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How to turn child poverty around

NZ child poverty-pass-it-onThe most effective, efficient way to improve the lives of children living in the poorest homes in New Zealand is to increase the income coming into those homes:

This is a problem which can be fixed by ‘throwing money at it.’

The ‘ask’:

Fix child-related tax credits (Working for Families) so they include the poorest children, are simple, inclusive, and don’t discriminate on the basis of how many hours parents are working.

Sign the petition asking government to effect these changes.

All Children

Tax credits and child benefits should not be used as a carrot only for parents able to find work.  It should be about ensuring adequate income and a standard of living that supports children’s wellbeing.

Limiting tax credits and child benefits’ availability for parents who can’t find enough work punishes the most vulnerable children.

Tax-funded income support should be universally available to help parents help their children flourish.  Making it conditional discriminates against some children and only makes the problem worse.

This is about priorities

We can afford to invest in children if we choose to.  This is about our Government making the youngest and most vulnerable citizens a priority and recognising its role in supporting parents.

The options for raising $1bn would need to be carefully considered but they could include taxing high income earners or introducing housing taxes.

It’s also worth noting that the 2010 tax cuts stripped $1bn out of Government coffers, which could have been targeted towards the children in most need.

Kids/Elderly

Children are the population group most likely to live in poverty in New Zealand, with significant impacts on their physical, mental and social development.  Child health data illustrates how damaging poverty is on young children:

24% of Kiwi kids live in relative poverty and 17% go without the things they need (eg protein, milk, fruit and vegetable)

In contrast, New Zealand has a low level of elderly poverty – at about 7%.  Older people are protected from poverty through the provision of a simple, inclusive, income payment that doesn’t discriminate against them on the basis of work status and is maintained even in hard times.

We should treat our children as well as we treat our elderly, through policy that doesn’t discriminate and is inclusive.

Sign the petition asking government to effect these changes.

I’m opening The Beehive Charter School

beehiveI’ve decided to open a charter school modelled on the New Zealand government, and these will be the guiding rules and principles:

  • We will advertise for students using promises such as having free school nurses, and then renege on those policies once students are enrolled, citing budgetary reasons.
  • We will have a luxury restaurant named Chellamy’s for staff, paid for out of the school budget.  Under no circumstances will Chellamy’s feed students.
  • We will have a daily meeting with all staff and students where questions can be asked. There is no obligation on anyone to answer sensibly or truthfully or in full unless caught out. These sessions will always be chaired by someone who agrees not to ask their favourite group to answer properly.
  • Any larger issues brought up will be dealt with by in internal select committee that already has made a decision but which will sit quietly and let the poor hopeful submitters ramble so they feel they were heard.
  • Management will receive a handsome annual pay rise. Cleaners and support staff will get under 1% per year due to budget restrictions.
  • Given staff and restaurant costs, we may choose to sell off most of our buildings in the hope that our budget might get into surplus.
  • We will leave it to the market to solve the issue of where to house the children for lessons.
  • Management will reserve the right to fly themselves and their partners to events first class at the cost of the school during the term of their employment and forever thereafter.
  • Our behaviour policy will be:
    • people can lie.
    • if anyone is caught out lying, they can either lie again or laugh off the original lie as not important or accuse the person that caught them out of a smear campaign.
    • bullying is allowed, and in fact we have a PR firm that helps with that.
    • if people wish to bully anonymously, we have bloggers that will spread the rumours for them. There is sometimes a fee for this service.
    • harassment is allowed so long as the harasser gives the person they harassed two bottles of fizz when they finally scream at them to STOP (but not before).
  • We will spend millions on a new school flag even though the school already has a flag and nobody wants a new one.
  • Finally, we will sign a document allowing other, bigger, schools to sue us if we ever do anything that might infringe on their right to earn money. This will be done on the condition that those of us people signing will be given lucrative jobs by one of the bigger schools or their friends once this job is over

Any questions should be directed to the Ombudsman, who will explain that we don’t have to tell you anything or explain ourselves in any way.

Now, where do we sign?

Tony Ryall and the education sector, by Martin Thrupp

Prof Martin ThruppAs Health Minister Tony Ryall signed off on his long political career recently, he said about the health portfolio: “You work with quality people every day who are dedicated to the welfare of New Zealanders. I wake up most mornings, and I turn to my wife and I say ‘ugh. Imagine being Minister of Education’. That is a really tough job.”

The clear implication is that education sector workers are not ‘quality’ and it was an unfortunate comment for a government minister to make. It will have reminded people in the education sector that while the Key Government has been on a charm offensive this year, its longer-term pattern has been dismissal, denigration and blame.

Another reminder of how appalling the Key Government has been in relating to the education sector was Nigel Latta’s latest TV programme. The main thrust of the programme was that our schools and today’s education were good! It was a refreshing change from the Minister of Education’s usual crisis account and the sort of barb that Ryall has delivered.

One of the strengths of Latta’s programme was that he recognised some of the complexity of what teachers are dealing with. He started with how the education system is baffling to most people and illuminated it a little.

Perhaps the complexity of the education sector also partly underlies Ryall’s cheap shot. What constitutes quality is not straightforward here. Education is full of uncertainty and heavily influenced by context. It is sometimes informed by evidence but can rarely be evidence-based. Randomised controlled trial with your Year 10 class anyone?

Education is even more complex than Tony Ryall’s dress sense. It’s an area where there’s a little bit of truth in many point of views. It’s also an area where a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Educational problems often demand a cultural rather than a technical response from teachers.

As Professor Richard Pring of Oxford University has put it, ‘teaching as part of an educational practice must include deliberation about the end or values of teaching, as much as it does deliberation about the means or techniques’.

A New Zealand academic who understood much about the complexities of education is honoured with an annual lecture. Professor Emeritus Graham Nuthall (1935-2004) was famous for a series of studies in the subtle classroom interactions that influence learning.

My address for the Annual Graham Nuthall Lecture next month will be on National Standards, an area where this Government is allowing its enthusiasm for data and targets to damage teaching and learning in primary and intermediate schools.

Most educators remain concerned about central elements of the National Standards policy. This leads to what I suspect is Ryall’s main problem with the education sector, that it has continued to dispute much of the Key Government’s approach to education.

One response is to ask why there isn’t more outspokenness in the health sector also.
Many of Ryall’s ‘quality people’ have just announced they are going on strike for better pay. And anecdotally there are plenty of problems with health practice being distorted by targets and funding arrangements.

Actually it’s important that teachers and other education sector workers see themselves as playing a genuine part in making education policy. Education policy cannot just be implemented in linear fashion, it gets translated and reinterpreted at every level. Teachers don’t simply comply with policy and neither should they if we want a good education system.

Contestation of education policy serves valuable purposes. It circumvents and undermines bad policy. Tony Ryall might look down his nose at those in the education sector but like those in health, they are very dedicated to the welfare of New Zealanders.

And if they can stop a Government imposing bad policy – legend!
About the Author:  Martin Thrupp is Professor of Education at the University of Waikato.

 

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED1408/S00046/tony-ryall-and-the-education-sector.htm

 

Survey Of Political Parties On Child Well-Being Issues

Bryan Bruce - Inside child povertyby Bryan Bruce, Knowledge is Power

Last week I surveyed all the political parties on where they stood on 10 issues  directly or indirectly  related to child well-being in New Zealand.

They were asked which of them they would or would not support  in principle  should it come to a vote in the upcoming parliament.

Bill English on behalf of National refused to take part in the survey saying the questions were ‘hypothethical”.

National are also now the only party not to commit to cross-party talks after the election to see if some long term solutions to issues surrounding child poverty can be found.

Some parties chose to give ‘No Answer’ to some of the questions because their party had not yet formed a view. National’s refusal to respond has also been listed as ‘No Answer’ …..

1. Warrant of fitness to be compulsory for all rental properties within three years.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Conservative Party

NO ANSWER

National

2. Progressively extend the paid parental leave period to 12 months within the next six years.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Maori Party

3. Free healthy lunches to be made available to all school children within the next 6 years. The scheme to be introduced first to decile 1, 2 and 3 schools and then rolled out progressively up to decile 10 schools.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party

United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

Labour

ACT

Conservative Party

NO ANSWER

National

4. Free 24 hour medical care be made available to all children and young people up to, and including, the age of 18 within the next three years.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Maori Party

Mana

NZ First

United Future

Alliance

Conservative Party

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

National

Labour

5. One health nurse for every 300 school children and a free doctor visit to schools once a week

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party Mana

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

Conservative Party

Labour

National

NZ First

6. Create low interest initiatives to allow families to build or buy affordable healthy housing.

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

National

7. The introduction of a “living wage” rather than a “minimum” wage?

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party Labour

Mana

Maori Party

Alliance

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Conservative Party

Democrats For Social Credit

United Future

NO ANSWER

NZ First

National

8. Remove GST from food.

WOULD SUPPORT

Mana

Maori Party

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Green Party

Labour

United Future

NO ANSWER

Internet Party

NZ First

National

9. Repurchase the electricity system to be run as a public utility and not for profit?

WOULD SUPPORT

Mana

NZ First

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Green Party

Labour

Maori Party

United Future

NO ANSWER

Conservative Party

Internet Party

National

 

10. Does your Party undertake to take part in cross party talks after the election to reach long term solutions to child poverty related issues?

YES

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

ACT

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

NO ANSWER

National

 

Source: Knowledge is Power

See also: www.facebook.com/InsideChildPoverty

New Zealanders coming together to put children on the election agenda

tick for kids very large logo w quote

The launch of the Tick for Kids campaign  marks the beginning of a national movement to create the political will to improve the status and wellbeing of Kiwi Kids in the lead up to the election and into the new parliament. UNICEF NZ is pleased to be playing a central role in Tick for Kids and urges all New Zealanders to get involved.

UNICEF NZ National Advocacy Manager and Tick for Kids spokesperson, Deborah Morris-Travers, said, “Political parties are starting to pay attention to the growing public concern about children suffering permanent damage from rheumatic fever, going without nutritious food and blankets on cold nights, and unable to participate in the ordinary activities we expect for Kiwi kids, like school trips.  We all want Kiwi kids to do well.”

In the lead up to the election, Tick for Kids will reinforce the message that our country will only do well when our children do well using the slogan, ‘It takes a child to raise a country!’ 

 Ms Morris Travers added, “Tick for Kids includes UNICEF NZ, Plunket, the Paediatric Society, the Royal NZ College of Public Health Medicine, the National Council of Women, and a range of others concerned that political parties have not paid enough attention to child wellbeing.

“The campaign will be working to engage the public so that all of the parties take meaningful action to address the public policy issues that can help improve life for families and children.  People interested in supporting the campaign can contact any of the partner organisations to offer help with local events, to find out what questions to ask candidates, or to write to MPs.

An advocacy toolkit is available at www.tick4kids.org.nz

“It’s essential that all parties have strong policies for children that give effect to children’s rights, so that the new parliament can make progress on some of the urgent issues facing children and their families. Tick for Kids will remind voters to keep children in mind when they go to vote.

“It’s a truism to say that our future depends on today’s children, but somehow successive governments seem to have forgotten how important our children are.  It’s only a few years until the number of labour market entrants will be on a par with the number of people leaving the labour market to retire* – reinforcing the urgency to ensure that all children are healthy, educated, safe and able to participate.

“UNICEF NZ urges all parties to engage positively with debate about children’s rights and interests in the election campaign and to prepare bold policies designed to make a significant difference for children,” concluded Ms Morris-Travers.

Campaign launch Tuesday 17 June at 11.30am

 

Hoping for some honest answers on charter schools

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Chest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Principals urge government to put our children first

We wish to add our voices to the growing number of New Zealand’s principals expressing concern over the government’s direction, implementation and timeframe of its Investing in Education Success initiative.

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

invest wiselyNew Zealand evidence based research provides a clear pathway for governments to follow if they are to effect real change for our children, particularly the ones who comprise the tail. The first three years of a child’s life clearly determines future outcomes for that child and ultimately our nation. Research shows clearly that poor patterns of behaviour, disconnectedness, failure to provide for adequate bonding, limited economic involvement etc., all have an effect on a child’s potential and achievement at school. Targeting resources to developing consistent, sustainable support for our children from birth to three years old will be a better spend than on the leadership proposals of the government. If positive patterns are not supported in these early years then the negative patterns are set for the future.

While the support for schools and the education sector is welcomed, we urge the government to meaningfully and collaboratively engage with the education sector without the straightjacket, in order to determine where best that resource can be applied, to effect real change.

Democracy should not exclude or restrict those who are directly engaged in the delivery of service from informing decisions – decision-making needs to be inclusive and transparent. The government’s willingness to provide significant financial resources to lift achievement around supporting change should be the catalyst to engage with the profession to effect the best possible outcomes. Unfortunately the format for this expenditure has been set with deliberately minimal opportunity for input from the sector – consultation being an ‘added extra after the fact.’

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

Kelvin Woodley – Principal, Tapawera Area School

Bruce Pagan – Principal, Kaikoura Primary School

Ernie Buutveld – Principal, Havelock School

Christian Couper – Principal Little River School

Peter King – Principal, Maruia School

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For more information contact:
Kelvin Woodley – Principal Tapawera Area School

021 024 75147 or 03 522 4337

kwoodley@tapawera.school.nz

Code of Conduct: Impartial or Big Brother?

 

fascism or impartial?

Look at the section labelled ‘impartial’.  If EDUCANZ frames the new teacher code of conduct in that way, will we be allowed to speak out when we disagree with government policy? Attend protests?  Even write to a newspaper or an MP to voice concerns?

I was under the impression New Zealand was a democracy.  Ooh, would I even be allowed to imply that it’s not if this was my code of conduct?

And what would happen to me if I did something ‘they’ decided was out of line?  And who is ‘they’?

So many questions.

 

 

 

 

Ngā kura māuiui o Aotearoa: The sick New Zealand schools

Installation by Martin Thrupp, Donn Ratana and Viv Aitken
Faculty of Education, University of Waikato, March 2014

Why this installation and why at this time?

This year the Key Government has become unusually upbeat about schools. Festivals of Education are celebrating innovations, collaborations and achievements within the sector. An ‘InspiredbyU’ campaign has been encouraging New Zealanders to write in praise of teachers who have influenced their lives. In January, $359 million of new funding for principals and teacher ‘super roles’ was announced, the so-called ‘Investing in Educational Success’ policy.

This enthusiasm comes after five years of being critical of schools and teachers and often applying damaging policies. It also comes in election year, and just in advance of an ‘International Summit on the Teaching Profession’ where education ministers, heads of teacher unions and teacher leaders from the OECD are gathering in Wellington.

New Zealand’s Education Minister, Hekia Parata, has claimed it is credit to the quality of our education system that this event is being held in New Zealand.

In these circumstances (i.e. in case anyone should get a false impression!) our video highlights how the Key Government’s policies are creating a grave situation for the New Zealand School System.

Sick schools – further information as a pdf

.

Privatise all the things! Oh, wait…

hekia_parata_maniacleThe dementor is in full swing, fairly skipping up the path of global education reform (GERM) throwing rose petals and blank cheques in her path, just behind her good pals George Bush, Michael Gove, Arne Duncan, Tony Blair and the other GERMers determined to leave our kids’ education to the whims of the market place.

Ooh I bet they are having one heck of a party!

Privatise all the things

Good job, too. I’m so very glad they are selling it all off.  Schools schmools.

I mean, the free market has worked so very well in all other aspects of our lives, hasn’t it, with reasonable power prices, good telecoms services, stable housing market, no Wall Street crashes that rock the entire world markets.

Oh wait.  I’m making a Hekia style faux pas here, aren’t I?  A blunder, if you will.

Because privatisation does not necessarily improve services.  In fact it can make them worse.  And more costly. Much more costly.

Which is all a bit of a concern for me, because I like to know my tax dollars are being stent wisely, not just ferreted off into a poorly performing private sector company that doesn’t match what the public sector was doing in the first place.

I’m picky like that,

It’s not just me, though – even the Treasury has pointed out that private companies don’t do better than public ones – even if they are perceived to because they cherry pick their ‘clients’:

Private not better than public schools

In fact public schools beat private ones hands down, despite having to cater for all students of all abilities, backgrounds, behaviours, and so on.  Wow. Maybe we shouldn’t privatise all the things after all.

Maybe I should also go read what Allan has to say on the matter, since he has been at the sticky end of education for more years than I.  He’s not teaching any more, so he has no vested interest whatsoever in how it all pans out.  Let’s see what he says

“As I’ve been saying for several years, National’s education policies have nothing to do with education, regardless of their spin about ‘raising achievement’ for all. This will come as no surprise to ‘thinking’ people but man, there are many out there who are still unable to open their eyes to the reality.

This includes far too many principals who damn well should know better.

Warning people – National and its cronies are set on a path to destroy New Zealand’s public education at all levels. The privatisation process is on full speed ahead. We have six months to stop it.”

Jeepers, he is rather concerned, and he has found a number of others thinking the same way…

I think I had best go and read the full thing.  Bear with…

Okay, I’m back.  So … maybe…. mayyyyybe…. just a thought, but maybe there are lots of folk out there that want to support and improve our public schools rather than cripple them and sell them off?

Like, off the top of my head, all those parents whose children will be at the mercy of this shackled and broken system, taught by a demoralised profession forced to focus only on test scores in maths and English.

And maybe the old who, when those kids are grown up, have to live in a world now run by them, at the mercy of the economy they create with their great test-taking skills (and high depression rate).  Maybe they’d prefer well-rounded and well-educated people in charge instead?

jobsAnd, hey here’s a thought – maybe the students themselves would like to be considered more than the sum of their numeracy and literacy.

Because, y’know, there could also be artists and dentists and musicians and physicists and counsellors and gardeners and dancers and doctors and hairdressers and chefs and inventors and, well to be honest, every single person in every single job and in every part of their lives needs more than to just be good at reading, writing and maths.  Those things are great – essential – but they are not everything.

So, I think maybe I will stick with supporting public schools to remain just that – public.

For the good of everyone.

Who’s misbehaving?

There are around 100,000 registered teachers in NZ. – of this maybe 10 have been in the much over hyped news. That’s one in 10000.

Parliamentarians on the other hand have been misbehaving at probably 500 times that level. On this basis the government has stolen our professional body [the Teachers Council] from us (would they also do this to the medical council or the law society!). Now they wish to replace it with a politically nominated body to control our registration and disputes. This becomes a vehicle for them to introduce politically driven policies which have nothing to do with professional standards.

misdirectionThey are removing our right to representation on our body as we see fit. They are denying natural justice by publishing names before ‘guilt’ or misconduct are established. Despite claims to raise the recognition of teachers as professionals, they wish to ignore our code of ethics and replace it with their own code of conduct (laughable given how they abuse their own one).

Please be aware that they are manipulating the media to make it look like there is a crisis in teacher standards.

Their agenda is to bring in performance pay and do away with our professional representation via the Teachers Council and the PPTA/NZEI etc. I have worked in the private sector where everything was performance driven and collegiality goes out the window as teachers hunker down in their own little cubicles jealously guarding their knowledge and skills. This is so detrimental to the strengths of education in New Zealand.

On top of this, teachers are still dealing with the debacle that is Novopay. As the minister whispers too complicated I hear cut conditions.

Charter Schools are still being introduced despite evidence showing they are a poor decision. Teacher standards for these schools have also been lowered.

As I hear the minister whisper Private Partnerships I see truckloads of tax money being poured into them and nothing from the private partners.

The $350m on offer for expert and lead teachers and principals is being foist upon us with the government expecting us to figure out how to make it work in a matter of weeks (unpaid consultative work I might add). There was no discussion on whether this was the best way to spend an asset sale windfall in education. Where the minister whispers raising standards I see performance pay and a whole new level of management structure being foist upon teachers who will be expected to do even more work for no more money.

The government needs to clean up its own act. Perhaps they would be willing to let teachers oversee parliamentary privileges and MPs’ code of conduct??

by Glenn Cassidy 

Government error hides true size of child poverty

PovertyThe Government is continuing to fail our kids who are in poverty by not even
measuring the size of the problem correctly, the Green Party said today.

The Government has today admitted that it got its calculations wrong when
measuring child poverty and inequality. The new figures show that there are
285,000 children living in poverty, not 265,000 as previously claimed, and
that the GINI inequality index is not improving.

“There is no reason that 285,000 children should be living in poverty in
New Zealand. This Government has failed to even measure the problem
correctly, let alone do anything to fix it,” Green Party Co-leader Metiria
Turei said today.

“National has been trumpeting its supposed progress on child poverty but it
turns out that was all due to the Government doing its sums wrong. It’s not
the first time that National’s numbers have turned out to be dodgy, and it
makes you wonder what else they’ve got wrong.

“It’s past time for National to wake up to the tragedy of child poverty
that is playing out in homes all across our country. Child poverty has gotten
worse under National, rising from 240,000 in 2007 to 285,000 in 2012.

“There is no excuse for 285,000 kids to be living in poverty in a modern,
wealthy country like New Zealand. Those 285,000 kids are victims of the
choices that governments make – like National’s decision to borrow for
tax cuts for the rich at the same time as cutting Working for Families
payments.

“The Greens will do better for our kids. We will extend Working for
Families, we will invest in nurses in schools, we will set standards for
warm, healthy housing, and we will raise the minimum wage towards a living
wage for all workers,” said Mrs Turei.

Schools concerned about ERO plans to judge them on National Standards results

STOPSerious concerns are being voiced that government’s ever-increasing emphasis on National Standards is leading to a narrowing of the curriculum for students, with reading, writing and mathematics becoming the be-all and end-all, to the detriment of other subject areas.

This concern has grown with the news that ERO (the Education Review Office) will from this year explicitly use schools’ National Standards data and compare it with local and national averages in order to judge schools.  

Principals argue that the move will lead to  schools to “neglect science, the arts and other aspects of children’s development” as they become more concerned with how they fare on league tables than about quality, broad education.

There are concerns that it will lead to a focus on those students who are deemed to be just below the “at” level, with those who are “below”*, “well below”* or “above” standard losing out because they are either already over the “at” hurdle or are deemed to be too far away from it to reach in time for data collection.

There are also very valid concerns that the pressure of such a Big Brother system (especially if paired with performance pay as it has been elsewhere) could lead to either conscious or subconscious inflation of test results, as teachers and schools begin to work in fear.

The Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards (RAINS) project found that National Standards:

“…are having some favourable impacts in areas that include teacher understanding of curriculum levels, motivation of some teachers and children and some improved targeting of interventions. Nevertheless such gains are overshadowed by damage being done through the intensification of staff workloads, curriculum narrowing and the reinforcement of a two-tier curriculum, the positioning and labelling of children and unproductive new tensions amongst school staff.”

Those concerns are clearly not being taken seriously, and instead a new level of pressure is being layered on.

Of course ERO say there is nothing to worry about, as does Hekia Parata.  But given this government’s repeated bullying of schools, failures to properly consult, and dishonesty about matters pertaining to education, it’s safe to say most teachers and parents will take that assertion with a large pinch of salt.

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Sources:

(1) http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/237269/schools-nervous-over-ero-review-plans

http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/ED1311/S00199/rains-final-report-national-standards-and-the-damage-done.htm

http://www.education2014.org.nz/wp-uploads/2013/04/RAINS-1st-report.pdf

http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/opinion/perspective/9702883/Education-its-not-that-simple

http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/eastern-courier/9760568/Parata-unravels-education-plans

http://assessment.tki.org.nz/Overall-teacher-judgment/Definitions-of-achievement

* (Note, “below standard” and “well below standard” are government’s terms, not mine. I find them incredibly distasteful.)

Boonman’s education pop quiz 2013

quizI do love a good quiz, and Mr Boon has some excellent questions for us:

“As the curtain comes down on 2013 I have just a few questions:

  1. If it took a new school in Wellington a year to set up (principal and teachers working behind the scenes for 12 months before a student set foot in the place – heard them speak at a conference), how can the 5 new charter schools the government issued licences to just a few months back be ready for the 2014 school year with a school that will successfully deliver education to kiwi learners?
  2. Why won’t the government accept that the under-achieving 20% tail they keep talking about is actually the same 20% of kiwi kids living in poverty (according to the report by the Children’s Commissioner that figure is now 25%)?
  3. How can the government reconcile its continued calls for improved teacher quality with the regulation allowing charter schools to hire unregistered, unqualified staff to teach in their classrooms?
  4. Will the New Zealand public drop their love-affair with the bafoonering of John Key and vote in a Labour/Green government this time next year?”

What are your answers?  Boonman’s are pretttty good… Here are Boonman’s answers.

Education policy – it’s no joke

Sometimes the only thing that covers it is a meme:

No Joke - Kelvin Smythe

For more from Kelvin, see his blog here.

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