This tag is associated with 56 posts

Positive Alternatives to Policing Students’ Lunchboxes

Children sometimes bring unhealthy lunches to school – that’s a sad fact.  When you see a lunch box with no fresh fruit or veg, or that’s wall to wall sugar, or just a packet of noodles, or … well, you  get the idea – when you see those lunch boxes, you sigh. But trying to change what lead to that lunch box being in front of that student by policing said lunch box would be wrongheaded.

No educator wants to be in the position of telling kids they should or shouldn’t bring this or that, when in fact they usually have no part in the decision-making around what goes in their lunch box. 

Similarly, it’s not at all helpful to create tension with parents by sending home notes about the food they provide. Of course I want students to eat healthily (and eat enough), but making parents feel judged does harm to the home-school relationship, and that is a bad move. The solution has to be focused on education, not policing.

Education for students around what good food looks like, clever buying, balanced diets etc is much more helpful. In my experience, the more clued-up the students are, the more they influence the purchases of the grown ups around then. We all know how insistent small people can be when they want something at the supermarket!

When I was trying to eat more healthily, I charged my year 5-6 students with checking my lunch box each day, and giving me feedback, and by crikey they took to that challenge like ducks to water: “Have you SEEN how much sugar is in that low fat yoghurt, Mrs Khan! Don’t be fooled by that ‘low fat’ thing!” They also wrote me a list of healthy snack foods for 3pm, knowing my tendency to stop at the local garage and make poor choices when driving home around 5 or 6 pm.  Given good information and a real life problem to solve, kids will almost always blow your socks off with just how clever they are.

So focusing on educating kids and letting them educate the adults seems like a good strategic move. But it must be collaborative, done with the community, not at them. Which leads me to the  brilliant work done by Julia Milne and her team at The Common Unity Project Aotearoa.

The Common Unity Project is a school-based project with a collaborative community model. It started small and got little to no Ministry or official support, but through sheer tenacity and will power and the support of the school in which she is based, Julia has built a magnificent living model right here in Lower Hutt, NZ.  

In their own words, the Project “works collaboratively with Epuni Primary School, a little school with a big heart, in Lower Hutt. We grow food on a disused soccer field – enough to feed our children of Epuni School three times each week. We invite our parents and wider community to come to school each day and learn, share and educate one another. In turn, this has become a collective response to meeting the needs of our children and developing our own resilient solution within our community.”

The Project has brought a community together to learn and grow – literally and figuratively – together.  Learning about food is linked with curriculum work – maths, literacy, science, art – you name it, they’ve linked it, and done so meaningfully.  Identify the problem, find solutions, get helpers with the skills needed, helpers pass on skills to the kids, helpers learn new skills themselves, and BINGO! we have real life learning. This is what The Community Unity Project does.

The kids are cold? Put a call out for wool and some knitters with a bit of time on their hands, and BINGO! the adults are passing on key skills to kids to make something they all need.

The kids are hungry? Put a call out for helpers to come make a meal using food grown by the kids in the school gardens. The helpers teach the kids, the helpers learn new skills, and they all have enough to eat.

Gardening, cooking, knitting,  bike maintenance, building, sewing bee keeping, food budgeting – you name it, they’re onto it.

Real life problems, real life solutions, real life learning. And community.

That’s my kind of model.

~ Dianne

Read more about The Common Unity Project here.

Read more about the issues around food in schools here.

Feeding School Kids – Let’s play spot the difference

Children go hungry in all countries, in all walks of life, but some countries are better than others at accepting the responsibility for ensuring children are fed.

Let’s compare…


union jack plate“Education Minister David Laws told BBC News he expected some 15,200 primary schools – or 98% of the total – to be ready to provide the meals…

“Today our goal to offer every infant child a healthy, tasty school meal has become a reality, a move that will put money back in parents’ pockets while ensuring all children get the best possible start in life.”

“The government has provided £1bn to meet the costs of the meals over the next two years.

“In addition, it has made £150m available to improve kitchen and dining facilities, plus an extra £22.5m for small schools.

“Schools will have a legal duty to offer the meals, which are expected to save families £400 per year per child.”


New Zealand

NZ flag food“Mana Party leader Hone Harawira’s member’s bill to provide free breakfasts to all low decile schools is due before Parliament in coming weeks but is unlikely to get majority support.” Source

I didn’t pass.  Just breakfast for low decile schools – not even all schools – just those at the sharp end – and it STILL didn’t pass.

So, charities are again filling the gaps:

  • “On Friday 5 September Campbell Live is bringing back its popular ‘Lunch Box’ day in support of the KidsCan Charitable Trust. A $3 donation can be made by texting LUNCH to 2448, with 100 per cent of proceeds going to the charity.” Source
  • “KickStart Breakfast – a national programme supplying Fonterra Anchor milk and Sanitarium Weetbix for breakfast. All schools across all deciles are eligible, including teen parent units and Alternative Education providers.” Source
  • “Fonterra Milk for Schools – a nationwide programme that supplies free milk to all primary schools (Years 1-6)” Source
  • “KidsCan – a national charity that supplies equipment and food for breakfast and lunch programmes, as well as supplying items to address other student needs, such as raincoats, shoes and head lice treatment.” Source

Rest of the world

brazil flag foodFinland and Sweden provide state-funded free school meals.

Other countries like the UK… provide state-funded free meals to eligible students, and some such as Brazil and Chile provide state-funded free meals to schools with high levels of deprivation.


Aotearoa, let’s do this

Come on, New Zealand, it’s not too much to ask that kids are assured on one decent meal a day on school days so they can concentrate and learn.  It’s time to get this sorted out.  Let’s do this.


Destiny Church – so many questions

So, Destiny Church school is eyeing up its options after being turned down as a charter school. Why would that be?  Why would a private school suddenly want to be a charter school and then, failing that, become a public school?

Funding for Integrated Schools

moneyThe Herald report that as at 2011, and in its present form, the school “charges tuition fees from $65 to $85 a week and received a $266,000 operations grant from the Ministry of Education,” but it would be entitled to more tax payer funding should it become integrated.

As a state integrated school, it would get the same government funding for each student as other public schools. In 2013 this was $5,837 per primary student and $7,521 per secondary student.

In addition, it would be allowed to charge fees.  Not donations, but fees – not optional.

So it could arguably be quids in.  (Or is that dollars in?)

And, of course, it would get to retain ownership of its buildings and land.

Transformational Education?

A Destiny spokesperson said that the move would allow the school to take it “transformational model” of education to more children.

I would like to know more about this “transformational model” – what makes it so amazing?  Is it really that amazing at all?  And if it is, then why did the government turn them down as a charter school?

They have tried to become an integrated school before, and were turned down.  And their charter school bid was turned down.  It doesn’t look like the Ministry think anything miraculous is going on there, does it?

So many questions.


Sources and further reading:
Destiny school eyes state aid – NZ Herald

Per student funding in New Zealand state and state integrated schools

Destiny Church school applies for state funding – TV3

Destiny Church’s charter school application declined – NZ Herald

DestinyChurch – Wikipedia

Government continues bid to remove political independence of teachers – NZEI

stressThe government has ignored the overwhelming concerns of New Zealanders in its bid to quash the political independence of the teaching profession.

The Education Amendment Bill has been reported back to the House with a recommendation that it be passed.

The legislation will makes it easier for unqualified and unregistered people to act as teachers in charter schools as well as removing the right of teachers to directly elect their own professional body.

“The government has completely disregarded the overwhelming number of submissions which called on it to allow the new teacher representative body to remain professionally rather than politically driven,” says NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter.

“Instead, once the legislation is passed, the Minister will handpick representatives for the new EDUCANZ body being set up to replace the Teachers’ Council.

“What other professional body has their representatives chosen by the Minister of the day rather than electing their own representatives?”

“This legislation is about ideology and undermining the teaching profession – not about addressing the needs of all New Zealand children and ensuring their right to quality public education.

“The government has also disregarded the views of New Zealanders who have made it clear they don’t want unqualified and unregistered people teaching in our schools.

“This is a major step backwards and will put the education of many children at risk.

“I am sure that New Zealanders will see how this legislation completely contradicts the government’s rhetoric about wanting to improve the quality of education.”

Charter schools, competition and choice, New Orleans Style

oneappNew Orleans’ Recovery School District is the first in the USA to become 100% charter schools.

To apply for a school place, parents must use the OneApp system.  Before that system was introduced, parents had to send in individual applications to all the schools they were interested in, and then hope.  The OneApp system was brought in to make things easier and prevent any “funny business” taking place regarding who got what place.

Sadly, it’s not all gone to plan.

Parents interviewed by the Nola Defender, were not happy at all:  “Yesterday, I got there at 7am and by 10, they told me to go home because there was already 300 people inside and they couldn’t take anymore,” she said. “Today, I got here at 8 and it took me about 4 hours to get this done.”

And it’s not exactly improved choice, despite reformers’ constant battle cry that charter schools and reforms are ALL about choice.  One mother finally got her children “into a school on the West Bank, despite the fact that they reside on the East Bank.”   In fact, after days of queueing, no toilets, no shade, and pure frustration “at this point, most parents are simply settling for any school that their children can attend despite being told that they have a choice in placement with the open enrolment policy.”

This from Karran Harper Royal:

This week we saw major problems with the RSD’s One App system.

Contrary to popular belief, most parents were not in that line simply because they waited too long to apply for a school for their child. What we saw can also be attributed to the state takeover our our public school system and place it into control of people who don’t have to answer to the people of New Orleans through our democratic process.

Due to the takeover, parents no longer have a right to a public school and must apply to have a seat in any school.

New families moving to New Orleans who may have completely unaware that they needed to start the process months ago were also among those in the lines.

Giving children a guaranteed right of first refusal to schools in their neighborhood is one way to remove the angst and stress families face in applying to schools.

This does not mean students would be trapped in failing schools, after all, we now have fewer failing schools if you believe what the current propaganda is telling you. Isn’t this why the RSD keeps closing schools, to get rid of failing schools. This means children have a greater chance of going to a non failing school in their neighborhood.

This short 5:42 documentary [below] shows you how all of this got started. 


When it comes to competition and choice, charter schools are failing New Orleans’ Recovery School District, just as they are when it comes to improving education.

But of course, someone came out of it okay…. those running the schools.

Go figure.


Further reading:


Cameras in schools are not the answer

Home SecurityChildren need to be safe.  That’s a given.  But I am not convinced security cameras in schools are the answer.

In fact, I would argue that if a school has got to the point of needing cameras in order to ensure student safety, it is already a dysfunctional place.

If the only thing that stops a person behaving badly is the fear of being caught, they are just going to find the best ways not to get caught.  It is not an incentive to behave well.

A better aim is to educate students such that being a good person is the goal, and alongside that there has to be a firm and clear message that poor behaviour and bullying are not accepted.

Education and a communal focus on good citizenship is the answer.

Parents, staff, students and the wider community need to be on the same page as far as humanly possible. Where that’s not happening, there needs to be a clear plan to improve things.  Not just from the school but from other agencies as well.

Put cameras up and anyone determined to bully will just find the blind spots.  They will cyber bully.  They will bully on the way home.  They will find a way.

Cameras are not the answer.


Cameras in schools in NZ?

Surveillance cameras in New Jersey schools

Great teachers just give the kid a pencil

I just had to share this wonderful article which speaks to a very important quality of the best teaching that is often overlooked – compassion and care.

~ Dianne


Give The Kid A Pencil, by Chad Donohue, published at Teaching Tolerance

I recently taught a university course in Seattle for graduate students seeking master’s degrees in teaching. In one lesson, our focus was on creating a psychologically safe learning environment for students. It was an issue of managing students and supplies. I posed a question:

If a student shows up to class without a pencil, how should the teacher respond?

Small groups collaborated for a few minutes. Ultimately, they came up with plans involving taking something (a shoe?) from the student as collateral to remind the student about the importance of having supplies, notifying parents and even assigning classroom cleanup duty or lunch detention.

pencil heart“What about you, Prof?” they asked.

“I would give the kid a pencil,” I said.

“You mean the first time?” someone asked.

“Every time,” I said.

This evidently had not occurred to them. There must be some punishment, subtle humiliation or a response that makes the kid pay for the error, right? They were concerned that my action would reinforce and reward poor behavior, possibly even help develop bad habits.

What they failed to see is that the teacher is not the cause of the problem. Likely, the student has been doing this for years. The teacher can respond by criticizing the child in front of the class, reminding him that pencils are required at school, making her give up something as collateral or inflicting some punishment as a power move.

Or the instructor can simply provide the pencil and say, “There will always be a pencil here for you. Don’t ever worry about asking me for a pencil. I have hundreds of them.”

By eliminating the anxiety that comes when students worry about being called out or humiliated in front of their peers, teachers reduce the chance that students will skip class, give up, become defiant or develop mysterious “illnesses” that cause them to stay home….

Read more here:  Give The Kid A Pencil

NZ’s Charter Schools Small and Expensive – QPEC

NZ’s charter schools are proving to be small and expensive, according to figures obtained under the Official Information Act.

The 1 March roll returns confirm a total of only 367 students were enrolled in the first five charter schools, which makes this an expensive experiment”, says QPEC Chairperson Bill Courtney.

In contrast to their small size, there is a high level of cash funding, as detailed payments obtained under the Official Information Act show quite clearly.”

Over $6 million has been paid out to the sponsors of these schools in one-off, non-recoverable Establishment Payments.

In addition, the regular Operational funding is proving to be higher than local State schools in the same area.

If the purpose of charter schools was to create alternatives in places such as South Auckland, then the funding comparisons need to be fair.

Our point is simple: if the government is prepared to throw that much funding at charter schools, then why aren’t they prepared to do the same for ALL the children of South Auckland? Give them all a chance!”

Small Size

The first five charter schools commenced operation this year. Sponsor contracts and the Roll Returns as at 1 March 2014 (released on the Education Counts website) reveal the following:


Establishment Payment



Minimum Roll



Actual Roll

@ 1 March

South Auckland Middle School





Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru





Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa





Rise Up Academy





Vanguard Military School










* The Whangaruru school also received part of its operational property funding in advance to assist with property development.

So, to date, the Ministry of Education has paid a total of $6.28 million in one-off Establishment Payments to the Sponsors of the schools. Costs have also been incurred, no doubt, inside the Ministry to assist the schools to open.

Based on the 1 March roll returns, two schools have opened at or above the contractual Guaranteed Minimum Roll for 2014 while three are below.

A significant proportion of the Operational funding for each school comprises Base Funding and allowances for Property and Insurance, to ensure the schools are viable. These figures are based on the Maximum Roll for each school, i.e. what is estimated as necessary to fund the schools as they grow towards their target roll.

The “Per Student” and the “Centrally Funded” components of the Operational Payment are based initially on the Guaranteed Minimum Roll and will vary in future as the school roll changes.

The following breakdown of the annual Operational Payment for 2014 paid to each school has been obtained from the Ministry of Education under the Official Information Act.


Property / Insurance

Base Funding

Centrally Funded

Per Student


Payment ($ p.a.)

$ per student based on 1 March Roll

South Auckland Middle School







Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru







Te Kura Hourua O Whangarei Terenga Paraoa







Rise Up Academy







Vanguard Military School









State School Funding

Comparisons between the funding model for charter schools and the funding for State schools are not straightforward. Differences arise in how several of the component parts of the funding model are treated.

Charter schools receive all of their funding through a “cashed up” approach, where every component is paid in cash direct to the Sponsor on a quarterly basis.

State schools receive their funding in various ways, with only the Operations Grant paid directly to the school as a cash sum. In addition, each State school receives a Teaching Entitlement, based on its size and roll. Boards of Trustees employ the principals and teachers, who are paid through the centrally operated payroll system but with their costs charged back against the Board’s accounts.

Funding for property maintenance is paid in cash through the Operations Grant but funding for property development and capital works is funded centrally through an allocation set every 5 years for each school.

It is possible to make a direct comparison between one of the charter schools, The Rise Up Academy, and local state schools. Rise Up is a Year 1 to 6 primary school located in Mangere and its funding can be compared to the other local state primary schools in the Mangere/Otahuhu area.

The following table shows the detailed information shown for each school on the Education Counts website, under the information tab “Find A School”.





Teacher Salaries


Funding per student















Jean Batten














Mangere Bridge







Mangere East







Mountain View







Nga Iwi

























This table does not include capital property funding or the access that State schools would have had to Centrally Funded services, such as Resource Teachers. But it must also be noted that State school property expenditure will be on assets that the Crown owns and retains after development. Boards of Trustees have significant influence over how this property development takes place at their school, but in the end, the asset is on the Crown balance sheet and not that of the Board of Trustees.

~ QPEC (Quality Public Education Coalition)

Privatise all the things! Oh, wait…

hekia_parata_maniacleThe dementor is in full swing, fairly skipping up the path of global education reform (GERM) throwing rose petals and blank cheques in her path, just behind her good pals George Bush, Michael Gove, Arne Duncan, Tony Blair and the other GERMers determined to leave our kids’ education to the whims of the market place.

Ooh I bet they are having one heck of a party!

Privatise all the things

Good job, too. I’m so very glad they are selling it all off.  Schools schmools.

I mean, the free market has worked so very well in all other aspects of our lives, hasn’t it, with reasonable power prices, good telecoms services, stable housing market, no Wall Street crashes that rock the entire world markets.

Oh wait.  I’m making a Hekia style faux pas here, aren’t I?  A blunder, if you will.

Because privatisation does not necessarily improve services.  In fact it can make them worse.  And more costly. Much more costly.

Which is all a bit of a concern for me, because I like to know my tax dollars are being stent wisely, not just ferreted off into a poorly performing private sector company that doesn’t match what the public sector was doing in the first place.

I’m picky like that,

It’s not just me, though – even the Treasury has pointed out that private companies don’t do better than public ones – even if they are perceived to because they cherry pick their ‘clients’:

Private not better than public schools

In fact public schools beat private ones hands down, despite having to cater for all students of all abilities, backgrounds, behaviours, and so on.  Wow. Maybe we shouldn’t privatise all the things after all.

Maybe I should also go read what Allan has to say on the matter, since he has been at the sticky end of education for more years than I.  He’s not teaching any more, so he has no vested interest whatsoever in how it all pans out.  Let’s see what he says

“As I’ve been saying for several years, National’s education policies have nothing to do with education, regardless of their spin about ‘raising achievement’ for all. This will come as no surprise to ‘thinking’ people but man, there are many out there who are still unable to open their eyes to the reality.

This includes far too many principals who damn well should know better.

Warning people – National and its cronies are set on a path to destroy New Zealand’s public education at all levels. The privatisation process is on full speed ahead. We have six months to stop it.”

Jeepers, he is rather concerned, and he has found a number of others thinking the same way…

I think I had best go and read the full thing.  Bear with…

Okay, I’m back.  So … maybe…. mayyyyybe…. just a thought, but maybe there are lots of folk out there that want to support and improve our public schools rather than cripple them and sell them off?

Like, off the top of my head, all those parents whose children will be at the mercy of this shackled and broken system, taught by a demoralised profession forced to focus only on test scores in maths and English.

And maybe the old who, when those kids are grown up, have to live in a world now run by them, at the mercy of the economy they create with their great test-taking skills (and high depression rate).  Maybe they’d prefer well-rounded and well-educated people in charge instead?

jobsAnd, hey here’s a thought – maybe the students themselves would like to be considered more than the sum of their numeracy and literacy.

Because, y’know, there could also be artists and dentists and musicians and physicists and counsellors and gardeners and dancers and doctors and hairdressers and chefs and inventors and, well to be honest, every single person in every single job and in every part of their lives needs more than to just be good at reading, writing and maths.  Those things are great – essential – but they are not everything.

So, I think maybe I will stick with supporting public schools to remain just that – public.

For the good of everyone.

Novopay – patience is fast running out

The Novopay system continues to fail hardworking school support staff, teachers and principals, NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter said today. 

bad computerThe year’s second pay cycle this week left 350 principals underpaid a career step allowance along with reports of multiple other under-payments and errors. 

The year’s first pay cycle earlier this month had a considerably higher error rate than pay cycles last year, which Minister Steven Joyce blamed on data entry errors and the complexity of the school payroll.

However, this week’s principal payment error clearly lies with Novopay and its software systems.

Mr Goulter says the school payroll is no more complex this year than last year.

“The fact is that Novopay is not delivering and causing huge stress especially for school support staff who act as payroll officers.

“No matter how much the Minister promotes self-service on-line and a help desk, the system itself is so flawed that it is causing unprecedented problems, stress, time and money.

“The Ministry of Education cannot be seen as a good employer if this situation continues.  The school workforce has been patient for more than a year, but that patience is fast running out.”


Wanganui 1: Christchurch 0 – the education game

So, Christchurch schools were forced to close  because of falling rolls…

But Wanganui Collegiate, in an area with 1400+ unused school places, is given bailout after bailout.

Guess which of these schools was a private school?

Guess which was rescued from debts of over $800k despite having assets worth millions?

Guess which had rolls that were growing?

Yet more evidence of the way this government favours private business over public schools and looks after the top few at the expense of the majority of ordinary New Zealanders.  Shame on them.

And who wants to join me in betting that Wanganui is a charter school within a couple of years, with higher level decile 3 funding and not much oversight?  I’m willing to put a tenner on it right now.

Labour - education and inequality 2

politicians and private schools

Dom Post quake hekia cartoon

Private not better than public schools

Marlene Campbell needs our urgent support – by Kelvin Smythe

justiceA gross injustice is unfolding, has been unfolding, at Salford School in Southland.

I believe it will end up as New Zealand education’s equivalent of the Dreyfus Case, there is also a sense of Javert obsession about it.

The basis for what I write comes from knowledge accrued, not immediately obtained.

The ministry ought to act very quickly, acknowledge the original basis was wrong, the processes wrong – and issue an apology and a reinstatement. It will cost them if they don’t.

There will be people reading this who will be thinking where there is smoke there must be a fire; I want to say now, as unbelievable as it may seem – there is no fire, in the sense we understand a fire in education terms.

This, of course, goes back to the Tolley era and the fight against national standards and the authoritarian nature of its introduction.  But even people who were strong opponents of national standards were sometimes taken aback at some of Marlene’s utterances. ‘What is she like?’ they asked.

Well she is the salt of the earth. She is not a raving lefty, she is a National Party voter (or was); she runs a highly modern school, highly computerised, all the buttons and bows in assessment, and so on; she is innovative if a little trendy; and in the district she has been behind a wonderful series of curriculum conferences.

Marlene is a proud New Zealand principal who wants to work in a framework of freedom incorporating reasonable oversight, then she wants the space to exercise her kind of leadership in the interests of children, the teachers, and the Salford community. She has and always had the backing of her board of trustees, though they did say to her from time to time, as I did, to tone it down.

Marlene is all of us. You might shudder a little at the thought, but she is. All principals with any sense of independence know they are subject to the review office suddenly appearing with attitude, an attitude arising from a secret letter. Often creepy allegations are made, yet the principal is not privy to the contents of the letter or who sent it. The education review office justifies this on the grounds of protecting people, but the authorities are there to do that, what this secrecy leads to is authorities being provided with secret police-type control. Schools should see the allegations and know who made them – that is a basic principle of justice. The secret letter Kafkan tactic is being pulled regularly against principals who show the faintest indications of independence. And there is little comeback.

This happened to Marlene and is one to be fought out in court, but it is one that should have already been fought by NZPF.

Then there are the commissioners and limited statutory managers (LSM). These roles are a licence to rort. They are also an exercise in near unbridled power. I suppose I should first make the commonplace that there are some fair-minded, honest commissioners out there. The way these commissioner roles are structured sends out weird signals. You see, the longer they stay in the roles the longer they will be paid. Many of them are in thereto solve difficulties that would have been sorted in a few days by the inspectorate, but they are extended for years. (You may remember I was a senior inspector of schools.) In fact, of course, most times commissioners are not there to solve real problems but to punish schools for being at all independent so they must invent problems. Then there is the signal that works against justice: LSMs are paid by the school; the children, as a result, are being punished for the actions of adults whether within schools or officials outside. In relation to justice, the costs to the school become a perverse incentive to forgo justice and go against the principal in the school.(By the way, I’m also hearing from schools about commissioner’s inflated travel and accommodation costs.)

In the Salford damages’ court case almost certain to ensue it will be necessary to go back to the shenanigans begun from Tolley’s office. As is widely known use was made of Whale Oil and the media to set up teachers and schools they decided to target.

The apparatus of the New Zealand education system is oppressive and against natural justice with the education review office central to that.

It began officially with an accusation from a letter held in the secret files of the review office. Yes – as is the way, Marlene was then accused of actions never made clear and from whom. It is so Kafkan.

Of course, the review office recommended an LSM. That LSM was Peter Macdonald, the individual around whom much rumour has swirled, particularly so when his judgement and fairness was called into question over his sacking of Prue Taylor of Christchurch Girls High. Prue Taylor you will remember was reinstated in her position.

Macdonald was appointed to Salford a year ago.

One of the first of Macdonald’s actions on being made LSM was to reinstate a teacher who had been dismissed, following due process, by the board of trustees. I suspect that reinstatement was done summarily and with little or no discussion.

When this whole matter goes to court seeking damages and Marlene’s reinstatement, I have little doubt that Macdonald’s incompetence in the primary school setting will be made clear, and that many of Macdonald’s directions will be seen as both asinine and illegal. I have little doubt that Marlene will be shown as having treaded very carefully throughout, no matter the provocation.

Let us jump forward to last week.

The board of trustees had had enough of the expenditure of money and Macdonald’s antics. They set about engineering Macdonald’s dismissal by announcing they were going to resign thus necessitating the appointment of a commissioner. The chairman added that his board retained full confidence in the principal who was highly successful and innovative. He said she had the enthusiastic support of nearly all the teachers and parents. Macdonald, he said, had done more harm than good.

cannot speak upMacdonald, it seems, panicked, a letter was sent to the lawyer late on Friday, 1 November, with Marlene being suspended without consultation. The manner of Macdonald’s actions in suspending her was clearly designed to cast Marlene in the worst possible light. To further set the scales against her he forbade her to say anything about it.

To suspend a principal late on Friday without notice and inform the teachers early on Monday morning, and then make announcements to the press is quite sensational. Is this an axe murderer on the rampage who must be stopped?

I now go to this morning’s Southland Times, Wednesday, 6 November.

Macdonald says he suspended the principal ‘because of concerns for the welfare of staff at the school.’

Now follow this closely.

He says: ‘an investigation into the working environment at Invercargill’s Salford School over the last few years was continuing.’

OK good – is the report damming of Marlene? He doesn’t say (it isn’t). This report is being done by a lawyer and the chairman. How could it be damming given the chairman’s glowing tributes to Marlene?

‘But after receiving an ‘interim summary’ of the investigation last week he had decided to take action.’

‘He declined to outline his specific concerns.’

Well, of course.

Natural justice demands that he showed those ‘concerns’ to Marlene. He didn’t. Macdonald is in deep shit here. He suspended her on Friday and announces it early on Monday morning. Such transcendental haste could only be occasioned by transcendental concerns, or by motivations unrelated to a concern for justice and fairness.

Now do you want to know what it was really about?

You are going to find this difficult to believe but the excuse for Marlene’s suspension, it seems, was a discussion by senior staff members on 30 October, with Marlene not present, and certainly not motivating the discussion, about professional behaviour in the interests of the school.

Marlene’s stance all along being that in the interests of the children she can work professionally with anybody on the staff – she has done that she said, and can continue to do that.

I’ll leave it now to the board chairman – something of a hero don’t you think?

Aaron Fox says: ‘… the school’s staff were doing a fantastic job in challenging circumstances [this is really a reference to Macdonald’s presence] and the children were enjoying their schooling.’

‘Throughout the last 12 months of a limited statutory manager they have continued to deliver quality teaching to our children, and that’s all of the staff. I see them working as a team.’

‘Mr Fox last week said the “unfortunate” statutory intervention had created more problems that it had intended to fix and had become a financial drain on the school.’

What a madness this all is.

‘The Ministry of Education indicated it had no role in the suspension of Ms Campbell.’


The ministry is as guilty as sin because of the way they set up these situations in the first place. Take my word for it, they had better act quickly to absolve themselves. Salford has all the appearance of an everyday education darkness being exposed to the light as a result of what seems a ministry appointment’s brain explosion.

Marlene must not be left hang out to dry in the way Keri was. (Oh, and by the way, where is STA in all of this?)

by Kelvin Smythe

Kelvin’s origonal article can be found here.

One in five gets a raw deal in NZ…

Funny how on one hand we’ve got Hekia Parata having a pink fit that 1 in 5 leaves school without NCEA2 in maths and English….

and on the other hand Paula Bennett saying 1 in 5 children in poverty ain’t so bad….

and both insisting there is no link between the two….


Paula and Hekia 1 in 5


Might want to read some actual research on that, ladies….

To improve student achievement, we must face the real problems

Who achieves what in secondary schooling? A conceptual and empirical analysis

Child Poverty Expert Goes it Alone – Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills has decided to publish his own annual stock take of child poverty after the Government spurned his call to publish official measures and targets.

Mind The Gap – A documentary about growing inequality and poverty in New Zealand, by Bryan Bruce


School reforms – wolf in sheep’s clothing

wolf in sheep's clothing


Beware the global education reform movement (GERM)

Testing, testing, 1-2-3: Who wins from standardised tests?

Standardised testing is widespread in the USA.

The results are used for all manner of things.

In some districts, students are forbidden to graduate school if their test scores are not high enough.

In some schools, teachers are sacked if their students’ scores are deemed too low for that year.

Long-standing, highly thought of teachers are resigning resigning resigning over this.

Why? It is leading to a “drill and kill” style of schooling where all that matters is the test.

Who wins from this?

The testing companies.  They make millions.  Billions.

Pearson has a five-year, US $468 million contract to create Texas maths tests alone.

Tests that have  been found to have serious errors.

And the losers?

Meanwhile, as testing companies rack up the profits, who loses?

– Students who get a narrow curriculum that does not value an enquiring mind.

– Teachers who are sacked on very dubious grounds because of these dodgy tests results.

–  The 99%, as our education system is systematically pillaged.

Learning Testing

A bomb about to explode

This is how one 14 year old A grade student felt when sitting one of these tests:

~ A 14 Year Old Speaks Out About Testing ~

“Today I have experienced one of the most confidence breaking and mind troubling obstacles in my entire life; the Algebra 1 Keystone exam for the State of Pennsylvania. When I sat down to take this standardized test, I did not know what I was getting myself into. My math teacher had been preparing us for this test, but even with all that drill and practice, my mind could not take it all in.

The first 14 questions took me over 10 minutes each when I was trying to solve the unfamiliar equations, long word problems, and words I didn’t even know how to pronounce. I was telling myself that I was going to be fine until all of the stress overwhelmed my body. I was frustrated. “I should know this,” I thought. I wasn’t even half way done when they announced that there were only 10 minutes remaining. I only completed my first set of grueling questions, and still had another set of them and 2 short answer sections containing at least 6 more questions each. I wouldn’t get help from a,b,c or d with these.

At that moment, my mind broke down. I was telling myself that I was stupid, and that these kinds of tests make me feel like I don’t know anything. After hours of work, I still had so much more. It is extremely difficult to continue concentrating at the same intense level as you did when you first started. I was sick and tired of looking at those same boring Algebra problems.

I am an A average student all around, and score advanced on PSSA’s. But I couldn’t even read the next problem without all of those discouraging thoughts spiraling in my mind. I tried telling myself to pull through, but I found myself not caring anymore, and just wanting to circle some letter. I did that for two or three questions and stopped.

I dropped my pencil on my desk, tried taking some deep breaths, and thought of ripping my booklet into shreds. I poked holes in my booklet with my pencil, and started squeezing my hands tightly as if I was going to explode. I was that angry, outraged, fuming.

I felt so incredibly frustrated that these stupid test companies don’t care what they are doing to the students of our country. All they want is the money, and the worst part is, nothing is being done to stop them. Why don’t the politicians making my generation the most over tested in history try the tests for themselves? I bet most of them would fail or do poorly. I mean, if smart, educated people don’t do well on these tests, than what do they show?

These Keystone tests are breaking kids down, making us feel dumb and not want to learn, instead of making us want to enjoy the wonders and greatness of education. I know that when most people in my grade hear the words, standardized testing, no one is jumping up and down with excitement.

I am an 8th grade student in the Lower Merion School District: a district known for their excellent education. When kids here are complaining about how difficult it is for us to take these tests, who knows what kids in struggling school districts are experiencing. Why should these tests be a graduation requirement for high school?

After my big meltdown from the frustration of not knowing how in the world to do these problems, I didn’t continue my test. I told the guidance counselor I couldn’t take it any more, and how it made me feel horrible inside. Although I kept calm on the outside, on the inside I was bomb about to explode. I was holding back my tears.

I bet many other kids felt this same way, even if it wasn’t as strongly as I felt. I will tell you one thing, I am never taking one of those tests again. No test shall ever make me feel as low and deflated as I did today. I don’t care what alternative project I have to do in exchange for the Keystone test. Let me be exempted. No one should experience what I have experienced today. Standardized testing needs to be stopped.”

By Jordyn Schwartz

Jordyn’s letter can be found here.

Testing in Aotearoa

We are not at this stage yet in Aotearoa, thank goodness.  But it’s closer than you think.  In the USA it’s entrenched and the same is true of Australia…    And in NZ the upcoming PaCT system  – a computerised National Standards assessment tool – will bring us one step closer to this horror here.

This is why a strong coalition  of principal and teacher leaders rejected the Government’s decision to make PaCT mandatory from 2015.  They want to keep teaching and learning authentic.

But the Ministry is not above bullying and threatening schools to gain compliance.

Which means any resistance must come also from parents and students: Prepare to fight to protect our schools from this madness.

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