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John Key

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Child Poverty in New Zealand

Prime Minister, John Key, today suggested it was too hard to deal with child poverty because it’s not like just counting rodents. I would suggest the issue is not in the counting or even the method of counting, Mr Key, but in the political will to deal with the problem. Policies that exacerbate the wealth gap, homes that are legally be unhealthy, homelessness, poor health care… these are all political decisions.

The way Mr Key faffed around the issue on Radio NZ today showed how little he actually cares about children poverty. I can only hope he is voted out next year and the next government has more compassion and a will to actually get things changed for these kids.

Key’s Hunger Games

KeysHungerGames

Because feeding hungry kids so they can learn is SO last season.

See here for the Children’s Commissioner recommendations on poverty:  http://www.occ.org.nz/publications/expert-advisory-group/

Confusion over role of NZ’s first Chief Education Scientific Advisor

Professor Stuart McNaughton has been appointed New Zealand’s first Chief Education Scientific Advisor.  His job is to promote the use of sound scientific research in the forming of education policy, and to help ensure that changes are based on this rigorous research.

It’s a positive move, assuming he is listened to and does indeed consider all the research out there.  For example, if research were the basis for whether or not performance pay was put in place, it would be a no go as there is a strong body of research out there showing that it does not improve student outcomes and in fact causes harm.

So I welcome him to the role with hope.

What’s not so hopeful is John Key’s endorsement:

“We think it’s a great idea to be focussing on science for our youngsters,” he said.
“I think we can always do better, the main thing is to encourage more youngsters to be actively interested in science – it’s very important for our economy, and it’s very important for how we can perform as a country.”

not a mad scientistBut here’s the thing, Mr Key … the role is not about teaching science.  Not at all.  Prof. McNaughton is charged with USING sound scientific principles and research to ASSESS possible education POLICY and make recommendations.

He is not teaching science, teaching science teachers, doing anything with the science curriculum.  Okay?

It doesn’t give much faith the role is being taken seriously when the PM is confused about what it’s for.

Good luck, Professor McNaughton.

 

Underwhelmed with ‘Investing in Educational Success’ plans

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

 

WHAT DOES IES PLAN TO DO?

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

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

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

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

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

 

WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?

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

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

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

 

WATCH THE VIDEO FOR MORE INFO

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

 

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

~ Dianne

 

Expert Sweepers to identify minor problems in schools such as poverty

Sometimes humour says it best, and this says it brilliantly:

“Outlined sweeping changes to education. It’s my belief that schools will function a lot better once we roll out changes to sweeping. The floors of many of our schools need to be swept regularly. It’s not good enough to run a broom over the floors once or even twice a week; dust and dirt builds up quickly, and it doesn’t look nice.

I came from a family that didn’t have much. But my mother taught me the value of a clean floor.

I went on to have a successful career, and enjoy wonderful and relaxing summer holidays in Hawaii. Unfortunately too few of today’s children will ever pick themselves up off the floor, especially if it hasn’t been swept.

My government will combat the problem by creating four new roles.

Executive Sweepers will provide new brooms.

Change Sweepers will recycle old brooms.

Lead Sweepers will act as role models to students who aspire to join the sweeping workforce.

Expert Sweepers will be responsible for identifying minor problems in schools such as poverty, hunger, violence, and a deep sense of futility, and sweeping them under the carpet.”

Read the whole piece here.

sweeping

Disgust over use of National Standards to select “top” teachers

headdeskReports today that National Standards will be used as the benchmark to select and review the performance of an elite group of expert teachers and principals has appalled educators.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski said National Standards data remained invalid and unreliable. An NZCER survey published last November found only 7 percent of principals thought they were robust.

“National Standards outcomes do not show the true educational progress of a student and are therefore an absurd and insulting way to identify great teachers.

“Linking large pay bonuses for teachers to narrow student outcomes in this way risks ‘teaching to the standard’, as well as making unfair judgements about teachers of students with special needs or learning difficulties.”

Yesterday the Prime Minister announced the creation of financial incentives for approximately 6000 teachers and principals, with the aim of raising student achievement – a move that fails to address the inequity and poverty that are the key cause of student underachievement.

Ms Nowotarski said this policy was clearly not thought through.

“The Prime Minister has rushed to create ‘good news’ ahead of creating sound policy. He needs to come clean with the full details of this scheme,” she said.

Key’s theory of education

Cartoon responses to Key’s education announcements:

Emmerson on education

From: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=11191102

third time lucky

 

From http://liberation.typepad.com/liberation/2014/01/cartoons-about-nationals-new-education-policy.html

 

QPEC comment on yesterday’s education policy annoucement

QPEC logo no borderFirst, QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition) welcomes the government’s intention to increase funding for education. However, we are concerned that the policy on school principals and teachers, while providing some potential positive measures, continues to miss the most important point.

Prime Minister John Key continues to state that “A mountain of evidence shows that the quality of teaching – inside the classroom – is the biggest influence on kids’ achievement.”
But this approach takes the focus away from what we know about student achievement.

As the OECD has made clear before:
“The first and most solidly based finding is that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background.”
Source: OECD 2005 Report titled “Teachers matter: Attracting, developing and retaining effective teachers”.

So, while initiatives that may help improve teaching career paths and keep good teachers in the classroom are a positive step, they may not be sufficient to make a real difference to the students who need our support the most.

Much of the focus of the policy is on school principals. However, the research evidence demonstrates that the most important work takes place in the classroom. It is possible that these policies will offer some top-down skills that will help improve student learning in the classroom further. How widespread that effect will be remains to be seen.

Nevertheless, this is rather a banker’s solution – providing additional top-down expertise, and very highly paid at that, rather than a workforce development approach. As such, its success is not assured.

Much will depend on the quality and focus of the so-called experts. Another problem that comes to mind is location. Many of the schools that need a lot of support are not close to other schools where some of these experts will be based. And how much of the additional funding will simply find its way to the large, affluent urban schools that already post high achievement results?

What is a failing school and where will the Change Principals be deployed? The link between socio-economic factors, cultural factors and schooling outcomes are highly embedded and resistant to change. And what is it that the Change Principals are expected to change? The notion that one person can single-handedly overcome the power of social forces, social inequalities and community deprivation is a bit of a fairy tale.

QPEC strongly encourages co-operation and collaboration within and across schools. But we are concerned that so-called Executive Principals are expected to make a real difference in up to ten schools working only two days a week on this task. Who are these gurus, these exceptional people? Has To Sir with Love come to life in NZ’s education policy? Is this reasonable?

Any policy that values teacher skills and supports the development of their roles is heading in the right direction. But QPEC would prefer bottom up policies to trickle down ones.

We are sceptical of this policy but it may do some good work in practice. If so, it will largely be due to the dedication and determination of educational professionals on the ground.”

Education sector reactions to Key’s announcement

questionThis clip from 3 news sums up well the positives and the concerns with today’s announcement from John Key regarding new money for some in education. It’s worth watching – only 2-3 minutes, but a good summary.

The concerns and questions voiced most often by educators at the conference and on social media so far have been:

  • no acknowledgement of role of poverty in under achievement, and nothing to address that issue
  • incentivising some educators and not others leads to less collaboration and more ‘gaming the system’ – a divisive move
  • many noted that good and experienced teachers more often leave because teaching is no longer joyful, not because they want more money
  • worries about the Change Principals – who will appoint them, what happens to the incumbent principal (sacked?), and who decides what constitutes a failing school?  (Already today I have heard 2 radio commentators talking about these principals going in to ‘rescue low decile schools’ – as if decile is a clear indicator of success or failure.)
  • Many are confused as to why the Ministry fought NZEI so hard against specialist lead teachers in the collective bargaining negotiations, and yet today more and higher paid lead teachers were announced today – why the sudden change of stance on that?  What’s going on?
  • No extra money for schools – all for individuals
  • Nothing for special needs students or special needs professional development.

I will give the last word to a teacher :

“:…give the money to schools rather than individuals! Aren’t there enough programmes and p.d in place..we already have senior teachers / units for lead teachers etc…what we dont have is enough money to do the best we can in a day to day running of a classroom…resources…assessment time….how about spending that money $360M on fixing/removing nat standards?? Ohhh maybe even take a good look at nomore woops novopay? Just a thought….”

What are your thoughts?  Are there any other questions or observations you would like to add?

~ Dianne

Other reading:

England’s “Superheads”

 

New plan to establish elite teachers ignores biggest hurdle to student success – NZEI

nzei logoCreating a new elite group of “change principals” and “expert teachers” misses the biggest reason children do not succeed at school – New Zealand’s high rate of child poverty and deprivation.

NZEI Te Riu Roa President Judith Nowotarski says the Prime Minister’s announcement of $395 million for new principal and teacher roles and allowances does not address the key underlying causes of student underachievement – inequity and poverty.

Judith Nowotarski says the sector should have been consulted on the best way to use the new funding to support student learning.

“For example, we would like to see better support for students with special needs, a reversal of cuts to early childhood education, better professional development for teachers and school support staff, and extra assistance for students struggling with literacy and numeracy.

“NZEI has been working with the Ministry of Education for a long time to develop a career pathway that keeps expert teachers in the classroom and welcomes recognition of the importance of quality teaching and leadership.”

However, Mrs Nowotarski says members are concerned that aspects of the package -such as parachuting highly paid change managers into struggling schools – had not worked overseas and could increase competition rather than collaboration.

“Creating sustainable change requires genuine collaboration with teachers.   With “change principals” the government is again imposing a failed overseas experiment and putting ideology ahead of what will really work for children’s education.”

Change Principals – must have own cape

super hero change principals

I am all for helping struggling schools.  So the idea of Change Principals seems okay, even positive. What concerns me a little, however, is who decides what constitutes a failing school and what the Ministry says these principals will be recruited to do.

Is it to improve children’s love for learning?

Is it to foster lifelong learning?

Is it to engage the community in the children’s learning?

Well who knows – None of those things are mentioned.

Just how is student achievement to be defined, I wonder?

Wait, it says on the MoE web site that the principals “will be particularly focused on lifting student achievement”.   Achievement … is that some sort of measured thing, some kind of score-based doohicker?  It rings a bell… tip of my tongue … wait… almost there…

lightbulb

Ahhhhh, I”ve got it:

National Standards!

 

Okay.  So they are going to improve schools by improving their National Standards scores.

Is now a good time to mention that the NS data from the first two years was so shonky that even the PM admitted they weren’t up to much?

Or to mention that this year results for whole subjects were moved down, en bloc, despite the levels returned by schools?  No?

Maybe instead I could mention the RAINS report from the University of Waikato, that showed a narrowing of the curriculum in order to focus on the areas NS looks at…

No?  Okay.

Well look, let’s be positive – we all want schools to do the best they can for their students, and there are indeed always going to be some schools that need help and guidance.  That much is not a bad idea.

But there is scope here for political bullying such as that we have already seen around National Standards, with principals and boards harangued by Ministry.  It’s essential that any move to improve a school is done as a cooperative thing, not forced on a community or done by someone with a big stick to wave, but how can we be sure that’s not going to happen?

And to focus improvement only on higher scores in standards that are unreliable is very dicey.

I note that nowhere in John Key’s speech today nor on the MoE web site about the new roles is there any mention at all of the effects of home life, of poverty, or unemployment and despondency on student achievement, and consequently there is nothing to address those issues.  It’s as if  someone would like us to buy into the idea that somehow schools stand alone in a bubble and can magically erase all other social problems. This is of course, another farcical notion.

But the message is clear, no matter who sends them in, or why, we are to accept the caped crusaders – and as long as they push up scores, everything will be good in the world…

 

Sources:

http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/EducationInitiatives/InvestingInEducationalSuccess/Questions.aspx

http://www.waikato.ac.nz/wmier/research/projects/the-rains-research-on-national-standards

http://www.nbr.co.nz/article/raw-data-transcript-john-keys-state-nation-speech-january-23th-2014-dc-150956

 

National Standards: Vapours, Hot Air and Coercion, from today’s The Daily Blog

From my piece in today’s The Daily Blog:

John Key is adamant that there isn’t much resistance to National Standards any more, saying that last year “there were about 300 non-complying schools, this year it’s only 13.”  He trumpets that “resistance to National Standards is evaporating.”

As one observer noted “How can there be [resistance]?  The govt has the ability to overide schools with the strong arm of the law – schools at the end of the day have no choice.”

Because what Mr Key  doesn’t tell you in his sound-bite is that schools have all along been, at best, coerced to comply, and at worst, threatened with reprisals by the Ministry of Education if they do not comply with National Standards.

That is why many have had to back down.

Not approval or acceptance, but bullying and fear.

Read the rest here.

Why Thatcher’s Death is Important for New Zealand

Thatcher signFrom Billy Bragg, Calgary, AB, Canada, on the death of Margaret Thatcher:

“This is not a time for celebration.

The death of Margaret Thatcher is nothing more than a salient reminder of how Britain got into the mess that we are in today.

Of why ordinary working people are no longer able to earn enough from one job to support a family; of why there is a shortage of decent affordable housing; of why domestic growth is driven by credit, not by real incomes; of why tax-payers are forced to top up wages; of why a spiteful government seeks to penalise the poor for having an extra bedroom; of why Rupert Murdoch became so powerful; of why cynicism and greed became the hallmarks of our society.

Raising a glass to the death of an infirm old lady changes none of this.

The only real antidote to cynicism is activism.

Don’t celebrate – organise!”

New Zealand, this should all sound very familiar – a Prime Minister leading a government hell bent of penalising the poor and enriching the rich further, that protects the mainstream media, that doesn’t provide affordable living wage or housing, and who promote hatred of the weakest in our society to divert attention away from those really causing the harm.  One who tries to break the unions and lower wages.  One who undermines education.  One that sells off everything imaginable in order to turn a profit for those who already have enough.

Don’t sit and wait for Key to die before you say something:  Protest this way of government and protest it now.

You can start by showing your displeasure (fury?) at the undermining of education:  Protest with parents, students and teachers this Saturday 13th April at the cenotaph in Wellington or at any of these locations around the country.

The Wonkey World Of Planet Key

brighter future for john key and pals

give-the-rich-tax-cuts

 

do not keep calm

 

 

Happy New Year from Hek!!

Hi everybody!

Hek here. Just relaxing on the deck with a tankard of chards preparing for everything when it kicks off next week. Campbell Live starts again tomorrow so I’ve got my “no comment” stickers warmed up and ready to go.

Lots of people have been asking me where I’ve been for the last 7 months. As John Key pointed out before Christmas, I’m on holiday. I’ve been on holiday since around about September – or at least that’s what I think. I’ve been relaxing for so long now I don’t even know what day it is! The only reason I know John Campbell starts tomorrow is that I came in too early while fast forwarding through the ads on MySky.

2013 is going to be a great year. I can feel it in my bones….”

Read the rest here –>  Happy New Year from Hek!!.

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