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Lies: Hekia Parata fabricates a ‘Special Education Association’ that she says backs her plans

In parliament this week, Hekia Parata was asked who, if anyone, supports her plans regarding special education, and she replied with a smug grin that they are backed by the Special Education Association. It’s all there in Hansard:

Hekia Hansard 23 aug 16

Hmm…. Special Education Association? Who are they, I thought.

I asked on Twitter.

I asked people who are very close to special education, like Giovani Tiso and Hilary Stace. Nope, they’d not heard of it either.

Others asked too. I tried Facebook. I tried Googling. I’m good at Googling. But nothing.

And it wasn’t just me trying to find out. Members of a special education group on Facebook – a group that know a lot about this area, between them – were also trying to find out. What did they get? Zip. Diddly. Nada. Not a thing.

Oh wait – we tracked down a small group of people (like, 4-6 people, it seemed) at the University of Canterbury that might be the Special Needs Association! was this it? No. And anyway, that small band of merry folk are disbanding.

Was it the Special Educational Principals Association (SEPAnz?) No. Not them, either.

So people went to ask Hekia Parata’s Facebook page…. Melanie, for example…

hekki special education association

It turns out Hekia made the association up!

IT DOESN’T EVEN EXIST!

I can’t even … I mean, really?

She just lied?

Seriously, she named this organisation in Parliament as backing her plans, and she now says it  just means “all those involved in the delivery of special education” that she’s spoken with.

Utter and total tosh. The sector is dismayed by the proposals. Many are outraged. Parents are both angry and frightened.

By the way, when Melanie pointed out Hekia’s words were misleading, her post was deleted from Hekia’s Facebook page and Melanie was banned from it. This is common practice on that page, where only cheer-leading is allowed, not citizens asking reasonable questions. (My tip – screenshot everything).

Silence anyone that finds you out. What a wonderful, open democracy we live in. Tui.

Hekia Parata has stooped to a new low. She has lied. Openly and blatantly.  I do hope the media and opposition MPs take this further. A Minister cannot and should not just make things up to pretend their plans have support.

~ Dianne

EDIT: Another person questioned Hekia – here are those screenshots.

UPDATE: Update: Defunct group, NZ Special Education Association, confirms Hekia Parata did not consult them EVER

 

Survey Of Political Parties On Child Well-Being Issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Conservative Party

NO ANSWER

National

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Maori Party

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party

United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

Labour

ACT

Conservative Party

NO ANSWER

National

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Maori Party

Mana

NZ First

United Future

Alliance

Conservative Party

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

National

Labour

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party Mana

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

Conservative Party

Labour

National

NZ First

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

NO ANSWER

National

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Green Party Labour

Mana

Maori Party

Alliance

Internet Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Conservative Party

Democrats For Social Credit

United Future

NO ANSWER

NZ First

National

8. Remove GST from food.

WOULD SUPPORT

Mana

Maori Party

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Green Party

Labour

United Future

NO ANSWER

Internet Party

NZ First

National

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

WOULD SUPPORT

Mana

NZ First

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

WOULD NOT SUPPORT

ACT

Green Party

Labour

Maori Party

United Future

NO ANSWER

Conservative Party

Internet Party

National

 

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

YES

Green Party

Labour

Mana

NZ First

Maori Party United Future

ACT

Alliance

Democrats for Social Credit

Conservative Party

Internet Party

NO ANSWER

National

 

Source: Knowledge is Power

See also: www.facebook.com/InsideChildPoverty

Baby charter schools raise more questions – NZEI

charter schools look before you leapNZEI Te Riu Roa says concerns around the potential of new charter schools being extended to babies and pre-schoolers show that the government needs to come clean about the full extent of its plans for the education sector before the election.

NZEI President Judith Nowotarski said extending the charter school experiment to babies signalled a radical escalation of the privately-owned and taxpayer-funded schools that were supposedly a “trial” when the first five schools opened this year.

“How far and how quickly is the government planning to bring the private sector into the running of our schools? And how long will they continue to fund these charter schools at a far higher rate than public schools? Voters have a right to know before the election,” she said.

A preference for charter school models catering to 0-8-year-olds was one of six preferences listed for second round applicants, with successful applicants expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

Ms Nowotarski said since charter schools were outcomes-based, the threat of toddlers being tested and measured against each other was very real.

When asked about charter schools for pre-schoolers this week, Education Minister Hekia Parata told One News, “At the point that we decide on particular partnership schools, we then go into our contract negotiation, and it would be in that phase, against a specific proposal, that we would agree what the targets and measures are.”

Ms Nowotarski said most parents would be appalled at the thought of targets and measures being applied to their very young children.

“Children learn in different ways at their own individual pace. National standards for primary school students is bad enough, but the thought of applying a similar measure to toddlers and labelling their natural development is just appalling,” she said.

“Charter schools are not required to hire trained teachers, so even the current minimum requirement of 50% trained teachers in early childhood centres could possibly be side-stepped by charter school providers in pursuit of profits.”

Questions were raised in Parliament this week about whether the extra government funding that babies and pre-schoolers attract could instead be diverted to run the rest of the school or boost owners’ profits. Opposition parties also raised the mixed results of charter schools so far and the risk that taxpayer-funded assets may be lost if a school closes.

Open Letter to Parliament regarding charter schools

Updated version of letter (as of 10th june 2013)

More than 50 representatives of groups the government says charter schools will help have signed a joint statement saying they don’t want them.

Signatories include spokespeople for the Māori and Pasifika communities, IHC, Every Child Counts and the Child Poverty Action Group, as well as academics, principals, teachers, psychiatrists and members of parliament.

Group spokesperson Waikato University Professor of Māori Education Russell Bishop has recently returned from the United States where he observed the charter school experiment first hand.

He described charter schools as “part of the problem, not part of the solution”.  He described the initiative as “a serious wrong turn for education” that exploited vulnerable children.

Attached (and below) is the letter and full list of signatories.

————

Dear Minister

Investing in what works

Everyone agrees that all children should receive the education that meets their needs: that engages, motivates and supports them to learn to their full potential. In Aotearoa we have the knowledge to make this happen, but sadly it seems that we sometimes lack the political will.

This government’s charter school plans are a distraction from investing more in what we know works for the young learners we represent and work with. Some of these things include increasing opportunities for bi-lingual education, supporting high quality te reo learning in kura and mainstream settings, programmes such as Te Kotahitanga and the various AIMHI initiatives. While the government has recently announced more resourcing for some of these, others have had funding withdrawn or frozen.

Charter schools will also take the focus away from developing the special character and Kura Kaupapa Maori models which already give New Zealand state schooling unprecedented flexibility. These models need more support, more opportunity to share good practice and innovation, and not to be undermined by the latest, politically driven fad.

Charter schools are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

On the advent of the government passing the charter schools legislation, we express our deep concern that this initiative is a serious wrong turn for education.  The legislation allows for-profit and foreign-owned organisations to set up schools. It permits unqualified people to replace qualified and registered teachers and principals.  It removes the right of parents to take part in school governance.  And it takes no account of how new charter schools may impact on existing schools.  There is a serious concern that in the process of introducing charter schools, groups of students are being put at risk.

Charter schools exploit vulnerable children.

Charter schools are not the solution for New Zealand’s most vulnerable learners. Overseas, charter schools have not raised achievement for children who need it the most. For example the US-based KIPP (Knowledge is Power Programme) charter schools which have been held up as a successful example, have a “push-out” rate of 40% for African American boys before Grade 8 (Year 9). This is the opposite of what we need in New Zealand for our Maori andPasifika boys.

Our most vulnerable learners need more assistance, not less. They need schools responsible directly to parents; they need trained and qualified teachers who are supported in an ongoing manner by effective professional development that has shown results; they need their schools to provide information when parents request it; their parents need access to the Ombudsman.

Why would these most vulnerable of children get less than every other child in New Zealand and why would they be subject to being profited from just because they are deemed to be struggling? Don’t experiment on children; do what works.

Yours sincerely

Professor Russell Bishop

Professor of Māori Education

Faculty of Education

University of Waikato

Dr Damon Salesa

Associate Professor

Department of Pacific Studies

University of Auckland

Deborah Morris-Travers

Manager

Every Child Counts

Trish Grant

Director of Advocacy

IHC

Dr Tamasailau Suaalii-Sauni

Senior Lecturer

Pacific Studies & Samoan Studies Programmes

Vaaomanu Pasifika Unit

Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Peter Brunt

Art History

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies

Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Teresia Teaiwa

Senior Lecturer and Post-Graduate Coordinator

Pacific Studies

Victoria University of Wellington

Ann Milne

Principal

Kia Aroha College

Philip Harding

President

NZ Principals’ Federation

Dr Leonie Pihama

Senior Research Fellow

Te Kotahi Research Institute

University of Waikato

Dr Jenny Lee

Head of School

Te Puna Wananga

University of Auckland

Dr Mera Penehira

Lecturer

Te Puna Wananga

University of Auckland

Ngaropi Cameron

Ronald Ngata, BSS (Hons)

Maryann Lee

Educational Designer

Centre for Educational Design and Development

University of Auckland

Ani Mikaere

Kaihautu of Te Whare Whakatupu Matauranga

Te Wananga o Raukawa

Angeline Greensill, LLB, TTC

Lecturer

School of Social Sciences

University of Waikato

Helen Te Hira

Dr Amohia Boulton

Senior Researcher

Whakauae Research for Māori Health and Development

Whanganui

Dr Robert Gregory

Adjunct Professor of Political Science

School of Government

Victoria University of Wellington

Dr Wally Penetito

Retired Professor of Education

Te Kura Māori

Faculty of Education

Victoria University of Wellington

Metiria Turei

Member of Parliament

Co-Leader of the Green Party

Lesley Rameka

Senior Lecturer

Educational Psychology and Pedagogy

Faculty of Education

Victoria University of Wellington

D. Cindy Kiro

Head of School Te Kura Māori

Victoria University of Wellington

Seth Brown, DPhil

Senior Lecturer

Institute of Education

Massey University

Dr Jenny Boyack

Massey University

Steve K.W. Lang, PhD

Senior Lecturer

Institute of Education

Massey University

Dr Tim Burgess

Senior Lecturer: Mathematics and Statistics Education

Institute of Education

Massey University

Brian Finch, EdD

School of Educational Studies

Institute of Education

Massey University

Dr Roberta Hunter

Massey University

Dr Michael Irwin

Institute of Education

Massey University

Auckland

Dr Tracey-Lynne Cody

Lecturer Arts Education & Initial Teacher Education

Massey University

Dr Peter Rawlins

Senior Lecturer

Institute of Education

Massey University

Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor

Member of Parliament

Dr Kama Weir

Institute of Education

Massey University

Maurice Walden

Wellington Tenths Trust Board Member

Damon Heke

Te Taitonga Kapa Haka Trust

Kapa Haka Tutor, Community Liason

Kelly Henare-Heke

Te Taitonga Kapa Haka Trust

Kapa Haka Tutor, Community Liason

Dudley Adams

Clendon Park School

Deputy Principal

Avele Tanielu

Teacher in Charge of Samoan Language

Papatoetoe High School

Penelope Togiatama

Pasefika Liason

Papatoetoe High School

Mohi Thompson

Kaumatua

Manurewa Intermediate School

TeAriki Tuiono

Teacher Te Whanau Awhina

Clendon Park School

Matene Karena

HoL Māori

Alfriston College

Barbara Tauranga

Kuia

Opuatia Marae

Dr Alyson McGee

Senior Lecturer

Institute of Education

Massey University

Annette Sykes

Barrister and Solicitor

Partner Aurere Law

Dr Penny Haworth

Institute of Education

Massey University

Nanaia Mahuta

Member of Parliament for Hauraki-Waikato

Carmel Sepuloni

Su’a William Sio

Member of Parliament for Mangere

Dr Diane Lysette Mara

Associate Dean, Pasifika

Faculty of Education

University of Auckland

Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop

Professor of Pacific Studies

AUT University

Michael O’Brien

Director

Child Poverty Action Group

You have under 4 hours to get your charter schools submission in …

You might want to copy this one and send it here:  http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/SC/MakeSub/f/b/4/50SCES_SCF_00DBHOH_BILL11822_1-Education-Amendment-Bill.htm

I wish to register my complete objection to the proposals for New Zealand to have charter (or partnership) schools. We already have excellent and very varied types of school providing a world class education system.

Any improvements that do need to be made will not be made by degrading the quality of teaching by allowing untrained staff. Teaching is about more than enthusiasm – it requires an understanding of pedagogy and an ability to reflect on what is happening in the classroom. Even people with a good subject knowledge may not have the skills necessary to teach it well, to evaluate students’ progress, and to build on prior knowledge. Teaching is much more than lecturing. It is also a lot more than getting students to pass exams or reach national standards on a test.

Evidence from overseas points to very limited improvements (CREDO said only 17% of students did better in charters, with around 45% doing the same as they would in the local public system and the rest doing worse), which does not point to charters being the way to lift our system higher still.

Special needs students and ESOL students also tend to do far worse in charters. Given our country is build on immigrants, it is folly to consider a system that will be primed to neglect those with English as a foreign language.

Another common theme with charter schools is that they expel a huge proportion of students compared with other school types. It is no coincidence that the schools then boast great exam pass rates – glossing over the fact that they got rid of anyone not likely to do very well. How that would help the so-called tail of achievement is a mystery to me and I am yet to hear anything from government to convince me they have an answer.

I also completely object to tax-payers’ money being used to finance public schools where those schools are being run for profit and can skim off a portion of the tax-payers’ money as profit. This is ridiculous. Schools need all the money they can get. The teachers I know use a lot of their own money shoring things up as it is. That is not acceptable. (I would like to note that I am not a teacher myself.) And the fact that charters will not have to give out information under the Official Information Act or in any other way, so that they essentially run behind closed doors, is again, not at all acceptable.

Finally, it is utterly wrong to not require all public schools to have a board made up of people from the community. Schools are the heart of a community, and the best way for home and school to work together in the interest of students is for them to be very closely linked. This has been borne out in OECD research (PISA 2009).

I cannot object to charter schools strongly enough.

What will we come back to after the school holidays?

It’s not looking like it will be an overly restful break for most school staff this summer, and many parents and pupils will also be worrying what they will return to in 2013.

Closures

Some will be worrying that there will be no school to even return to, not least of all those in Christchurch who are facing mergers and closures, and the wonderful special needs staff at Salisbury School who are still fighting valiantly to keep their residential school open.

Fighting Back

People all over the country will be writing submissions to parliament to prevent these closures.  Parents who are worried for their children, teachers, principals and teacher  aides whoa re concerned for their students.  Kiwis concerned for their communities.

Anyone who has been following the rise of charter schools (or partnership Schools as they have been re-branded here) will be reading the Education Amendment Bill and making submissions about that, too, concerned for the devaluation of our education system by putting profits before people.

Pay

Many school staff will be worrying that they won’t be paid and that their break will be ruined by money worries and fighting bureaucracy.  It’s bad enough being paid wrongly (or not at all) in term time,  but school staff know that they will have real trouble getting pay woes sorted curing the break when school administration staff are on their holidays.  That means stressed and worried teachers, teacher aides, caretakers, admin staff, and more, all at the one time of year when a rest is paramount to fire up for another big year.

Fast-Track Teacher Training

We will return to the first batch of teachers trained on a six-week intensive course, arriving in the classroom to learn on-the-job with the bare minimum in pedagogical knowledge and less still in classroom experience.  We will be watching and waiting to see how that pans out for the trainees, the mentors and the students.

Jobs

And as always at this time of year, many are worrying about finding a job because they were on short term contracts.  Some will leave the profession – others will take their skills overseas.

And the rest…

Add to that league tables, National Standards, class sizes, performance pay, property searches, hungry students… the list goes on.

Is it too late?

Yes,t his summer, teachers will be doing more than eating pavlova on the beach,  planning and setting up their classrooms.

They will be worrying about the future of public education in New Zealand

and hoping that it’s not too late to stop the rot.

Christchurch School Mergers – Question Time 16.10.12

Hekia Parata once again uses semantics to evade answering a straight forward question.

Charter Schools – In Parliament Today

It seems clear to just so many people that charter schools have nothing positive to offer New Zealand and that what is needed is change in the schools we have, building on what we do so well to make them even better.  Paretns are asking questions, teachers are head-in-hands, Unions are dismayed, and now the heat is being put on in Parliament, with opposition parties asking questions too.

The following links are from General Debate, August 22, 2012.

Nanaia Mahuta in parliament today discussing Charter Schools.  Watch here.

Sue Moroney also challenges the Charter School model.  Watch here.

Darien Fenton in parliament today discussing both Charter Schools and the the private Corelli School and the legal battle between it and its parents.  Watch here.

 

 

Catherine Delahunty’s Speech to Parliament on Education 14/8/12

CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green):

I am delighted to take a call on this issue because the estimates debate is very is important on education and the last year of spending on education reflects some of the most contradictory policy and priority setting that I have seen since I have been a parliamentarian.

It starts right at the top, for example, when the Prime Minister came out and said that he would not be too worried if his children were taught by unqualified teachers. That is right from the very top — a message that is completely at odds with what the Minister of Education has been saying about the importance of professionalism and qualifications, and, in fact, reviewing the Teachers Council registration policy. So what is it that the Government is saying?

Sure, at King’s College where the Prime Minister’s son has been, there is a snowball in hell scenario that they are going to hire unregistered or untrained teachers. It is simply not going to happen. They are going to have small classes and highly qualified staff. Meanwhile we have the Minister constantly arguing for teachers to improve their qualifications and professionalism. So which one is it: untrained and unaccountable, and publicly funded for-profit charter schools, or professionalism; national standards for students aged 6 years old, but none-standards for teachers and selected experimental not-for-profit situations.

Quite frankly, that, along with class sizes and charter schools, is an unmitigated disaster.

Let us talk about charter schools just for a minute, because they are addressed in the estimates. The Government put aside $230,000 for the charter school working party headed by Catherine Isaac — clearly not exactly a neutral figure in the eyes of anyone who has anything to do with education or politics. And what that working party has said is that they will develop options for schools where there will be public money put in, but people like those in Destiny can apply. All kinds of people can apply, they can be as fundamentalist, as ideologically driven as they like, and they will not necessarily have to meet the same standards that are expected in public schools, which, when you think it is public money, is pretty appalling.

The Green Party is not arguing that there should not be choice in education. If people want their children to be taught by fundamentalists of any stripe, or encouraged to believe that homosexuality is a sin, or that climate change is a myth, or that evolution is anti-Christian, for example, then do that, but pay for the privilege. Do not ask us to pay as a country for that privilege. That is what the private education system offers. We are talking about public money going into a weird experiment that has failed all over the world.

So we are very concerned that this Budget reinforces that idea. We are also appalled by the contradictions between statements the Prime Minister has made and the statements the Minister has made on this issue. Let us then move to the other disaster area in education: the class size one, as my colleague Nanaia Mahuta has touched on, was a back-down that reflected a long planned, but badly planned, vision that nobody except Treasury could give any credence to. It just shows you what happens when people do not have a vision in education: it is not about anything except money. Treasury wrote the book and said: “Let’s have a plan to actually make this affordable. Let’s cut back on education. Let’s pretend it’s an investment.” But Treasury could not convince the rest of the country.

It had the Government on its side but nobody else — nobody else. So we saw fantastic unity across a sector that is not always unified and does not always speak with one voice, and the Government was forced to do a back-down. Well, that is an indication not that it had learnt, and not that it believed that the parents were right, but that it had realised it could not sell the policy. This was a cynical and depressing scenario, because we asked the Minister of Education whether she had changed her view after hearing from parents, and she said she had not. She still thought it was a great idea, and it is very, very sad for the parents and children of New Zealand that that was the agenda.

Some information on national standards was put on the website last week, and, again, it is a real mess. It is a real cut-and-paste job. You cannot understand what you are reading, you do not know what it is that you are going to get — sorry, not you, Mr Chair — what the parents will get, and it does not make any sense. The moderation tool that is being developed at great expense — about $5 million has been spent so far on developing the work around national standards, but it is not finished — will not be ready until 2014.

So what are people going to make of that? The Government put up a policy that had no tool for creating any kind of moderation, and although it will not be on offer until 2014, somehow the parents are going to get the benefit of reading the data that are completely different from school to school. That is somehow supposed to be softening the parents up for the standards. Even if you believed that was a good idea, it is a bad way to have gone about it. The Green Party does not think that league tables are a good idea. We think that league tables are for sports teams. League tables are great in the Olympics, but they are not for children. Labels are useful on jam jars, but not on children.

Our fundamental problem with national standards is not the way that they are being delivered but the idea that a narrow mechanism that reduces the New Zealand curriculum — which is upheld around the world as a valuable and broad curriculum — to a narrow set of literacy and numeracy standards is narrowing teachers’ requirements to teach-to-test. No matter what the Government says, there is huge anxiety out there. It would be interesting if people listened to the evidence of people like Professor Martin Thrupp, who went to England and looked at the model over there. Some countries have gone around the track, and they have followed the track of increasingly narrowing and teaching-to-test—Britain is one of them—and others, for example, Finland and some of the Asian countries, have gone the opposite way and have invested in a broad curriculum. The results are very clear.

Britain and the United States are failing the children who are already struggling because of poverty and social context. Initiatives like national standards only create anxiety, and they are driving teachers out of the profession — because people become teachers from the sense of moral mission to give an input into children’s lives. Children need the best people in this country, but the best people will be driven out if we narrow what has been established as being an excellent curriculum and turn it into a bunch of mechanisms. It is lovely to read numbers; they make life really simple, but guess what? Numbers do not reflect the reality of what the complex matter of each child’s individual learning is actually about. I wonder whether the Government actually looks at what learning means instead of what numbers mean when it set up these standards, because the standards are absolutely incapable of delivering rich and contextual — which is what the Minister calls it — information for parents.

It is a sad sight when you see this being justified on a daily basis in this House. It is not what people voted for at all. They voted for the idea of our kids all doing well. What they got was this mechanistic, failed system, which is incoherent and has not even been properly moderated. Quite frankly, that, along with class sizes and charter schools, is an unmitigated disaster. What is also a disaster is the lack of coherence in the Government’s way of relating to the sector. You cannot improve children’s learning unless you have good relationships not only with child and teacher but also with teachers and politicians. I am not saying the teachers always get it right, but what I am saying is that declaring war on the education sector, the academics, and the professionals is not the way in which you make change happen. We all agree that there are kids who need more support in school. And some of us know that is because the goal of the school system should be equity.

The Finns are at the top of the Programme for International Student Assessment table, because the goal of their education system is not achievement; it is equity. Equity comes first, then participation, and then achievement. But why listen to the experts? After all, the Finns have many good models, which we would do better to look at than looking at Britain and the United States, where we have these bizarre failures. Look at New Orleans. Hurricane Katrina has turned into an educational disaster. What happened is that public schooling has collapsed. Because of the disaster they have brought in these experimental charter schools — these for-profits — and as a result you have children falling through the cracks in greater numbers than ever before. That is a tragedy.

We must make sure that we do not let what has been a good education system become a game for Treasury, an experiment for the Government, and a sacrifice of the good things, under the fake mythology that what we need is running schools like a business. What we need is to run education for liberation, for life, and for life-long learning. It is not a mechanistic business. It is a mission. We should take on the Finns’ ideal, which is that not everybody can be a teacher. They invest a huge amount in teacher training. They say that if you want to lift the quality of the education system, you must lift the quality of the people who are allowed to be teachers. So instead of saying the most fabulous job you can have is to be a corporate financial speculator, or some kind of merchant banker, or that being a lawyer or even an MP is the best job in the world — the best job in the world needs to be a teacher.

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