:

  • 27% felt their child/ren were not making good progress at the school.
  • 45% felt the school is not well led or well managed.
  • 42% felt the school does not deal well with concerns raised, and
  • 40% of parents said they would NOT recommend this school to another parent.
This is a school that thinks, with all of the above in mind, that employing untrained staff to teach students is acceptable.

This is global education reform.

~ Dianne

New Zealand, a warning: The forcible conversion of England’s schools to Academies (Charter Schools), by John Palethorpe

no academy

I could never work in an Academy. As an educator, a professional and a passionate believer in universal education, they represent a corruption of the principles of equal access to free education. Not only that, the long litany of problems involving finance, curriculum alterations and mistreatment of students and staff clearly outline that Academy schools aren’t great places to work. A friend of mine wrote beautifully on the subject a little while ago now.

In New Zealand we have Charter Schools a half formed cargo cult version. They’re already in trouble due to finance, curriculum and mistreatment of students and staff. Sounds awfully familiar.

The first UK Academy opened in 2002. Their introduction was aimed at reinventing inner city schools with significant results and management problems. Then sponsors got involved, either rich individuals or corporations (including educorps). They were supposed to bring in private sector best practice and management, like most privatisation is supposed to.

In May 2010 the Conservative-Liberal Democrat (Lib Dem) Coalition came to power in the UK. There were, at the time, 203 Academies in the UK – mostly Secondary Schools.

nut-no-academies-placard1The term of the Tory education secretary Michael Gove saw a radical expansion of Academies. This was often as a result of OFSTED inspections, some of which classed schools as failing only a year or two after they had been called outstanding. Some schools were forced into becoming Academies, against the will of pupils’ parents.

Today there are 4,516 academies; 2,075 out of 3,381 secondary schools and 2,440 of 16,766 primary schools. The expansion was so rapid that many private Academy trusts took on more schools than they could cope with, leading to those schools failing and being taken back by the DfE until another Academy group could be found to take over. The free market of schools.

“It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher”

It was the middle of last week when I heard that I could never work in the UK again as a teacher. I’ve no plans to move back, I love Aotearoa New Zealand, but the crunching finality of knowing that there’d be no place that I could conscientiously work was sudden and upsetting.

In the Budget, Chancellor George Osborne (not the pig tampering one, the one who looks like a pig) announced that all English schools would be converted into Academies by 2020. Every single one of them.

What does this mean? Well, given the evidence already available it would mean none of the UK’s schools would be bound to teach the National Curriculum, instead being charged to provide a ‘broad and balanced’ curriculum. So what you’re taught in one school may be radically different from another. Not teaching style, actual content.

It’s not great for pupils, in more ways than one. Many Academies have operated a subtle and not so subtle selection process, choosing only pupils who are likely to be able to improve their results. Others, when dealing with those who are disruptive or failing, have placed pupils on study leave during exam or inspection periods, or placed them in study support centres outside of the school. This can take the form of pupils and parents being asked to leave by the school, rather than being excluded (which would show up in the all important league tables). Now that every school is to become an Academy, where do those pupils go?

Academies have, over the long term, not been proven to raise results any more significantly than schools in the UK operating under the LEA’s (Local Education Authorities, which will soon be defunded and dissolved). In fact, Academies have come under fire for exactly the same issues that LEA schools had in management, results and organisation, the same issues which saw the schools be forced to convert! Conversion turns every school into an individual Ltd company and scythes out the level of local support and oversight that was previously provided by the LEA. On such a huge scale, that’s far too much for the Department for Education to handle.

It’s going to cost money too. Newly converting Academies get a 10% funding boost, at a time when state funded schools have seen budgets cut year on year. But due to the rapid expansion of Academy schools and the lack of oversight, many have had to be bailed out by the Department for Education. I guess bringing in the ‘best of the private sector’ does mean being utterly sure the Government will spend millions trying to salvage the mess you make.

Overall, it’s had a huge impact on the profession. Academies are not bound by the collectively negotiated pay structure, meaning the UK’s Teaching Unions will have to bargain with individual Academy Trusts and schools. They’re also not bound by the negotiated terms and conditions of contract for teachers, which means many teachers find themselves on-call permanently or schools have employed teachers on the equivalent of zero hours contracts. The trend for Academies to lack unionisation, because of the ease with which you can be dismissed, makes this even harder.

NUT-save-our-schoolsIt’s not great for Academies, either, though. Without a national pay structure, schools who can find more money will get the better teachers. Schools with wealthy backers will have more than schools that don’t.

As a male Primary teacher, I’m relatively certain that I’d be paid more than a female doing the same job with the same experience. Why? Because I’m rarer. Teaching is one of the few professions where pay equality was built in already. And they’re getting rid of it.

“Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers”

There’s also the question of professionalism itself. Academies don’t have to employ qualified teachers. And hidden in the announcement of Academisation was the change to Qualified Teacher Status.

Previously, Newly Qualified Teachers (NQT’s) were assessed over the course of a year or two to see if they were able to meet the standards for a qualified teacher. With a huge teacher shortage looming in the UK, the plan is to allow teachers to teach for longer in the classroom and be certified by their Headteacher and a Senior Staff member.Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says this will drive up standards, and drive is an important word. She announced that allowing teachers longer to qualify and removing the strict schedule teachers had to meet will allow those NQTs who struggle more chances to make it.

As an experienced teacher, I look back on my NQT period as far, far less intensive than doing the job in the years that followed. It’s being presented as like a driving test, just because you fail doesn’t mean you’re a bad driver, right?

“…reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff”

Fair enough, but with one report saying teachers would have up to a DECADE to pass, it makes you ask – if it takes you ten years to pass your driving test, maybe you’re just not a driver? Buy a bike. Or walk. Some people just aren’t meant for the classroom, some people just aren’t teachers and the attempt to try and fill the rapidly depleting profession by reducing the standards you require of a teacher doesn’t drive up standards and professionalism, it drives it over a cliff.

It also makes it trickier for teachers to do as I did and head overseas. There’s been a mass exodus of teachers from the English system, coincidentally or otherwise, in the last six years. By shifting the QTS award to something less substantial, overseas authorities may very well view them as insufficient evidence of an ability to teach. I’m glad I left when I did; others in future may not be so lucky.

There is already a growing and vocal opposition to all of the plans outlined above, as well there should. Announcing you’re ditching LEA oversight and support of schools, dumping the need for any school to employ qualified teachers, dropping the National Curriculum, scrapping nationally negotiated terms and conditions and placing schools in a bidding war for new teachers is a huge and complete evidence free attack on the quality and professionalism of education in the UK.

“For me there’s sadness.”

For me there’s sadness. My love of teaching was developed, as a student, in the UK system that’s now being explosively dismantled. I spent the first five years of my teaching career safe in the knowledge that I was a public servant, providing fair and equal education to all of my children as a professional. I was paid the same as anyone else who was experienced as I was, and I could talk with teachers from around the country about the curriculum and its delivery in the knowledge that we were all working together as equals. It was an education system for the whole country. If these plans are implemented, it won’t be any more.

In Aotearoa we should take lessons from the way in which Academy failures were written off or marginalised to the public and how concerted political pressure on inspection agencies led to the dramatic spread of privatised schools. The few Charter Schools in this country are already struggling, and what has happened in the UK this week shows us the future of education if they’re allowed to spread further.

no-to-an-academy_nut.jpg

~ John Palethorpe

Further reading:

Michael Rosen on academy schools: ‘Local democracy bites the dust’ – Guardian

England’s largest academy chain ‘failing too many pupils’ – BBC news

New academies laws were passed by Parliament last night: here is what they mean for you and your school – Time Educational Supplement (TES)

Anti Academy Alliance

 

 

From the UK: Is it appropriate to test 4 year olds?

UK Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan and the panelists respond to the question, “Is it appropriate to test 4-year-olds in school?”  The quality of responses is high, and it provides a lot of food for thought.

It is worth Kiwis watching the video and considering that this is the path our Minister would like to take us down and is in fact already embedding with National Standards. It starts with in-class testing and overall Teacher judgements (OTJs) and slowly moves to standardised tests and league tables. This is why the NZEI fights so hard on behalf of teachers and parents to resist standardised tests and the like. The push towards more testing, more data, more league tables is relentless, and holding it back is a constant and very real job.

Just because education policy is even more bizarre and broken elsewhere, please don’t be complacent, NZ.

Now I reckon you should make a cuppa, get a bickie or three, and watch the video. It’s well worth it.

~ Dianne

 

Further Reading:

New Zealand Educational Institute – NZEI Te Riu Roa

National Union of Teachers (NUT) – UK

 

Passing and Failing 4-5 year olds, by Jennie Harper

Year 1 Phonics Screening check

Background

In England, the government introduced the Year 1 Phonics screening test in June last year.

• It is an unseen paper, it is administered by the class teacher individually.

• The children have to read 40 words, 20 of which are non words. Last year’s pass mark was 32.

• The results are put on Raise Online and are available to the LEA and Ofsted alongside the KS1 and KS2 SATs results. Poor results can trigger an Ofsted.

• In the pilot 34% of children passed.

These words especially on part 2 of the test are at the level of difficulty you would find in a level 2 reading book. However, Year 2 children who score a Level 2 in the SATs reading test are not expected to read these words out of context.

pass failIf they pass they get just that, a pass, whether by 1 word or by being completely correct. Similarly if they are one word under they get the word fail and that’s it. No level, no support to make further progress just that one word fail.

This is not a reading test, it is a test of decoding. It is not about confidence as a reader, about fluency or comprehension. All the strategies that you use as a fluent reader are not being tested.

All children have to do this test. And if they fail it the first time they get to repeat it in year 2 – double the humiliation because then they will have had a year of stressed parents and probably teachers too trying to get them to achieve what just may be impossible.

What we do about phonics.

We do a well known scheme sold by one of the advisors on the test. We used our matched funding and spent £12,000 on resources to start. Now each year most of the English budget will be spent on consumable resources that we will continue to need to buy.

As for the scheme we are using if I say give yourselves a lorry driver….or an elvis…..maybe that would help?

Pros

Some children respond very well to it and they develop decoding skills they may not if we didn’t do it.

The pace is fast and some of the activities are fun.

The children do love the praise and encouragement aspects.

The structure of the scheme shows children the progress they are making.

Our Teacher Aides now feel very involved in the teaching and learning during these sessions.

Cons

We now stream children from the first term in Reception.

Most of our English time is now spent on this as we do it 4 days a week.

The children are assessed every 6 weeks purely on their phonics decoding skills and graded according to that. If they struggle with comprehension they struggle every day as the comprehension skills are assumed to be at a similar level.

The children can also struggle with writing which again is assumed to be at the same level at their decoding skills. In my group I have children who can identify and blend sounds and read many simple words but cannot write cvc words confidently. They are writing streams of letters and feeling failure every day.

The amount of time spent assessing and managing the scheme takes a great deal of my year group leader time.

My experiences with the test.

I spent two full days out of my class doing these tests. Some children coped very well and some enjoyed the 1-1 time with me. Others did not fair so well.

One child told me her mother told her she would be happy if she passed the test and would buy her a present. Her mum would be sad if she failed the test.

I could have told her mum she was going to be sad before her child came into the room and started shaking.

One child spent 10 minutes talking about how much he loved aliens and what he would say to the aliens if he met them before he started the test. He failed. I felt that the test was set up for the children to fail. They went straight in with alien words, not even starting with real words to allow the children to feel success from the start. The ‘real’ words included ‘jazz’ and ‘lords’ which do not appear in many 5 year olds’ reading books, so most children did not recognise them. Even the early stage 1 words were not simple well known words at all.

The advice that came with the tests states that you should say the alien words are the aliens’ names, I would not do that as none of the words started with a capital letter which would make my more able children even more confused.

Oh and yes my more able readers did indeed try to make real words out of the alien words. Strom became storm for most of my children.

We had around a 60% pass rate and we were pleased about that for the children’s sake. We were not observed by our LA who had to monitor a percentage of schools. That is probably a good thing as I passed a couple of children with speech impediments they probably would have made me fail as the advice on SEN is typically vague.

I hated the process of writing the letter that, however we tried to make it sound positive, included the names of 5 and 6 year old children and the word fail.

We then had a meeting with some very confused and upset parents and tried to reassure them that the world had not ended and their children were not stupid.

What next?

This year the 40% of our year 2s that failed will be retaking the test.

Our 6 year 1 classes will be taking the test.

4 new year 1 teachers will be trained on how to carry out the test.

5 year 2 teachers will need to be trained on how to carry out the test.

We will need to have 3 supply teachers in every day for a week plus one day the next week to catch up on those that are absent.

Although we are a classed as a good school, a neighbouring school is about to become an academy, so any weak link…..our results matter….the pressure is on.

We have a bulge class of 30 children 24 of them had never attended school before they joined us in October this year…we have now been told we cannot separate their results… we are vulnerable.

by Jennie Harper, Teacher, UK

England’s Academy schools – are they all they’re cracked up to be?

New Zealand has Partnership Schools, the USA has Charter Schools, and England has Academies.  They’re all much of a muchness, state schools passed off into private hands with the promise of educational improvement for students.  But are they all they’re cracked up to be?

In The Guardian, Michelle Hanson questions whether the promise matches the hype.

She asks:

“If a school needs perking up and fancies a uniform, Latin, Vera Wang tea sets and no national curriculum, fine – but why call them academies?

Why not just schools?

What’s the difference?

We pay for them. Not the sponsors.”

A headteacher who found himself out on his ear when his school was made into an Academy observes:

“They mostly seem to be run by dodgy, spiv businesspeople,” says Fielding, understandably bitter, because the school to which he had dedicated his life became an academy.

In came the sickening corporate mantras, the uber-swanky furniture, the slick management speak, squillion-pound makeover, and out went Fielding, along with everyone else in the NUT [National Union of Teachers], and any heart.

“I smell a rat,” says he, “but I don’t know what it is.”

Hanson thinks she knows what the rat is, and so do I: Money.

follow-the money

She observes that certain parties were quick to capitalise on the money-making potential of Academies :

Capita was fairly quick off the mark to spot “market opportunities” supplying IT systems as schools switched to academy status.

“Leading academy chain” E-ACT had a culture of “extravagant” expenses, “prestige” venues and first-class travel and has been criticised for “widespread financial irregularities”; another academy superhead, Jo Shuter, snaffled up £7,000 of school money to pay for her 50th birthday.

Exam results

And yet for all that, England’s GCS exam results were lower this year, not higher.

It’s the same for A levels, too – in 2014 the pass level went down.

And England’s PISA results are nothing to write home about, either.

So What’s the Motive for Academies?

If financial irregularities are much more of an issue than when schools were run by local authorities…

and OFSTED (England’s ERO) is under investigation for giving Academies far more notice that they are visiting  than the half-day’s notice non-Academies get…

and exam results are going down…

… it’s kind of hard to argue that Academies have brought improvement.

At which point you really do have to start asking yourself what the real motive for Academies and the worldwide push for “charterisation” is.

You might want to start by asking who benefits from them, because it certainly isn’t the education system, teachers, taxpayers or students.

~ Dianne

follow the money

Current state of education in the primary sector in the UK, by Jennie Harper

Union Jack bagI 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

Charter School Fraud and Mismanagement

Charter schools are sold with the promise of innovative teaching, greater freedom, and the magical word “choice”.  And it’s fair to say that in some cases they deliver.  Some charter schools do great things, as do some state schools, so what’s the problem?

Promise v. Reality

The charter school  promise all to often fails to match the delivery.

PR, sound bites and glossy brochures might sell a school as doing amazing things.  The desks might be new, and you might get your uniform paid for or other benefits that individual parents find hard to resist, especially if they are having trouble making ends meet as it is.  And some of those schools will be doing just what they say they are, a good job.

But far too many aren’t, and the level of fraud, mismanagement and dirty doings that is uncovered on a weekly basis is staggering.

In too many cases worldwide, we have seen that corporate greed and money-grubbing individuals use charters as just another opportunity to rort the system for profit.

The truth is, the charter school system is all too often co-opted by charlatans.

Personal Piggy Banks

swag theft moneyRupert Murdoch gleefully declared for-profit public education “a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”  Be under no illusion, the businessmen and corporates are already poised to cash in on your tax dollars.  They have only one thing in mind – profit.

However, even worse than that is the fact that so much money is stolen or misappropriated.

Between the frauds and the lavish wages, lunches and perks given to certain staff, it’s bewildering how much education money fails to be used for education!

As one observer noted:

It might be an overstatement to say that some operators use charter schools as their own personal piggy banks, but then again a recent corruption scandal…  illustrates just how easy it is for money to flow from charter schools to private individuals.” Source

Indeed, and that flow seems all too often to be more of a flood.

Lessons from Abroad

Let’s focus on the issue of fraud and money mismanagement.

A recent report Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, & Abuse found that over US$100Million is misappropriated in charter schools in the USA.

For example:

  • Nearly $3 million in unsubstantiated expenses amassed by the Weems Charter School.
  • The director of the now-closed New Hope Institute of Science and Technology charter school in Milwaukee, was convicted in federal court of embezzling $300,000 in public money and sentenced to two years in prison.  She spent about $200,000 on personal expenses, including cars, funeral arrangements and home improvement…

Things are so bad in the USA that the FBI are involved. Just take a look at just some of the cases FBI were involved in during the past year alone:

  • “The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it with subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group’s operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI’s visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder.”—The Hartford Courant, July 18, 2014

 

  • “The FBI has raided an Albuquerque school just months after the state started peering into the school’s finances. KRQE News 13 learned federal agents were there because of allegations that someone may have been taking money that was meant for the classroom at the Southwest Secondary Learning Center on Candelaria, near Morris in northwest Albuquerque … “—KRQE News 13, August 1 2014

 

  • “Wednesday evening’s FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School. … Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. … the FBI raided the school six days after the agency renewed the Baton Rouge school’s charter through the year 2019.”—The Advocate, January 14, 2014

 

  • “The state of Pennsylvania is bringing in the FBI to look into accusations that a Pittsburgh charter school [Urban Pathways Charter School] misspent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on luxuries such as fine-dining and retreats at exclusive resorts and spas.”—CBS News November 12,  2013

 

  • “COLUMBUS, OH—A federal grand jury has indicted four people, alleging that they offered and accepted bribes and kickbacks as part of a public corruption conspiracy in their roles as managers and a consultant for Arise! Academy, a charter school in Dayton, Ohio.” —FBI Press Release, June 2014

 

And it’s not just the USA charter schools that have this problem.

In England, where charter schools are called ‘Academies’, there has also been a staggering number of cases of both poor management and fraud:

  • Just yesterday (31/08/14) another Academy head teacher was arrested on charges of fraud at Kings Science Academy in Bradford. Source
  • Mid August 2014 – Two former bosses at a Lincolnshire academy federation have been charged in connection with alleged fraud.
  • The head of an Academy chain run by Haberdashers’ Aske’s Federation Trust was ordered to repay £4.1m (~$8m NZ) taken fraudulently.  Not a penny had been repaid as of mid 2014.
  • Three Glendene Arts Academy staff arrested over the use of academy resources and payment of the salaries and expenses of staff used by a private company. Source
  • In May, “Auditors warned of a culture of “extravagance” at the heart of the E-ACT group – the second-largest provider of academies in England – that led to hundreds of thousands of pounds being wasted.” Source

What Next for New Zealand?

Overseas charter school chains already have their eye on Aotearoa.* Given the levels of fraud in overseas charters – of which the above list is but a drop in the ocean – how can we ensure our taxes are not squirreled off by the unscrupulous?

Ask yourself:

  • Are our charters set up in such as way as to protect against fraud?
  • What measures are there to protect NZ charter school funds against mismanagement?
  • Are the oversights stringent enough?

I’m sure those running charters honestly are as frustrated by fraud and mismanagement as those who don’t want charter schools at all. The trouble is, the system is set up in such a way that makes them a prime target for rogues of all stripes.

Which begs the question, when it comes to fraud, will New Zealand’s charter school system fare any better than overseas?

____________________________________________

Notes:

KIPP , for example, sent over a representative to meet Hekia Parata and tour New Zealand just as charter schools were being legislated for.

Sources:

http://inthesetimes.com/article/17109/the_con_artistry_of_charter_schools

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/05/06/new-report-cites-100-million-plus-in-waste-fraud-in-charter-school-industry/

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/charterschoice/2014/05/report_documents_100_million_in_charter_school_fraud_in_14_states_and_dc.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2699331/Nigerian-accountants-4million-fraud-academies-Gove-hailed-Staff-member-said-spent-cash-extravagant-lifestyle.html

https://saveourschoolsnz.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/yet-more-charter-schools-under-investigation/

http://cashinginonkids.com/blogs/feds-charge-michigan-charter-school-manager-fraud/

http://www.converge.org.nz/watchdog/31/06.html

 

http://nzfirst.org.nz/news/charter-schools-model-gets-failed-mark

 

See also:  The Great City Academy Fraud, by Francis Beckett

 

 

 

The problem is that

Teacher Voice: We won’t get fooled again, by Carrie Sherring

won't get fooled againI’ve seen this all before.

The Standards, the Expert Teachers from Beacon Schools, the Super Head.

I was a Beacon Schools teacher. I led in-service for Deputy Principals and Teachers on using assessment effectively to target children.

I worked with teachers to better analyse data. Organise their systems and interpret info they had.

My kids from a low decile school did as well as kids from affluent areas because as a staff we worked our socks off together, collaborating, sharing info, communicating.

When we became one of the first Beacon Schools it seemed important to share our practice with others. We went corporate. We hosted other teachers from a range of schools. They loved coming to see our school.

We saw it as a positive at first.

Then we started to get tired. We were still full time teaching and this was extra-it didn’t matter that we were paid a bit extra-time is finite in a week. The advisors who used to support schools vanished and we seemed to be taking over their role without the full support needed to do the job well. No secondments, just fit it all in.

Extra cash yes but only for me and not for the classroom (like many teachers I spent it on my class though).

I worked at weekends, I slogged and planned and delivered.

Did I make a difference-to my children in my own class-yes, they started to fail.

They were Reception Age kids (age 4 to 5)-the upheaval of other teachers coming in and me being out disrupted their education. I began to lose my creativity. I began to teach only to a test. I became a narrow educator.

So I worked harder to make sure I didn’t fail them.

I watched as my own children at home went out for the afternoon with someone else at the weekend because mum was too busy. Still I worked hard, believing I was doing some good.

Then one day I looked in the mirror, looked at my class, looked at my own 2 children and questioned WHY!

Why was I working every hour I wasn’t sleeping?-the answer, so schools could meet their government targets.

The children were not benefiting from a broad experience, they were being jumped over hurdles.

I had never been motivated by the money.

I stopped, gave up my responsibilities and had 3 months off, moved to a cottage in Scotland.

I was not about money; I was about growing great kids.

I was happier and so were my kids.

Then I missed the classroom and back I went.

Then I heard of a place where innovation and creative thinking were still valued in teaching, where there was a holistic approach, where discussion and dialogue between professionals was encouraged-so I came to NZ.

I loved it.

Then… we all know what happened next.

The Who summed it up ‘We won’t get fooled again!’

Deregulated schools – warnings from abroad

charter schools by Tom ScottNext time someone tells you charter schools are about choice and that privatising the education system is a good move, you might want to point them to the other sides of the story.

Look at the job the power companies have done – Privatisation is not necessarily better for the consumer.

And in this case, the consumers are our children – the next generation.

And whilst some politicians and businesses are all for a privatised education system, teachers and parents are not.  Ask yourself why that might be?  Last time I looked, teachers and parents weren’t in it for the money…

Look to what has happened and is happening in overseas public education systems that have been ‘reformed’:

 

Sweden

“The Swedish school system is often cited by Michael Gove as a model of best practice. However, like America its experiment with for-profit education has had disastrous consequences.

In May, JB Education, one of the largest for-profit education providers in the country went bust leaving the future of 10,000 pupils in limbo.

Ibrahim Baylan, the education spokesman for Sweden’s opposition Social Democratic party, says closures should come as a warning to the UK not to slavishly adopt the Swedish model, where private companies can set up profit-making free schools, paid for by the state but with little government oversight:

“Before you do something like this you have to really, really think about how you set up the system. The system here is not working as it’s supposed to work. Nobody could foresee that so many private equity companies would be in our school system as we have today.””

 

USA

“Despite consuming billions every year in taxpayer-funded student loans for-profit universities have a terrible record of success. Only one in five students graduate, and students at for-profit colleges are much more likely to default on their loans.  This is partly a result of their recruitment practices, with for-profit colleges often targeting people (including the homeless) who simply do not have the financial resources to pay loans back.

The US’ experience of allowing for-profit companies to run schools (often described as the CharterSchool movement) has also been mired in controversy.

Former Under-Secretary of Education, Diane Ravitch, who served under George Bush and Bill Clinton and was an initial supporter of Charter Schools, came up with the following summary:

“Charter schools are leading us to having a dual school system again. We’re going back to the period before Brown v. Board of Education, but the differentiation in the future will be based on class instead of race.

“Corporations aren’t going to put more money into the school, they’re only going to make money. This should make people in America angry. There ought to be a public uprising about this effort to destroy public education.””

 

England

Academies and charters - taking public schools“In a new report, the Public Accounts Select Committee questions the role of the Education Funding Agency with regard to school funding. The Chair of the Committee said:

“[The Agency] needs to do more to address potential conflicts of interest in academies.

We were concerned that individuals with connections to both academy trusts and private companies may have benefited from their position when providing trusts with goods and services. The Agency has reviewed 12 such cases but it is likely that many more exist and have gone unchallenged”.”

 

New Zealand

Be very clear that what is happening in New Zealand is part of the global education reform movement (GERM) and is not isolated.

Worldwide, education systems are being broken up and handed over to businesses so that your taxes can go into private hands.  Education does not improve, Students do not fare better.

A fragmented, secretive, and privatised system is not the best way.

 

_________________________________________________

Source: http://educationnotforsale.org/about-the-campaign/

 

18 staff resign from one school

 

leaving collection for teachers - academies

These are the collection envelopes for the 18 staff leaving one small school at the end of term.  Many of the staff have “served over decade, others more. All brilliant. A disintegration of a talented, loyal and dedicated workforce.”

This English school has been forcibly turned into an academy.  A charter school by another name.

The teachers say:

“I didn’t want to leave but had to choose between madness and sanity. I chose sanity”

“When they took over we had promises of support, ‘bespoke’ training, nurturing of the staff that know the school, children, area the best.

Of course none of it happened.

We’ve had empty promises, backhanded threats and insults, dubious observations – the lot.

I’d only been there just over 3 years but left as the stress and understandable negativity around all the uncertainty and upset was just too much – after almost 20 years, it’s made me want to get out of teaching.

My heart goes out to all of the staff who’ve also made the difficult (yet easy) decision to go.  As it does to staff in similar situations around the country.”

“…all of us have chosen to leave because we don’t want to work for this academy and particularly its interim head. The school is a shadow of the place it used to be”

“…this is exactly what [Education Minister] Gove wants, no qualified teachers and no union for them to stand together in”

” [The Minister] approves of older teachers being forced out. He believes teaching will be better for it. However, if you hollow out the profession of experience, it will end up badly for society. “

“[They] think they can run schools on a low-wage, high-turnover basis – but not if schools are to offer a decent education”

“And remember there have been others who have left mid year.”

 

Ten years ago this would have been unthinkable in England, just like it is for most people right now in New Zealand.

But it’s happening there, and parent’s and teachers’ concerns are ignored.

And it all started with a few changes … much like the ones New Zealand is seeing right now…

~ Dianne

 

Read more:

A criminal destruction of teacher morale

teachers leaving jobs due to foced academisation

The pile of leaving cards from the school.

 

And the next step for charter schools will be …

… to follow in the footsteps of England and start forcibly taking over public schools and handing them over to charter schools.

And why would they do that?

Well, because of this:

Academies and charters - taking public schools

* Tory = National

Still think they’re a good idea?

 

A shameful shadow of an education system

The article below is about the saddest thing I have ever read about education, and fits exactly what I saw starting before I left the UK to come to New Zealand.  Sadly, this government is following the UK with this madness, and this horror is now here too.  I am devastated.  This is a shameful shadow of education and in years to come will be reflected on as a period of utter and total disgrace.

Secret Teacher, writes in The Guardian (UK):

speech marks blue bubbleWhen I began teaching I worked in early years. Back then, personal, social and emotional development was factored into every aspect of the curriculum. It was understood that to become a successful learner you needed to develop a love of learning and feel secure in your abilities to overcome challenges.

I remember rejoicing the first time a painfully shy child answered their name in the register and when another proudly taught the class to say hello in their home language. But these normal everyday achievements did not happen by magic; the children only achieved these things because they felt secure in their school environment and the right opportunities were available to them.

Roll on a few years and I recently found myself teaching key stage 1 in a new school rated good, and aiming for outstanding. But in this quest, levels and targets have become more important than anything – more important than the children, it seemed.

One Autumn morning I was summoned to the assistant headteacher’s office for the first round of target setting for the year. I was asked to predict the levels my year 1 class would get in their year 2 Sats. I should mention that 70% of my class arrived in year 1 below the expected reading age, which posed a problem; my literacy levels did not meet the targets and could not be submitted to the borough. Apparently, my predictions were “not ambitious enough” and were up levelled. The new targets were accompanied by a speech making the pressure of these expectations clear.

As a new member of staff, I was interested to see what approach the school would take to ensure the levels were met. Their preferred method was manipulation, making sure no one had access to enough information for a full picture. Parents were held at arm’s length and assistant headteachers were present in all formal meetings to monitor what information was shared and how. If a teacher was seen talking to a parent for too long in the playground, an assistant head would appear and join??????????????????????????????????????? the conversation. Nothing quite says you’re not trusted like being watched constantly.

In one meeting I was horrified to witness just how far they were willing to push the pursuit of targets at the expense of the children. My year group included four children that were in the learning support centre. Although they weren’t taught in mainstream classes, they were included in our all-important levels, which unfortunately meant our “quota” of children not at expected levels had already been accounted for.

One child who came under particular scrutiny had been a “problem” in reception. He fidgeted and struggled to manage his behaviour in certain circumstances. Compared to other children I had taught, he had minor behaviour needs, but he was behind academically. With a little bit of nurturing he was improving – the other children were not being affected by him and he was making academic progress. Even so, I was told to put pressure on his parent to take him elsewhere. At the sight of my horrified expression this softened to nudging them gently. Officially, the reason given was behaviour, but I have no doubt that unofficially levels and the extra time he required were the biggest factors in this decision.

When I didn’t follow orders, meetings began taking place that I was not invited to or informed of. I have no idea what the parent was told, but several secret meetings later they must have got the message and made the decision to move him to another school.

Read the rest here.

Food for Thought:

The comments below the article are food for thought. Below are some of the ones that stood out for me.

“This problem is now worsening due to the pressure being put on us by unrealistic performance management targets. If we don’t get the children to a certain place by the end of the year, we now don’t move up the pay scale. Horrid.”

“You aptly sum up why I, with deep regret, turned my back on headship. Loved the job but the conflict between doing what was morally right and what was demanded politically had moved beyond an uneasy compromise and into the territory of being expected to sell one’s soul.”

” This target driven culture comes directly from the DfE (past and present) and is enforced with an iron fist by Ofsted. If a school fails to meet targets it gets taken over, the head will be sacked as may be many other teachers. The only people willing to become heads and deputies now a days are those who are willing to play this game and whose ambition (and often limited talent) drives them to fiddle figures, bully and coerce others into making often impossible targets.”

“It’s obvious that the education system is broken to varying degrees across the country and in many schools. I have seen the type of behaviour, described by the secret teacher, towards children who ‘won’t make the grade’ happening more and more as the performance management has been directly linked with pay rises or lack of them, and the need for more and more children to make targets that are at best challenging but for many completely impossible. Those teachers who don’t get their quota of children to the grades required are not just not getting pay award but also in danger of the competency procedure. It’s a very very sad and bleak world for those children who for one reason or another cannot/ or will not make the expected grades and gain the results schools need to keep ofsted et al off their backs.”

Final Word

And the last word goes to this commentator, who I think speaks for so many of us when they say “This is just terrible. It’s not what we went into education to do.”

 

 

 

 

Parents support teacher strike

teachers on strikeThis is the text of an actual letter sent to a primary head teacher in England, in response to a notice sent home to parents informing them of an impending strike action.

“Thank you for the letter re the NUT industrial action on the 26th March. Please do not feel the need to apologise for any inconvenience, as we fully appreciate the reasons why the teaching staff are striking to defend quality education and their terms and conditions. As parents we understood the two issues are completely connected and have no problem at all fully supporting the action of the teachers recognising the excellent work they do all year around.

We appreciate as well, the dilemma of some staff being in the ATL union and on a personal level we would urge them to join the NUT too so they can fully participate in the industrial action, but that is of course their choice. However as parents we are not prepared to undermine the sacrifice that other teaching staff are making in their stand on the 26th at Ashmead and elsewhere. Additionally we are not satisfied that a partially opened school is fully health and safety compliant. We are therefore putting our children first before any political pressures from the town hall to keep any unsafe school open with inadequate staffing numbers.

Besides we believe for our children that the day of action will in itself be a fantastic educational opportunity to see their teachers, their mentors, engaged in an inter generational act of solidarity that protects the principles of free education and the living standards of all teaching staff.

When our children ask why this is all happening we will happily explain to them. That’s why our kids will all grow up being socially aware, politically conscious human beings and appreciate their collective power to change things for the better in society. After all that’s what a good education should be for too shouldn’t it?

[names witheld]” Source

I know so many parents in New Zealand would offer that same support, as they too have had enough of what’s going on in the name of reform.

teacher strike action England

we love teachers

England’s Academies – poor standards and fraud: is this what we have to look forward to in NZ with Charter Schools?

closedBreaking news – TEN of England’s Academies (charter schools by another name) have been closed due to “serious concerns over education standards”.  Gone, just like that.

And the Telegraph reports that a number of Academy chains “have already been told that they cannot take on any more academies until concerns over standards have been addressed” (3) so it isn’t just this chain (E-ACT) that are under the microscope.

When the UK Labour party trumpeted Academies and Free Schools (charter schools) ten years ago, they promised a rise in standards, a brave new world of innovation and brilliance, and it has plainly failed to materialise.

Like New Zealand charter schools, Academies are funded by government and “have complete freedom to alter the curriculum, staff pay and to reshape the school day and academic year.” Around 3,500 English state schools are now Academies, and just like other English state schools, some are good, some okay and some just plain terrible.  That said, even the worst of the school districts never had as many schools closed as “failing schools” as Academies have managed to clock up, and that in itself is rather telling.

“Of course some academies have done well, although increasingly the evidence suggests that this is more the result of changing intakes rather than a ‘magic dust’ sprinkled by sponsors.” (2)

What does this mean for New Zealand?  We have been given the same promises, the same utopian vision, that other countries were given in order to usher in the privatisation of public schools.  Well, it’s likely we will fare the same as England, the USA and Sweden, with a broad spread of quality and really no overall improvement in education quality at all.  In fact, if PISA is your thing, the catapult down the rankings since privatisation for those countries has been quite monumental.

Which does beg the question why we are going down this path at all, if it doesn’t improve anything.

Well maybe privatisation does improve something? Improvement in education, it might be argued, never was the goal; maybe privatisation is itself the goal?

The 1 percentIt has to be admitted that in that regard, it has been a resounding success as, worldwide, fewer public schools exist and more of the education system is in private hands.

More public schools owned and run by private entities = More public funds going to the pockets of businesses and the 1%.  Goal achieved.

If you think that’s pie in the sky, check this out:

EACT’s catastrophe is a personal humiliation for Sir Bruce Liddington, former Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education and head of the Academies Division.

He was one of the chief architects of the Academies Programme before sliding seamlessly into the private sector to pocket £300,000 (NZ$600k) pa. salary plus benefits as CEO of EACT Academy chain

Add to that the number of investigations into financial irregularities and money mismanagement and a picture is revealed of fat cats misappropriating funds meant for educating students:

Kings Science Academy,  West Yorkshire was last year investigated and ““serious failings” were found in the school’s financial management with allegations that £80,000 worth of public money had not been used for its intended purpose”. (1)

Priory Federation of  Academies Trust – the Department for Education found evidence of “serious failings” in the running of the trust, which operates four schools. These included its chief executive paying for horse-riding lessons for his son out of trust funds, receiving “personal items of an inappropriate nature” (sex games and supplements) paid for on a Federation credit card, and the use of trust credit cards “to purchase items at supermarkets and meals at restaurants” in France. (1)

E-ACT was censured by the Education Funding Agency in May 2013 for lavish spending. It was reported to have £393,000 of “financial irregularities” … It paid for monthly lunches at the prestigious Reform Club, first-class travel for senior executives in defiance of a ruling they should go standard class, and spent £16,000 on an annual strategy meeting in a hotel – of which £1,000 was spent on drinks and room hire. (1)

And there we have it. For the architects of the Global Education Reform Movement (GERM), money-grubbing mission achieved.

Sources:

(1) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/revealed-police-investigate-lost-162000-at-academy-school-9134753.html

(2) http://antiacademies.org.uk/2014/02/eact-have-10-schools-removed-the-academies-programme-is-dead/

(3) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/10659289/Academies-chain-stripped-of-10-under-performing-schools.html

politicians-and-private-schools

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