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

 

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.

Why?

 

(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!

#MāramaReoMāori

 

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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’. 

 

**EDIT**

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

b2ap3_thumbnail_Housing_and_Development_Board_flats_near_Woodlands_Avenue_7_Singapore.jpg

 

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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Posted by on in Education


Our current Government loves to use words like 'efficiency' to mask its user-pays philosophy.

Hence, the current imbroglio around cutting the funding for curation services at the National Library can be laughed off as a necessary 'efficiency' - the resources are still there after all.

However, a more honest way of framing this sleight of hand is to say that the National Library is shifting the cost of bringing a collection of appropriate and engaging books directly to a student's lap, to schools.

There is, of course, a problem with this. In a highly-devolved system, such as we have in New Zealand, every time you remove a centrally-provided resource or support mechanism, you increase inequity of access to quality learning resources and experiences for our kids. When the National Library stops supporting schools in finding the most appropriate books in the collection for students, schools are left to do it for themselves.

This is most difficult for our poor, small, and rural schools.

They are the ones least likely to be able to find the cash or expertise to pick up yet another job being dumped by the government.

Efficient? Maybe.  Equitable? Not at all.

 

(Jack Boyle is the PPTA Executive member for Hutt Valley/Wairarapa. Letter published in Dominion Post 10 March 2015)

 

Library students WHS

 

 

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

A fairly common response to Investing in Educational Success has been ‘I’d prefer the money to be spent on…(fill in the blank)…”. Fair enough. In my ideal scenario I’d rather that the money was spent differently too. Some options would include:

·         Equipping schools to provide social and health services to their students and communities (schools as hubs – unsure of cost as would depend on how comprehensive).

·         Reducing overly large class sizes (implementing the SSSG, costs around half the IES spend)

·         Across the board pay rises for secondary teachers (we could get around 10% for the cost of the IES, enabling us to get ahead of inflation after years of real terms pay cuts)

·         Or possibly a direct $520 per child annual payment to the families of the 285,000 children living in poverty (close to $150,000,000)

And so forth. But there are two problems with this response.

1. Saying you’d prefer the money be spent elsewhere isn’t the same as saying the policy is bad. Just because you choose a chocolate cake for your birthday doesn’t mean that there’s something fundamentally wrong with carrot cake. If you are allergic to carrots, or have reason to suspect the carrot cake is poisoned, that’s a different matter.  More on that later.

2. It doesn’t look at what the policy is aiming to do. Let’s tease this one out.

The aim of the policy is raising student achievement.  Now there are a few ways that this could be approached. One is to look at the very significant out of school factors that affect learning – this would lead to a cross-sector child poverty approach, and would be certainly a good idea. But admittedly, at $500 per year per child, this isn’t going to go very far. What the government decided on was to focus was on what happens in schools. Now, this is arguably less effective (that gap between in school and out of school effects), but on the other hand, it should be a bit easier for them to have an impact on.

So the choice was to work on the in school factors to raise achievement and equity of achievement in schools. So the question here is – what’s the best way to spend $150,000,000 per year in schools on raising student achievement? This is, hopefully, where policy makers turn to the evidence. Unfortunately the reality of ‘evidence based’ policy is that it’s almost never going to be so clear cut and incontrovertible that a single answer jumps out as the way to go. But what we do have is a clearly emerging picture that:

1. what teachers do really matters, and that different ways of teaching have different results

2. teachers can learn and improve in their practice, and there are good ways (working with peers and experts for extended periods of time) and bad, or ineffective, ways (one off whizz-bang PD sessions, being given targets and held to account with high stakes testing) to make this happen

3. school systems that foster collaboration (between teachers and schools) and mutual responsibility for students do better than those that compete

 

 And it seems that it’s an evidence base along these lines which is informing IES. Of course there are other things which work to make a difference in schools too – there are lots of possible ways to make cakes, but these three are common elements of recipes that work.

What I haven’t seen from the ‘I’d prefer…’ crowd is any evidence that their recipe is necessarily going to make a tastier cake than this one.  Decreasing class sizes in years 4 to 6, more teacher aides, 100% registered ECE teachers may all be worthwhile things to do, but they haven’t made the case for them being better ways to achieve the aim of the policy. And as for the the claim that these would cost the same – wildly wrong, and oddly enough, would entirely benefit the members of the organisation that is advocating for it.

Of course the stark reality is that whoever’s in charge gets to decide what sort of cake it is, and while we can encourage them to use a good recipe rather than the one with baking soda and zucchini in it, the government of the day gets to decide on policy, and final accountability for that is at the ballot box.

And to go back to the ‘poisoned cake’ scenario – this is a different objection some people have raised – i.e. it might look delicious, but it can’t be trusted. All we can do then is try to ensure it isn’t- keeping an eye on the ingredients as they’re put in (i.e. our engagement with negotiating it into the collective agreement) and then not everyone chowing down at once (i.e. it’s rolled our gradually, and voluntarily). We’ve achieved both of those things. 

So yes, you may prefer a different cake. But get your arguments right. Is this a bad cake? How do we know your one will be better? And is your solution a cake, or is it a sausage roll?

 

 

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Posted by on in Charter schools

Charter schools the future of education?

"Did you know what a charter school was?" a parent is asked.
No - she responds.

Maybe she doesn’t know because the NZ difference is not educational. The difference is one of ideology and, in order to encourage the development of this privatisation model, these schools get greater resourcing and support which in turn allows for smaller class sizes (1:15) and more attention to the child’s learning needs.

Resourcing and support that all schools would love to have access to. Smaller class sizes would provide a learning opportunity that all NZ children deserve – however children also deserve the safeguards that are in the (non-privatised) state system too, for their health, safety and education.

The question must be this - why are local and foreign entities - including trusts, profiteers, religious outliers, the mad, the bad, the disenchanted, the wheeler-dealers, the self-important, the rich, (or a combination of) - being encouraged to sign up for this.

Why does such an entity have to opt out of the NZ education system, and all the associated safeguards, to get the charter school level of resourcing and support? They opt into a business contracting model and, for higher dosh, have a lower level of responsibility for students and less accountability to the NZ public.

Why are models such as the South Auckland Middle School and Mt Hobson Middle School not OK for integration into the state school system but are OK as charter schools?
It seems that Mt Hobson Middle School (aka Alwyn Poole’s model) was operating successfully in Remuera without public funding. So why is the state (aka taxpayer) funding what is effectively the franchising of a private school model?

Is it because the authorisation board needs a charter school flag flyer  - a safe pair of hands and one that can be rolled out as a benign face and the reason for the scheme’s existence - regardless of the risk that the model poses to our education system.

It is not educationally innovative.

The expansion of the scheme does make it sound ripe for the picking ... especially if you are a wheeler-dealer.

Oh wait a minute - it was a wheeler-dealer or two that created imported the model in the first place.

 

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The Minister of Education wants it both ways. One hand  she says that teachers use out of school factors “as an excuse and an explanation” for everything bad that happens in schools, and then says a charter school losing students and falling apart is okay because they’re dealing with kids who have drug problems and tough lives.

What grates even more is that while these kids at the failing charter school are no doubt doing it tough, the resources that they have available to help are vastly more than similar kids get in public schools – around 3  to four times more.  Even students in Alternative Education centres receive far less government funding than charter school students. And these are ones that genuinely do have it tough - we don't have to rely on charter school operators to tell us. (Who knows how the kids at any of the charter would be doing at public school - there is no matched evaluation,  and we rely on self-reporting to know the demographics/baselines of their students.) 

Sure, these are new schools and the funding for new schools is always high. But they’re tiny, which makes them  particularly pricey, and the almost all the funds that the schools receive can be spent directly on the students as the overheads are so low. A new school like Hobsonville Point is also very expensive on a per student basis –but almost all of that cost is tied up in buildings. These schools don’t have that at all. The fact is, they have far more to spend on each student than any other school in the country. This should be making a difference.

 

To be charitable, maybe this is a ‘road to Damascus’ moment for Parata. Perhaps the lives of these kids at Whangaruru have made her realise the error of her ways and she’s now going to be more understanding of the realities of students and teachers in all schools. I’m not holding my breath. 

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What happened with the Education and Science Select Committee report on engaging parents in the education of their children?

This is one of the most wishy-washy and banal reports I’ve seen from a select committee – it’s not even in the ball-park with the ambitious 21st century learning report from this committee, or the gutsy health select committee report on children’s health.

Quite apart from the limp recommendations, it’s characterised by muddled thinking.

This paragraph is probably the worst, and deserves to be looked at closely.

The ministry told us that all countries exhibit an association between socio-economic status and student achievement. One New Zealand-based project, Competent Children, Competent Learners, found that socio-economic status explained 18 percent of the variation in achievement in the Programme for International Student Assessments, an international study that assesses reading, mathematical, and science literacy in 15-year-old students. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, by Professor John Hattie, (Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, 2011), concluded that socio-economic status was the 32nd most influential factor in achievement. An OECD report, Strong performers and successful reformers in education, indicates that in the best-performing countries in the world, students’ performance is only weakly linked to socio-economic status. Nevertheless, some of us consider that factors such as poverty and transience remain significant obstacles to some parents engaging in their children’s education.

Let’s go through this mess sentence by sentence.

1. The Ministry told us that all countries exhibit an association between socio-economic status and student achievement.  For real. If the MPs didn’t know this already they should not be on the Select Committee. It’s an incontrovertible fact; it’s the nature and strength of that ‘association’ that are interesting and debatable.

2. One New Zealand based project, Competent Children, Competent Learners, found that socio-economic status explained 18 percent of the variation in achievement in the Programme for International Student Assessments….  Oh dear. Competent Learners is a sophisticated and nuanced longitudinal study of children educational experiences over fifteen + years. It makes no mention of PISA, and certainly no mention of any percentage associated with SES. The 18% figure is one that Minister Parata plucked out of the last PISA report,  which presents a very narrow reading of the ‘out of school’ factors that affect learning.  Mixing these two together is either incompetence or an attempt to give a dubious claim a lot more credibility than it deserves.

3. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement… Yet another example of misrepresenting Hattie.  He explicitly states that the greatest factors influencing achievement are characteristics outside of school -  50%, students peers, 5-10% and the home, 5-10%.   Once again, SES is very narrowly measured in this report, but the recognition that it’s out of school factors that are the dominant ones is clear.

 

4. An OECD report, Strong Performers and successful reformers in education, indicates… It is clear that the link to SES is stronger in New Zealand than some OECD countries (one reason could well be that we resource schools that students in poverty attend only a small amount more than those where wealthy students go), but it exists everywhere.  The following table shows it clearly. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_PISA-graph.jpg

 

5. Nevertheless, some of us consider that factors such as poverty and transience remain significant obstacles…  Okay, so some of them don’t consider poverty or transience a significant obstacle.  Well, there we go then.  Just ignore 50 years of education research, data like the graph above, and the submissions to the inquiry.

 

And as a result of that you get a weak report which adds very little to the education policy debate.  

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The timing was immaculate. The day after the Auditor General condemned a school’s dubious spending, it emerged that its principal had applied to open a charter school.

The Auditor General report stated that at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Whakawatea – “The kura spent $5,120 on Christmas gifts and vouchers for its staff and board members bought from a business owned by the principal. In our view, spending of this nature illustrates waste and a lack of probity on the part of the board.”

 

The business is a beauty spa with a side-line in colonic irrigation – which offers such things as microdermabrasion (from $99) and Hopi Ear Candling (from $55). It's owned by the principal and her husband.

The principal, Susanne Simmons-Kopa, went in the local paper to claim that the spending was all above board and was after all, only $200 per person – enough for a coffeeberry yoga with enzyme mask specialised facial.

How they managed to find 25 staff and board members at a school with 110 students is mystifying – the school I’m on the board of has a lot fewer staff with more than double the students.

Anyway, it turns out that the principal had in 2013 applied to open a charter school as well, under the aegis of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, a clever way to get around the rule that existing schools can’t apply. The application form is revealing. Simmons-Kopa calls herself the ‘innovator-director’ of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, an incorporated society that is paid over $30,000 a year by the Whakawatea Kohanga Reo for ‘administration services’, as well as getting MSD funding for afterschool care, presumably at the Kura Kaupapa that Simmons-Kopa runs too.

At this point it’s obvious that she’s a very busy woman – nothing necessarily wrong with that, though most principals I know report that the job is fairly demanding on its own.

 

But what is wrong with this picture is that if she does open a charter school, spending tax-payers money on things like gift vouchers from her beauty salon won’t be picked up, as the Auditor General doesn’t have any oversight of charter schools. 

And, in the US and UK where this experiment is well down the track, cases of fraud, misspending and funnelling public money to dubious ends, are regular news. 

One question that strikes me - why isn't the Taxpayers' Union crying foul about charter schools?

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Random thoughts after reading about the faith based franchise charter school that wants to open up in Porirua.  

Charter school cartoon on Frank Macskasy blogWords that came to mind were missionaries, colonisation, deficit thinking.

Apparently children in Porirua don't need qualified registered professional teachers, just people passionate about education.

Some kind of choice aye. 

A choice the ACT party thinks those kids deserve and National are rolling it out for them.

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