Kelvin Smythe

This tag is associated with 14 posts

PPTA revolt occurring, by Kelvin Smythe

Kelvin SmytheKelvin writes:

Just as primary had a teacher organisation that headed rogue but was pulled back, secondary has one too, the PPTA executive, but not yet reined in. However, great news – from information just to hand, the PPTA is about to be provided with the opportunity to head back to good sense. But it will require its various branches to act decisively, publicly, and soon – soon so that it becomes part of the election debate.

I am now in receipt of a terrific declaration from a PPTA branch, sent to all branches – directly opposed to the PPTA executive support for the IES.

The main points set out in the declaration are:


We believe we are now in a position diametrically opposed to our sister union, NZEI, and such an opposition does nothing for the greater good of state education. We also believe that the IES proposals will not bring about the success envisaged. 

This branch believes that the real cause of disparity in educational achievement is to be found in the composition of school rolls and no effective collaboration among schools can occur until the inequity inherent in such compositions can be addressed.

[All hail, the writer of this – whose name I know – you will go down in the annals.]

1. Although PPTA assures us it sought an early collaborative approach with NZEI as the two main state unions involved in the discussions, we believe that our emphasis on policy has outweighed any real attention being given to NZEI’s legitimate concerns. 

2. PPTA should not have agreed to participate in confidential negotiations, thereby leaving its membership out in the cold.

3. This branch believes that if $359 million over four years can be found to improve educational success, then there are better ways of using the money than contained in these proposals.

4. This branch believes that the IES proposals will undermine the current working of schools by destabilising administration and teaching, through the removal of key people on an on-going basis.

5. This branch believes that the IES proposals will impact upon all current teacher workloads, not just those of the four categories of teachers envisaged under the scheme.

6. This branch recommends that PPTA should be looking at career pathways differently, to ensure the best teachers have the option of continuing to do what they do best, that is teach. Such scrutiny could involve: 

Higher teacher qualifications on entry; a more rigorous teacher selection process; the quality of training programmes; a basic career pay scale that runs for 20 years for a qualified teacher; a separate MU pay scale that offers real incentives and rewards for responsibility both in time and money for middle management.

7. This branch also recommends that PPTA look at assessing the current classroom teacher workload, reviewing NCEA; its initial objectives and form, its subsequent modifications, its impact on teacher and student workload and learning. We propose that we as a union support the position of less assessment in schools.    

So there you have it. As regular readers of this site will know, this declaration is utterly consistent with what  has been expressed in various postings. And they will be aware of the fierce but defensive arguments in response by members of the executive.

The PPTA signing of the IES has seriously harmed discussion of the education manifestos of the opposition parties (Labour, Greens, and NZ First) and what a tragedy – these manifestos in total being the best manifesto expressions, in my memory, of the needs of children and teachers – early childhood, primary, and secondary. If we go down the farcical and dangerous IES track, it will be a heart-rending loss for education.

Organisers of this declaration, get it out there – this could be huge.


Kelvin’s original post, on Networkonnet, can be found here

The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction

This is a must read:

“This posting is just a brief introduction to something that, for the fabric of our democracy and the successful functioning of our school system, needs to be out in the open. Only some things can be confirmed in this posting – the degree of collusion between the education ministry and Whale Oil has yet to be established and the level of insidiousness.”

Read the whole thing here: The ministry of education and Whale Oil: an introduction.


Tom Parsons and PPTA executive should get ready for a surprise

Tom Parsons and PPTA executive should get ready for a surprise.

“Tom Parsons, president of the Secondary Principals Association, is a strange one. There is something oleaginous in his relationship with the government, a complete suspension of individual will. Does he have a military background or something? His loyalty to the National Government is unhealthily submissive. If education benefited from mindless loyalty, Tom Parsons’ approach would be wildly successful.

There he was on national radio being interviewed by Guyon Espiner, accusing NZEI, principals, and teachers as being political for opposing the IES – what a cheek. It is Parsons who has been political.”


Read more:  Tom Parsons and PPTA executive should get ready for a surprise.

A comprehensive education manifesto for New Zealand schools

Below is the Networkonnet Manifesto, the only comprehensive education manifesto I have seen.  Please read it and see if it meets your own vision for what our education system should be.  If it does, please either sign it here (below in the comments) and I will forward those comments to Kelvin, or click through HERE and sign it directly on the Networkonnet site.

Likewise, if you have suggestions for changes, please share them in as much detail as you can.  The aim is to craft a manifesto that speaks to what the majority of teachers, academics, parents and students would like our education system to look like.

~ Dianne

The networkonnet manifesto: sign up to have your ideas heard

by Kelvin Smythe with Allan Alach

The manifesto is intended to gather signatures then, with media release attached, distributed to media, teacher organisations, and a range of interest groups.

Readers can sign up by putting their names and position in the comments box HERE or e-mailed to  or

At the moment, it could be widely understood that teachers have no specific budgetary or system demands beyond opposition to substantial parts of government policy.

For the sake of our children, our own ideas need to be heard.

The networkonnet manifesto is intended to jog the teacher organisations to set out such specific budgetary and system demands and to publicise them intensively and imaginatively.

Readers will note that the networkonnet manifesto is based on a philosophy expressed as governing ideas. The government is working to a philosophy, brought in from outside and economics: we need to work to ours developed from our education heritage and social democracy. The hammering of public primary schools – the scapegoating, the disenfranchising, and the financial and spiritual impoverishment, is not government whim but engrained ideological policy as part of global capitalism and a shift of civilisation. That policy needs to be confronted with our own set of cohesive ideas.

We urge readers to sign up and encourage others in your school and beyond to do so as well.

The manifesto is open to change and addition, but if you support the general direction, then we suggest you take the positive step of signing up in support.

Readers might be interested to know that one significant political party has called the manifesto a ‘great read’ and remarkably close to theirs.

Kelvin Smythe and Allan Alach



Governing ideas

The key idea in the policy recommendations that follow is that the education system should be based on valuing variety – and fundamental to this, the idea of collaboration and shared knowledge development. It is not just accepting variety or tolerating it, it is valuing it – valuing it as part of living in a democracy and as the best means to help children’s learning.

Valuing variety would mean changes to regulations, allowing a wide interpretation of the curriculum – within broad guidelines – in school charters and evaluation practices. Eventually the curriculum would need to be revised to concentrate on principles and aims, leaving schools to decide how to interpret those – at the moment National Administrative Guidelines (NAGS) and the demands of the education review office (using national standards) exert a stultifying control of classrooms.

The Lange government, through Tomorrow’s Schools, introduced into education a philosophy antithetical to Labour Party philosophy. (Most Labour mps of the time find this hard to accept holding on to the idea that Tomorrow’s Schools was, in fact, about giving more power to schools.) While this neoliberal philosophy was diluted in the Clark years, it still remained and remains dominant.

In education that philosophy is expressed as managerialism.

As it pans out, the basic tenet of managerialism is that any issue in education, including the education effects of poverty – indeed, especially the education effects of poverty – can largely be resolved by management changes to do with the organisation and direction teachers. This always involves overstating the role of the teacher in learning so that when schools fail to overcome sufficiently the education effects of poverty, schools are blamed, providing an excuse for shaping schools into the political right’s own ideological image.

An implication in this top-down philosophy is that there is someone knows and that person who knows is a political leader informed by a certain category of academic.

The present education system is substantially a command one – a command one based on excluding teachers and parents from genuine participation in policy making, also on fear, control, propaganda, and corrupted statistics.

The education system needs to be democratised.

One very important effect of bringing in parents and teachers into policy making would be to broaden the curriculum to counteract the trend of an ever narrowing one.

A managerialist-based education system requires a curriculum that is amenable to command and control, also one that can be understood by politicians and bureaucrats – that curriculum is a fragmented one organised for measurement.

New Zealand primary education has a culture of being holistic, in other words, not fragmented for ease of measurement and control. (Many of the most important things in learning are immeasurable; in a measurement-based education system those things are neglected.)

A measurement-based classroom is possible in a holistic-based education system but a holistic-based classroom isn’t possible in a measurement-based system (an important point in considering an education system based on valuing variety).

The present primary school education system is governed by fear and bureaucratic command, and protected by propaganda and corrupted statistics.

The contract system is important to the government control of universities: a key way to restrict academic freedom of speech.

Within schools, the major source of fear and control comes from the education review office – it is unaccountable and used in a variety of ways to generate fear and ultimately obedience; it is really the review office that determines the nature of the curriculum.

The heavy use of statutory managers is another source of fear, control, and indirect propaganda.

People outside the education system have little appreciation of the extent and depth of the fear, control, and use of propaganda that exists within it.

Perhaps the key idea to be developed should be that just as a healthy economic system needs a free exchange of ideas so does a healthy education system.

And central to that is the idea of a shared view of the way knowledge is developed.

All parts of the education system need to be freed up so that all parts can share in the generation of knowledge: teachers, curriculum advisers, academics, parents, and government education agencies.

Teachers should be freed to colonise the curriculum (that is, make curricula work) and to establish their knowledge in the form of successful established practice.

Teachers and schools should function within fairly wide curriculum guidelines.

Academics sought for advice should come from groupings much wider than the current headlining quantitative academics; in particular, that means advice should also be sought from qualitative academics and curriculum academics with significant classroom experience.


More specific policies as an outcome of governing ideas

A call should be made for a grouping of countries to join together to develop an international testing system that functions transparently and concentrates on a broader view of the curriculum. (However, the government should stay in the present international system until that is achieved.)

The 359 million dollars intended for the government cluster policy should be spent directly on helping children in classrooms, not on giving large pay increases to a few teachers and principals.

In a whole series of ways, policies and increased funding to meet children’s special needs should be a priority.

First, there should be a substantial lift in support teacher numbers as well as moves to make support teacher staff better paid and to provide them with a greater sense of permanency.

Following that, there should be improved staffing ratios (gradually introduced) to give flexibility to schools enabling them to provide more individual attention to children’s learning needs, including some appointments for specialist learning (for instance, science, or maths, or Maori language, or drama) as set out as an emphasis in schools’ charters.

Also for improving home school relations (a priority).

An important idea to understand is that the government in implementing national standards ostensibly to lift learning in lower decile schools has used the opportunity to achieve its long-held objective of a narrow 3Rs curriculum for all children.

Improvements in staffing and support teachers and in other areas should be described as being there to help the learning of all children, not just the ones who are struggling  (children of all abilities are being badly served by the present system).

A non-contestable fund to promote Maori language should be established to which schools can apply to fund part-time teachers, support teachers, and Maori language labs.

There should be improvement to special needs services including making RTLBs (Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour) more accessible and less bureaucratic. Their role should be extended to work more closely with families – an improved version of the former visiting teacher positions.

The SAF (Student Achievement Function) should be removed with money saved being allocated to other and wider forms of advisory support.

Reading Recovery should be increasingly well funded.

The best home-school reading programme for lower decile schools, one already in operation in miniscule way, is Jeanne Biddulph’s Reading Together programme which binds home and school together in a harmonious and joyful way.

A Committee of Inquiry into making education more collaborative for successful learning should be established – though this should not mean changes to education won’t begin immediately (Committee of Inquiry for Collaboration for Better Learning).

School charters at the moment are a major source of control and bureaucratisation – school charters should be freed to allow schools to develop programmes, within broad guidelines, that suit them. (As discussed above.)

The education review office needs to be staffed by teachers and principals of the highest quality; deliver its work in schools in a different way; and be made accountable (it should also be made fully compliant with the Official Information Act).

There should be a Review Office Appeal authority appointed to hear appeals from schools (a priority).

A cross-sector review office advisory board should be established.

The review office should concentrate on work in schools, not producing reports – those reports should be done by universities on the basis of proper research design.

The School Trustees Association should be restricted in its work to providing direct services to members (a priority).

The statutory management system should be restructured: a more comprehensive conciliation system before statutory management should be established and perverse incentives removed. In particular, the cost of statutory management should fall on the ministry not the school.

Schools and colleges of education should develop a better balance between general education courses and ones directly related to classrooms (though both should be considered equally important) – this might mean rehiring some academics who possess both academic and classroom knowledge.

As one part of the advisory function, a permanent advisory service should be re-established attached to universities to function within broad guidelines (a reasonably free advisory service is an important source of practicable knowledge).

The Teachers Council or its equivalent should be reorganised to reflect the policy of collaboration. As well, it should concentrate on the safety of children. (All teacher organisations are doing well on this one, so I am not elaborating.)

Teacher organisations should be represented as of right on policy, curriculum, and administrative groupings.

Charter schools should be funded and administered on the same basis as other privately-run schools and the money saved allocated to meeting the education needs of low decile schools.

National standards should be removed and with the money saved used to re-establish NEMP (National Education Monitoring Project) formerly based at the University of Otago – more money than before should be allocated and the previous directors asked to advise on its establishment, functioning, and staffing (NEMP was a collaborative institution much admired and appreciated by schools).

NMSSA (National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement) based at the University of Otago should be removed, with the money saved used in the re-establishment of NEMP (see above).

Clusters established on a voluntary basis should receive some government funding.

How to bring parents into education on a national basis is a difficult one: my suggestion is, on a regular basis, NZCER to undertake a survey and some research as the focus for parent discussion (within schools) – the outcomes of this discussion to be reported to a body to consider and sometimes develop matters further.

A broad curriculum should be encouraged in anticipation of the outcomes of the results of the Committee of Inquiry (see above).

An important part of that broad curriculum is an understanding that attention to the 3Rs is mutually supportive with attention to flexible thinking – a mutual supportiveness that should be acted on from children’s first days at school.

The greater freedom for schools to shape their curriculum within broad guidelines will have major implications for the work Colleges of Education, advisory services, and education review office.

The use and resourcing of computers should be approached carefully: there needs to be a broad-based permanent grouping set up to provide schools with guidance on computer use in schools (at the moment it is growing helter-skelter with the curriculum quality being given insufficient attention); also government money would seem to be better allocated for professional development and computer maintenance rather than for directly purchasing computers and other digital devices. (Free technical support is crucial, along with extensive ICT support through advisers.)

The curriculum area of mathematics should be given special attention: a curriculum committee to report in three months, meanwhile, conferences should be organised around the country and extra finance made available to schools working on innovative ideas. (Bobbie Hunter from Massey and University and Jodie Hunter her daughter are doing some excellent work in junior maths with implications for older children.)

The Novapay system, from computer programming to data gathering and Novapay reception, has inherent faults within it – a new system should be introduced (either that or funding for office staff both schools and Novapay reception, be substantially increased).


The Beeby statement I like is the one he made in 1942 following a meeting with the South Canterbury NZEI management committee: ‘There seems to be a common desire on the part of teachers to ask the Department for detailed instructions regarding such things as the changes that are taking place in infant education, rather than to embrace the freedom the Department has given and to participate co-operatively in the working out of up-to-date practice in the infant room.’


Some excerpts from comments made by readers on the initial posting of what is now the networkonnet manifesto

Bruce Hammonds said: 

The 2007 New Zealand Curriculum introduced by the last Labour government needs to be emphasised – it is highly regarded by teachers. National is about standardisation and competition while Labour needs to focus on personalisation and collaboration.


Networkonnet: directions for primary education as a basis for budget and election year demands

no moneyThis 2014 budget is one of the worst in recent history – especially for election year.

The 2 per cent increase in the school operations grant after taking inflation into account, the needs of present-day education, and the increase in immigration, is actually a cut; the small allocations for the ‘Reading Together’ programme and digital literacy (a little over $4 million altogether) are miniscule in scope though well directed; and the small increase for support teachers pathetic.

As we know the $359 million for the cluster programme (for secondary and primary and over four years) will do nothing for children, indeed it will represent if it occurs, a plunge to an education cataclysm. The budget also points to a possibly less than 1 per cent rise in salaries for teachers – compare that to the wrongness of the salaries for expert teachers.

Yet the president of NZPF has virtually nothing to say.

Where is the programme of budgetary needs and system changes the NZPF should be demanding? Surely, a programme of budgetary needs and system changes carefully set out and widely distributed is a fundamental role of a teacher organisation – but it seems to be a fundamental role unfulfilled.

These are perilous times for school education; these are terrible times for schools wanting to address satisfactorily the real needs of children.

In my view, as suggested above we are on the precipice of an education cataclysm.”

via Networkonnet: directions for primary education as a basis for budget and election year demands.

Is the Ministry of Education advising principals to manipulate data?

Now this is a rather alarming turn of events:

MOE are desperate to have columns all adding up nicely, so helpfully suggested a way to make my reading achievement data look tidy…


Reblogged from Networkonnet:

Date: Friday, 9 May 2014 12:38 PM

To: <>
Subject: National Standards data

Greetings minister

National Standards manipulate the dataA little while ago I sent the spreadsheet of national standards data to my MOE office as required.  Some of the columns to do with ethnic group achievement levels did not tally. I checked my school assessment data carefully and confirmed the numbers in each ethnic group at each level, but this would still not tally with overall ethnic group numbers. The overall numbers did tally to my school roll at the time, so there is a ‘glitch’.  I believe the glitch is to do with the priority ethnic group system the MOE uses which places students as Maori if they indicate at any level that they are (a student listing themselves as Asian, Pakeha, NZ Maori will automatically default to Maori for instance).

I received a phone call and email today from MOE regarding certain ethnic columns not tallying with ethnic totals. I told them I knew that, but the individual ethnic totals in each level (‘well below’, ‘below’, ‘at’, and ‘above’) tally with my school assessment data. MOE are desperate to have columns all adding up nicely, so helpfully suggested a way to make my reading achievement data look tidy. They suggested I take the three Asian students in the ‘below’ column and place them in the ‘above’ column. That would eliminate one red tag. I pointed out that I did actually have three Asian students in the ‘below’ category. That, however, was of no interest to the MOE person who indicated that it would balance things up.

After the phone conversation I requested guidance via email on what it was suggested I do. I received an email back from MOE with the stated suggestion confirmed as above.

What they are suggesting I do is in fact manipulate my data to make it fit.  In this case it would make my data look better as I would now have no Asian students in the ‘below’ category and three more Asian students in the ‘above’ category….

Read the rest on  Networkonnet

A message from Kelvin Smythe

Dear reader,

What a weekend.

Both my computer went down and then my website became unworkable. (If the posting alert come out strangely: the cc not working, or some other matter, I would appreciate you getting in touch with me. I sent out this posting alert last night but only a few worked.)

I now have Windows 7 installed; Allan Alach has put up a new website – and is now associated with me on our new venture:

I am quite excited about it all.

Networkonnet and Allan and I are now ready to be there for the children of New Zealand and their teachers (as we see it) in the years ahead.

There are two postings up:

Who can teachers rely on? This posting sets the scene back in 1990, then has an article I wrote in 1990 in the first issue of Developmental Network Magazine. How did my predictions work out? Back then I was a pretty lone voice.

Who can teachers rely on?

Ernie Buutveld delivers: When a person of his stature speaks out, we should all listen intently

He speaks for an informal cluster of Marlborough principal of his deep concern for the education directions of the government and of the importance of last Friday’s moot. As I report briefly in this posting it was a slanted shambles.

The informal cluster that was a regular event for the Marlborough principals concerned could, in the absence of NZPF being properly organised at the centre and it seems in regard to the moot in many districts, could be an idea for groupings of principals throughout New Zealand to organise against the government’s cluster proposals.

Why don’t you ring up some like-minded principals and meet to discuss, lobby, and act against those proposals?

All the very best,


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

hatchet jobThis from Kelvin Smythe:

There have been many potential such cases but this is the one that has come through; the one that has stayed the perverted course –because Marlene Campbell has shown the courage of a lion not to fold. Might I say, I don’t criticise those who did. The pressure to do so has been close to unendurable.

 Let me say loud and clear the case against Marlene Campbell is a put-up job, has been engineered, opportunistically taken advantage of in an attempt to crush an outspoken educationist and to put fear into the system.

The general public and the media have been unable to truly grasp what has been going on in education.

Even in education itself there are those who won’t link the dots. They recognise that particular acts of political and bureaucratic bullying and bad faith are occurring, but won’t link them together to recognise that this government in education has been  autocratic, anti-democratic, bullying, persistent in lying and distorting, and reliant on fear and propaganda to hold sway. They won’t conceptualise because to do so would challenge them to some kind of action, pose some kind of moral dilemma.

New Zealanders are loath to believe that an agency of state and its political leaders are not acting in good faith – especially in something so precious as education. They have not grasped, are finding it difficult to believe, that in the five years of the National government, terrible things have occurred.

In the advent of a change of government, there needs to be the equivalent of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to heal the past and allow bureaucrats and others to come forward to present some of the terrible things they have been instructed or pressured to do.

Let us see how this works out in the political and bureaucratic persecution of Marlene Campbell.

One important idea to hold onto throughout is that if Marlene has been at fault in any way, that fault has been largely manufactured, in that if it occurred at a school in any other circumstances, it would not cause a blip. In other words, the bureaucracies have gone on a fishing expedition with Marlene Campbell – but pulled in nothing of significance. Yet the financial cost to Marlene Campbell, the children at the school has been hundreds of thousands, then there has been the devastating distraction to the tenor of the school – also the cost to the taxpayer.

I don’t want to get submerged in detail so I’m going to concentrate on key junctures.

Perhaps I should add one more observation before I begin: what sort of principal is Marlene Campbell? Well, how can I say this? She is very modern. You would expect the ministry to be delighted with this, it’s all there knobs and all. Marlene Campbell is clearly willing to listen to policy directions, but just as clearly she wants to do it with a sense of free will –that seems to have been at the centre of why she has been so outspoken – she’s a modern Southern woman who won’t be pushed around. She’s a strong individual.

Key juncture one

In June, 2012, the school’s regular ERO visit took place. On the second day Marlene Campbell was told that ERO intended to use the review to investigate anonymous complaints that had been made against her. Marlene Campbell asked for details so she could respond but was refused them; she was steamrolled, the matter was then simply reported to the ministry recommending an investigation.

Predetermination laid bare,

This was a put-up job. The matter was really a carry-on from the Ann Tolley regime. Hekia Parata and the ERO and ministry bureaucrats, though, proved only too willing to continue this terrible thing.

The moment the Marlene Campbell complaint letter arrived at the ERO, the opportunity was seized by the bureaucracies as manna from heaven – and the dye was cast; the letter was quickly passed onto the ministry, being well practised in what to do.

ERO made no judgements as to the merits of the complaint because that might well have contaminated it with the odd fact or two; the intention, I suggest, being to keep the complaint free of detail so the ministry could provide its own, to be magnified beyond belief, mountained to a molehill, imaginatively reconfigured.

How on earth could anyone respond sensibly to an anonymous complaint, by definition absent of context, expressed in general terms?

This is unconscionable.

Key juncture two

Peter McDonald was appointed limited statutory manager. He did two things.

First, he announced almost immediately and without consultation that the only way to solve the matter was for Marlene Campbell to leave. Just like that.

Predetermination laid bare.

Of course, Marlene Campbell refused.

Secondly, a teacher at the school who had, following due process, been demoted by the board of trustees with the agreement of NZEI, was reappointed to a senior position. Just like that.

Are you flabbergasted?

Then, amazing goings-on for a year and a half.

Key juncture three

McDonald in the year and a half that followed, in sinister mode, tried to find fault in Marlene Campbell’s behaviour; find facts, as I see it, to fit a pre-determined judgement – but failed.

The chairperson of the board of trustees and the board then became totally exasperated at the cost and terribleness of the situation so, to force the ministry’s hand, resigned. In doing this, the chairperson reiterated his utmost confidence in Marlene Campbell, declaring her a most wonderful and exceptional principal.

McDonald seems to have panicked. Out of the blue, he accused Marlene Campbell of a specific instance of bullying. (This was, of course, later utterly disproved.)

He put her on leave.

Four days later his term as LSM ended, to be replaced by a commissioner.

Key juncture four

The appointment of commissioner was the signal for frantic efforts to dig the ministry out of the hole it had dug itself into. That hole, however, only became a concern to the ministry when Marlene Campbell didn’t capitulate.

The commissioner said she would finish the investigatory process before the start of the school year. She failed to do so.

Marlene Campbell was dismissed on March 6, 2014.

This is all so terrible and unjust that it is difficult to take in. So gross have been the actions that some actions also serious, but to a lesser degree, can gain an element of acceptance, which they shouldn’t.

Throughout the one and a half years, the bureaucrats have, almost without exception, refused to provide details of allegations – particularly unreasonable given that on the very few occasions when they have been provided, they were proved to be nonsense. The only charges remaining are unsubstantiated generalisations.

Significantly, in her final report, the commissioner pulled back from some of the allegations previously offered as the reasons for Marlene Campbell’s suspension and made some attempts to correct gross procedural errors.

The ministry case, by these very actions, lies in shreds.

Clearly, the delay in presenting the final report involved a going to and fro about how the report could backtrack without making the LSM, the ministry, and the commissioner look complete idiots. The final report failed, because they do.

Think of the harm all this has done to the fabric of education, indeed, New Zealand society – the tearing at the threads.

It is pure Kafkan in its terribleness – and it’s here in our little country.

The motive was malice; the process travesty; the outcome horrendous.

unfair-justice The politicians sat back, confident that no harm would come their way. Their plan had worked before, why not with this prime target?  Send in ERO complete with anonymous letter murmuring mysteriously about matters needing investigation and then quickly hand over to the ministry to enable it to appoint a statutory manager who could proceed to take outrageous advantage of the assumption of good faith in authority. The process from there is well established: the principal muzzled; the statutory manager goes fault fishing; the principal’s position destabilised with occasional releases of information to various directions; the cost of the statutory manager is used to turn the school against the principal; time is prolonged in the hope that new elections would bring in anti-principal trustees; and, failing all that, wait for the huge legal cost to make the principal have to excruciatingly balance fighting for justice against welfare of his or her family.

But with Marlene Campbell things didn’t work out per usual. Hence the current situation. This dogged and brave principal deserves our help and support.

I accuse the ministers and ministry of ‘false accusation and misrepresentation of justice’ from ‘lurid obsession.’ An overstated analogy? I say given the New Zealand context it isn’t, and given the elements of injustice involved, worth pondering. Anyway, if you were Marlene Campbell would you be splitting hairs?

The government and the education bureaucracies have declared deep and unrelenting antipathy to the idea of public education. When is the penny going to drop?

When are we going to unite on enough is enough?

by Kelvin Smythe

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

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

Thank you.


Read also:

Festival of Education is a glittering cover for something very ugly

While there are some admirable people appearing at the festival they come from a very narrow band of what New Zealand education is about, says Kelvin Smythe:

“There will be no dissonance at the festival only a sheen of commercialism and one side of education on smooth display.

“There will also be people there from naivety: gulled if they think this travesty is about education or a festival.

“I felt nauseated at the dishonesty of the programme and the purposes of the festival.

“Heading it, of course, is  that academic tricky-dicky John Hattie.

dodgy clown “The real purpose of the festival is to promote the commercial interests of Cognition and Core in association with ideological ones of the government.

“Cognition and Core are being positioned, as part of wider government policy, on contract, to take over many of the roles of the ministry.

“This positioning is being undertaken as part of the government’s cluster and executive principal policy.

“Cognition and Core are to move into the clusters with their own employees also with the expert teachers as part of their armoury.

“Those planning the policy are confident the razzle-dazzle from Cognition and Core will be too much for parents, boards of trustees, and principals to combat – anyway they won’t have any choice.

“Schools will be contracted to submit to Cognition and Core policies.

“A longer term aim is to have larger classes through highly computerised classrooms using programmes purchased through Pearson and other multi-national companies.

“This is your standardised, anti-democratic future – this is about the minds of the children of New Zealand being filched for ideological purposes.

“John Hattie has for long been connected with Cognition and, it seems, not averse to considering imposing policy on schools against their will (Inaugural speech).

“I am particularly disturbed at the use of children stage performing at such a dishonest happening; they are, in my eyes, being sullied.

“Also the arts.

“The whole thing has a decadence to it – a sense of the Gatsby.

“This is about business people seeking the main chance.

“It is not about education because education in a democracy should be about the free exchange of ideas.

“There is much to celebrate about New Zealand education but there is nothing to celebrate in this charade of excess.

“A charade brought you by two commercial companies and the ministry in venomous association.

“And now the ultimate: education money has gone into this festival obscenity – money that could have gone into helping children with special needs, more teachers to help children with their reading, more money to compensate at school for children’s home backgrounds – yet this money has gone into a mammoth propaganda exercise intended to put public schools more under the heel of those driven by imported education ideologies.

“They are dancing on the struggles of our wonderful public schools; celebrating their imminent demise with displays of reckless financial abandon – and smirking as Hekia did in parliament last week when talking of this terrible thing.

by Kelvin Smythe – for more of Kelvin’s thoughts, go here.

Teachers must not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold

No Joke - Kelvin SmytheKelvin Smythe once more hits the nail on the head, identifying that these latest proposals aim to bring in both performance pay and the entrenching of National Standards within NZ education.  If those getting the extra pay do not jump on the National Standards bandwagon and promote it to others, they can say goodbye to the role and the money, and a more compliant puppet will be brought in.

Here are Kelvin’s observations:

“Because the education system is hierarchical, narrow, standardised, autocratic, and fearful – the new proposals will yield meagre gains. The proposals, if implemented within this education straitjacket, will have the appearance of a system suffering from ADHD.

The suggested proposals, because of the difference in the way secondary school knowledge is developed, structured, and presented will work somewhat less harmfully for secondary than for primary.

The proposals are a move by the government to buy its way to an extreme neoliberal and managerialist future for education – one part of these proposals is performance pay, the other, and associated, is a managerialist, bureaucratic restructuring:

There is performance pay to develop a cash nexus as central to education system functioning.

There is performance pay to divide NZEI and eventually destroy it (as we know the organisation), NZPF also.

There is performance pay and the wider proposals to divide NZEI from PPTA (PPTA is dithering).

The information I have is that there will be some obfuscation about the role of national standards but in practice performance pay will, indeed, be based on them.

There is making permanent the national standards curriculum by selecting expert and merit teachers on the basis of their demonstrated commitment to a narrow version of mathematics, reading, and writing and their willingness to promote it.

The proposals are intended to set up an extreme neoliberal and managerialist education system:

The executive principal for the cluster system will usually be a secondary principal, if one is not available, a primary school principal friend of the government will be employed.

This cluster structure will form the basis for the ‘rationalisation’ of schools when that process is decided for the cluster area.

The executive principal will be a part of a bureaucratic extension upward to the local ministry and education review offices then to their head offices, and downward to clusters, individual schools, and classroom teachers.

This executive principal will have the ultimate power in deciding expert and lead appointments.”

Read the rest of Kelvin’s insightful piece here.

This is no way to run education.  If we treat the system and those within it this way, what on earth does it tell our students?  That what matters in bowing down to money even when you know it’s wrong?  That it’s okay to leave behind all that your expertise tells you, so long as you’re okay?  That it’s every man for himself? What great lessons for life they are.  Not.

We must insist our unions tread very carefully here, and not be blinded by the loaded promise of gold.

Ministry Bullying at Pembroke School.

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

 Brent was an outspoken critic of national standards, astute, sensitive, but irrepressible.

Brent and his board of trustees after careful consultation with parents, stood out from national standards. There was strong agreement that national standards were not in the education interests of the Pembroke children.

July 1, 2011, the charter was submitted.

August 1, there was a letter from the ministry regarding a non-compliant charter and giving ten days to be compliant.

August 4-9, there were telephone conversations between the board chair and the ministry; statutory intervention was threatened.

Now for a happening that should be a moment of transcendent shame to the ministry and Tolley.

The school was well advanced in planning a fono for the district, partially ministry funded, to benefit the education of Pasifika children.

August 18, there is a call from the ministry threatening to remove the fono from school.

August 19, a charter meeting is scheduled by the ministry for August 22.

The school requests that the ministry stick to the board meeting timeframes and that ministry concerns be detailed prior to the meeting.

Next day the fono is withdrawn from school.

The school protests through the media, pointing out, amongst other things, food and other preparations were well advanced.

Ministry response added up to ha-ha; bad luck your school is not a safe environment.

A charter meeting is set for September 20.

September 20 – at the meeting, the ministry threatens to put in a limited statutory manager.

The board agrees to accept ministry ‘suggestions’ to meet charter requirements and for the principal to attend courses.

 (In other words, the moral stand against national standards is over and, the school, having fought the good fight, is now willing to be compliant. But the ministry ‘suggestions’ are just part of the punishment, no-one knew the regulations better than the principal; he had to know them to stand out from them. The ‘suggestions’ are a figment to set up the cold and bitter vengeance to be inflicted. Making a stand against national standards being treated as if a criminal offence.)

 No response from ministry regarding their offer to help with the ‘suggestions’.

September 29, a letter arrives from the secretary of education (Karen Sewell – so don’t swan around being the moral educationist Karen, now what would EDG have said Karen? – you know who I mean) putting in a statutory adviser.

27 October, at the signing of the contact, the adviser told the board it would be a long and expensive process.

The principal sends information to support the scoping report.

The statutory adviser was to appear only once at the school, and that was to sign the contract, she had no further contact with the school except for two phone calls.

November 9, the adviser withdraws saying there were a couple of board members she couldn’t work with. This ‘couldn’t work with claim’ came as a considerable surprise to the board. This extraordinary claim needs to be investigated, if not upheld, I think we can say a set up occurred.

November 11, a letter arrives from Kathryn Palmer, surely under instruction, saying she has written to the secretary of education requesting a limited statutory manager be appointed. Wow! What speed! Well done Kathryn admirable efficiency in the interests of the children of Pembroke School. (I want to say that Kathryn’s actions were surely done under instruction. How she responded within the ministry only she knows and her conscience.)

Board writes to Karen Sewell complaining of the process. Hard bickies.

December 13, a new adviser appointed, not a limited statutory manager as threatened.

During 2011 the charter was submitted six times but never found compliant. The charter, however, was quite straightforwardly compliant – the ministry was only playing games.

Cleave Hay was appointed as adviser: a person of admirable qualities, who only charged at the ministry stipulated rate and not for travel time. (A medal for Cleave.)

(Now you might think that the story is about to finally end with something of a cheery note amidst the squalid goings-on – but wait there’s more, a lot more.)

Cleave Hay had really nothing much to do but he turned up from time-to-time, as he was bound to do, almost as a welcome, though remunerated, visitor.

September 29, 2012 is the review date for the intervention, but somehow it is decided to wait until December – no doubt from ministry direction.

At the December meeting with ministry and Cleave, Cleave expresses yet again how happy he is with how things are going.

But the ministry insists the intervention remain until after the board of trustee’s election.

(The motive for this was no doubt to embarrass and undermine the principal and board of trustees in the election period.)

Cleave only attends two meetings in 2013 as he is very happy with board of trustee’s governance.

June 2013, Kathryn Palmer, obviously under instruction, my guess directly from Parata’s office, shifts the goalposts for the adviser’s reporting.

At the June meeting with board, the adviser reports once again how happy he is with the board.

But in the same month the ministry says intervention is to continue because national standards results for writing were not good enough (despite being where most decile 3 schools were).

In July, the board writes to new secretary of education regarding due process not being followed.

End of July, Peter Hughes orders the intervention to be lifted.

At no stage was the request for specific information detailing the risks to the school responded to.

 Two and a half years of strife for what?


Where was everybody?

A media that understood?

The school trustees association?

The teacher organisations?

Where was the concern for the children and teachers who so bravely and staunchly continued to care for them?

This is a disgraceful story, amongst many other disgraceful stories to do with ministry interventions.

But there are many more disgraceful stories – stories emanating, for instance, from the behaviours and values of the education review office.

I call on schools and boards, also teachers in universities and those in education agencies, to come forward and tell them. Perhaps there needs to be a Truth and Conciliation process.

This morning we heard once again the mellifluous puerility of the minister, a contribution archetypical of the puerility that has been issued from the review office and ministry for over two decades to a largely accepting public.

Our education system is corrupted and rotten. A commission of enquiry is needed to clear the unworthy from the temple and restore truth, honesty, and openness to our system.

Society needs individuals and groups to take moral stands; it is uplifted and morally enriched by the accumulation. But they paid a cost.

We honour the courage and declare our thanks to the witness.

Read the whole article here.

And if you know of any more schools being treated this way, tell us or contact Kelvin via his page.  Because this really does have to stop.

Marlene Campbell needs our urgent support – by Kelvin Smythe

justiceA gross injustice is unfolding, has been unfolding, at Salford School in Southland.

I believe it will end up as New Zealand education’s equivalent of the Dreyfus Case, there is also a sense of Javert obsession about it.

The basis for what I write comes from knowledge accrued, not immediately obtained.

The ministry ought to act very quickly, acknowledge the original basis was wrong, the processes wrong – and issue an apology and a reinstatement. It will cost them if they don’t.

There will be people reading this who will be thinking where there is smoke there must be a fire; I want to say now, as unbelievable as it may seem – there is no fire, in the sense we understand a fire in education terms.

This, of course, goes back to the Tolley era and the fight against national standards and the authoritarian nature of its introduction.  But even people who were strong opponents of national standards were sometimes taken aback at some of Marlene’s utterances. ‘What is she like?’ they asked.

Well she is the salt of the earth. She is not a raving lefty, she is a National Party voter (or was); she runs a highly modern school, highly computerised, all the buttons and bows in assessment, and so on; she is innovative if a little trendy; and in the district she has been behind a wonderful series of curriculum conferences.

Marlene is a proud New Zealand principal who wants to work in a framework of freedom incorporating reasonable oversight, then she wants the space to exercise her kind of leadership in the interests of children, the teachers, and the Salford community. She has and always had the backing of her board of trustees, though they did say to her from time to time, as I did, to tone it down.

Marlene is all of us. You might shudder a little at the thought, but she is. All principals with any sense of independence know they are subject to the review office suddenly appearing with attitude, an attitude arising from a secret letter. Often creepy allegations are made, yet the principal is not privy to the contents of the letter or who sent it. The education review office justifies this on the grounds of protecting people, but the authorities are there to do that, what this secrecy leads to is authorities being provided with secret police-type control. Schools should see the allegations and know who made them – that is a basic principle of justice. The secret letter Kafkan tactic is being pulled regularly against principals who show the faintest indications of independence. And there is little comeback.

This happened to Marlene and is one to be fought out in court, but it is one that should have already been fought by NZPF.

Then there are the commissioners and limited statutory managers (LSM). These roles are a licence to rort. They are also an exercise in near unbridled power. I suppose I should first make the commonplace that there are some fair-minded, honest commissioners out there. The way these commissioner roles are structured sends out weird signals. You see, the longer they stay in the roles the longer they will be paid. Many of them are in thereto solve difficulties that would have been sorted in a few days by the inspectorate, but they are extended for years. (You may remember I was a senior inspector of schools.) In fact, of course, most times commissioners are not there to solve real problems but to punish schools for being at all independent so they must invent problems. Then there is the signal that works against justice: LSMs are paid by the school; the children, as a result, are being punished for the actions of adults whether within schools or officials outside. In relation to justice, the costs to the school become a perverse incentive to forgo justice and go against the principal in the school.(By the way, I’m also hearing from schools about commissioner’s inflated travel and accommodation costs.)

In the Salford damages’ court case almost certain to ensue it will be necessary to go back to the shenanigans begun from Tolley’s office. As is widely known use was made of Whale Oil and the media to set up teachers and schools they decided to target.

The apparatus of the New Zealand education system is oppressive and against natural justice with the education review office central to that.

It began officially with an accusation from a letter held in the secret files of the review office. Yes – as is the way, Marlene was then accused of actions never made clear and from whom. It is so Kafkan.

Of course, the review office recommended an LSM. That LSM was Peter Macdonald, the individual around whom much rumour has swirled, particularly so when his judgement and fairness was called into question over his sacking of Prue Taylor of Christchurch Girls High. Prue Taylor you will remember was reinstated in her position.

Macdonald was appointed to Salford a year ago.

One of the first of Macdonald’s actions on being made LSM was to reinstate a teacher who had been dismissed, following due process, by the board of trustees. I suspect that reinstatement was done summarily and with little or no discussion.

When this whole matter goes to court seeking damages and Marlene’s reinstatement, I have little doubt that Macdonald’s incompetence in the primary school setting will be made clear, and that many of Macdonald’s directions will be seen as both asinine and illegal. I have little doubt that Marlene will be shown as having treaded very carefully throughout, no matter the provocation.

Let us jump forward to last week.

The board of trustees had had enough of the expenditure of money and Macdonald’s antics. They set about engineering Macdonald’s dismissal by announcing they were going to resign thus necessitating the appointment of a commissioner. The chairman added that his board retained full confidence in the principal who was highly successful and innovative. He said she had the enthusiastic support of nearly all the teachers and parents. Macdonald, he said, had done more harm than good.

cannot speak upMacdonald, it seems, panicked, a letter was sent to the lawyer late on Friday, 1 November, with Marlene being suspended without consultation. The manner of Macdonald’s actions in suspending her was clearly designed to cast Marlene in the worst possible light. To further set the scales against her he forbade her to say anything about it.

To suspend a principal late on Friday without notice and inform the teachers early on Monday morning, and then make announcements to the press is quite sensational. Is this an axe murderer on the rampage who must be stopped?

I now go to this morning’s Southland Times, Wednesday, 6 November.

Macdonald says he suspended the principal ‘because of concerns for the welfare of staff at the school.’

Now follow this closely.

He says: ‘an investigation into the working environment at Invercargill’s Salford School over the last few years was continuing.’

OK good – is the report damming of Marlene? He doesn’t say (it isn’t). This report is being done by a lawyer and the chairman. How could it be damming given the chairman’s glowing tributes to Marlene?

‘But after receiving an ‘interim summary’ of the investigation last week he had decided to take action.’

‘He declined to outline his specific concerns.’

Well, of course.

Natural justice demands that he showed those ‘concerns’ to Marlene. He didn’t. Macdonald is in deep shit here. He suspended her on Friday and announces it early on Monday morning. Such transcendental haste could only be occasioned by transcendental concerns, or by motivations unrelated to a concern for justice and fairness.

Now do you want to know what it was really about?

You are going to find this difficult to believe but the excuse for Marlene’s suspension, it seems, was a discussion by senior staff members on 30 October, with Marlene not present, and certainly not motivating the discussion, about professional behaviour in the interests of the school.

Marlene’s stance all along being that in the interests of the children she can work professionally with anybody on the staff – she has done that she said, and can continue to do that.

I’ll leave it now to the board chairman – something of a hero don’t you think?

Aaron Fox says: ‘… the school’s staff were doing a fantastic job in challenging circumstances [this is really a reference to Macdonald’s presence] and the children were enjoying their schooling.’

‘Throughout the last 12 months of a limited statutory manager they have continued to deliver quality teaching to our children, and that’s all of the staff. I see them working as a team.’

‘Mr Fox last week said the “unfortunate” statutory intervention had created more problems that it had intended to fix and had become a financial drain on the school.’

What a madness this all is.

‘The Ministry of Education indicated it had no role in the suspension of Ms Campbell.’


The ministry is as guilty as sin because of the way they set up these situations in the first place. Take my word for it, they had better act quickly to absolve themselves. Salford has all the appearance of an everyday education darkness being exposed to the light as a result of what seems a ministry appointment’s brain explosion.

Marlene must not be left hang out to dry in the way Keri was. (Oh, and by the way, where is STA in all of this?)

by Kelvin Smythe

Kelvin’s origonal article can be found here.

NZ charter schools – should we just get over it and run with it?

Kelvin Smythe’s satirical piece on the impending NZ charter schools hits the nail firmly on the head.  

With a wink of the eye and a nod of the head he remarks that “Sometimes people ask, what about the children, what is in it for them? I reply: smell the coffee, this about things far more important than children; this is about ideology, power, and money, this is about appearance and politics – this is about education 21st century style, get with it or get run over.

Here is Kelvin’s excellent piece:

In many ways New Zealand primary education has just had a close escape.


If it hadn’t been for the excellent charter school policy introduced by the courageous National government, the greedy money demands by the bloated public education sector might have reached an utterly relentless and undeniable crescendo. With charter schools soon to be in place, the government can now divert that money to really worthwhile education ends as well as undertaking a transformational exercise in open and transparent 21st century democracy, a perfect fit with other such exercises as the GCSB bill, recent social welfare, electoral, industrial, environmental, and education reform legislation, also the asset sales process.


We have gone from the Orwellian Nannygate under Labour to a democratic heaven-on-earth Pearlygate under National; from Helen Clark as Helengrad to John Key as Mandela Key.


At a lower level of discourse, charter schools also have the purpose of remedying the one-in-five failures, the result of inefficient primary school teaching, with especial attention to Maori and Pasifika children. I think you will agree the final four will make terrific headway in this respect.


Charter schools should be seen as a culmination and triumph of Western philosophical thought. My mind goes back to Thomas Aquinas and his cardinal virtues, honesty being the uppermost; and Descartes with his – I think, therefore I am, which has been further developed by John Banks to I forget, therefore I’m not, which brings a whole lot more depth and mystification to Descartes’ initial philosophical foray.

Read the rest of Kelvin’s post here:

The dumb editor at the Dominion Post

Kelvin Smythe has had a guts full of the Dumb Editor at The Dominion Post:

To Dumb Editor, national standards are about parents knowing ‘how their children are progressing in the three most important building blocks …’

Don’t make me laugh.

National standards and testing are not about parents knowing how their children are progressing:

  • they are about making way for political and bureaucratic authoritarian control over schools;
  • they are about a rapid growth of private schools for the children of the more privileged;
  • they are about international corporations using education as a source of investment and profit;
  • they are about using education for the neoliberal propagandising of students;
  • they are about achieving wider social and economic neoliberal goals;
  • and, cruelly they are about appearing to do something for less privileged children when they are actually preparing them to be part of a disposable generation.

Dumb Editor knows this and is playing dumb to disguise the real purposes of national standards and testing.

Read the rest here.


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