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

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.

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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Posted by on in Uncategorized

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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