This tag is associated with 23 posts

QPEC: What’s going on in education policy?

QPEC logo no borderDr Liz Gordon, QPEC convenor,  says that QPEC supports the concerns of many other groups about two recently announced policy proposals.

“The first is that additional special education support be given to the early childhood sector.  We strongly support the policy of providing early intervention.  

“However it is also proposed that this be a zero-cost policy, with funding taken from later stages of education to fund the early interventions.  The government is well aware that there is already inadequate funding for special needs in school, and taking from Peter to pay Paul will leave ‘Peter’ with inadequate support.

“QPEC  supports additional funding for special needs in education, to give all children the best chance at a full life in the community”.

Dr Gordon notes that the second issue is the introduction of “yet another category of school” into the Education Act.

“The notion of an online school needs much further investigation before it is placed into our Education Act.  There are some extremely difficult problems to be overcome before a ‘school’ of this kind can be developed.  

“The New Zealand curriculum, which is compulsory in most schools, is not yet available in an online format and this would need to happen (unless the school is to be a private school, which would be a missed opportunity).

“We know that only certain children learn well in an online environment.  These are usually high-achieving young people who have the support of well-educated families and communities.  This group is not the target of the government’s policy goals, which are to lift the achievement of under resourced children.

“It therefore seems extraordinary that the Minister would champion this policy at this time”.

QPEC is concerned that once again, as with the partnership schools, the Minister is pursuing models that will lead to further privatisation and fewer opportunities in practice.

Dr Gordon concludes: “There is nothing wrong with extra resources in special education or pursuing models of online learning, but the approaches signaled appears out of step with the realities of schooling in Aotearoa.”
Dr Liz Gordon, Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)

QPEC calls for free tertiary education

QPEC logo no borderRecent public attention about tertiary fees should prompt us to reintroduce free tertiary education.

Labour has announced a fees-free policy.   But from a contrary viewpoint, The NZ Initiative has recently argued for means-testing student loans plus restoring interest on tuition aid.

QPEC believes that tertiary education should be free, continuing on from public primary and secondary education.   This would be a return to earlier practice in NZ, and current practice elsewhere in the world, such as in Germany, Slovenia and Cuba.

  • Free tertiary education is inclusive – it widens access to tertiary institutions to a broader cross-section of the population.  
  • If education is a social good, improving access to better jobs, secure homes and healthier lives,  free education is an investment in the future of the country.   It builds an informed and critical populace, consistent with the “broader social and economic outcomes” of the Government’s Investment Approach.   
  • It means that many more NZ graduates would stay in the country and/or return from working overseas, because they wouldn’t be crippled with a huge debt as they re-enter their home country.   

QPEC believes that free higher education contributes to the public good through enhancing the country’s wellbeing, equity and social justice.   

“We believe The NZ Initiative paper is fundamentally misguided,” says Dr David Cooke, tertiary spokesperson for QPEC.   “It’s just squirming around within a market model that shouldn’t apply to tertiary education.   Education is not a business.   Treating it as such over 25 years has harmed the system and its graduates”.  

Many other countries have maintained free higher education.   “We should do likewise,” says Dr Cooke.   

“A well-funded free system of tertiary education is a basic plank of democracy in modern societies”.


Forum on the Productivity Commission and Tertiary Education


The Clocktower Building is where they have filmed the latest series of Mastermind and also where QPEC held its 2016 forum and AGM on Saturday 30 April.  The crowd was fairly small but we had a great range of speakers.

The focus was the Productivity Commission’s review of the tertiary education system.

David Cooke, our tertiary spokesperson, started off by discussing the ‘buzz words’ adopted by the Productivity Commission in it 78 questions, and what these were likely to mean in terms of policies as tertiary education becomes reduced to a cost-cutting economic system.  David suggested we needed to respond positively by offering alternative visions to that of the Productivity Commission.  One point that a couple of speakers raised was the view of the system as characterised by inertia.  Anyone who knows tertiary education, it was pointed out, is very clear that it is far from ‘inert’, whatever that means.

In response, Jane Kelsey said that there were some real issues with the review.  The system of tertiary education is governed by the Education Act (1989) and its amendments, and yet the Act is never even mentioned in the Productivity Commission’s  background papers.  She said the principles of the Education Act, especially the critic/conscience clause, are being undermined by the review.

Ian Shirley gave a wonderful talk about the history of the struggle against the New Right, and I will not be able to do it justice here. He went right back to the 80s and reminded us that Treasury frame education as a private good, not a public good, right back then.  Treasury’s work at that time constituted what Ian called the “expansion of markets into spheres of life where they do not belong:.  We have been living the legacy of that ever since.

He called on us to reframe the whole debate – to reframe the debate from econospeak to societyspeak, and to have our own vision of what tertiary education should look like – beyond critique to reconstruction.

Sandra Grey carried on a number of these themes, especially the need to agree on what tertiary education is for.  She took us through the actions the TEU is carrying out to engage with the Productivity Commission, including taking them into universities and polytechnics to see what happens inside.  The alternative view to the ‘inertia’ claim is a sector that is diverse, innovative and creative, dedicated to what they do, focusing on resolving the issues of our times and to lifelong learning.

She outlined an alternative model for tertiary education based on te Tiriti, responsible autonomy (death to steering at a distance!), diversity of provision, the people, and well-supported workforce and student body.

Finally, Linsey from the NZUSA outlined student concerns for a tertiary system oriented to student need.

Later, at the AGM, the teacher unions, the TEU and QPEC made a joint pledge to meet later in the year to nut out a shared vision of, of course, a ‘Quality Public Education’ system.  We are very excited about this, and think it will be very productive.

Liz Gordon

Chair, Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC)





Minister uses incorrect data to blame schools for achievement gap – QPEC

QPEC logo no borderQPEC co-convenor Dr Liz Gordon is calling for the Minister to use the correct figures on the achievement gap between the richest and poorest in New Zealand.

“The Minister uses the figure that 18% of the achievement gap is caused by socio-economic background”, says Dr Gordon.

“That figure came from a wrongly calculated OECD report, and is significantly out of kilter with the overwhelming evidence by the OECD itself that social factors are the key determinant of educational outcomes, across nations, across cultures, across schooling systems, public or private, large or small.”

Dr Gordon says that she does not know why the Minister continues to use a discredited figure.

“What does the research say? It says that children from high-education homes with more than 500 books, a bedroom for every child, a computer for learning and a range of other factors start school around two years ahead of those in the poorest, education-poor areas. Not only that, but the kids who are ahead in the race have all their ducks in a row to spring ahead even further.

“By age 15, the average literacy and numeracy gap between the 500- plus book group, and the fewer-than-10 book families, is over three years of learning using the OECD’s own index of learning.

“Those at the lower end have more barriers to learning than those at the top, and this is made worse by harder lives, worse conditions and fewer resources.

“In an NCEA system, where there are multiple routes and a number of pathways to achieving qualifications, the numbers of children from poor families achieving NCEA at levels 1 and 2 has expanded. This is because the changed system allows people with different abilities to turn these into qualifications. It does not mean that the wealth and resource gap has closed”.

“External factors such as high levels of child poverty (nearly every child in each decile 1-3 school, plus others, now lives in a family where there are never enough resources to meet all the family needs) and the flight from low decile schools (making those schools smaller and removing economies of scale) make these gaps worse.

“School resources and programmes, such as health-promoting schools, social workers, PB4L and other schemes work the other way, to close the gap.

QPEC wishes the Minister to accept the evidence for the huge socio-economic barriers to learning and work to design a system that will properly overcome these.

Charter schools decision driven by politics, not good research or practice, says QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

The decision to open two more charter ‘partnership’ schools in New Zealand is indefensible on educational or social grounds, says QPEC Chairperson John Minto.

“Recent studies have demonstrated that state schools that educate the most disadvantaged New Zealanders are already struggling from white flight and viability issues due to the distorting effects of the education market.

“Opening more small schools simply makes that process worse, scattering hard-to-teach children through a mish-mash of tiny schools”, he said.

“It is a win-win situation for this government,

but not for disadvantaged students”

QPEC sees the decision to open bidding for two more partnership schools as entirely political.  “It is a sop to the ACT Party, and a way for National to promote the privatisation of education. It is a win-win situation for this government, but not for disadvantaged students”.

While it comes at a financial cost, QPEC is more worried about the effects on the schooling system. “This is not just a mad right-wing experiment, but a policy that will have substantive effects on young, needy children now, said John Minto.

Hekia Parata promised that the record of partnership schools in New Zealand would not mirror the US experience, where school failure, teaching problems, corruption and excessive profits are common.  But we have already seen similar issues emerge here (excessive profits, school failure and questionable practices) after only two years and only nine schools.

“In short, this policy is a shocking waste of taxpayer money

and really poor educational policy”.

QPEC notes that Hekia Parata has always defended charter school funding as being on the same basis as state school funding.  “The current decision to reduce the amount of funding provided to these schools confirms that the money given to the nine schools has been excessive, as QPEC and other critics have constantly pointed out. In short, the Minister’s defence of the old funding model was incorrect – she did not tell the truth about this”.-

  • END

“Funding for education success going to …. the educationally successful!” says QPEC

QPEC logo no borderQPEC wants to know why the extra resources provided by the government’s flagship teacher policy are overwhelmingly being captured by the schools that cater for the wealthiest suburbs of our richest city.

“It is now clear the ‘education for success’ is a policy to keep National and ACT voters in Epsom and Remuera happy, rather than to lift the educational achievement in our poorer communities” says John Minto, QPEC spokesperson.

“The glaring anomaly is that 21 of the 43 new teaching positions doled out in this funding round have gone to very wealthy communities in central and north Auckland.

“This is the government’s one big initiative in seven years to raise student achievement but ‘success’ funding is going to the already successful.

Low decile areas have been promised additional resources – they are the government’s priority. The lowest decile group of schools allocated funding will get only 2 additional teachers, and that is the only group in which most of the schools are serve poor communities.

The policy is supposed to provide expert teachers to support learning in areas that need it, but instead the majority of the resources in this round have gone to many of the richest schools in the country.

“The rich get richer and the poor get zilch”, said John Minto.


Fee paying education not in our interests – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

Dr Liz Gordon, QPEC spokesperson and educational researcher, today argued against proposals being aired in the media to allow state schools to charge fees.

“In 1877, in the middle of a long recession, New Zealand politicians passed an Act of Parliament stating that schooling should be ‘free, compulsory and secular’”, she said.

“The trade-off for requiring children to attend school was that the schooling, and if necessary transport to school, would be available at no charge”.

Dr Gordon notes that the right to free education has been eroded over the years.  “Most parents now pay a fortune for school uniforms, stationery and, increasingly, capital items such as laptops and tablets”.

Successive ministers have done little to stem the rising costs of schooling on families, and Dr Gordon thinks that New Zealand has one of the most expensive school systems for families in the world.  “Educators in other countries are shocked that basic learning tools and materials have to be paid for by families”, she says.

“However, the ministry has ring-fenced the school donation, and over the past two decades has insisted that such donations be presented transparently to parents as a voluntary payment.

“It is true that schools have put pressure on families, denied students access to balls and the like, and tried to hide the donation as a fee in many ways.  But the bottom line is that the spirit of the law is maintained by allowing parents to choose whether or not to pay any school donation”.

Dr Gordon notes that with 90% of families worse off than two decades ago (using Max Rashbrooke’s figures), and a quarter of children living in poverty, there is not much space in most family budgets for school fees.

“Auckland Grammar initiated this discussion but its families are getting poorer and are paying enormous mortgages to live in the area.  There is not a lot of spare cash around”.

Dr Gordon says that the argument that Auckland Grammar makes, that its large voluntary donation makes up for the smaller amount of funding it receives than poorer schools, is not a strong one.

“High decile schools have a student population that carries huge educational capital.  The OECD notes that the number of books in the home, education of mother and then father, amount spent on educational goods, home computer, number of bathrooms in the home, family income, classic books in the home, a desk at home for study and the monitoring of student progress by families are (in order) the main factors determining learning outcomes.

“It is the lack of these factors that the decile funding system is provided for – to compensate for a lack of educational capital, not to compensate for inability to pay.  Parents at Auckland Grammar and other schools should inquire whether the school grant is being spent wisely, and whether these large voluntary donations are required”.


As predicted, charter schools in trouble – QPEC

QPEC logo no borderWhen the government changed the Education Act to allow for charter schools, it bet that a bunch of non-educators using their own untested theories of education could run schools for our most disadvantaged students and achieve better results than state schools.

Not only that, it stacked the decks by deliberately removing the charter schools from the checks and balances that all state schools must face and gave them more money (as a series of set-up grants). For example, these schools are exempt from making disclosures under the Official Information Act, despite the fact that they are government funded.

The policy was always ideological, always about neo-liberal thinking rather than straight thinking. In Sweden and the UK, charter school models (free schools) are contributing to the decline of educational outcomes. There are calls for change in both countries.

In the USA, scandal after scandal has swept charter schools: poor teaching, poor facilities, financial scams, corruption, profiteering, abrupt closures of failed schools, political patronage, abuse…. Almost everything that could go wrong in these schools has done so, often over and over again. QPEC has been tracking US charter schools daily for over two years ago now, and not only are many of them an educational disgrace but they continue to contribute to the overall educational collapse of the USA in world educational rankings. Per dollar spent, US schools are the world’s worst.

The public was told things would be different in New Zealand (despite depressingly similar policy settings). But our own tiny number of such schools have already suffered from student loss, concerns over quality and now a new school is being led by a principal under investigation by the Teachers Council for potential serious misconduct. This is a clear example of de-regulation leading to poor practice.

The Minister calls these “teething troubles”.

QPEC calls them an educational disaster in the making, and calls on this government to stop this experiment, which is following the worst practices of schools internationally and will not improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged.

There is no empirical research that supports this model of charter schools, and plenty of evidence against the model. It is being driven by the first term right wing ACT MP, David Seymour, who promises to support these schools through thick, thin and very expensive, success or failure – competition at all costs, and the taxpayer must pay.


– Ends

State housing sell-off will harm vulnerable children – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

“The government’s planned sell-off of state housing will cause serious harm to the education of New Zealand’s most vulnerable children”, says QPEC Spokesperson John Minto.

Pushing more low-income families into the private housing market and social housing will mean another increase in transience (children changing schools frequently) because more families will struggle to pay the higher rents.

Housing from private landlords and social housing providers is typically much more expensive than income-related rents provided through state housing. When income-related rents were introduced, school transience reduced.  This policy will have the opposite effect.

The effect will be to destabilise more families and increase the educationally-disastrous levels of transience. Some schools in low-income areas already have a student turnover of more than half their school roll each year because of transience related directly to poverty.

These transient children are the students who are failing. They make up the “long tail of underachievement” the government says it wants to address.

However National’s policy of selling state houses will increase the huge pool of children changing schools frequently. It will throw up more barriers to education for the children who need the most help.

“Selling state houses is a very cynical policy targeted at families already struggling with issues related to poverty and inequality. John Key’s trademark is to be able to say with a straight face that policies that are destructive to the poor are good for everyone. But there is no good news story with this announcement – only another rise in housing costs for those least able to afford it”, says John Minto.

State housing provides affordable income related rents and helps stabilise families. We need more state houses to stabilise more children and enable them to succeed at school.  QPEC challenges the government to find any family paying income-related rents who will be better off or have a more stable existence as a result of this policy.

John Minto


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.


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.



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.


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.


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


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.


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.”


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”


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
Quality Public Education Coalition

Charter Schools now even smaller and more expensive – QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

NZ’s charter school experiment is proving to be even more expensive than first thought, as two schools have experienced falling rolls since the start of the 2014 school year and three remain below what is termed their “Guaranteed Minimum Roll” for funding purposes.

As a result, the number of students enrolled has fallen to 358 across the 5 charter schools and the schools will now receive an average of $20,878 in funding this year.

Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, discussed the controversial initiative on TV’s Q&A programme last weekend, describing it as a “…niche sort of thing…”

But the argument that this is only a “niche” is in stark contrast with ACT Party policy.

The ACT Party wants to expand the charter school programme and ultimately convert all state schools into privately operated charter schools.

The arguments behind the establishment of NZ charter schools have always been weak and the 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.

Two charter secondary schools, Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru and the Vanguard Military School, have seen their rolls fall by around 10% between March and July:

Whangaruru from 63 to 56 and Vanguard from 104 to 93.

Students may well have left the schools for justifiable reasons, such as joining the military, in the case of Vanguard, but the funding implications are clear.

Under the terms of the charter school contracts, each school is funded for the full year at a minimum level set in advance at the start of the year. Whangaruru is funded for 71 students and Vanguard is funded for 108 students. In addition, the primary school, Rise Up Academy, is funded at a level of 50 students but has only 46 students as at 1 July.

Based on the 1 July roll returns, Whangaruru will now receive $26,939 per student in 2014 and Vanguard will receive $22,837 per student (see table below):

QPEC charter release table 20140909

So across the 5 charter schools, total student enrolment has fallen to 358 and the average minimum operational funding cost per student for 2014 has increased to $20,878.

In practice, actual funding per student may be higher than these estimated figures, if the school roll has exceeded its “guaranteed minimum roll”, as the contract stipulates funding will be set at the greater of the two.

One further aspect that disturbs us, is that the Vanguard Military School is sponsored by a for-profit family owned company. Will the fixed revenue stream be spent on the remaining students or will it fall into the Income Statement of the Sponsor?

QPEC reiterates its call for a review of this controversial policy as it is clear that it is nothing more than a political stunt.

QPEC also wants to see a major review of school funding take place after the election. It is time to re-examine all aspects of school funding and to seek a more equitable basis for funding our most deserving students and the community schools that serve them.

We have an opportunity to help level the playing field for the most disadvantaged children.

Let’s give all our children the greatest possible opportunity to succeed.

ACT Party supports big spending policy – price no object! says QPEC

QPEC new logo Sept 2014

The ACT party has foisted a secretive, undemocratic, expensive and ideological experiment on New Zealand taxpayers with its so-called Partnership Schools.

ACT, the party of so-called fiscal responsibility, is quite happy to squander more than seventeen million taxpayer dollars on five small schools.

QPEC is concerned the policy has set up the conditions for the same kind of scams, fraud, mismanagement and poor academic performance that is plaguing charter schools in the United States.

Now the Epsom candidate is crowing that the “children are thrilled” to be going to these five schools. QPEC would like to know how the ACT candidate knows this.

No information on these schools is available through the Official Information Act, because the National Government legislated that the schools could work in complete secrecy.

There is no National Standards data so no public record of how they are doing.

We do know that the schools are costing taxpayers more than double the price of a state school education, and that three of the five schools had enrolment numbers below the guaranteed minimum at 31 March.

Local communities concerned were never consulted on whether they even want a so-called partnership school, nor on whether it is needed, nor on how they are expected to continue to offer a quality public education when such a well-funded school is set up alongside them.

QPEC is concerned that the ACT Party, having set these schools up to avoid public disclosure, is now claiming that they are successful, when they cannot know that.  All we do know is that they are extremely expensive.

In the light of the Dirty Politics scandal, any political group that trumpets the success of a secretive, taxpayer funded scheme, needs to come under scrutiny.

Candidate David Seymour, who is likely to become an MP due to a deal between National and ACT, has been quite specific in supporting the South Auckland Middle School, a fundamentalist Christian partnership school.

We think it is highly inappropriate for David Seymour to be “going to Wellington”, as he said, to advocate for individual schools, or for a system that deliberately hides funding from taxpayers. Where is the openness and transparency that ACT used to support?


Contact: Dr Liz Gordon 0274545008


Fact Checker: Decile is not Destiny – QPEC

As we look into the evidence on this one, let’s be clear on one point right from the start: let’s understand the difference between “destiny” and “probability”.  And, if we QPEC logo no borderdon’t want decile to be destiny, then what are we doing about it!

QPEC firmly holds the view that every student should get the greatest opportunity possible to succeed to the fullest extent of their abilities and their willingness to work hard and achieve.

Neither does QPEC accept that students from disadvantaged backgrounds cannot succeed.

But, the evidence on this one is clear.


Fact 1: OECD Study of Teaching Policies (2005)

A major study of the teaching profession, carried out by the OECD in 2005, made this statement in their summary paper:

“Student learning is influenced by many factors, including: students’ skills, expectations, motivation and behaviour; family resources, attitudes and support; peer group skills, attitudes and behaviour; school organisation, resources and climate; curriculum structure and content; and teacher skills, knowledge, attitudes and practices. Schools and classrooms are complex, dynamic environments, and identifying the effects of these varied factors, and how they influence and relate with each other – for different types of students and different types of learning — has been, and continues to be, a major focus of educational research.

Three broad conclusions emerge from research on student learning. The first and most solidly based finding is that the largest source of variation in student learning is attributable to differences in what students bring to school – their abilities and attitudes, and family and community background. Such factors are difficult for policy makers to influence, at least in the short-run. The second broad conclusion is that of those variables which are potentially open to policy influence, factors to do with teachers and teaching are the most important influences on student learning. In particular, the broad consensus is that “teacher quality” is the single most important school variable influencing student achievement.” [Emphasis added]

Source: OECD, “Teachers Matter: Attracting, Developing and Retaining Effective Teachers


The problem with the OECD approach – we can’t change the kids, so let’s focus on the teachers – is that it does not deal head on with what the OECD itself calls, the first and most solidly based finding:

Factors associated with the student are the largest source of variation in student achievement.

It is important to go beyond ideology and examine the hard evidence of the strong links between student background and student achievement. Failure to diagnose this correctly leads to two major problems.

– First, we miss the main goal, which is how do we improve children’s lives;

– and second, education policy initiatives are misdirected.

Teachers and schools are part of the solution; they are not the cause of the problem.


Fact 2: New Zealand NCEA achievement

Table 1: Percentage of school leavers with NCEA Level 2 or above, by ethnic group and school quintile (2012 data)

Sex Eth




Total F M M P A M O E
1 58.1 61.8 54.3 49.5 62.6 78.6 72.3 63.2 62.3
2 66.8 70.7 63.4 54.2 63.0 82.2 65.9 67.2 72.0
3 72.7 77.6 67.9 59.2 66.4 82.7 80.7 68.1 76.0
4 82.0 85.6 78.8 67.5 76.7 89.3 82.8 82.9 83.4
5 89.6 92.1 87.0 78.6 80.0 91.6 83.2 85.7 90.4


KEY to Ethic Groups: M=Maori, P = Pasifika, A=Asian, M = MELAA, O=Other, E=European

Quintile 1 = deciles 1 & 2, etc; MELAA = Middle Eastern, Latin American & African.

The table above reports NCEA Level 2 school leaver achievement levels by school quintile, gender and ethnicity. Of students from quintile 5 (deciles 9 & 10) schools, 89.6% of them left school with at least NCEA Level 2, compared with only 58.1% for those in quintile 1 (deciles 1 & 2) schools.

Socio-economic advantage is clearly a major predictor of educational achievement.


Fact 3: International Reading Assessments

Table 2: PISA Reading Literacy, ranked by the student’s socio-economic status, across the 10 highest performing school systems (PISA 2009 Reading Literacy):

System 5
















Australia 343 384 450 521 584 638 668 515
Canada 368 406 464 529 588 637 664 524
Finland 382 419 481 542 597 642 666 536
Hong Kong 380 418 482 541 592 634 659 533
Japan 339 386 459 530 590 639 667 520
Korea 400 435 490 545 595 635 658 539
Netherlands 365 390 442 510 575 625 650 508
NZ 344 383 452 528 595 649 678 521
Shanghai 417 450 504 562 613 654 679 556
Singapore 357 394 460 532 597 648 676 526

In this table, the 5th percentile means the lowest 5% and the 95th percentile is the highest 95% of students, measured on the OECD’s own index of economic, cultural and social indicators.

So, this table is slightly different from our NCEA L2 table, because it shows the student’s own status, rather than where they go to school.

But the pattern is indisputable:

Student achievement rises lockstep with socio-economic status in every school system.



QPES Press Release

Mythbuster: Privatisation does not increase Education Choice


“We believe that students will get better educations if their parents have more choice and educators face more competition.”

Source: ACT Party Education Policy 2014, p.1


ACT Party Leader, Dr Jamie Whyte, keeps saying that his party would privatise the public education system and believes this will provide increased “Choice” to parents.

But a quick look at the New Orleans “Recovery School District” website will reveal that Dr Whyte is deluded and that privatised systems do not work as he thinks. And besides, New Zealand parents already have more choice in education than he acknowledges.


The Recovery School District in New Orleans is the best worked example of a system where all the schools have now been privatised. This followed the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which accelerated the process of establishing privately operated charter schools and closing public schools.

Unfortunately, in the new fully privatised system, there are three things that parents cannot now choose:

  1. They cannot choose their school, as the system “assigns” their child to a school;
  2. Once assigned, they cannot choose to just leave their school;
  3. And most importantly, they cannot choose to send their child to a public school.

Because the charter schools are privately operated parents initially had a nightmare trying to enrol their children. As enrolment applications usually exceed the number of places available at each school, parents needed to apply to many different schools, as they did not know for certain whether their children would get accepted. This caused a backlash and a centrally operated enrolment system was developed, called One-App.

One-App allows parents to apply once on one application form and to designate their top 3 preferred schools. The process is not easy and the form is nearly 20 pages long!

But any suggestion that parent choice prevails goes out the door pretty quickly.


No choiceThe enrolment system assigns each child to a school. If the parents are happy with the school they have been assigned to in the main round, then they do no more. But, if they are unhappy, then they may apply again in the second or third rounds.

Here’s what the RSD website reveals:

“The system matched 90 percent of entering kindergarten and rising ninth grade applicants to one of their top three school choices In non-transition grades, 70 percent of applicants were matched to a top choice; and in pre-kindergarten, where the demand for seats is greater than the supply, 75 percent of students were matched to one of their top choices.”



So, let’s be very clear.

  • The system assigns children to schools. Parents do NOT choose;
  • In total, 80 percent of applicants were assigned to a top 3 school choice, of which only 61% were assigned to their Rank 1 selection.

But, it’s even harder, in some ways, to leave your school. Why? Because once everyone has been assigned there are very few available places.

“Prior to the beginning of the third week of August and after February 1, a family requesting admission to a school other than the one they were assigned to or currently attend can submit a Placement Exception Request (PER).”

So, parents need to complete a form and seek permission to leave their school.

Call that parent choice?


Here’s what the website says:

“All PER requests must be approved by the RSD and are pending seat availability. PER requests must address a particular “hardship” and must be submitted with accompanying paperwork. The hardship criteria are Medical Hardship, Safety Transfers, Travel Hardship, Childcare Hardship and Transfer to a Specialised Program.”

So, being disappointed with the school and wanting to vote with your feet is not an option!

Finally, we come to the last choice that is missing: the right to send your child to the local, neighbourhood public school. That right has been taken away by the privatisation movement.


In New Zealand, parent survey research shows that only 6% of New Zealand primary and intermediate school parents say their child was attending a school that was not their family’s first choice; and the equivalent figure for secondary parents is 9%. [Source: NZCER Surveys: 2013 (Primary and Intermediate) and 2012 (Secondary)]

So, 94% of New Zealand primary/intermediate school parents and 91% of secondary parents are satisfied with their first choice school.

Contrast that to the 61% first choice figure achieved in the RSD in New Orleans and you can readily see that New Zealand parents already have more effective school choice options available to them than their counterparts in a privatised system.


Martin Thrupp talks National Standards and RAINs

What did the RAINs project find about National Standards?

Follow Save Our Schools NZ on

Category list:


%d bloggers like this: