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Just what are primary school teachers asking for? And what has Ministry offered?

This week, NZEI teacher members rejected the Ministry of Education’s second pay and conditions offer and voted to go on strike again. But what is it they want? And what’s been offered?

What we want:

  • SENCO –  A Special Needs Coordinator (SENCO) for every school, so that children with additional needs have a dedicated expert. This job is almost always tacked onto the roles of teachers already busy with many responsibilities, and so doesn’t always get the dedicated attention it needs.
  • RELEASE TIME – Significant increases to release time so that teachers can complete assessment properly and have time to discuss and interpret the data they gather. Two days per term is just not enough to do all of this.
  • PAY – 16% increase over the course of a two year agreement.
  • PAY PARITY – A renewal of the pay parity clauses so that primary teachers aren’t worse off than high school teachers.
  • SALARY CAP – Remove the qualification-based salary cap so that teachers are no longer unfairly penalised for having trained under the earlier Diploma system and can move up the entire pay scale with experience as other teachers do.

What Ministry has offered:

  • SENCO – Nothing! 
  • RELEASE TIME – Nothing! (In the first offer, Ministry offered addition release equal to 12 minutes’ release per week, but that was withdrawn in the 2nd offer).
  • PAY – 3% per year over a three year agreement.
  • PAY PARITY – Agreed to renew the pay parity clause.
  • SALARY CAP – Allow only one additional step for those teachers affected by the cap.

As you can see, what was asked for and what has been offered aren’t even close to each other. Only one condition was met as asked for, and that is the Pay Parity clause. Dedicated SENCOs to support students with special educational needs are not in Ministry’s offer, miserly release time in the first offer was withdrawn in the second offer, and the pay offer is less than asked for and over a longer period, and Diploma-trained teachers continue to get paid far less than their colleagues despite having the most experience (and often being team leaders, senior staff, and the ones that train new teachers)!

When we are hundreds of teachers short for next year, and we know we will be thousands of teachers short within a couple of years, you’d think Ministry would listen to teachers and make the job more manageable and attractive so that we keep the teachers we already have and attract new ones.  But no.

Something’s got to give: Strike action dates and information can be found here.

If you want to see in full what NZEI teacher members are asking for and what was offered by Ministry, look here.

~ Dianne

 

David Seymour and another misleading statement about charter schools

David Seymour has made a clearly incorrect statement to the media about his beloved charter schools and contradicted his Minister in the process.

The question at issue is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of the student achievement targets used in the original charter school contracts for the first and second round charter schools.

Save Our Schools NZ has been involved for over a year in the battle to get the Ministry of Education to acknowledge that both the reporting by the schools and the performance evaluation by the Ministry have been incorrect.

Radio NZ reported on Thursday that Seymour defended the incorrect interpretation by making the following statement:

“The reason that there is a difference, just remember, is that we have been pioneering holding schools to account through a contract, and it was necessary if you wanted to do that to have a different system of measurement.”

This statement is rubbish!

The original contracts did not have a different system of measurement at all.

The performance standards used in the original contracts were stated as “School Leavers with NCEA Level 1” and “School Leavers with NCEA Level 2”.

But both of these performance standards have been interpreted incorrectly and not calculated in the normal way that the Ministry does so for all other schools in the system.

These School Leaver statistics are published in the Ministry’s Education Counts database for every school: state, state-integrated, private and now the charter schools.

The error was obvious once the Education Counts “School Leavers” figures for the first round charter schools were released and it was clear that these were different from both the schools’ own reporting and the Ministry’s evaluation.

But it was also clear that they were not what the Minister had intended when the contracts had been put together in 2013.

Under the Official Information Act, Save Our Schools NZ obtained Ministry reports to the Minister in 2013 that set out the basis for the contract performance standards and the metrics that would be used to measure performance.

These documents included one where the Minister, Hekia Parata, made a hand-written comment on one of the papers in May 2013, discussing the principles behind the contract standards:

“There is to be no compromise on the system-level benchmarks.”

This makes a mockery of David Seymour’s claim that it was necessary to have a different system of measurement.

The  Minister then signed off the contract metrics in September 2013.  These included the following:

“n.          Agree that performance standards for 2014 NCEA Level 1 and 2 should be based on 2012 system-level results for decile 3 state schools.”

So the Minister had clearly intended that the normal system-level benchmarks should be used and the charter school targets for 2014 should be the same as the results of decile 3 state schools in 2012.

It is the incorrect interpretation and measurement of those performance standards that has been revealed and is now being corrected.

Seymour is simply wrong to argue that a “different system of measurement” had always been intended.

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

See also: https://saveourschoolsnz.com/2016/08/16/david-seymours-bizarre-claims-about-charter-school-performance/

Moving sands when measuring charter school effectiveness

The Education Ministry reported that some of last year’s new charter schools are not doing so well, but says there are good reasons for this.

The reasons given include students arriving at school far behind age-appropriate levels, student transience, the high rate of referrals from Child Youth and Family and the Police and referrals of difficult students from other schools.

Indeed, those are valid reasons for any school struggling to help students.

What I would like the Education Minister and the Undersecretary for Education to explain is how these factors are considered sound reasons for charter schools to struggle to help students and yet are considered excuses for public schools.

~ Dianne

Sources and further reading:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/312221/’difficult’-students-going-to-charter-schools

 

 

When is a consultation not a consultation? – Education Act Update Workshops

One gets the distinct feeling the Education Act Update is already written and these workshops are simply a merry dance to make us feel like we are being consulted…

la-la-la-not-listeningIt sounds cynical, I know, but after closely following the antics of Hekia Parata for the past few years, the only conclusion any sane person could come to is that her consultations are a sham and done only to fulfil the requirement to hold one, not to actually listen or learn or change anything.

I’m thinking of Christchurch, Salisbury, Redcliffs… of select committees and consultation with unions. I’m thinking of ECE reforms.

The plans are predetermined; consultation done in name only.

So why, you may ask, did I bother dragging myself to an Education Act Update Workshop this week? I could have stayed home and put the tree up. I know my 6 year old would have been far happier not to have to sit there for 2 hours – the iPad and the superb scones could only hold his attention for so long. But drag myself (and child) to the workshop I did, and here’s why.

It is important to make our voices heard.

It is important to hear what other have to say and to discuss issues with them.

And it is vital our views are recorded, in writing, on the Ministry’s wee feedback forms.

This is crucial even when the Minister isn’t listening. Perhaps especially when she isn’t listening?

If we don’t have a voice, the Minister can rightly say we don’t care what happens. She can say we agree with her plans – taking silence to be tacit approval. She can carry on with impunity, implementing her reform agenda. And that would be a disaster.

It must be on record that we stood up to this. It must be on record what parents, teachers, support staff, principals, whanau and students DO want. Because when the tide turns – and at some point it will – we must be able to point to evidence of what we were asking for and how things must change.

Our voices do matter.

A list of the workshops is here: please do go and be heard.

You can submit online here.

Wonka - not listening

 

Why did the Herald withdraw the ECE ‘War Rooms’ article?

There is much consternation about The Herald withdrawing an education article part way through the day this week and refusing to respond to questions about why that was.

So why was it withdrawn, we wondered? Political pressure? Who knew?

With no real explanation, suddenly, the next day, there was a pathetic (and badly written) “clarification’ in the Herald”

war rooms clarification

But even that doesn’t say the facts were wrong. Just the intference.

And yet reading the released OIA documents, I feel most people with decent reading skills would infer the same.

But don’t take my word for it, take a look at these excerpts (or better still, read the whole OIA request here) and judge for yourselves:

Screenshot (23)

then…

Screenshot (21)

and…

Screenshot (20)

and more ‘war room’ talk…

Screenshot (22)

It seems to be a lot of back and forth and a lot of people involved for something the Ministry is now saying wasn’t an issue, doesn’t it?

It is worth noting that all of this toing and froing includes a whole lot of media staff and not so many education staff. You’d think sharing the undiluted, unspun truth would be better all round …

So was there undue influence or not?

And just how much spin does it take before the spin become untruths?

~ Dianne

Source: http://www.ea.org.nz/what-happened-to-the-nz-heralds-front-page-story/

Charter Schools: The Shroud of Secrecy continues, by Bill Courtney

We have written before about the “Shroud of Secrecy” surrounding NZ’s charter schools.

The Ministry of Education finally released the ERO Readiness Review of the Whangaruru charter school in February 2015, one complete year after the school opened.

Tui Yeah right - WhangaruruThe school is now under a formal review process to ascertain whether it should continue.  This is after I was told by the Ministry that “all of the identified challenges have now been overcome or are being managed.”  Yeah Right!

We now have more fun and games from the Ministry with their refusal to release the 2015 funding details for the first round charter schools.

This is in response to an Official Information Act request lodged on 21 November 2014.

Despite regular (and cordial) e-mail correspondence, as of early April the Ministry has refused to disclose the 2015 guaranteed minimum rolls and funding details for the five schools.  They tell me that the “contract variations” have not yet been signed by the Minister.  How convenient.

The Guaranteed Minimum Roll is set at the outset of each contract with the proviso that for each subsequent year, it will be agreed by the Minister and the Sponsor in writing by way of a variation to the contract, by the end of the then current year. [Emphasis added].

So, if they were supposed to be in place by the end of 2014 and, of course, cash payments would have been made to the schools at the start of term one 2015, why can’t they now be released?

The charter schools are outside the normal public sector transparency framework that all State and State-Integrated schools must comply with but we were told that relevant information could be obtained via the Ministry itself.  So much for that whopper!

Although we don’t know their 2015 funding details, we can see the opening rolls via the 1 March roll returns contained in the Schools Directory.

Of the five first round schools, only one – South Auckland Middle School – has now reached its Maximum Roll of 120 students.  The attraction of class sizes of 15, free uniforms and free stationery is undeniable.

The Vanguard Military School has expanded this year to include Year 13 students for the first time.  Its opening roll is 137, which is close to its Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 144 (at least that’s what we think it is).

But Vanguard will be watched closely again this year to see if its roll falls away during the year, as it did in 2014.  The effect of the Guaranteed Minimum Roll is to ensure that the school is funded for at least that number of students throughout the year, regardless of what the actual roll proves to be.

In 2014, Vanguard was funded for 108 students, even though its actual roll fell from 104 as at 1 March to as low as 79 in October.

Whangaruru charter school is under formal review and its future is uncertain.  Its opening roll of 36 students compares to a figure of 63 in March 2014 and last year’s Guaranteed Minimum Roll of 71.

The third charter secondary school is Paraoa, based in Whangarei.  Their opening roll for 2015 is 76, up from last year’s figure of 50, but this is a long way short of the school’s Maximum Roll of 300.  This figure is the highest target roll of any of the nine charter schools established to date and illustrates just how small these schools are proving to be.

The last of the original batch of schools is Rise Up Academy, a primary school based in Mangere.  Interestingly, it appears to have changed its status from being a Year 1 to 6 school to offering Years 1 to 8.  This may have contributed to its roll increasing from 48 in October 2014 to 70 on 1 March 2015.

The opening rolls, Guaranteed Minimum Rolls and funding details of the four second round schools are set out below:

School Guaranteed Min Roll 1 March Roll One-off Establishment Payment 2015 Annual Operational Funding
Te Kura Maori o Waatea 60 34 $506,694 $637,313
Pacific Advance Senior School 100 36 $1,151,825 $2,171,019
Middle School West Auckland 160 131 $959,121 $1,940,456
Te Kapehu Whetu-Teina 65 40 $512,481 $601,253
Total 241 $3,130,121 $5,350,041

We will watch their progress with interest – subject, of course, to what snippets of information manage to escape through the shroud of secrecy surrounding this controversial initiative.

_ Bill Courtney, Save our Schools NZ

Special Needs Support Sadly Lacking

mazeWhat’s going on in New Zealand? We have the Ministry of Education saying they want to support special educational needs, we have Hekia Parata demanding (quite rightly) that all children are given a fair crack with their learning, we have teachers crying out for support, and we have parents tearing their hair out, being pushed pillar to post and at every turn asked to pay, pay, pay.

Where are the students in all of this?

The system is broken. In fact, calling it a system is being generous – it’s more of a series of disparate services that each tell you they can’t help.

You have a child with behavioural or emotional problems? Tough.  If you’re lucky you’ll be offered a leaflet for a parenting course… or should I say another parenting course. Because the first thing you have to remember when your child has issues is that it’s automatically deemed to be your fault.

Heaven forbid anyone with an ounce of training in child psychology, mental health, spectrum disorders, behavioural issues, or anything useful gets to observe and evaluate your child. If you want a diagnosis, you’re going to have to get battle ready and prepare to fight.

You will also need to prepare to open you wallet. Often. And widely.

All too often I hear of parents asking school for support – school refer the parent to their doctor or child mental health services – they pass the buck back to school – school then tries the next agency – the buck is passed again. Often the school is trying so hard to help, but they are hitting brick walls all the way, just like the parents.

And meanwhile, that child is still waiting for support.

At some point, parents are advised to go private and get help. There are two problems here.

  • First of all, who has $120 an hour spare for a series of sessions? Not everyone by any means, and help shouldn’t depend on whether the child has well off parents or not.  It should be available to all students.
  • Secondly, finding the right help is a mine field,  If you don’t know what the issues are and are searching for a diagnosis, you will often see a raft of people who are not qualified to do that properly. So you try another specialist, and another, and all the time you are paying for this non-help.

Some time ago, Peter Hughes, head of the Ministry of Education, said “When things aren’t working [the Ministry of Education] will own that and work with everyone involved to find solutions.” Well things aren’t working, Peter, truly they aren’t.  So what is being done?

As I said in July, you have a complete overhaul to do, after years of neglect of special needs provision that is to the detriment of all of our students and is a disgrace.

Caring parents and teachers are doing all they can. But we need a good system that supports us to do our part well. And our children deserve nothing less.

~ Dianne

Also read:
Peter Hughes thinks Ministry has work to do on Special Needs provision, does he?

NZEI and MoE agree joint initiative to support children’s success

gandhi-you-winSeasons greetings.  I’m very pleased to bring some good news at the end of a long and challenging year!

Following the strong negative vote against the IES in August, NZEI Te Riu Roa has continued to work with the Ministry to find a way forward.

NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education have jointly launched a new initiative to support success for New Zealand children and young people at every level of their learning.

Both our union and the Ministry have agreed it is in the best interests of students and the education system to recognise our differences but to make progress where there is agreement – in particular, keeping students at the centre of teaching and learning, supporting successful collaboration and transitions and developing improved career pathways.

While it is early days, I am confident that members will continue to work together to help develop this into a viable, sustainable and long term alternative to the IES.

The initiative announced is a significant step for all NZEI members and a way forward for NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry.  It has come about because members kept true to our values.  We rejected the IES and called for a Better Plan. We asked for genuine discussion with educators.  We asked for flexible, locally-driven ways to support collaboration.  We asked for resourcing to support kids and their learning, not just for new roles. We rejected top-down, one-size fits all models and said we should build off existing successful practice. We voted against National Standards being the determinant of resourcing or roles. We asked for evidence-based approaches.

This new initiative provides a framework that supports our goals and our approach to ensuring all children get quality education. It is what you, as members, have been fighting for, and it takes us into a proactive space where we can work on developing and enhancing what we know is really best for education.

SO WHAT IS THIS NEW INITIATIVE?

The new initiative will seek to identify:

  • flexible models of collaboration
  • improved transitions for children and students from early childhood education through their schooling, and
  • the possible resourcing and career pathways required to support this.

The initiative is comprehensive, looking at what resourcing and roles are needed throughout early childhood education, primary, support staff and special education.

Any new roles identified will be linked to existing career pathways and be negotiated into collective agreements.

Educational achievement is identified in the initiative’s terms of reference as being the vision of student success outlined in the NZ Curriculum, not a narrow National Standards measurement.

Ministry and NZEI joint working parties will also look at existing and potential models of learning communities that encourage greater collaboration and support successful transition. We want to engage with schools and ECE services around New Zealand to identify successful examples of collaboration and transition on-the-ground, as well as through research. You can read the fullTerms of Reference for the joint work here.

We believe this is an exciting opportunity for NZEI members to really help improve the education system, based on what we know works for kids. It includes elements of our Better Plan – isues that members and parents prioritised for more investment. And the agreement means we can look at work being done now in schools to lift achievement and work with the Ministry to build flexible and locally determined learning communities.

HOW CAN YOU BE INVOLVED?

There will be working parties established to look at collaboration, transition and success for Maori and Pasifika learners. These working parties will be looking for examples of successful practice throughout New Zealand.

  • Click here to tell us  what you think are the important factors in successful collaboration. To help your thinking, look at these brief videos  of some successful learning networks and communities
  • Tell us about examples of successful collaboration or child/student transitions in your own practice, school, service or wider network that the working parties may be interested in.

There will also be a brief video outlining the main points of the new initiative on www.nzei.org.nzshortly.

Principals and BoT staff reps – please inform your Board and school community of this initiative. There is more information here.

WHAT NEXT?

The working parties will meet at the start of 2015 and work through to the end of May.  However the terms of reference recognise that further work beyond May will be required given the scope of this initiative.

The Ministry will continue implementation of the IES with willing schools but we are confident that this new initiative will better meet the needs of children and our sectors. We continue to encourage schools to stand by the August vote and not engage with the IES but instead put energy into this new way forward.

Have a great festive season and a relaxing holiday.

Naku noa,

Judith Nowotarski
President Te Manukura

NZEI

 

Fact Checker: Partnership School Funding

 

sosnz fact checker RECTANGLE

The Ministry of Education has produced a brochure that attempts to explain “Partnership Schools” funding.  Unfortunately, it does a good job of highlighting the problems, rather than answering the real questions.

In particular, their worked examples reverse out the most troublesome items and then proudly claim that this explains the “facts”.

Parents are not going to make comparisons with notional Ministry of Education worked examples.  They are going to compare the effect of the actual funding Partnership Schools receive with the schools that already exist in their local areas.

For example, the primary school worked example seems to be the Rise Up Academy, based in Mangere.  This is compared to a Decile 3 State school in an unknown location with a roll of only 44 students.

Furthermore, it appears that the secondary school chosen in the brochure worked example is Paraoa, with a projected maximum roll of 300 (although its roll this year did not exceed 53).  This is the largest of the maximum rolls of the first five Partnership Schools, so this helps the illustration look better by spreading the fixed costs over the highest number of projected students.

In the short term, Sponsors seem to have used the excess funding they have received to provide more teachers and other perks, such as free uniforms and free stationery.

Creating smaller class sizes has been a feature of the initial batch of schools and even the Education Review Office has commented on this point.

But this cannot persist in the long term.  If the Ministry assertion that costs will equalize over time proves correct, then staffing ratios should become more consistent between types of school.  But if they persist, it could signify that the Partnership Schools are permanently overfunded.

Our full analysis of the brochure is detailed below.  The brochure itself is available here.

Background Discussion

Issue 1: “Partnership Schools are fully-funded schools outside the state system…”

Why are Partnership Schools fully funded by the State, when they are schools of choice?  Why is their funding model inconsistent with other types of school, such as Catholic schools?

If parents choose to enrol their children at a Catholic school, for example, then that school is funded for operational grants and the same teacher staffing entitlement as an equivalent State school.  These are the two largest costs, by far, of providing education.

But when the Private Schools Conditional Integration Act 1975 went through, it was made clear that the State would pay for those students’ education but would not be responsible for the schools’ assets, which remain the property of the Proprietors. Why are Partnership School assets, which are owned by a private sector Sponsor, paid for by the State?

Issue 2: Is the funding model consistent with the original National / ACT Party Agreement?

The agreement, in December 2011, mentioned the issue of funding but vaguely stated that:

“Public funding would continue to be on a per-child basis. (Details are included in the attached Annex).”

Annex: Public funding would continue to be by way of normal operational grant funding and may include funding targeted at disadvantaged groups. Schools may also be eligible for capital funding for school property, although overseas experience suggests use of private capital will be required. Schools may choose to rent, rather than own the school building and hence may instead receive equivalent funding to cover rental costs.”

This statement raises two questions: how much private capital is invested and at risk in the new schools?  And how would be the “equivalent” funding to cover rental costs be determined?

Issue 3: “Partnership schools receive much the same funding as comparable state schools.”

What does “much the same” mean?  As the brochure quite rightly points out, “Funding for all schools, even those of a similar size and decile, varies.”  No two schools will ever be identical for all sorts of reasons.  Fair enough.  So, how was the “equivalence” funding model determined and what assumptions were used?  What would be the implications if the actual outcomes were different from those assumed in the model?

Reading the detailed funding model background paper released by the Ministry gives us an insight into just how vague this equivalence approach really is and how many assumptions underpin it:

“The Crown believes funding Partnership Schools on the basis of “Cash for Buildings” provides equivalence with the property support for State schools where property is leased. The following table provides indicative amounts of property funding for Partnership Schools based on Cash for Buildings model.  The amounts below are indicative only and subject to change.

 

Roll Primary Secondary Yr 1 – 13
50 $60,232 $209,724 $96,428
100 $105,167 $339,157 $193,005
200 $189,710 $590,193 $385,862
300 $298,018 $745,112 $533,105
400 $372,590 $863,218 $641,866
500 $445,114 $977,491 $778,262

 

Please note that the amounts above may alter if a school is not proposing to reach its maximum roll in the first few years.  Composite school (Yrs 1 to 13) funding may also vary depending on the balance between the numbers of primary and secondary students enrolled.” [Emphasis added]

And therein lies the key problem: the equivalence approach is based on two key assumptions: the school moves within a few years towards its maximum roll and that the costs it will incur are similar to those of equivalent state schools being funded on this particular “Cash for Buildings” model.

But note the large difference between a 50 roll secondary ($209,724) and a 300 roll secondary ($745,112).  The larger school is funded for this cost component at a rate that is 3.5 times the amount of the smaller school!

So if the new school simply projects that it will grow, then it will be funded at a much higher rate in the short term than may ultimately prove to be necessary to cover its actual costs.

Issue 4: Small schools are expensive.

The brochure makes two statements about how certain costs associated with a new school mean that average funding will appear higher than in established schools; but that eventually as any new school reaches capacity, its average funding per student will fall.  The economists would call this “economies of scale”.

The allowance for fixed costs of this nature is called Base Funding.  The Base Funding for the three Partnership secondary schools has been set at $997,044 per annum.  The middle school receives $571,448 and the primary school receives $145,856 per annum.

But if the schools remain small, even at their projected maximum roll levels, they will remain expensive and not achieve the same reduced average funding per student that larger schools achieve.

Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is on record in parliament acknowledging that small schools are expensive.

Issue 5: Then why create more small schools?

Why are we creating new schools at all, given that many of the new Partnership Schools are not in areas of roll growth?  This is also inconsistent with Treasury’s advice to the incoming government in 2011, which advised the government to “rationalise the school network”!

New partnership schools in 2014 have been created in South Auckland (South Auckland Middle School and Rise Up Academy) Albany (Vanguard Military School) and in Whangarei (Paraoa).  The four schools proposed for 2015 will be in South Auckland (Pacific Advance Senior School and Waatea), West Auckland (Middle School West Auckland) and Teina, a sister primary school in Whangarei for the Paraoa secondary school.  That makes a total of 8 schools that are, in reality, in areas where schools already exist.

Why, therefore, is the State using a funding model which is seeking to fund these new schools on an equivalent basis to that used to create new State schools, when there is existing capacity in the school network?

Issue 6: “All new schools are also funded for a minimum roll even if the school, on opening, is below that roll number.”

What has been the actual experience so far with the schools’ rolls?

The roll return information is contained in the “Schools Directory” spreadsheet available on the Ministry’s Education Counts website at

http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/directories/list-of-nz-schools

School Guaranteed Minimum Roll* 1 March Actual Roll 1 July Actual Roll October ActualRoll Maximum Roll
South Auckland Middle School 90 108 110 107 120
Whangaruru 71 63 56 50 128
Paraoa 50 50 53 52 300
Rise Up Academy 50 42 46 48 100
Vanguard Military School 108 104 93 79 192
Total 367 358 336

 

Based on actual roll experience, three schools were funded during the course of the 2014 year on a “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” number of students that was greater than their actual roll returns ever recorded.

What evidence is there that the Partnership schools’ rolls are consistent with the projections and assumptions underlying their funding model?  In particular, the Ministry comment that “the amounts above may alter if a school is not proposing to reach its maximum roll in the first few years…” is certainly relevant here.

How were the “Guaranteed Minimum Rolls” determined for the 2014 year?  What, if any, changes are to be implemented by the Ministry in the procedures used to determine the Guaranteed Minimum Roll for any new schools in the future?

At what stage of their development will the secondary schools be subject to the same funding reduction regime that now applies to the funding for State and State-Integrated secondary schools, where funding is reduced during the course of a year if the school’s actual roll falls?

Bill Courtney – SOSNZ

Charter Schools: The Shroud of Secrecy Continues

shhhh secretThe Ministry of Education yesterday released another batch of information relating to the five existing charter schools and the four new ones proposed for opening in 2015.

As we have seen before, the release of such information, often requested under the Official Information Act, was incomplete and continues to make a mockery both of the OIA itself and the rhetoric that processes relating to charter school will be transparent and subject to scrutiny.

On 12 June 2014 I lodged an application under the OIA for the “Readiness Reviews” conducted by the Education Review Office of the five new schools which opened in February 2014.

A Readiness Review, as its name implies, is supposed to be ERO’s view of the state of a new school’s preparedness to open its doors to students.

At the completion of the normal 20 working days OIA time limit, the Ministry of Education wrote and stated that the Readiness Reviews of four of the schools were “soon” to be made publicly available and so my request was refused on those grounds. They also made this statement about the fifth

“The Readiness report for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru has not been completed. Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru has faced a number of challenges, as schools often do when they first open. All of the identified challenges have now been overcome or are being managed. For this reason, the Ministry and ERO have agreed that the review period be extended until the end of August 2014 with a final report in September 2014. Extending the review period allows a fair and reasonable opportunity for the Sponsor to address the issues and demonstrate its capability to operate a successful school.

The report for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru is not expected to be released until the end of September 2014”

 Letter from MoE, dated 14 July 2014

Subsequently, on 6 August 2014, the Ministry released to me the four completed readiness reviews for the other schools.

After a wait of over 3 months, the Ministry finally contacted me again:

“The ERO Readiness Review for Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru is not included in today’s release. We are withholding this document in full under section 9(2)(f)(iv) of the Act to allow time for some issues to be addressed. The school is in the process of responding to the delayed review. Once it has done that, the report will be released.”

e-mail from MoE, dated 20 November 2014

In my view, there are several unanswered questions that come to mind when this saga is analysed.

1. A Readiness Review should show clearly whether, or not, a new school is “ready” to open. If Whangaruru was not “ready” then why was it allowed to open?

2. Why did an Education Report to the Minister from the Ministry, dated 28 January 2014, clearly state that: “Overall, all sponsors are committed and well placed to opening their schools at the start of Term 1, 2014.”?

3. What “challenges” and “issues” were subsequently identified by ERO?

4. Have these issues impacted on the ability of the school to deliver a sound education to the students enrolled at the school?

5. What support has the Ministry of Education had to provide to the school to enable it to continue operating?

6. What has been the cost of this additional support?

7. If the 14 July communication stated that “all of the identified challenges have now been overcome or are being managed” then why has this process not been brought to a conclusion? What issues still need to be addressed, as per the 20 November statement?

8. Why did the Partnership Schools Authorisation Board, chaired by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, authorise Whangaruru in the first place? What did the Authorisation Board see in its application that led them to believe that Whangaruru would be a viable school?

9. If the Whangaruru school collapses, what happens to ownership of the farm property where the school is based?

~ Bill Courtney, SOSNZ

 

Why close down a great school like Phillipstown? Why indeed…

tui-chch-memeWhen Phillipstown was slated for closure, it had minimum earthquake damage (only to the school hall, and not that serious – in fact the hall is still in use). The roll was growing. The school had and still has good National Standards results. The community loved and still love the school.

This was not a school in decline. But Ministry decided to close it anyway.

Many have asked, what’s going on? Why is Phillipstown being closed? Something here is not quite right.

Bryan Bruce reports,

“I had the privilege of talking with Tony Simpson the principal of Phillipstown School in Christchurch yesterday. You may recall the school took the Ministry to court over the closure of their school and won, yet Hekia Parata has never- the- less decided the school will close in 25 days.

Tony says that while they have been given a lot of data he still does not know the reason for the closure.”

Ministry has never been able to explain adequately why this school is to close. If there were sound reasons, then sad though it is, people might be able to accept it and move on.  But without a genuine and credible explanation for this decision, people feel rail-roaded and unheard.

The community feels bullied.

Another observer noted, incredulously, that:

“Phillipstown does everything research says to change the outcome for low decile students. They are small enough to form relationships, they engage the whole family into the child’s learning, they provide(d) wrap around services so basics like hearing, glasses and shoes were met and their results proved it was working”

Why on earth close a well-performing school with no discernible damage and which has a growing roll and the respect of its community?

shock-horror-hekia-christchurchIt all feels so underhand.

It’s almost as if there is another agenda…..

Of course, when asked to confirm that Christchurch schools she has closed would not be reopened as charter schools, Hekia Parata refused.

And when you add to the equation the fact that charter schools are now encouraged in “areas of growth” (i.e. in place of state schools), we have to wonder what the hell is going on…

~ Dianne

Unanswered Questions about Charter Schools – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

QPEC Chairperson, Bill Courtney, participated in two interviews broadcast on Radio New Zealand on Wednesday 10 September 2014 on the subject of the first five charter, or Partnership, schools.

QPEC is concerned by several comments made during these segments by both Minister of Education, Hekia Parata and Catherine Isaac, the Chairperson of the Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Authorisation Board.

The following release sets out several of the issues that QPEC believes require clarification or rebuttal.

1.

Where is the Isaac Report? The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the original Working Group led by former ACT Party President, Catherine Isaac, never produced a written report. This is in contrast to former ACT MP John Banks’s claim in parliament that we could learn from the successes and failures of charter schools overseas. But with no written report from his former party president, we simply don’t know how the NZ model supposedly does this and how it should therefore be resourced, funded and evaluated.

a. “The Partnership Schools / Kura Hourua Working Group (formerly known as the New Zealand Model of Charter School Working Group) has not produced any document that sets out the evidential base behind charter schools.”

Ministry of Education letter dated 4 October 2012.

b. “The Working Group did not produce any reports, recommendations or advice to the aforementioned Ministers. However, their views were captured in four documents that were produced by the Ministry of Education:

i. Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School;

ii. Regulatory Impact Statement

iii. Authorising and Monitoring Report back

iv. Resourcing Partnership Schools

OIA Ministry of Education letter dated 8 August 2013.

 

2.

Why is there so little transparency around the charter school authorisation process and how the schools operate? There have been serious concerns from the outset about the deliberate moves to reduce transparency and remove the schools from the scope of normal public sector accountability.

a. “I do not accept the Ministry’s position that later disclosure of the [application] information at issue will satisfy the public interest. Disclosure after the Minister has taken decisions on the applications may serve the public interest in accountability, but it would not satisfy the public interest in the public being informed, and being able to participate in the debate, about the creation of partnership schools prior to those decisions being taken. The partnership schools policy involves substantial public funds and significant changes to the way in which publicly funded education provision is controlled, managed and delivered. I consider a more informed public discourse about the creation of such schools is in the public interest.”

Ombudsman Report, dated July 2013.

3.

Why does Hekia Parata state incorrectly that the funding figures per student are a “gross misuse” of the data? The Operational Funding calculations have not included the one-off Establishment Payments, as Hekia Parata states. In the story reported on Radio NZ on Tuesday 9 September, the Whangaruru funding was stated as “nearly $27,000 a pupil,” which is based on Operational Funding of $1,508,561 divided by 56 students, giving $26,939 per student. This excludes the Establishment Payment of $1,379,150.

4.

Why does Catherine Isaac, as the Chairperson of the Authorisation Board, not know what the charter school rolls are, if her group is also responsible for monitoring their progress? Why have the Minister and Catherine Isaac both made statements about the schools’ rolls that are simply not correct?

a. Isaac: Radio NZ 10 September: “It is simply not correct [that 3 out of the 5 schools have not reached their guaranteed minimum roll]. Many are at their maximum roll and have waiting lists.”

b. Parata: “All five are near or above enrolment.” Parliament, Questions for Oral Answer, no. 7, 11 February 2014

School “GuaranteedMinimum Roll” MaximumRoll Actual Roll@ 1 March Actual Roll@ 1 July
South Auckland Middle School 90 120 108 110
Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru 71 128 63 56
Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa 50 300 50 53
Rise Up Academy 50 100 42 46
Vanguard Military School 108 192 104 93
Total 369 840 367 358

5.

Although rolls may well fluctuate at any school during the course of the year, the fact remains that two of the schools have experienced falling rolls during the year.

6.

The absence of any substantive case for “What” and “Why” leads to another problem: How is the charter school initiative going to be evaluated? This point is vitally important if the public is to gain confidence that the initiative is to be objectively and independently evaluated, as the Cabinet Paper tabled by the Minister of Education, in October 2013, promises:

a. “The Cabinet paper “Developing and Implementing a New Zealand Model of Charter School” states:

“A strong evaluation programme will be put in place that thoroughly examines the impact and effectiveness of the first such schools. This will enable us to make informed decisions about whether or not to open further such schools in the future” [CAB Min (12) 26/6 refers.]”

b. The October 2013 cabinet paper was prepared after a briefing paper from the Ministry of Education, dated 6 September 2013, contained the following warning:

…risks in moving from what was described as a pilot to an on-going roll-out before evaluating the model. Committing to on-going annual rounds now will reduce the potential for evaluation of the early schools to be taken into account before a long term roll-out.”

7.

In many ways, the most important comments made during the day, were the disparaging comments made by the one person who is ultimately responsible for New Zealand’s public education system: the Hon Hekia Parata, Minister of Education:

“But what’s the alternative? To have these kids become another statistic in the justice system, or in the social welfare system”

8.

No, Hekia. The alternative is to stop talking in clichés and to start dealing head on with the real challenge of properly resourcing public schools. Let’s give all our children the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.

Issued by
Bill Courtney
Chairperson
Quality Public Education Coalition

Blindly Defending Failed Charter Schools Experiment – NZ First Press Release

Tracey Martin NZ FirstNational’s charter schools are “crashing and burning” while the Education Minister Hekia Parata blindly defends this failed experiment in taxpayer funded privatisation of education, says New Zealand First.

“Northland school Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru was dysfunctional right from the start,” says Deputy Leader and Education Spokesperson Tracey Martin. “A governor has been brought in, the school has lost staff and the roll began falling from the minute it opened its doors seven months ago.

“This school was always going to be a challenge because it took on some of the most difficult students. But, with the Ministry of Education painting a picture of weak governance, staff resignations and poor planning, what chance do the students have to get a decent education?

“Most charter schools are failing to reach their required minimum roll and are receiving taxpayer top-ups. What’s more, the rolls at two schools are falling.

“Charter schools are proving costly to taxpayers. Their performance has to be questioned when the ministry refuses to release performance reports for them.

“How can the government go ahead with plans to approve the opening of even more charter schools next year, when just one school in Northland has cost $2.4 million so far.

“New Zealand First will end this ideological experiment that is charter schools and find more appropriate solutions for these children.”

Source: http://nzfirst.org.nz/news/blindly-defending-failed-charter-schools-experiment

 

PPTA and IES

confusedOkay peeps, I have been trying to get information about the PPTA’s interim agreement on the IES today.  My goal in that was (still is) to understand it clearly myself, and to be able to fairly and honestly discuss it and share it.

People are asking a lot of questions, and the same ones are coming up repeatedly, from PPTA members and others.

People want to know, for  example:

  • how will lead/expert teachers be identified?
  • who will be responsible for appointing people to the new roles, should IES be put in place?
  • will National Standards/NCEA be the criteria upon which success in roles is judged (Tom says no, see below)
  • will charter schools be part of clusters?

 

It seems, from the replies I got today on Twitter, the PPTA think I am on some mission to undermine the proposal.  I’m not.  If IES has morphed into something good, then of course I will support it.  If I’m still concerned, I’d ask questions.

In either case, I want to share the factual info with PPTA members and others so they can make up their own minds rather than rely on soundbites and bias.  What I’ve found so far is linked to below.

Thanks to Tom Haig at PPTA for the answers I did get and for the links to further info, which are very much appreciated:

So far I have been informed that:

  • Most appointment stuff still in negotiations/work groups.
  • Interim agreement doesn’t mean details finalised.
  • success in roles will be “Linked 2 ‘basket of evidence’ tht schls/groups of schls choose frm. Includes attendance/wellbeing/ach – doesn’t hv 2b NS/NCEA”
  • voting for PPTA members will be in Term 4, after the election
  • External panel that appoint to roles includes appointments from sector organizations, who will advise the group of schools they are from. (I don’t know which external organizations they would be).

 

The Minister’s press release leaves questions as it tells quite a different story:

“The Ministry of Education last week reached agreements with the PPTA, SPANZ and the New Zealand School Trustees Association, on how the new leadership and teaching roles will work as part of theInvesting in Educational Success initiative.”

Note it doesn’t say interim agreements.  It doesn’t say might work.  It says agreements and will – it speaks as if it is a done deal.

This despite it not being voted on.

It then states that:

“The Ministry of Education has now started the process of calling for expressions of interest from all schools who want to work together as Communities of Schools.’

This despite PPTA and SPANZ not having voted yet, and NZEI rejecting IES.

This rather smacks of IES being forced through whatever.

Which is why I think we all, at all levels of the education sector, need to be clear what is going on, and not just at our own level.  Because we are getting all sorts of conflicting information, and it’s confusing.

And because if IES is brought in it will impact all schools, not just those that voted for it.

 

PPTA’s advice to those wanting more information is to go to them direct.  After a dig at NZEI being my union (it’s not, I no longer belong to a union), a grouchy exchange on both sides concluded with:

 

PPTAWebAug 27, 7:23pm via Twitter Web Client @Dianne_Khan we’re going in circles. Now I need coffee. We respect your work Dianne – and we tell you what is to be told.

My emphasis added, there, as I find that chilling.

Well, that’s me told.

If you are in PPTA, ask a rep or call the PPTA helpline.

If you are not in PPTA, it’s none of your concern, apparently.

___________________________________

Links to further info are here:

http://www.ppta.org.nz/events/consulting-on

http://www.ppta.org.nz/resources/media/3007-media-ies-consultation-3jun2014

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/253106/ppta-agrees-changes-to-govt-policy

http://nzspc.org.nz/nzspc-resources/53-investing-in-educational-success-update-for-nzspc-principals-june-2014

Is Hekia Parata planning National Standards for preschoolers?

ECEMany of us who have read it are very concerned about the Education Ministry’s Statement of Intent.

The foreword is an exercise in deduction as, like all of the Minister’s communications, it’s hard to get past the waffle and jargon in order to see what is actually meant.

But this is vitally important that educators and parents DO read and understand it, because this document outlines what the Minister is intending to do next to our education system.

When I first read the Statement, I was torn between horror at what is implied in it and amusement at the circumlocution and waffle.  In fact, I immediately wrote my own parody of the Statement, using about 50% of Hekia’s own words and adding my own spin.

It amused me, briefly.

But that amusement didn’t last long.

In actual fact, the Statement of Intent is very concerning.

Very. Concerning.

Catherine Delahunty picks it apart today in this article, and asks some very salient questions about the Ministry’s intent, in particular regarding Early Childhood Education (ECE).

For those of you that don’t know, the Ministry’s Early learning Information System (ELI) is “an electronic monitoring system that requires ECE centres to record children’s enrolment and attendance.”

Delahunty points out that the Education Ministry says it will use its Early Learning Information System:

to help identify particular trends and  the effectiveness of children’s learning…”

Delahunty then asks,

“What on earth do they want 3 and 4 year olds to ‘learn’ and more particularly, what are they planning to measure about the effectiveness of that learning?

There has for a while now been real worries in the ECE sector that National may want preschool kids learning their ’3 R’s’ too. This appears to be a strong signal that we could have National Standards for pre-schoolers.”

I agree, it does appear to signal the Ministry is moving towards measuring the academic achievements of preschoolers.

This is worrying.

There are HUGE concerns from the ECE sector and from parents regarding the push towards standardising learning (and, heaven forbid, testing) for preschoolers.

It’s bad enough that the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards is being entrenched in primary schools, but to it is even worse to be forcing formal learning on 2,3, or 4 year olds. The move is not supported by the research and in totally unnecessary in terms of good learning.

Ask yourself, why the focus on data and on national and arbitrary standards – what does it achieve?

Has it raised student achievement elsewhere?

The answer is no. But it has created a very lucrative market in testing materials and it has allowed for performance pay for teachers, neither of which benefit the students. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Delahunty says:

“We know that quality parent-led and teacher-led ECE based on a holistic curriculum is the best for small children”

Similar sentiments were echoed by Chris Hipkins (Labour) and Tracey Martin (NZ First) at the Tick For Kids ECE forum in Wellington last week.

The focus on reading and writing, and the obsession with pass marks, is narrowing our education system and crippling both teachers and students.

It is not a positive move.

It will not improve educational outcomes.

It is not supported as good practice by research.

So just what is the motive for doing it?

 

Sources and further reading:

GUEST BLOG: Catherine Delahunty – National’s Dangerous Education Agenda Exposed – The Daily Blog

The Ministry of Education’s Statement of Intent 2013 – 2018 (which sets out the key elements of how the Ministry will contribute to the delivery of Government’s priorities for education.)

Beanbags: An Alternative Statement of Intent Possibly from the Minister of Education (or perhaps not)

Hipkins and Martin well received, Parata not so much – what happened at the Tick For Kids Education Forum 12.8.14

Report shows National plan to slash billions from Education Budget

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