Trivialising the issue - fast-track teacher training programmes

New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association / Te Wehengarua (PPTA) president Robin Duff responds to NZ Herald business columnist Deborah Hill Cone's article "Super-rich superhero lends a hand".

Teachers have serious professional concerns regarding fast-track teacher training programmes

It's disappointing after all the information PPTA provided Deborah Hill Cone on the complexities around fast-track teacher training programmes that she could do no more than trivialise what are serious professional issues.

Teach First NZ is the suggested New Zealand scheme

Firstly it's inaccurate to announce the imminent arrival of American-inspired teach for all schemes in New Zealand when there is a variant already underway here.  It is called Teach First NZ and unlike the teach for all schemes is somewhat more credible and operates under the auspices of Auckland University.

PPTA has been in discussion with the  promoters of Teach First NZ and rather than "buying a fight" as Cone Hill vacuously describes it, we are raising some very real concerns about the model.

Current Teach First NZ proposals do not meet the requirements of New Zealand legislation

The PPTA has found the current proposal is in breach of both the State Sector Act and the Education Act; there is no evidence that entrants to the Teach First Course will be "brighter" than entrants to more conventional New Zealand pre-service secondary courses; there are problems with how schools will be funded for taking on these student teachers  and, a critical point for PPTA, is that these students will supposedly be responsible for the learning of anything up to 100 challenging adolescents after only six weeks of preparation - albeit very intensive preparation. We are also uneasy about the singular and somewhat patronising view these schemes take of the extensive range of problems faced by schools in low-income communities.


Hill Cone's volunteering at her local primary school is commended

These issues are a far cry from Hill Cone's fatuous comments that PPTA is opposed to her volunteering at her local primary school where she assumes no responsibility for the teaching and learning programme and is always under the supervision of a trained and qualified teacher.  Of course PPTA has no objection to parents helping out in this way. It's standard school practice and long may it continue.  Not only do schools benefit from this relationship but parents often get new understandings about the difficulties schools and teachers face.

Teacher education deserves a balanced and reasoned understanding of the issues

There is much contestable research about fast-track schemes so any claim that research is "independent" needs to be treated with caution and certainly doesn't mean that the results are valid.   For this reason, PPTA is funding a full literature review which is being undertaken by Murdoch University in Australia. We expect the report to provide a useful guide as to best practice in teacher education.  We certainly wouldn't tell Hill Cone "to ignore" a piece of research. We would much prefer she read them all and tried to come to a balanced and reasoned understanding.

Integrity and honesty are attributes demonstrated by most secondary teachers

Lastly, Hill Cone dismissively describes secondary teachers, 95% of whom belong to PPTA, as being "bossy, hairy and risk-averse".  Well they may be all of those things, none of them or some of them but one thing is for sure, they have considerably higher standards of honesty and integrity than she demonstrates.  An apology would be nice.


The NZ Herald have printed a retraction and added corrections to the online Cone Hill article. NZ Herald advise that the PPTA letter should be published on Friday 2 September.

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