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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Education politics

Posted by on in Education

It can be assumed that Roger Partridge attended school, ergo he is an educational expert.

But, in this exclusive we can reveal that he is actually… a superhero; able to ‘fix’ education with a single rant.

A global budget (which Principals, teachers, parents, Boards and support staff oppose) is actually about ‘innovation’. Bif! 

Having less money in schools for the very people who provide additional support for our most needy such as Teacher Aides and ultimately fewer teachers so that every kid can have an iPad instead will improve outcomes. Bang!


Having bigger classes because of a reduction in staffing to pay for other things will enable higher accountability and lift teaching quality. Pow! 

Alongside such socially minded vigilantism, Mr Partridge also gets time to read. 

Hattie’s research (which was trotted out in 2012 when removing a minimum number of guaranteed trained staff in schools and maximum class sizes was last attempted by the Neo-Liberal warriors) does claim that high quality teaching has a significant impact on educational outcomes- it’s kind of a no-brainer but researchers are good at repackaging those and ideologues good at paraphrasing them. However, as far as I’m aware that research did not correlate increased accountability measures, performance pay and larger class sizes with improved outcomes…. (Don’t worry Roger, you’re not the first to take liberties with Hattie’s research to substantiate your own reckons and despite the more nuanced films of the 2000’s we still don’t expect our superheroes to use brains over brute force every time!).

Nevertheless, the plots to narratives in this oeuvre do often find the hero enmeshed in traps due to their relative lack of intellect compared to the man on the street, adding tension to the final showdown. As such, pointing out that Hattie’s meta-analysis also found that feedback was critical to improvement for learners may be a bit beyond you- let’s give it a shot: what is the likelihood that feedback will suffer if there are ever more sardines in the classroom tin or teachers are even more busy than currently, filling out forms to meet accountability measures? 

Perhaps Superheroes can do maths too? Don’t worry if you can’t, modern day avengers don’t need to get bogged down with such detail as they leap several ironies in a single bound.

What the masses needs is a superhero. Cape flowing, undies on the outside, muscles rippling and an unequivocal focus on doing what’s right. A warrior who knows who the enemy is and will stop at nothing til they are brought down – and Mr Partridge knows who the enemy is:

Those nasty unions (who advocate for improved funding so teachers don’t have to buy kids lunches and books, so fees for ‘free’ education don’t have to skyrocket, so the kids who need extra support don’t have to miss out if the school hasn’t got enough in their pot or their families can’t afford it, those terrible unions who have advocated for PLD so that teachers can be the best they can be, who have the audacity to desire stable and healthy working conditions, those ne’er-do-wells who are anti progressive despite making the current government’s flagship Communities of Learning policy workable rather than an ideological carpet bomb) - it’s all their fault.

With the vision and power of your eponymous namesake, those low quality and protectionist teachers will be no match for “a partridge in their pedagogy.”


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The Ministry of Education has finally released the background papers for the funding review so now we have further evidence (if it is still needed) of the existence of a comprehensive plan to use the opportunity provided by the review to undermine public education in New Zealand. 

Ministry of education proposes to reduce resourcing for small rural secondary schools

The most amazing of these papers is the one euphemistically entitled Funding to support small schools.  It does nothing of the sort. Instead it proposes the same failed answer that the ministry proffered recently for the funding of special education in New Zealand  - that is to take money out of schools to fund earlier intervention. This time, the ministry believes it has found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow called small rural secondary schools.

“Overall, it would appear that secondary and composite schools are relatively generously treated as compared to primary schools across all roll sizes.”

Ministry of education fails to understand why or how resourcing delivered to schools ... and fails to ask!

I am sure we are all delighted that the ministry of education which funds schools and prepares the staffing orders that deliver teachers to schools, and manages the processes whereby schools reduce staff, has finally noticed that funding and staffing formula are more generous for small schools. It is less delightful that they do not appear to understand why that it is.

Let me spell it out.  Small secondary schools are more generously funded and staffed in order that they may provide a range of senior subjects for students. The formulae are necessarily different for primary and secondary schools because of the difference in staffing a single teacher for each class at primary school and providing a range of teachers in order to offer students a variety of subjects at secondary levels.

It beggars belief, firstly that ministry staff don’t understand this and secondly that they did not think to either visit a rural secondary school or at least phone a principal and ask them what they did with the cornucopia of staffing and funding the ministry so generously provides.

Small rural secondary schools require staff to deliver specialist subjects at senior curriculum levels

Instead the ministry invents a straw man – two separate funding formulae (to serve two different purposes) must be questioned as to  “appropriateness”.   Actually it is entirely appropriate because these schools have a mix of primary and secondary students and must deliver generalist and specialist programmes. 

"The key question is the appropriateness of applying two different approaches to addressing the implications of small size to a single institution. Such schools are likely to view themselves, and operate as, a single institution – not a separate intermediate and secondary school." 1

It does not seem to understand either, that the formula operate as a transparent, national distribution mechanism and that it is most unlikely that a school would ever treat its staffing as anything other than a single package.  (Not wishing to overegg the pudding here – that would not have required much effort to find out.)

Convenient misunderstanding, when working within capped budget terms of reference

Perhaps the ministry was deliberate in not trying to find out what happens on the ground; given the capped budget for this review it may have preferred not to know about the serious equity problem rural secondary schools face.  It certainly would not like to hear that they are more likely to be underfunded than suffering from the embarrassment of riches that the ministry presupposes.

A secondary student in an urban area will not only have a choice of schools but also a large menu (probably 50) of subject options from which to choose. The choices are much narrower in a small rural school because they are necessarily small.  This provides something of a challenge for keeping students engaged so rural schools supplement the narrow curriculum by drawing on the resources of Te Kura and by actively supporting the Virtual Learning Network (VLN)   - but they still wouldn’t get anywhere near 50 subjects.

So when the ministry muses that,

"The justification for linking the level of Base Curriculum Staffing and Additional Guidance Staffing to the number of year levels is unclear"

it is either being disingenuous, deliberately misleading or completely ignorant. 

Having completely failed to understand why small rural schools need more support than large urban schools, the ministry is able to leap to a convenient solution:

"The analysis indicates there are opportunities to reduce the level of funding that is provided through base funding arrangements. This would allow more funding to be delivered on a per-student basis."

COOLs to save the day - senior curriculum not required in rural schools

So the ministry is proposing to change the staffing and funding formula to make it almost impossible for rural secondary schools to operate a programme much past year 8.  It doesn’t see this as a problem because it anticipates that the money saved from not providing senior subjects can be diverted into COOLs and because ministry staff don’t live in rural areas. (From this paper it appears they don’t visit or phone either…) 

Whether rural communities want the choice about face-to-face senior curriculum delivery removed entirely and replaced with a model that is not even out of its beta phase, is not clear.   Given the central role secondary schools play in rural communities and the difficulty of attracting people to towns where there is no secondary school, one suspects rural communities will not take this lying down. 

Secrecy of process, lack of consultation with rural communities

Parents and students in rural areas who have very few educational choices will not be impressed with a proposal to decapitate their local school in order to fund a rich menu of choices in urban areas.  That would be why the ministry carefully avoided putting this plan out for testing in its recent consultation meetings – better to keep everything secret and avoid unpleasantness.

Small rural schools closed to fund charter schools

The most disgraceful part of this exercise is that there would be no need to hold up rural schools up at gun point if the government insistence on opening small schools and charter schools in urban areas where there is absolutely no demographic demand, were to cease. 

1. The ministry adds that this causes problems when staffing junior and senior highs to which we might respond that is not the fault of rural secondary schools but a failure on the part of the ministry to consider the staffing implications at the point these schools were on the drawing board. 

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For most countries the value of education as a social enabler and public good is patently obvious.  So much so that within the Global Community the right to education is not only enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but has also been included within the United Nations Strategic Development Goals (SDGs), which require nations to work towards free public education, sufficient qualified and trained teachers and equity of access for all.

For these reasons it should be unsurprising that investment in public education across the world has occupied a significant proportion of government spending. So it should.

Unfortunately, this investment has come under increasing attack due to the expanding influence and control of Neo Liberalism on global economics (and by extension the nation states that adopt its mantras). While the assault has not been as quick or as direct as in other sectors, forays into educational ‘markets’ have well and truly been launched.

Infiltration and privatisation of state education across the globe, however it is dressed up, has a single goal: access to the money. Edubusinesses have made inroads into state budgets everywhere you turn, through a range of what the CEO of Pearson Education calls ‘entry points’- whether it is through Teacher Training, PLD or Charter Schools. Once established, these corporate interests quickly spread their tentacles into curriculum, legislation and ultimately the full privatisation of public education. And they are voracious.

Of course, the profit motive has obvious implications for the quality and sustainability of education in those countries which have enabled access for corporate players. Edubusinesses are driven by profit: the largest cost in providing education is teachers, the solution is to enable untrained (low cost) teachers. The next highest cost is typically the physical infrastructure, that is school buildings. The solution is to deliver ‘education’ online.

Ironically, instead of pushing back against such reforms, many nation states have assimilated- parroting words such as ‘choice’ and ‘competition’ to encourage and promote access to their domestic education markets. But once established, there is often no ‘choice’ at all, as- like some extraterrestrial parasite-  they expand and occupy larger and larger sections of their host’s resources.

The underfunding of public education is one hallmark of countries that provide access to corporate players. While some governments initially see a reduction in government spending as a positive, such a view is always incredibly short sighted because the long range costs are disastrous for kids, communities and countries. Not only does reduction in funding have catastrophic implications for the public system but typically the transfer of public money to private interest is accompanied by other sweetheart deals such as tax refunds, decreased regulatory oversight and other ‘flexible’ benefits.

Jurisdictions such as the U.S.A have seen state education institutions become so underfunded that the quality of education is a national shame. Sadly, the privately run Charter Schools have performed little better than the public schools (while returning ballooning profits to their corporate motherships). Online educational provision has also failed spectacularly (students who learn online are described as sometimes being years behind students in mainstream classes). Furthermore, because these schools have the ‘flexibility’ to set their own curricula and operational processes they frequently prohibit access to the most needy and turf out children with complex needs with absolute abandon – leaving the underfunded state schools to try and pick up the pieces- and take the blame.

Across the African continent a string of schools titled APEC (a subsidiary of Pearson Education) provide ‘education’ within a tightly controlled curriculum (on the taxpayers’ dollar) that provides all the education these students need to prepare them for …minimum wage positions in call centres owned by APEC themselves. Not only this, but Pearson Education sponsored charters in other African and South East Asian countries are lobbying for governments to abrogate their obligations under the United Nations SDG on education by allowing ‘low cost’ rather than ‘free’ education in their schools so that they can collect money from both the state and the consumers. (According to Education International the ‘low cost’ rate in Kenya is 40% of the average daily income of poor Kenyan families- for just one child).

If any of this sounds familiar it's because it's here already. Charters, COOLs and changes to legislation to enable untrained teachers to be in front of our children are writ large on our current Minister’s approach to ‘re-imaging’ education in New Zealand.

Sadly, it appears that Hekia Parata has drunk the koolaid: The proposal to cap school operating budgets and devolve responsibility for staffing to Boards and Principals is a Neo Liberal strategy for anchoring and reducing costs (following the model of private and charter schools who pay their managers more and staff less or increase their class sizes to reduce staffing costs). She has even said in the media that her COOLs proposal is an opportunity to “open up access to New Zealand's education market”.

Correspondingly, Under Secretary for Education David Seymour’s proposal that all schools should be able to become Charter Schools and ardent support for fully online schools run by corporate players is not his own harebrained idea- it is BORG consciousness which predisposes him to salivate at the prospect of further aliens feeding at the trough.

They are not alone. First contact can be traced back to Tertiary Education Minister, Steven Joyce, who has deliberately underfunded the tertiary sector so that they are incentivised to seek out private investment and foreign students. (The sad reality for foreign students who pay a premium to access tertiary education in New Zealand is that many are funded by families in home countries that can barely afford the expense, meaning they and their families are reduced to living below the poverty line while they study: “it’s life Jim, but not as we know it”). The marketisation of our universities, with the concomitant focus on profit has put in place financial barriers that prohibit access to many in our own country and increasingly gauge those who prioritise higher education. Of course, even this is not enough for the ravenous Edubusinesses that run these institutions: they are already bulk funded (resulting in support staff often being paid the minimum wage) and are being forced into performance pay (which in Neo Liberal dogma ‘improves productivity’, but in reality only increases inequality by putting in place barriers to increased income for most staff or driving more and more work for less pay). And they won’t be slowed: Minister Joyce has been removing staff representation from governing boards since 2009 - and replacing them with ‘business people’.

This is not a conspiracy theory- the invaders are here already and have been welcomed by our government: and they are coming after our kids.


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The  three latest ideas from the Ministry of  Completely Off-the-planet Outrageous Loopy Schemes or COOLS (AKA Ministry of Education)  have something in common besides being completely wacky . 

In all three cases, bulk funding, screwing over special ed kids and now massive online learning schools, the ministry imagines a greater role for itself in monitoring and supporting schools.  It says in relation to bulk funding that schools will need more financial help, it promises more early detection and support for special needs students, and it assures the public that the COOLS will be rigorously monitored and audited.

Quantum physics tells us that there's a planet where that might be true but it's not this one.

Currently schools go bankrupt and the ministry doesn't have clue about it - and a whole cohort of kids can pass through before they do anything. This is partly because they don't have the capacity or enough competent staff to properly monitor schools' spending but also because they are chary about intervening in  self-managing schools.

Surely no one believes that the ministry really has ability to provide timely and consistent help to schools struggling with special needs students. (I know that in a typical triumph of surface over substance  the Minister has banned that term but too bad)

Then there's the rigorous accreditation process for Cools.  Anyone remember Whangaruru Charter School?  It took two years to close it even though it started failing in the first month of operation - and we still haven't got the farm back.  For most of that time the ministry denied there was a problem while putting in its own staff to try to sort out a private business. There is not a snowball's chance in hell that they would intervene when the provider is an American online company registered on Wall Street. Too politically hot - with or without the TPPA.

The ministry doesn't have the competence or capacity to manage this process and given the political delicacies, they won't be looking too closely at any of these little taxpayer-funded sinkholes.  In any event, overseas experience says that these fly-by-night affairs lie and cheat and it takes a serious crisis, often a whistleblower, before the truth is revealed.  In the meantime, the kids are left to fail. 



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Posted by on in School funding

Who is actually surprised that proposed changes to Educational Resourcing are being sold as providing ‘flexibility’ for schools?

Not teachers.

Disappointed certainly. But not surprised – and we shouldn’t be: Buzz words like ‘flexibility’ have long been part of the dissembler’s lexicon. Let’s call it what it is – bald faced lying to hide the fact that this is an attempt to cap (and ultimately cut) the cost of providing public education in New Zealand. Again.

Worse. The Education Minister’s disdain for those in the profession is apparently so pronounced that she believes dressing up a failed market ideology (bulk funding) with weasel words will somehow hide the Crown’s refusal to guarantee free, high quality education for kids in the state system.

It won’t.

The proposed Resourcing Review papers to Cabinet not only show a lack of will to resource education adequately, (there is no new money), but also seem to promote passing the buck for this failure to schools – under the guise of ‘flexibility’.

Of course, the premise that Boards and Principals can carefully manage their staffing budgets to ensure sufficient cash is available for other operational costs is patently false when they will have less in the pot– And that’s the reality for secondary schools: Less money.

Already secondary operating budgets are insufficient and under the Minister’s proposals most will get smaller, as decile weighted per student funding and base funding are removed and per capita funding for different year levels are flattened (for secondary that means cut). It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that there is simply no way for the current curriculum breadth and class size controls to be retained with less money. Rather, with a fixed ‘global budget’ schools will be tasked with robbing Peter to feed Paul, and those schools who can’t rely on massive donations and foreign fee paying students will starve. (The $1.79 per day for ‘needy’ students under this year’s additional ‘needs based’ resourcing should prove the point). Further, those previously lower decile schools who don’t have sufficient concentration of more narrowly defined ‘needy’ will see even bigger holes in their budgets that will leave them with few options beyond increasing class sizes by cashing up teachers.

The Minister failed to push through larger classes earlier in her rule, now she’s trying again by stealth, and setting up Principals as the patsies.
Last week she said it was Principals who “decided class sizes” – here again she is being ‘flexible’ with the truth: The staffing formula (that would be removed under the global budget proposal) actually guides class sizes. (However, by enabling reductions in staffing ratios under the global budget proposal the buck can well and truly be passed).

Of course, such gumption may be lauded by some outside education, but for those who actually work in schools, the hubris of an Education Minister who says that ‘needs based’ resourcing premised on the ‘size of the educational challenge’ is her focus when her proposed model will likely deliver less money to schools and lead to increased class sizes so that teacher salaries can be spent on something else is not just galling, it is taking political doublespeak to a disgusting nadir.

The sad reality is that instead of having a much needed investigation of the real cost of educating our children, the proposals rearrange the deck chairs and look to blame somebody else.

As you read this, schools are being enticed to make staffing a movable feast in the Ministry’s travelling roadshow – using glossy presentations and words like ‘new’ and ‘flexible’. (Of course, when Principals and teachers say it just won’t work the Minister’s language changes – such as last week’s Q&A where the proposal was described as ‘improving the line of sight’ for Crown spending. If value for money is the real motivation why do we still have Charter schools?)

The truth has to come out: Ring fencing money to maintain Ministry owned buildings and not doing the same to ensure that the best teachers are in front of students in small classes with additional support where it’s needed speaks volumes.

Of course we are told that nothing is definite yet –but at the same time we are told in the media that we mustn’t question the sense of such ‘flexibility’ and that individual boards deciding how much bang they get from their staffing buck will be ‘good for learners’. Pigs might fly.

Thankfully, nobody has been insane enough to come out in support of the global budget proposal -but given the Minister’s prior form with ‘consultation’, education unions, principals groups and other sector leaders have taken the extraordinary step of calling public meetings to actually tell the truth that is hidden behind her verbiage.

Of course, teachers and unions will be vilified for such an action – but it is simply too important to sit quietly and hope that the Minister will be ‘flexible’ because we know through painful experience the value she places on teacher voice: She has already characterized our public consultation as ‘industrial action’ and called unions ‘misleading’ and ‘mischievous’. She has continued to play word games around the name ascribed to the latest iteration of bulk funding. She has defended a proposal nobody in the sector wants at every opportunity while wiggling out of questions about impacts in parliament by saying, “she will honour the consultation process” and at the same time telling the media she will reserve the right to do what she wants anyway.

With the Advisory group due to make its submission at the end of the month, we need to speak with one voice to ensure her ears don’t stay painted on – the implications are just too great if we don’t.

Better funding not Bulk funding 

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Posted by on in School funding

Unions representing over 60,000 teachers, principals and support staff say they don’t want the proposed Global Budgets to be part of the Education Resourcing Review. They’ve advised the Minister’s Advisory group of this and are going out to consult with their members. Meanwhile, the Ministry has had a roadshow for principals, selling the ‘benefits’ of Global Budgets.

(The differences between these consultation meetings must be stark because the Minister is ‘disappointed’ with the unions’ move while pressing on with her own).

Despite such vagaries around ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ consultation, the Minister has defended Global Budgets (that the sector don’t want) saying they will increase ‘flexibility’ for principals and Boards (who mostly don’t want it).

If it’s ‘only a proposal’, and if she wants consultation to result in something that ‘works for the sector’, why is her response to vilify unions and praise the proposal’s flexibility?

Is it because the flexibility she is selling gives schools the ability to cash up teachers to pay for other things because schools are underfunded?

Shouldn’t open consultation involve asking parents if they want their kids in schools with narrower curriculum or larger classes, (instead of trying to put lipstick on a pig)?


(Letter to the Dominion Post editor 10 August 2016)


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One of Minister Parata’s proposals in the surprise bulk-funding announcement is to offer private schools more money.  

During Question Time in the House on Tuesday 28th of June, it was confirmed this would likely be a per child amount, perhaps on par with the amount state schools receive.

If this proposal eventuated it would not just be bulk-funding, but a full-blown voucher system.  The political equivalent of National adopting ACT’s education policy.  Good if you send your kids to Dio, St Kents or Kings.  Bad if you are in the 97% of New Zealand families who go with state and state-integrated schools. 

So, do private schools really need all this new money?  I went on the internet to check-out their financial statements.

Many organisations (including PPTA) display their financials publicly on their website, but this does not appear to be the case with private schools.  Lots of photos of students competing in equestrian events and attending luncheons, but accounting is off the menu.  What could they be trying to hide?  Fortunately, some are registered as charities, so the charities register has the statements filed online.

Wow!!!  Check out Auckland Dio – It has not made a profit under $1.8 million since 2008.  In 2011, when they seem to have acquired an injection of students from earthquake-stricken Christchurch, the surplus was $3,574,784.  Top marks for opportunism. 

Rangi Ruru in Christchurch - $1,347,676 in 2013, followed by $1,449,320 in 2014.

More conservative profit margins can be found in Wellington where Marsden and Queen Margaret make six figure surpluses but not seven.

So, put bluntly, I don’t think the time is right to increase class sizes in state schools to provide a funding boost to private schools.  

Interested in your thoughts always.


Raking it in



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Governments have long blown off links between SES and educational outcomes (despite the erstwhile decile system being premised on this concept in 1995). Now, from the heavens, a school resourcing thunderbolt based on… socio-economic factors! (Albeit more ‘targeted’ ones). 

While we in the sector marvel as the sun rises on an approach where additional funding could arrive at schools where it’s needed, Ministers Parata and English temporarily bask in the glow of a funding sleight of hand that seems to have wide support in the tempestuous climes of the education sector.

However, grey clouds lurk.

We are told the MOE have better data to ‘identify need’ but ‘targeted’ funding to schools apparently requires a narrower approach to how ‘need’ is described. 

The list released earlier this year caused a sudden storm. Privacy issues aside, the ‘risk factors’ to guide school resourcing may not target the capacity of many families to support access to learning at school. If parents don’t earn enough to provide what their children require (when their children aren’t victims of trauma or beneficiaries) how will it work? 

Sadly, it probably won’t – in isolation.

In fact, without funding all state schools adequately to ensure local schools can provide enough, the transitory practices of many (usually lower decile) students will continue and the impacts on school funding when decile component is removed and only ‘targeted’ needy get additional funding may be like a lightning strike to (previously low decile) school operating budgets. Further, the additional resourcing for a ‘targeted’ few may actually do little to lessen the tail wind to the exodus of ‘non needy’ students whose parents already shop for higher decile schools – not believing that “decile is no proxy for quality”.

Without ensuring sufficient and stable funding for all state schools as well as investing heavily in those that need targeted support, the internal migration of students across schools may become a tornado wreaking havoc on our public system.

While ‘needs based funding’ sounds like something we should all support, the fog around the ministers’ true intentions needs to clear. Is it a chance to invest in public education as a priority, doing our best to give every student a reasonable start regardless of birth or background? Or is a new resourcing model an ill wind that will simply rearrange the current resourcing and breeze over the social apartheid that is currently occurring under deciles?

In particular, is the statement that funding will be modelled on the “size of the educational challenge” a red sky warning to schools that the isobars of accountability and the apportioning of blame will move closer and closer together – that is, a more punitive rather than aspirational system?

If the government’s intention is that all state schools are adequately funded - with more where it’s needed - the imminent resourcing review could lead to a balmy summer for schools and communities to continue improving; with access to high quality education at local state schools, additional supports for students (and educators) to bolster what is already provided and a schooling system that can be lauded as equitable. 

Unfortunately, it appears that instead of enabling all students to access quality education in their local community, the Minister is happy to rain education dollars into Charter Schools – which does nothing to support stability in state school funding. On the contrary, when operational funding to state schools is already insufficient, the freeze is on for 2016. Correspondingly, Minister Parata has been quoted as wanting to “protect parents’ right to choose” the schools their children attend – which suggests there will be little urgency to ensure true equity across state schools. In fact, if the Minister’s intention is to protect school choice and fund individual students then we are in the eye of the hurricane: parents will chase whatever rainbow they choose and take their pot of gold with them  (to the detriment of the school they have left) as happens now with Charters and quarterly funding- only worse. 

Rolling out more and more Charter schools and indexing funding to Private Schools without guaranteeing that the ‘global funding’ to state schools is sufficient is a bit like addressing global warming by selling carbon credits.

The myth of ‘free schooling’ disappeared like autumn mist over ten years ago. Therein, a small shower is unlikely to relieve the drought faced by communities who can’t rely on massive family contributions and foreign fee paying students. Sadly, English’s long range forecast does not seem to pay much attention to the impacts of increasing house prices and low wages on a family’s ability to stump up with the increasing cost of ‘free’ education in NZ.

Perhaps someone needs to tell him that if it doesn’t guarantee public education is adequately funded, a needs based approach is just hot air.

Until Bill and Hekia (and no doubt Under Secretary Seymour) present an actual model, discussions about their true intentions may be a storm in a tea cup -but when representatives from the education sector approached Minister Parata to be involved in getting a new approach to ‘resourcing need’ right their warm front was met with a cold snap. 

We can only hope that we won’t be left out in the cold for too long. 

Link to the Eagle Weather wheel

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In my travels around the regions presenting the Health and Safety seminars I have encountered a wide variety of questions and concerns, most of these are covered in the FAQs on the website however there are a few common issues that have arisen. The MoE have published a superb guide called Health and safety at Work Act 2015 A practical guide for BoTs and school leaders. Every organisation involved in the education sector worked collaboratively in its production. The guide was emailed to all schools and STA undertook to send a hard copy, the problem is that no-one seems to have heard of it let alone seen it. Here is the link

 MoE Guide to Health-and-Safety-at-Work-Act-2015.pdf

It contains a host of tools and information designed to keep you safe and compliant with the law. It provides a series of templates to allow you to self audit at no cost.

Principals in particular seem to have been left out of the loop in terms of the new Act and are making random and often illegal decisions, for example, a Principal making all HoDs do the HSR course in their school holidays. This is not only in contravention of the requirement for HSRs to be elected by the workforce but also contravenes the requirement for the elected HSR to choose their own course at a time that suits them. Another bad case is DPs overriding elected but not yet trained HSRs to take their place on the initial training course. A third common issue is reports of extra or increased paperwork being demanded to cover EOTC trips. The 1992 HSE Act should have covered all of this and no school should not already have robust systems, if they haven’t what have they been doing for the last 14 years? A new EOTC guidelines document has also been sent to schools and here is the link EDU12339_EOTC Guidelines_5.pdf 

Principals have also been telling staff that they are liable for actions that clearly belong to the PCBU such as other workers entering offsite units without communication, coordination and cooperation. The offsite teacher with no knowledge of this cannot then be held liable if something happens on their site.

A lot of misinformation seems to have been promulgated by so called H&S consultants in order to charge a small fortune for unnecessary external audits

Don’t do it!!

they are a waste of BoTs precious ops grant money, money that is hard to come by and better used elsewhere.

NZSTA have run a heap of workshops for BoTs and Principals at which an excellent resource called Effective  governance Health and Safety at Work Act was distributed, unfortunately not too many schools have seen this either, contact NZSTA to get a copy.

The law requires PCBUs (BoTs) to  

1 engage, so far as is reasonably practicable, with workers who carry out work for it and are directly    affected, or likely to be directly affected, by a work health and safety matter, and

 2. have practices that allow workers who work for the board to have reasonable opportunities to  participate effectively in improving work health and safety in the school on an on-going basis.      

These are known as worker participation practices.

Failure by the board to meet either of these duties is an offence under HSWA.

I am amazed at the tales I hear where BoTs and Principals clearly have no idea of how to implement the Act and are imposing weird and wonderful systems on workers and urge you to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for clarification or further information regarding your situation.




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Much was said about what the $26 million spent on the flag change debacle could have been better spent on. However, the argument that some worthy cause missed out in order for that money to be spent on the flag is hard to prove.

Not so with the funding of Charter schools.

The budget allocation for 7 new Charter schools (and a support group to help these private interests not make the same disastrous mistakes as happened in Whangaruru) does come from somewhere – it comes out of the education budget.

Meanwhile, Special Education is underfunded.

The Operations Grants to schools are insufficient and have actually decreased this year, while the tap for accessible and relevant professional learning for teachers is about to be turned off (for most) by the Ministry of Education.

Establishing Charters in the same communities as state schools means those schools lose funding, including operational funding and their staffing entitlement which can mean they will struggle to offer curriculum and other critical educational resources to the students left behind.

Despite all this, the clamour of professionals and educators who know where the money could be better spent appear to be being ignored - again.



(Published in Dominion Post Letters to the Editor 25 May 2016)

Larry Cuban site - charter school cartoon

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Remember the Claytons advertisement - the drink you have when you are not having a drink? More recently Tui advertisements have added to our New Zealand lexicon "Yeah Right!"

It seems we are working on the latest Tui billboard with the education funding review – truly a Claytons review.

The review you have when you are not having a review.

Special education and alternative education are crying out for funding. 

Parents wonder what happened to  'free education for all' as they hand over yet more money to enable their local school to provide the basics.

And so last week the Education funding review was publicly announced - “The Government is interested in the role that funding can play in enabling schools and ECE services to better meet the needs of all children and young people.” And acknowledges “resourcing levels may not be well matched to the teaching and learning challenge and care and pastoral needs at each stage of learning.”

PPTA supports an education funding review – and have asked for a broad review – there are a number of papers on our website regarding this and with the National Education Leaders Partnership we’ve agreed on some principles.

But the bizarre bit is this - in the same week as the Minister announces the review and  acknowledges the resourcing issue for our schools, the Undersecretary for Education announces that hundreds of thousands of dollars are to be spent on the charter school experiment- new schools and a government funded charter school think tank

Charter schools are an  education business model designed to primarily benefit sponsors (aka business/trust owners)  – the product is NCEA credits (or similar)  rather than student education  – with a long term view to testing whether education can be left to the market to manage.

Unfortunately the generous start-up and ongoing funding for this business model takes money from the state education funding pool. 

It does seem to make a mockery of a transparent and open process for an education funding review in the context of an underfunded state schooling system.

Let’s hope for all our sakes it’s not “Education funding review? Yeah Right!”

Post Script - the budget 2016 didn't make an inflation adjusted increase for state schools (although charter schools are guaranteed this) and pre-empted the funding review by targeting (on one available variable) some students for a small ($1.79 per targeted student a week) increase in funding to their schools.


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Posted by on in Charter schools

David Seymour almost appears reasonable when discussing educational choice – stating that consumers should be “free to choose the school that suits them” is a nice political soundbite, made more compelling given his personal foibles and practised earnestness. But, let’s be frank - every school in New Zealand must cater for difference. Schools are obliged to provide opportunities for all akonga to learn while providing the acculturation they need to take their place in society.

The public system provides this – and continued improvement will result from sharing best practice and providing professional development for teachers to meet the needs of all, not from ideology dressed up as fact.

Education ‘silos’, ostensibly catering for interest groups, will do little to ensure these needs are met. Rather, evidence suggests that students who do not meet a Charter’s targets are ‘let go’ (and those with complex educational needs often don’t get in in the first place).

Imagining that an approach to schooling which allows untrained and unregistered teachers, lacks an evidence base, is without any public scrutiny around how managers spend taxpayer dollars and does not require these institutions to take the very learners Seymour suggests might 'need' a new model is not about choice - it's political chicanery.

Word map - political chicanery


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Posted by on in Education

Despite certain MPs chirruping that “we place more value on things we pay for”, the pitfalls of the ‘free market’ have struck a chord recently.

We read that 60% of the higher incomes associated with having tertiary qualifications are cancelled out by the current Loans System and that Teacher Aides may make less over their careers than people with no formal tertiary qualifications.
(Further, we frequently hear that newly trained primary teachers can’t find jobs -so have to find alternatives to pay back their Loans- while first year secondary teachers can only find precarious fixed-term work -despite teacher shortages).

This is out of tune with National’s “everything is rosy” chorus.

The ‘user pays’ approach also has consequences for schools: when the MOE spreads the putea more thinly to meet business-model educational precepts, we see ‘efficiencies’ to school-based initiatives and other operational costs and the farming out of in-school services to private contractors (which schools can “choose” to pay for).

The result is that parents have propped up what schools ‘are expected’ to provide, to the tune of $1 billion.

Whether or not Labour’s free study and Future of Work policies provide the answer, at least they are humming a different tune.

$ apple

(Jack Boyle is the PPTA Executive member for Hutt Valley/Wairarapa. Letter published in Dominion Post February 2016)

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Posted by on in Maori Education

Te wiki o te reo Māori ended with a sad story.

A keen student, a dismissive role model.

High expectations, no expectations.  

Māori is one of the official languages of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

We officially ‘celebrate’ te reo Māori with a week. 


Really, was a month of recognition and celebration too much to ask? 

Our students use the reo most days – even if only in a casual way

We and our leaders should be encouraging the use of te reo Māori every day. 

Dream together whakatauki

The supportive friend of the student spoke confidently to the nation via television:

"If you could have a music month, of course you could have a Maori language month, a national language of New Zealand."

Kia kaha!



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Posted by on in Education

Whatever your obsession, the fixation you have
- that you know will/can fix the world,
- or the nation (if you are a politician),
- or just that wayward kid of yours.

Have we got the soapbox for you - SCHOOLS - the perfect platform on which to load the responsibility for your great idea.
An education for the 21st century means teaching coding in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching financial literacy in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching Mandarin in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching human relationships in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching swimming in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching work skills in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching parenting skills in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching cooking in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching manners in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching .............. in schools.

When you get a little tired of fixing the world and need something a little more satisfying than the soapbox - try this:

The New Zealand Curriculum

NZ curriculum - tki website

Oh and you might want to visit your local school - find out what they do, and how you can support your school community?
It might be a whole lot more satisfying, and healthier, than an obsession belted out from a soapbox.


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The pre-budget announcement of ‘new schools’ by the PM back in April was a flat affair, and now one of his Ministers is asking Parata exactly why one of the new schools is being built where it is.

Hastings-based Tukituki MP Craig Foss is asking urgent questions about a new school in his electorate, admitting he has been caught "on the hop" with the revelation that it is to be built on the site of the Arataki Motor Camp in Havelock North.

A minister outside Cabinet, Mr Foss said last night that he had been aware a new kura kaupapa, focused on teaching in Maori, was proposed for Hastings but learned of the actual location only by asking after he had heard of the possible site.

Foss doesn't sound super thrilled about this new school in his electorate (compare with David Bennett in Hamilton East)  – though he is ‘aware’ it was being planned.

Why might this be?

After the April announcement I looked at the areas where the new schools would be, to get an idea if there is actually demand for new schools (which we know are very expensive) in those areas.

(Latest roll figures, May this year, show both have gone up by a couple of students)

One of these schools is 5km from the site of the new one, the other is 10km away.

The Ministry of Ed has ‘government guidelines on roll size’ that state primary schools under 100 students and secondary under 300 are ‘marginal’. I’d suggest that for secondary 300 is actually too low – curriculum breadth seriously suffers in schools that size. But for some reason, here we will have 3 schools years 1-13 which all look unlikely to get to that minimum size.

And what does this mean for their students?

Well, Chris Whelan from the University Vice Chancellors told Radio NZ a few weeks ago that one of the theories about the drop off in Maori students achieving UE was because of small schools not offering a wide enough range of subjects.

Good on Foss asking about why they're getting a new school there, and what this will mean for students the electorate. I look forward to the answers. 

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While the education sector has begun a serious and important discussion about how to better resource schools, the reanimated zombie of bulk funding seems to be scratching its way out of the grave.

Following indications from Minister Parata that a review of school funding is imminent, the sector has begun developing an evidence base and principles for change. Without pre-empting anything, it’s clear that equity is going to be one of the crucial principles that have to underpin any changes.

Meanwhile, the Act Party, has come up with policy that could be titled Return of the Living Dead.  Consistent with their commitment to ignoring evidence and sticking to the failed classical economic theory that led the world straight to the Global Financial Crisis, they want to go back to the 1990s and give school boards the power to opt into bulk funding.

Framing it slightly differently this time – Act’s alternative budget contains this:

 Expanding the Partnership School model by allowing state schools, if their boards choose, to convert to the Partnership School funding model, thereby giving greater options and a wider range of choice for parents and their children.

Here are just three of the reasons why bulk funding schools is a dumb move.

1. Risks when boards and principals make bad decisions.

At the moment a badly run school can get into financial problems, but because the large part of funding for the basic work of the school goes directly to salaries, it means that a school is unlikely to completely collapse from not managing the finances well, and teachers (notwithstanding Novopay) will continue to get paid and come to work. This protects students from bad decisions that may be made by boards and principals.

2. Undermines collective agreements

The collective agreements unite the teaching profession, and provide stability and coherence to a highly fragmented sector. Policy initiatives such as support for beginning teachers (induction and mentoring), new roles to share good practice and so forth, will be out the door. The collective agreements strengthen the teaching profession – without them we would be open to far more casualization and rolling back of pay and conditions. A less attractive teaching profession means fewer teachers, and we end up with unregistered teachers or the Teach First example.

3. Removes public responsibility

 Through the way it resources schools the state takes a certain degree of responsibility for students, targeting particular students it knows are at risk and so forth. Certain resources are provided not in terms of money but in terms of central support – these are ‘cashed up’ in charter schools.  The responsibility for students is undermined if the state simply hands over a wodge of cash and says ‘do whatever it takes to achieve these narrow outcomes’. 



Just got this from a colleague who is a veteran of the 1990s bulk funding campaign:

The big argument here is that the ops grant is bulk funded. Over time it has been underfunded and even the most efficient fund managing boards have been forced to ask for more and more money from parents to keep running their schools. They don’t have to ask for more money for teachers because salaries are not bulk funded. And as their bulk funded operations gran becomes progressively smaller in real terms they do not have to make trade-offs between whether to cut costs on classroom resources or on the quality or number of their teaching force – like the hospitals are forced to do.

In the 1990s bulk funded schools generally hired more new teachers (and kept hiring them as they burnt them out) while centrally resourced schools continued to hire the more experienced teachers. Or they hired fewer teachers to save the money – which meant fewer options and larger classes for students, and higher workloads for teachers in an already stressful and demanding job.

 Ironically boards that went into bulk funding often argued they had to do it to make up for under-resourcing of the operations grant through a transfer from their salaries fund to their ops fund.

 We can also see the effects of bulk  funding on the employment of school support staff (also bulk funded) where any increase in salary costs tends to drive down the number or hours of people employed in support roles in schools as schools balance their budget. The alternative is to not increase the wages, which over time drives down the quality of the people boards can afford to employ in those roles.

 Ultimately central resourcing does cost a government more than bulk funding, but it ensures that boards can always select the best person not the cheapest to put in front of the students and therefore it  buys a better quality workforce and gives a far greater guarantee to every child that they will have well-qualified and experienced teachers.

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While most schools in the country are feeling the pinch – with 95% of secondary principals reporting their funding isn’t enough to meet their needs, one school is so flush that they have just bought a $100,000 waka for their 65 students.

The NZ Herald reports:

He Puna Marama, which received $6 million of government funding for its two Whangarei schools over two years, but also gets revenue from elsewhere, says it bought the 22-person, 14m carved kauri waka with money specially "put aside" for the purpose.

The secondary school part of this charter school (which opened in 2014) had around 60 students last year, and with its $40,000 funding each student bought in, it employed 8 teachers.

And along with this it has $100,000 left over for a beautiful hand carved waka.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said she found the waka purchase "frustrating".

"It breaks my heart, because I know for a fact there are outdoor education teachers in state schools around the country trying to motivate the same kids as He Puna Marama are and they don't even have the money to buy a couple of plastic kayaks," she said. "That's what hurts.

An example of this – a great rural secondary school serving a predominantly Maori community just set up a senior outdoor ed course – and the Board of Trustees gave the teacher in charge a $200 budget for the year. Not even enough for one kayak or mountain bike.

This school – with over 80% Maori students, gets a quarter of the funding that the Whangarei charter does per students, and has a massive debt that a previous principal left.

And from overseas the issue of lack of accountability with charter school spending has been in the news again. The Washington Post reports:

A new report released on Tuesday details fraud and waste totaling more than $200 million of uncovered fraud and waste of taxpayer funds in the charter school sector, but says the total is  impossible to know because there is not sufficient oversight over these schools.

It’s to their credit that He Puna Marama was open about this purchase – but we have no idea about the general spending at most of the charters – how much the chief executives are earning for example. I’d hazard that this waka isn’t the only purchase that is out of line with spending at regular public schools.

 And, like with the 81 hectare farm bought by another charter, if this trust has its schools closed, or decides it wants to get out of the ‘education business’ their tax-payer funded purchases remain in their hands.

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Posted by on in EDUCANZ



Lack of trust of ‘punters in punterland’ (as Don Brash put it so elegantly) is a common trait in a certain breed of politician.

So it’s no great surprise to see democratic institutions undermined by this current lot. And it’s not just Educanz, the shortcomings of which readers of this blog will be familiar with. ECan (what’s with those letters?) saw elected representatives dumped in 2010, (seemingly, because they weren’t doling out water rights to dairy farmers efficiently enough). And now they’re replacing it with a partly elected and partly appointed body. Nick Smith, the Minister in charge’s line is that a fully democratic body is too risky.

But hold the phone – even ECan gets a majority of members who are elected (seven to six), unlike Educanz.

Minister Parata’s response to the critics seems to be to simply wag her finger and sigh, with the superiority of someone who’s in their office thanks to elections but doesn’t really trust the people who put her there.

We don’t need elections, she says, because the ‘skill set’ that the people on the new Educanz council will have must be ‘transparent, and she will appoint people who meet the skill set (around the 14.40 mark, here ). Right oh then. She decides what is valued in that ‘skill set’ and then gets to decide who meets it. It’s a technocrat’s wet dream – no messy elections and contest of ideas, just the ‘best people for the job’.

Of course, low voter turn-out for the Teachers Council elections hasn’t helped our case. But the same argument could apply elected reps on a whole bunch of institutions from school boards of trustees to local authorities (and university councils, which are getting the Educanz treatment right now). No doubt there are people around the cabinet table with Parata who’d be dead keen to do that.  

What’s really ‘too risky’ is allowing this gradual erosion of democracy and public accountability. Even corporate boards of publicly listed companies are elected by shareholders. And if teachers aren’t ‘shareholders’ in the regulation and status of the profession, I don’t know who is. 


(The image is of Singapore - appropriate because it's a technocrat's paradise, where democratic institutions are so weak that newspapers regularly print Minister's announcements verbatim without any critique.)

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Posted by on in Teaching Profession

What teachers do

Nearly everyone has been to school so nearly everyone is an expert on schools and expert on the subject of  teachers and teaching.

So they say.

And while we grump about that saying and love Taylor Mali for his rebuttal  - we just sigh and flip the page or move on from the person trying to “bait the teacher.”  

It is incredibly important that we start and join conversations about our schools – about teaching and learning - and that we start doing this right away. 

We must not assume that people know what our secondary schools do. 

We must identify the strengths of our local secondary schools. 

We must identify the strengths of our teachers and of our students.

We should know the whakapapa of our school.

We should be able to explain how important our school  is to our community and explain what secondary schools do. 

We must be able to explain about teacher training – why teachers are expert in their fields and why they are expert in understanding how learning happens.

We must know what teacher registration requires and what it means.

We should also be clear that being expert in a subject isn't enough, caring about children isn't enough – you need to be a qualified teacher to be teaching our tamariki in our schools every day.

We should be uncompromising on the subject of teaching as a profession - and that we have the absolute right to be treated as trusted  and respected professionals.

We should expect no less for our students.

We should expect no less a valuing of our own work as secondary teachers. 

Leave no room for myths and anecdote, no longer remain silent, amenable and imply consent. Then we will see what value the government places on teachers, students, teaching and learning.


(with thanks to Edward Berger for his post "Saving community schools" http://edwardfberger.com/)


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