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The Key to Reforming Education is…

Is it trained professional teachers?

Is it a balanced and wide curriculum?

Is it appropriate buildings and equipment?

Is it policies based on sound pedagogical research?

Oooh tell me, tell me, I need to know, how do we make the education system magnificent?

“How we talk about reform, how we deliver our messages, and with whom we communicate will make a big difference when it comes to winning the education reform conversation.”

Ahh. I see.

So the key to successful education reforms is not good policies or trained professional educators, or appropriate equipment and staff – it’s … wait for it ….  Marketing.



spin doctor puppetAnd who tells us this?  The wise and kindly people at Canvas, who are – they say – all about excellence in education.

And they must be, because they promise to teach us to “refine messaging to different audiences”, and we all know that sound pedagogy = a good PR campaign. Doesn’t it?

You can see from their brief CVs that they are indeed passionate educators:

  • One worked for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
  • Another was Jeb Bush’s  communications director.
  • One even has a background at Proctor and Gamble, marketing Bounce, and nothing says sound pedagogy like soft fluffy linen.

Oh, wait, you mean that not one of them has any background in education? Not even a brief TFA job. Go figure.

But look, let’s not be cynical – they must be good because the course is a full five hours long and can be done on your phone.

And it says that if you complete the course you get ‘a digital badge and a certificate’!  Wahoo – gimme those pixels.

Annnd – unlike the tests these reformers like to foist on our kids – this course isn’t tested or examined! No siree, none of that testing carry on for the good ole education reform vanguard!

You’d think – given they are selling marketing skills – they might have done a better PR job on their own ‘boot camp’, eh?  Unless, of course, it is aimed at those already on the reform bandwagon and they don’t really give a monkeys what us educators think…


Geez, there is just no school choice in NZ.

you have no choiceI mean for goodness sake, if I want to send the Banshee to my choice of school I only have these piddly few options below.

Bloody madness!

Types of schools

Here are the main types of schools available in NZ.

  • An area school accepts students from years 1 to 13. Area schools are often located in rural areas.
  • composite school (like an area school) provides both primary and secondary education, but depending on its classification may not provide the full range of year levels to year 13.
  • At a bilingual school teachers and children teach and learn in both English and another language for up to 20-hours a week (most often English and Māori).
  • The Correspondence School provides distance learning for students who live a long way from their nearest school. Students may also study with The Correspondence School if they have a medical condition, have special education needs, or meet the gifted and talented criteria for enrolment. You can use the enrolment eligibility wizard to find out if your child is eligible to enrol at The Correspondence School.
  • Designated character school is a state school that teaches the New Zealand Curriculum but has developed their own sets of aims, purposes and objectives to reflect their own particular values. For example religious beliefs or culture.
  • Independent (or private) schools charge fees, but also receive some funding from the government. They are governed by their own independent boards and must meet certain standards to be registered with the Ministry of Education. They don’t have to follow the New Zealand Curriculum but must follow a learning programme of at least the same quality.
  • Intermediate schools provide education for year 7 and 8 students.
  • Te kura kaupapa Māori are state schools where the teaching is in te reo Māori and is based on Māori culture and values. These schools follow the curriculum for Māori-medium teaching, learning and assessment, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.A key goal of kura kaupapa is to produce students who are equally skilled in communicating in both Māori and English. Kura kaupapa generally provide education for students from years 1 to 8 or years 1 to 13.
    Wharekura are schools that cater for students above year 8. Some wharekura cater for years 1 to 10, some are years 1 to 13 and some are years 9 to 13.
  • Middle schools accept students from years 7-10.
  • Primary schools generally cater for students aged between 0-8 (full primary) although some only go up to year 6 (contributing schools).
  • Regional health schools are for students with significant health difficulties who can’t attend their local school because they are in hospital, recovering at home, or gradually returning to school. Teachers work with students both in hospital and at home.New Zealand’s three regional health schools jointly cover the whole country and are based out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. More information about regional health schools, including entry criteria, is available from the Ministry of Education.
  • Secondary schools. Although most secondary schools accept students from year 9-13, some cater for years 7-13.
  • State schools. Most New Zealand schools are state schools which receive government funding. State schools can be primary, intermediate, middle, secondary or area/composite. Generally they accept both boys and girls at primary and intermediate levels (years 0-8), although some secondary schools offer single-sex education. Lessons are based on the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • State-integrated schools used to be private and have now become part of the state system. They teach the New Zealand Curriculum but keep their own special character (usually a philosophical or religious belief) as part of their school programme. State-integrated schools receive the same government funding for each student as other state schools but their buildings and land are privately owned, so they usually charge compulsory fees called “attendance dues” to meet property costs.
  • Special schools provide education for children with particular needs, arising from special talents, learning or behavioural issues. They use the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • Teen parent units are attached to some secondary schools and cater for students who are pregnant or raising a child and who cannot practically attend a mainstream school.


Jeepers!  Is that IT!!!!!!

Best add in another type of school because, man, I need to start a nice profitable business I need more choice!


$80 Million in new money for education? New? really?

Today Hekia Parata came out of the woodwork after a lengthy quiet period (in hiding?  Bali?  Who knows…) and took great delight in telling Kiwis that she was giving $80,000,000 of new money to schools.

She used the phrase “new money” in many a press release and interview,  and yet she herself admits that other programmes will be cut to help find the $80  Million.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know budgets mean things are cut and other things are brought in  – the money does a shuffle, new priorities appear  and so on.   But it’s just pure political pre-budget spin to keep saying it’s  “new money” as if it has been simply added to the current spend.  Luckily now every just accepts the headlines – and even some of the mainstream media (msm) questioned the spin this time.

So why pretend it is new money?

Why the constant spin?

Why the smoke and mirrors?

And why the feel-good announcement prior to the budget?

Is the full education budget announcement going to be THAT bad that they have to sweeten us up?

Heaven help us if it is, given the onslaught education has seen this past year, t’s hard to imagine it could get worse.

But then it can, and it will, with the continued debacle over National Standards and the faulty tests the results are based on, and the Charter Schools legislation about to be put through.

Can it get worse?   Yes.

And it will.

Charter Schools: Great advertising – Dodgy business

charter schools - dodgy business

Follow the money, people – follow the money.


Further reading:

Does anyone remember being asked whether we want charter schools?

National and ACT make a pact to bring in charter schools

Campbell Live on Charter Schools

The Disempowerment of Public School Parents by Jeff Bryant

What is the most important thing? It is people.  It is people.  It is people.


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