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Education Minister & Ministry: Ombudsman Unimpressed

The Ombudsman’s annual report is out, along with a summary in the Office’s spring newsletter, and it makes for some rather disconcerting reading.

OIA - Official InformationTo my mind, it speaks volumes about the workings of this current government that the Ombudsman’s Office is dealing with “a 29 percent increase in complaints and other work coming in compared with the previous reporting year”

and that the Office “received and completed the highest ever number of complaints and other contacts about state sector agencies.”

Add to that the fact that “Official information complaints increased overall by 92% this year” and you have yourself something to seriously ponder over.

The complexity of the issues regarding the way Christchurch school closures and mergers have been dealt with is such that the Ombudsman has had to extend its review period in order to gather all the relevent information:

“Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem is continuing her investigation into the way in which the Ministry of Education undertakes consultation on school closures and mergers. 

While the information gathering stage is mostly completed, and many affected schools have taken the opportunity to meet with investigators assisting the Chief Ombudsman, the complexity of the issues have necessitated an extended period of review. Dame Beverley is currently working with the Ministry of Education in order to assure herself that she has all information needed to form robust conclusions. This requires a number of further meetings and interviews with key Ministry staff.

It is important to bear in mind that any aspects of the processes which occurred at the Minister’s direction, including actual decisions about individual schools, are outside the scope of the Chief Ombudsman’s investigation. Rather, the focus is on whether, over a range of closure and merger processes, the Ministry undertook fair and meaningful consultation within the confines of its role.”

Also of interest is the Ombudsman’s findings on the government’s refusal to release funding information relating to charter schools.  With a swift rap on the knuckles, the Ombudsman points out that, seeing as the decisions about how charters would be funded had been made when the request was made, there was no good reason to withhold the information.

Good to know the government is working honestly and openly for the good of all New Zealanders, isn’t it…  Tui.

Sources:

http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/ckeditor_assets/attachments/295/spring_ombudsman_oqr_2013_aw.pdf?1385454228

http://www.ombudsman.parliament.nz/newsroom/item/ombudsman-quarterly-review-spring-2013

Why Are Kiwis Taking To The Streets?

They are mighty pigged off, that’s why.

This Saturday, 13th April, thousands of teachers, parents, students and other supporters up and down New Zealand will march to protest some very disconcerting things that are afoot in GodZone.

What are we protesting?  Well I’m glad you asked.

Charter schools:  The government is hell bent on bringing in charter schools despite massive resistance and rafts of evidence that they just do not improve achievement, least of all for minority groups.  They are pushing an ideology that will privatise public schools.  No amount of questioning elicits from the government or Catherine Isaac any answers on just how charters will improve anything.

They have no answers – there are no answers.  The evidence is very firmly against them.  

Community involvement is not guaranteed in charter schools (goodbye BOT), teachers can be untrained, money paid to run the schools can be skimmed off as profit.  That’s your tax $$$ going not to resources of trained staff or even to pay for the building – just taken out as profit by the business owner.  Nice.

The largest study of charter schools, by CREDO,  showed that 47% of children did worse in the charter than in the local public school.  Only 17% did better.  Is that worth the cost, both financially and to communities?  I think not.

National Standards and Testing:  Teachers test all the time – we have to, to know where kids are and where to take them next.  Tests are best if acted on speedily by the teacher, to inform their practice.  National standards do nothing to inform teachers – indeed they eat up time best spent teaching or doing more useful testing.  National Standards do not look at the progress a child has (or has not) made, it merely pegs them against a standard that has been deemed to be about right for their age.  This is of no use to the child, to the parents, or to the teacher.  Each student is different – what matters most is not where they are in relation to their peers but how they are progressing.

Add to this the growing and very real concerns that the tests used to determine students’ levels are faulty and are giving inflated results, and we have a huge, huge problem.

Teachers’ Pay and Conditions:  You might think this is about Novopay; it’s not.  The Secretary of Education wants authority to change teachers’ pay and work conditions without consultation.  Like you turning up to work and finding your contract had been rewritten and there’s nothing you can do about it.  Nice eh?  Why would the SoE want to do that, you ask?  Most likely so that performance pay can be brought in.

Performance pay is an anathema to teaching.  By its very nature, teaching is collaborative, it means working in a team to get the best for the students.  The minute performance pay rears its head, that begins to change.  Why share your resources with someone who just got a pay rise when you got none?  Why agree to have more than your fair share of the trickier students if it might impact your wages?  Where it has been implemented, abroad, it has lead to some desperate teachers exaggerating test scores, and so on.  It’s human nature, and has been documented widely by many reliable researchers, including those at the OECD.  We just don’t want that.  We want to continue working together as a team within our school and with other schools in the wider community for the kids.

Christchurch school closures and mergers:  The schools in Christchurch just did not get a fair hearing.  Information was and still is being withheld by the authorities, preventing schools from being able to put up accurate arguments against the proposals.   Dame Beverley Wakem has deemed the Christchurch schools closures and mergers consultation process to be questionable enough to warrant an investigation.  No-one is arguing nothing needed to change post-quake.  But even schools with growing roles and good quality buildings and sites have been earmarked to go.  It makes no sense.

Christchurch has been bullied, there is no other term for it.  And teachers do not like bullies.

It’s time to say NO.

It’s time to insist it remains about the children and not about ideology.

It’s time to demand that changes are research based and not done on the whim of a one-man political party.

It’s time to include community MORE in schools, not less.

Join us – come and show your support.

school-protest-leeds-001

Read more:

 On the Christchurch debacle

On CREDO’s charter school research

On National and ACT’s agreement to bring in charter schools

Protests – times and places

Parata did “a pretty good job” consulting Christchurch schools. Tui.

Why is information being withheld?

Why is information being withheld?

Ach, just when you think you have heard it all, Hekia manages to open her mouth and spew forth another gem.

Despite Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem deeming the Christchurch schools closures and mergers consultation process to be questionable enough to warrant an investigation, Hekia is yet again flying in the fact of the facts.

An Ombudsman’s probe last year found the ministry “acted wrongly” in  how it handled official information requests on proposals affecting Christchurch schools.

But there’s nothing at all wrong and nothing to worry about at all, apparently.

No, Hekia says it’s all good:  “Ms Parata says she did everything she could.”

In fact she goes one further and says that the process was ” a pretty good job”.   Source

Sorry?

Run that by me again.

” a pretty good job”

WOW!

Tell that to the schools, parents and others who tried to get information through the OIA and were fobbed off.

The teachers’ union, NZEI, put out a statement yesterday saying “We also hope the Minister of Education is prepared to listen seriously to the Chief Ombudsman’s findings and engage with Christchurch school communities in a way that is more respectful and credible than in the past.

It’s not looking promising, is it, NZEI, let’s be honest.

And it’s not just Christchurch schools that have been rail-roaded by Hekia and the Ministry – Salisbury School for special needs girls has been treated despicably, too,  and now – having won a court case to halt its closure – is finding the Ministry is employing underhand tactics that will see it close eventually anyway.  Truly, these actions are not just despicable  they are quite possibly illegal, too.

top secretChristchurch schools have to have their submissions in tomorrow.  The inquiry is to be done the second half of the year.  Many commentators have pointed out that the Ombudsman’s investigation could well lead to legal challenges once decisions are announced regarding those schools.

This is no way for a democracy to run.

This is no way to treat our communities, our children, our education staff or our parents.

If there is a true and rigorous reason for a school to close, so be it.  If that is the case then there should be no need for hiding facts, refusing to share information, obfuscation and downright lies.

So why, Hekia?  Why are you treating schools this way?

And who is next?

*****************

Anyone who has information relevant to the investigation should contact the Ombudsman:

– Telephone on 0800 802 602,

– File an online complaint at www.ombudsman.parliament.nz

– Email info@ombudsman. parliament.nz

__________________

Read more

 The Press – Ombudsman probe into 5 years of school closures

Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Te Whanau Tahi welcome investigation

The NZ Herald – Ombudsman to investigate Education Ministry’s handling of closures

How to lodge a complaint with The Ombudsman (NZ)

Campbell Live’s investigation into the MoE’s treatment of Salisbury School.

Save Our Schools Christchurch

Quake School Shocker

Quake School Schocker

It could never happen. Right? …..

Christchurch School Closures and Mergers – the video

Christchurch schools are being done over – even those will GROWING rolls are being closed or merged.

You need to ask yourselves why.

Why close so many schools when 15 schools are scheduled to be built?

And while you ponder what is really going on, watch this:

Thank you to Simon Kenny for sharing this with me.

Kia kaha.

 

 

 

Parallels between Sacramento and Christchurch?

“… this deal is being made so that property values will decrease so that private equity can swoop in and pick up these school properties on the cheap and start making some bucks (read: school privatization). The closure of these sites would bring in only $2.5 million in revenue to the city. An infinitesimal part of a huge budget deficit. ”


Sounds very familiar, does it not, Christchurch???


Be very clear, New Zealand, Charter Schools are about lining a few pockets, NOT about improving education for our children.


Please, I implore you to start asking questions and reading about them – get informed before it’s too late.

~Dianne

Not in the mood for celebrating

cryWhen I started this blog and the accompanying facebook page, I thought I would be super giddy about all the wee milestones along the way, and up until recently I was.

The 20,000th page visit was a highlight for me – confirmation that people are reading what I write and share.

But this week when the facebook page was just under 1000 fans, I couldn’t even get excited, and when we passed the thousand mark, not even a woot was issued.

In fact, I cried.

I cried because the only reason the page is now so busy is because of what is going on in Christchurch, and the sudden influx of (to date) around 100 new fans was only due to them needing to search out information and try to make sense of the various verdicts given by Hekia Parata on Monday.

From being mainly teachers that joined the page and read the blog, it is now wider than that, with parents, grandparents, teacher aides, caretakers, students and the wider public joining pages like mine just to try to work out what the heck is actually going on – and why.

Some just want company in their dismay.

The numbers keep growing…

and my sadness gets deeper.

And if I am this sad, I can only wonder and imagine how the affected communities are feeling…

and then I get sadder still.

Kia kaha to everyone caught up in the mean and ugly mess.   You are in the thoughts of myself and so very many other people.

 

Hekia to the left… Quake to the right …

Hekia to the left... Quake to the right ...

Dominion Post today, 20th Feb 2013.

Christchurch rally to show support for public education

Our schoolsNZEI Press release:

Christchurch rally to show support for public education

19 February 2012

4pm at the CBS arena, Jack Hinton Drive, Addington

Christchurch school communities and supporters will gather this afternoon to show support for schools that have been earmarked for closure and merger and to tell the Government that it needs to show more respect for the people of Christchurch.

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski says educators are very concerned about the pace that the Government wants to impose these changes on Christchurch children and educators.

“We are looking at a much more accelerated process than originally planned. Some schools that had originally been told the changes would take place over four years have now been told that they will be merged by the beginning of next year.

“This is very worrying because it appears the timetable has been set more for political purposes than educational ones.

“Frankly, we have serious doubts about whether the Ministry of Education has the capacity to undertake this process within the proposed timeframe. The Christchurch rebuild has been extremely slow and the experience of other school mergers and closures gives us little confidence.

”We believe there is a very real risk that children’s education will once again be put in jeopardy.”

Ms Nowotarski says the past five months have been extremely difficult for the education community in Christchurch.

“This has been a botched and disrespectful process. The Minister will have to go forward in a much more credible and respectful manner than she has shown in the past.”

Today’s rally will take place at 4 pm at the CBS arena and will be followed by a march to the Ministry of Education offices in Princess St”

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

Programme

  • Update about the situation and processes for going forward
  • Vote of no confidence in the Minister – see below
  • March to the Ministry office

Getting There

Please go to www.transportforchch.govt.nz to the latest update on road conditions and access to the CBS Arena. Parking is available.

What to Bring

  • Flags, banners, signs
  • Colleagues
  • Friends and family
  • Anything that makes a noise!

We will be seeking support for the following motion:

  • No schools or communities should ever have to go through the botched and disrespectful process that happened in Christchurch over the past five months.
  • We share the hurt and anger of the schools that have been identified for closure and merger today.
  • Given past experience, the Ministry will need to demonstrate it has the capacity to manage the accelerated timeframe for the merger and closure processes announced.
  • We have no confidence in the Minister of Education’s record to date. We demand that she commit to engagement going forward that is credible and respectful.

If you’re out of Christchurch:

Please support our Christchurch schools by encouraging your school to wear red and black tomorrow and posting photos to the Listen to Christchurch Facebook page.

NZEI’s top priority continues to be to stand up for teachers, support staff and kids in Christchurch and support all schools to remain safe and stable environments where great teaching and learning can continue.

We are committed to ensuring there are fair processes for all school staff through the next stage of the process. We have been listening to all schools in Christchurch and we will be offering a full range of assistance and support to those schools that have been identified for merger or closure. This includes offering schools assistance as they undertake further engagement with their communities about whether to accept or fight the interim decisions.

Today is a day for Christchurch parents, educators and communities to come together and have a voice on the future of learning in our city, culminating in a family friendly, city-wide event at CBS Arena.

All who care about the future of education in Canterbury welcome!

facebook.com/events/351222601657343/

School closures against deprivation index: the results will shock you!

“Blue is least deprived, yellow is most deprived. It’s pretty easy to see that most of the closures and mergers (which are closures by another name) are in the yellow parts of the city. ”

If you are still unsure whether there is more to what is going on in Christchurch than restructuring schools due to surplus places, you need to read this and the previous post.

And watch out for what happens with charter schools.

Things here are rotten to the core and are part of a far larger agenda.

Rebuilding Christchurch

As with the previous post, this is a rough map of where the school closures are on a map of social deprivation in Christchurch. I say rough as the map doesn’t come with roads, so I’ve had to correlate the two. Deprivation data is from 2006, from the Christchurch City Council’s website. Blue is least deprived, yellow is most deprived. It’s pretty easy to see that most of the closures and mergers (which are closures by another name) are in the yellow parts of the city. Even in the closure in the Ilam electorate, they’ve managed to target the one school in the most deprived part of Burnside!

I’ve added an asterix to denote the Aranui cluster, a decision on which was put off today. But remember, they want to merge 5 schools into one, in the poorest part of town.

The N!’s represent new schools, but I can’t put…

View original post 15 more words

Christchurch closures and mergers by electorate – a rough map

This makes interesting reading…

“Someone asked for a map like this via twitter. It is not the prettiest and it is not the biggest. But it should give you a rough idea of where the closures map out across Christchurch (as well as the reprieves and the new schools). “

Rebuilding Christchurch

Someone asked for a map like this via twitter. It is not the prettiest and it is not the biggest. But it should give you a rough idea of where the closures map out across Christchurch (as well as the reprieves and the new schools). There is a map up on stuff, but it doesn’t show electorates.

I can’t promise it is 100% geographically accurate, but I’ve tried my best.

Closures vs electorates

 

The big black dots are closures. As you can see, there are actually 4 in National held seats, and three in Labour seats. However, there are far more mergers in the Labour held seats, mainly Christchurch East and Port Hills. The location of the New Schools is indicative, as Rolleston, Rangiora and Lincoln are all off the map. Of the new schools, 4 (West Halswell, Rolleston x 2, Lincoln) are in Selwyn (Amy Adams) and one (Rangiora West) is…

View original post 177 more words

Christchurch Schools Announcement

Six schools should remain open

Burnham, Burnside, Duvauchelle, Okains Bay, Shirley Intermediate and Ouhuria (which should relocate to West Belfast when the population grows sufficiently).

The following seven schools should close:
Branston Intermediate, Glenmoor, Greenpark, Kendal, Linwood Intermediate, Manning Intermediate and Richmond.

Three mergers (six schools) should not proceed and remain separate:

Bromley and Linwood Ave, Gilberthorpe and Yaldhurst, and TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whanau Tahi (in the latter case, one should relocate to another part of the city to ensure better access).

Six mergers (12 schools) should proceed:

Burwood and Windsor, Central New Brighton and South New Brighton, Discovery One and Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, Lyttelton Main and Lyttelton West, North New Brighton and Freeville, and Phillipstown and Woolston (on the Woolston site).

All 31 schools will be given until 28 March to make further comment, provide feedback and add to their submissions about the interim decisions. It is expected that final decisions will be announced by the end of May 2013.

via Stuff.co.nz

Beating and Bullying Schools in Christchurch

chch heartsToday Hekia Parata has put out a release that is there largely to prime us for the up-coming decimation of Christchurch schools.

February 19th is the day Hekia decided was suitable to inform schools of their fate – close, merge or be spared.

Yes, the 18th Feb – four days before the 2nd anniversary of the quakes.

Way to go, Hekia – nice touch, right up there with the colour-coded ‘fate’ badges you had the principals wear last year when they first head about all of this.  You really do know how to communicate information in the most offensive way and at the most outrageous time, don’t you?

And this when the area is still under immense pressure and in much pain.  A time when focus should be on sorting out QC and getting people’s home sorted out.

I know many who are still waiting to hear if they are a rebuild, a demolition, whatever – and meanwhile they are still paying rates and what not on a house they cannot live in… TWO YEARS after the big quake.  Maybe getting that sorted should be the priority rather than further shaking up a community in pain?

But no – Hekia would rather forge ahead with her plans come hell or high water – or, in fact,  heart-breaking, earth-shattering earthquakes.

Hekia Parata, you and the rest of this government are shameful in how you ride rough-shod over people.

I truly have no idea how you sleep at night.

The press release is here.

Another Parata communication triumph – by Chris Hipkins

Within the next two weeks Hekia Parata will be charged with announcing the fate of several dozen Canterbury schools.

Consultation on merger and closure proposals ended just before Christmas and Parata  supposedly spent her extended summer break reading them.

While all of those schools wait on tender hooks to hear their fate, Parata decided today to announce the government’s plans to open six brand new schools in Christchurch.

Talk about a slap in the face to all of the schools still waiting to hear what the future holds for them.

Nobody doubts that significant change is required.  The population has moved around in Christchurch, and as a result some schools have shrunk to the point where they are no longer viable while others are bursting at the seams.

But there is a way to do this.

It starts with respect for the school communities affected.  Shepherding all the principals and BOTs into a hall and giving them colour-coded name badges to indicate whether they were closing, merging, or remaining wasn’t a great start.

Announcing the opening of new schools before telling the existing schools of their fate rubs further salt into the wounds.

Hekia Parata has a difficult job to do, but she seems determined to make it even harder for herself.  Her handling of the Christchurch schooling situation has demonstrated arrogance and a total lack of respect.

The people of Christchurch deserve better.

Source

Support Christchurch – An NZ-wide Day of Action – NZEI Update

Latest NZEI information:

February 19th is NOT CANCELLED as a day of action although the strike itself has been called off.

The CSB Arena event is  GOING AHEAD at 4pm so members and supporters can attend and there are other activities going ahead in other centres including Auckland and Wellington.

Contact NZEI or your rep for more information.

**********************************************************

Christchurch Day of Action – 19th Feb 2013

Please support our colleagues in Christchurch.

We need to ensure that the Government understands that it must put children’s learning first.

For those of you not in the Christchurch branch area, please help your colleagues deliver this message by wearing red and black on the 19th February and posting photos to the Listen to Christchurch facebook page.

You may also:

  • Send a letter to the editor of your local paper about why the Government must listen to the teachers and school communities in Christchurch and what’s at stake for quality public education if it follows its current agenda
  • Choose a Christchurch school (schools) and send them a message of support. Perhaps some students could send emails as well. You can find a list of schools and their email addresses at www.educationcounts.govt.nz/directories/list-of-nz-schools

Remember, the purpose of the day of action is to give Christchurch educators a voice to tell the Government we are determined that from now on it must put children’s learning first and: 

  • STOP using flawed processes and making poorly informed decisions  – and instead ensure fair processes based on robust evidence;
  • LOOK at what really works in terms of quality teaching and learning; and
  • LISTEN to educators and school communities.

NZEI remains committed to continuing discussions with the Ministry of Education. We hope that the Government has come to recognise the depth of community feeling and teachers’ resolve on this issue.

What is happening on the day in Christchurch

It is vital that the focus is on bringing Christchurch communities with us on the day. Those families, community groups, local businesses, hapu and iwi and other groups all have a stake in the future of Christchurch children and their learning.

So rather than a traditional “strike” or “picket line”, the local member organising committee has proposed that as a minimum, all schools in the Christchurch branch area open on 19 February until 2pm for a Community Open Day, followed by a public event at the CBS ARENA at 3pm.

Instead of delivering normal classroom programmes, schools will invite their local communities to participate in activities and discussions at the school about the future of education in Christchurch and the learning programmes at their school.

From 2pm on the 19th, NZEI is asking members and supporters to travel to the CBS Arena for a community-wide, family-friendly event from 3-4.30pm.  If you’re from the wider Christchurch region but not in the Christchurch branch area, you are very welcome to join us!

-NZEI

**********************************************************

Latest NZEI information:

February 19th is NOT CANCELLED as a day of action although the strike itself has been called off.

The CSB Arena event is  GOING AHEAD at 4pm so members and supporters can attend and there are other activities going ahead in other centres including Auckland and Wellington.

Contact NZEI or your rep for more information.

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