PPTA News, February 2009
The start of the year has seen an increase in the number of schools struggling with financial problems, as well a some high-profile board sackings – and the new government is promising that even more heads may roll.
PPTA is cautioning against baying for blood however and is urging the Ministry of Education to take a serious look at New Zealand’s education system.
“That more and more schools are running into ﬁnancial and managerial difﬁculties shows the problem is systemic,” PPTA president Kate Gainsford said. She urged education minister Anne Tolley to focus on addressing the problems inherent in the Tomorrow’s Schools structure and avoid an approach that blames and shames individual boards and schools.
Tomorrow’s Schools placed the education system in the hands of local communities and the boards of trustees who are meant to represent them. There appears to be little back up however when the school community is divided or the board struggles to ﬁnd the knowledge, experience or money to make the system work.
“Every parent should be able to send their child to their local school conﬁdent that the system will ensure they are getting an excellent education, but, as we are discovering, Tomorrow’s Schools leaves some communities in difﬁcult positions.
It is easy to blame the boards, parents, teachers, even the students themselves, but much harder to ﬁx the structural problem,” she said.
PPTA has been calling for a review of the Tomorrow’s Schools governance system (see PPTA's 08 annual conference paper Tomorrow's schools: yesterday's mistake) but recent events suggest that the matter has become urgent.
Although at times other interested parties, like the New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA), have sought to position PPTA as opponents to the Tomorrow’s Schools model, history shows the association supported the initiative, Kate said.
“After all, the replacement of secondary boards of governors with boards of trustees was not actually a very big change. The 1988 PPTA submission did express concern that the new system would adversely affect standards and equity and, sadly, so far we have been proven correct.
“Our submission also pointed out the risks in removing what had been a national and regional support frame¬work for schools,” she said.
Kate felt the increasing number of management meltdowns indicated those fears were justiﬁed.
“It was a highly simplistic model given the complexity of running a school.
“Most of those who were most active in proposing the Tomorrows Schools reforms were ideologues who have now shot through leaving boards, parents, teachers and students picking up the pieces.
“We feel for the staff and students at schools who are under the media microscope because there is such a lack of understanding of the complexities of their situations. It is not helpful to indulge in accusations and ﬁnger-pointing.
“There is a need for New Zealanders to familiarise themselves with systems overseas that are a based on a cooperative, supportive network of schools that can make good use of the economies of scale - rather than the system of winners and losers that operates here,” she said. ▪