Dear Mr Hughes
I am sure you are aware that a group of devoted and experienced teachers have been receiving an appallingly unfair remuneration deal in this country for a number of years now. I am of course referring to teachers who completed their qualifications either before or during the period in which the degree qualification was phased into Teacher’s Colleges.
I’m also sure you will agree, that it reasonable that these teachers who are can often be equipped with over thirty years of experience (and that’s after completing three years of education with world-leading institutions to boot) should be able to earn the same as their equally dedicated and hard-working colleagues that have more recently graduated.
The current scheme is not just puzzlingly inequitable to a number of dedicated and expert teachers, but it also undermines the reputation of our education system. By instituting such a needlessly dichotomised strata, we are now implying that the teachers who completed qualifications during this period are not worth as much as teachers who have studied more recently. Which as you can imagine is pretty insulting to people that have dedicated their life to education.
To illustrate the issue, the following is a real life example of a teacher in this situation:
Teacher X graduated studied for three years at The University of Waikato and graduated with a Hamilton Teachers College Diploma with Commendation in 1981. She has been teaching for over 20 years and each year has completed professional development, which has been very relevant and useful and has included training in Reading Recovery, Literacy Leadership and specialised teaching in The Arts.
In a role at her previous school Ms X held a permanent unit for leading The Arts and a fixed term unit for Literacy Leadership. The permanent unit allowed her to progress to a higher pay scale, but still not to the same rate as a younger, more inexperienced teacher who also completed three years of study with the same or any other university (just at a later date when it was called a degree).
Ms X then moved to a new location due to a change in her husband’s career. She was appointed a position at a local primary school on the spot at her first interview due to her experience, expertise, and glowing references. Her new role included a unit to lead literacy with a focus on writing, but because schools have the autonomy to decide how units can be used, she discovered that all curriculum units at her new school are fixed term and therefore went back to the maximum salary on the Q1 scale ($56,177) plus the unit allowance.
You must agree that this is somewhat confusing when comparatively teachers with a three-year Bachelor of Teaching degree can earn $68,074 after only seven years in the classroom. Especially when you consider teachers in the same position as Ms X also completed three years at Teachers College. The younger teachers have done nothing wrong and should be celebrated for having the courage to undertake an increasingly thankless career that has become cynically devalued by a government looking to shift the blame for their own social failings onto their most dedicated public servants. But it simply does not make any sense whatsoever for us to divide our teachers along these lines, when they are all there for the same reasons and are all equally qualified to do this work.
I realise this is an issue that the NZEI has been attempting to address for years with no resolution in sight. The Advanced Classroom Expertise Teacher (ACET) allowance is not an appropriate resolution. While it might help a few selected teachers who are employed by schools which are supportive of the scheme, it does not really address the inequity and it will take a long time to be implemented. The other issue with the already problematic ACET allowance is that it does not help rectify the damage done to the reputation of the education system or educators who gained their qualification from this period, who received sound professional training.
The most logical and easy solution that would completely eradicate the issue would be for The Ministry of Education to simply recognise the qualifications of those in the position of Ms X, and who are still teaching, as the equivalent of the current degree credentials (which they are). I fail to see any explanation of why this has still not happened, especially considering the relatively small number of teachers this would affect in 2015.
Mr Hughes, addressing the discriminatory system for older experienced, effective and dedicated teachers who haven’t had the opportunity to complete degrees is long over-due. I strongly urge The Ministry to remember that these teachers, who despite facing substantial financial disadvantages when compared to several of their colleagues, have made a significant contributions to young lives in this country for a number of years. It is well beyond time that their professionalism, expertise, commitment and loyalty is acknowledged and rewarded accordingly.
I look forward to the day these teachers are given a fair go. In fact I look forward to the day when all teachers are given a fair go.
What’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.
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.
You say that “[e]very child is unique and teachers and other parents don’t always understand that or get it right.” And yet when teachers are crying out for money to be spent on training and on good provisions for special needs students they are ignored. When the government want to spend money on change principals and lead teachers via the IES proposal and teachers shout out that they don’t want bonuses but in-class support and training, the Minister says we are whining.
So, when teachers don’t get it right, bear in mind, Mr Hughes, that you and your Ministry are part of that problem. .
You say that “When things aren’t working [the Ministry of Education] will own that and work with everyone involved to find solutions.” Really? Because parents and educators instead talk of huge waiting lists to get help, paperwork mountains no money available, and children having their funding removed whenever a slight improvement is seen, only for they to slip back when the support is removed.
You throw in that $530 Million is spent yearly on Special Needs, but so what? How much is spent dealing with children who haven’t had good support? Maybe paying for health problems brought on by the stress of fighting the system for every little thing? Paid out in years to come to those students who weren’t given the best chance and are not unemployed? What is spent is a mask for what it costs to *not*get it right, and to throw it in as if it proves how hard Ministry is trying is an insult.
And it hardly helps when the Minister cares so little for special needs provision that she is happy to close special needs residential schools – sometimes illegally.
Let’s face it, Mr Hughes, you do not just have work to do – you have a complete overhaul to do, after years of neglect of special needs provision. And this neglect is to the detriment of all of our students and is a disgrace.
Start by looking at the lack of good professional development out there for teachers and teacher aides.
Try investigating at the minuscule bit of teacher training that is spent learning about special needs.
Look at the detrimental effect of National Standards on both students and teachers.
Ask parents and teachers how hard it is to get help even for the kids with severe learning disabilities.
Then tell me again you just “have work to do.”
References and further reading:
Following the announcement of the Government’s Investing in Educational Success (IES) policy in January, Upper Hutt School Principals and Boards of Trustees were concerned about the direction of spending for the $359,000,000. We are excited about the prospect of a large sum of money being injected into education, but we question the use of this going mainly into salaries for just a few teachers and principals. We believe the greatest need for the $359,000,000 is for it to be paid directly to schools to support children’s learning.
In order to be proactive and informed, principals and boards have since met with representatives from NZ School Trustees Association, NZ Educational Institute and the Ministry of Education. We have also kept up to date with all information coming from the NZ Principals’ Federation and the latest (limited) information from the Ministry of Education about the policy detail.
At this point in time, despite our insistence and perseverance to ensure we are fully informed about the policy, we remain concerned that:
• the Ministry of Education has not actively sought the direct views of BOTs, principals and teachers;
• a substantial amount of funding is going to individual roles and salaries, when our community of Upper Hutt schools has identified other priorities;
• there appears to be a lack of evidence about the effectiveness of this policy on improving outcomes for children in NZ, and in particular, the children of Upper Hutt;
• the policy appears to promote competition within the sector, as opposed to supporting the way in which we currently work together;
• the short timeframe for implementation does not allow for adequate consultation with BOTs, principals, teachers and parents;
• the model appears to be an inflexible ‘one size fits all’;
• experienced, effective classroom teachers may be out of their own classrooms two days a week to perform the role of expert teacher.
After meeting with Graham Stoop from the Ministry of Education, it became apparent the justification for this policy is to create communities of schools who work collaboratively for the benefit of students in their local area. It was acknowledged by Stoop that Upper Hutt schools already work in a collaborative model with a range of networks to support our children. In our view, we do not require executive positions to be established, nor do we want a salary to go to an individual principal. We were absolutely clear that we want and need the money to go towards funding projects to support students in our schools.
We acknowledge that there are some potential strengths with IES, but believe that without a longer timeframe for development, genuine engagement with the profession and communities, and a rethink on the allocation of funds, this policy will not meet the needs of Upper Hutt children.
In our view, this policy represents a significant change in education and has far reaching implications for the way in which our schools are self-managed. Upper Hutt schools are and will continue to be fully committed to working together to support our children, without the proposed financial incentives for individuals. We believe it is really important that the Upper Hutt community is fully informed about this policy and its implications for our community.
If you have any questions, we are committed to answering these as best we can and pointing you in the direction of further information. Please don’t hesitate to contact any of us.
Birchville School Simon Kenny (Principal),
Fergusson Intermediate School Paul Patterson (Principal)
Fraser Crescent School John Channer (Principal)
Hutt International Boys’ School Mike Hutchins (Principal)
Maidstone Intermediate School Kerry Baines (Acting Principal)
Mangaroa School Glenys Rogers (Principal)
Maoribank School Paula Weston (Principal)
Oxford Crescent School Leanne White (Principal)
Pinehaven School Kaylene Macnee (Principal)
Plateau School Nigel Frater (Principal)
St Brendan’s School Nicole Banks (Acting Principal)
St Joseph’s School Peter Ahern (Principal)
Silverstream School Mary Ely (Principal)
Totara Park School Joel Webby (Principal)
Trentham School Suzanne Su’a (Principal)
Upper Hutt School Peter Durrant (Principal)
Ara Te Puhi (Board Chair)
Wendy Eyles (Board Chair)
Rose Tait (Board Chair)
Murray Wills (Board Chair)
Heather Clegg (Board Chair)
Dave Wellington (Board Chair)
Kerry Weston (Board Chair)
Leanne Dawson (Board Chair)
Hayden Kerr (Board Chair)
Darrell Mellow (Board Chair)
Jason Wanden (Board Chair)
Matt Reid (Board Chair)
Margaret Davidson (Board Chair)
Chris O’Neill (Board Chair)
Gavin Willbond (Board Chair)