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Posted by on in Teacher salaries

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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Posted by on in Uncategorized

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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The Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay found problems with governance, with the process, with accountabiliity, with implementation, with trust - with the system.

8 months later the Minister 'bought in' to fix Novopay - Minister Fix-it Joyce - hasn't fixed 'it'. 

The explanation Minister Joyce made  to the teachers and support staff who were, thanks to Novopay, left without pay - or without the right pay - was that the problem is the:

"huge amount of pointless data entry required at the start of every school year."

Apparently schools like to "make work".

Minister Joyce believes it is "time to reform other parts of the education system to prevent this happening again."

So in order to meet the needs of an Australian software company the Government is going to reform the education sector.

By May 2014 Novopay will have been stuffing up for 2 years – 24 months - a whole lot of pay periods, a whole lot of heartache and whole lot of work for a huge number of school communities.

But you know what - according to the Minister - it’s your fault not Novopay’s …

 

Afterthought - would this call to reform the education sector, to fit Novopay, have anything to do with an ex Talent2 shareholding Minister and a 'red tape' taskforce provided for in ACT’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with National?

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Posted by on in Charter schools

Hekia in the House today appeared to admit she reads the PPTA blog. (about 1 min into the clip)

She didn't seem to be answering the question though.

Just like - if she had read the blog - she hasn't answered the fundamental question about charter school funding.

Why are charter schools being funded / resourced in a way that state schools can only dream of?

 

For a more entertaining experience - view on YouTube and turn on the captions.

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One of the premises of charter schools was that they would be funded at the same level as public schools – clearly a pretty crucial factor if comparisons between the two are going to be made. The Ministry states that the resourcing is intended to “provide a broadly similar level of funding to that for schools and students in the state system.”

What the Minister hasn’t said is that the funding – while ‘broadly similar’ is actually far more than almost all students in the public system receive. A newly released cabinet paper from October last year spells it out though. “The cost is particularly high, especially for small secondary schools…” and, the cost of these schools “is much higher on a per student basis” than others.

How much higher is revealed in the charter school contracts.

School sponsor

Establishment Payment

Annual operational payment, 2014

Students 2014

Per student funding, 2014

Villa

$1,019,533

$1,340,940

90

$14,899

ATC

$1,611,534

$2,123,804

108

$19,664

He Puna Marama

$1,880,693

$2,016,630

50

$40,332

Nga Parirau

$1,379,150

 

$1,508,560

71

$21,247

Rise UP

$391,945

$484,440

50

$9,688

Total

$6,508,389

$7,474,374

369

$20,255

 

Compare this to the average per student funding in the public system (2011- most recent year figures released for) including property, staffing and operations resourcing: $6,978

The Ministry of Education says that it’s unfair to compare these two, as these are new schools which always cost more. But the point is, they only build new schools when they really have to because of roll growth, not just for a political, or ideological point. Except in the case of charter schools.

And the greatest irony of all, this is a policy from the party that claims “Government spending is out of control.”

 

 

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One of the criticisms of yesterday’s announcement is that this is performance pay by stealth. Have a look here, here or here for examples.

It’s reasonable to be wary of this, from a Minister who said in the past that it something she’s considering.

PPTA’s position on performance pay is clear. In 2012 the Executive affirmed a long held stance rejecting “discriminatory performance pay for teachers”.  Nothing has changed since then.

The word ‘discriminatory’ is significant. To some extent teaching, like any other profession, already has elements of performance pay. And I don’t think anyone would argue with that.  At the most basic level, if you don’t perform at all, i.e. turn up, do what is required like finish your reports and keep your classes gainfully occupied, then you lose your job.

But there is a lot more to it than that. When performance pay is used, in teaching or other jobs, there various ways performance is measured. And in actuality, piece-work type employment, like apple picking, where the outputs are easily quantified, and the work is generally menial and repetitive is the only area where ‘pure performance pay’ happens regularly.

In most other professions there are some sorts of more or less subjective judgements made about how well someone is doing their job, or how much of it they are doing, which help determine whether or not they keep it, or get paid more or less.

And teaching is not that different. Except that one advantage teaching has, thanks in part to the strong collective agreement that covers our employment is that those judgements tend towards being less subjective and more transparent than in other workplaces.

The three areas in which teachers’ performance already impacts on their pay are:

  • Their qualifications – a proxy for ‘quality’ – not always the best, but certainly a reasonable indication of a level of skill and knowledge that will enable you to be a better teacher. Teachers with lower level qualifications earn less.
  • Attestation that teachers are meeting standards. There are two sets of standards that teachers need to meet – professional standards in the collective agreement to get pay increases and registered teacher criteria to continue to hold a practising certificate. Teachers have to show that they are meeting these standards – which are broad and reasonably holistic, and were collaboratively developed.
  • Pay for extra duties or responsibilities. Teachers who ‘do more’  - whether it’s leading a department or taking responsibility for some significant extra-curricular activities can get more money – this is what units are for. This is clearly a performance related pay – more work leads to extra pay.


So, hardly a ‘soviet car factory’ as some would suggest.

The second and third of these three areas are clearly where these new roles of ‘Expert Teacher’ and ‘Lead Teacher’ fit. They will have standards that teachers will need to meet to get the job – standards we’ll be involved in developing and which won’t (because we’ll make sure they don’t) place undue weight on reductive ‘measurables’. And these roles have extra duties and responsibilities attached – for sharing good practice, leading collaboration and encouraging innovation. Like the Specialist Classroom Teacher, which we fought for the in the 2004 Collective agreement round – they are a career pathway for teachers who have something else to offer their colleagues and the system as a whole, and in a role that is not simply ‘management’ of the school. And ideally – we’d like to see the third of these – qualifications be introduced to give them a further degree of objectivity and removal from school management control.

Performance pay becomes ‘discriminatory’ when it is competitive and rationed, and that’s where we have concerns. The position that we took in 2012 was that, if a performance pay system would pit teachers against each other in competition for a limited number of bonuses or recognise one type of easily quantifiable contribution to the school more than another less easily quantifiable one, then it would be resisted. At the time the Executive agreed that

“Discriminatory performance pay is a tool to control teachers and minimise the costs and responsibility of government for delivering equitable and high quality education to all. Some of its implications include:

  •  Changing the motivation of teachers from the intrinsic reward of seeing students learn to the extrinsic reward of a better pay packet
  •  Breaking down collegial and collaborative relationships, and replacing them with competitive ones
  • Increasing the recruitment and retention challenges for low decile schools
  • Ensuring that some students are taught by teachers to be deemed less effective, but remain teaching on a lower pay rate
  • Forcing schools into bidding wars for teachers in areas of subject shortages
  • Making it easier for inadequate educational leaders to command superficial compliance from teachers, at the cost of genuine motivation and buy in.
  • Undermining the morale of the teaching profession”


The new roles of ‘Expert Teacher’ and ‘Lead Teacher’ (the names are naff, I don’t know many teachers who will put their hands up and say, “Yep, I’m an expert”) don’t come with bonuses – but with extra pay for actual an actual job. There are always a limited number of positions – whether Principal or Head of Department. Roles that are focussed on mentoring other teachers rather than managing them, and sharing good teaching practice rather than developing it in isolation are fantastic – and in stark contrast to simply giving extra cash to a teacher who wrings the most ‘value added’ out of their students.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Positive reinforcement is one of the main techniques in any teacher’s toolbox, whether it’s to congratulate Talia on staying in her seat for five minutes, or Logan on completing his third practice essay before the mock exam. And starting the year with some good vibes always is nice, right?

In this spirit then, let’s look back at some of the good things that the government did in 2013, and hope that we see more of these in 2014.

1. Continued investment in and support for the Positive Behaviour for Learning Action Plan. The various programmes under PB4L, which started in 2009, are starting to bear fruit. Many of the schools involved are reporting fewer behaviour problems, and, though it’s tenuous to link the two, the Youth 2012 survey shows some positive changes in student well-being and behaviour across schools. Linked to this, the prime minister’s Youth Mental Health Initiative instigated a review of guidance care in secondary schools and the report which has just been released is really valuable and significant. Positive Behaviour for Learning is run in collaboration with the sector, properly resourced, given time to succeed and is evidence based. We’d love to see more initiatives like this.

2. The response to the report on twenty-first century learning and the Network for Learning. This report came out at the end of 2012, and is a very sound document. The minister’s reference group to work out which recommendations to advance and how to do it is dynamic and credible. Teachers are looking forward to cabinet’s response to their report. Alongside this, the Network for Learning has huge promise, and what’s not to like about all schools getting free, uncapped broadband?

3. The Ministry of Education’s new approach to consultation. Secretary for education Peter Hughes has made it very clear that he wants the ministry to have a different role from how it has often been, as a facilitator of the sector, rather than directing it. He’s been keen to consult secondary teachers and principals for advice from the chalk-face when new policy is being developed or implemented. Though there still seems to be some teething problems in regards to the ministry recognising the cycle of the school year and when such requests will easily be answered, the goal of easy transition back and forth between schools and ‘head office’ is sensible.

4. The Aranui cluster and the secondary sector in Christchurch. This year has seen massive improvement in the ministry’s communication with the sector about Canterbury schools. The Aranui year 1-13 campus has two elements that are welcome; there has been genuine consultation, and the concept of the school as a hub for the community with social, health and recreational provision is fantastic. Many teachers would like to see this model replicated elsewhere.

5. The property announcements in response to the Beca Review. The big ticket $300 million to fix schools with broken or egregiously out-of-date buildings is necessary and welcome. More low key, but more significant in the long term, is the recognition of one of the many problems of Tomorrow’s Schools – school boards and leaders spending far too much of their time making decisions about things like carpets and swimming pools, and not focussing on teaching and learning. The option for schools to be able to hand property management back to the ministry couldn’t have happened soon enough.

 

Teachers are worth it image

 

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

It’s no surprise that two of the four opinions published by the Ombudsman this year are against the Ministry of Education. Add these to the High Court ruling on Phillipstown (which hinged on not giving the school information it required), and the vision of a ministry incapable of meeting its duties of public accountability and transparency is confirmed.

I had hoped that by September when I put in an OIA request for the evaluation of He Kakano that Peter Hughes’ ‘new broom’ might have found its way into the crevices of the Ministry and stirred the dust a little. But no such luck.

Twenty working days after the request went in I get a call from the Ministry saying that they’re about to release it publicly and “Did I mind waiting until then?” On asking when this ‘about to’ would be’ I’m assured, “By the end of November”.

November comes and goes and the Ministry again assures me, it’s with the Minister, just waiting on the final go ahead to be released.

Another complaint to the Ombudsman later (fourth this year) and still no information.

It’s not just about the principle of publicly available information. This report matters – its evaluating a programme that has gone into 100 secondary schools over the last 3 years, cost millions of dollars and now is supposedly being used to inform the ‘Building on Success’ programme which is going to cost over $31 million. And Hekia claims that it works.

But that’s not what the rumours say. People who saw an early draft of the evaluation at the start of this year claimed that it raised some major problems with the programme. And participants talk about it being totally leadership focused – giving principals the chance to have interesting hui on marae around the country, but not doing anything for the teachers actually working with Maori students. This is in major contrast to Te Kotahitanga – which was classroom focused and rigorously, and publicly, evaluated. Not releasing this report, and allowing Hekia to trumpet how good it is, while quietly shuffling the programme aside and replacing it with the next incarnation is too convenient.

How opportune for this report to be massaged into bland obscurity, with a summary that glosses more than reveals, and slip it out onto Education Counts just a few days before Christmas.

Hughes has asked the sector to give the ministry a break and assume cock-up rather than conspiracy. It’s getting harder and harder to do that.

 

 

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A tall tale? Jet Star needs pilots in order to cover their flights – they overpromised and are unable to operate without these pilots. They have approached Air NZ requesting Air NZ pilots fly Jet Star planes - at Air NZ's expense.  This  means Air NZ will have to reduce both domestic and international flights.

Air NZ has refused.

Jet Star managers are up in arms at Air NZ's refusal to cover.  They are encouraging their passengers to write opinion pieces to the papers and to comment in social media damning this divisive approach.

Reasonable?

It seems that ACT supporters who encouraged the development of charter schools - an apparently different, new, innovative and exciting model of education  (and a well funded education model with - because charter schools can afford it - small class sizes) are now upset that local public schools (not as well funded) are saying they are not prepared to teach the charter school students.

Hang on a minute - isn't this supposed to be a new model of education? One that doesn't require qualified registered teachers? A model outside the state system - doing it differently.

Seems that for charter schools 'doing it differently' means - the ability to access and use for  free the teaching resources of state schools - so that the charter school extra funding  can be used elsewhere. The state schools are expected to juggle their resources for the benefit of the charter school.

Go figure.

If the charter school students will "miss out on opportunities" because they can't be taught in the state schools - then why was it we needed charter schools?

The NZ model of charter schools isn't about students. The NZ model of charter schools is about opening up the education market.

Lets close these schools before they open - stop the division - and resource all our state schools appropriately in order to support all our students.

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It's no surprise that a political spinmeister like Matthew Hooton would be so quick to leap to the defence of charter schools.American experience shows it is exactly people like himself, along with developers, consulting companies and of course, the self-styled "CEOs" of charter schools who make the big money and will be the real winners out of this political scam.

It's not about the kids. If it were, instead of parroting the minister's simplistic platitude about "the tail", Hooton would make an effort to understand the cause of under achievement and what might constitute a real solution to the problem.For a start, the 20% who are the cause of our concern happen to constitute the same 20% who grow up in extreme poverty, who are more likely to live in overcrowded dwellings, more likely to suffer from preventable health problems and more likely to live in families blighted by drug and alcohol dependency and mental health problems.As the Prime Minister's science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman has observed, there are no "quick fixes" to these problems; solutions, such as there are, will be multi-systemic and long term

Trumpeting charter schools then, as the answer to this complex array of problems is the educational equivalent of colour therapy.According to Hooton, it's ok to conduct educational experiments on other peoples' children because will lead to "new ideas".Sure Matthew; service academies, teaching creationism, and class sizes of 15 were all unknown until charter schools discovered them!One of the new charter schools has even announced it will be relying on local high schools for the delivery of core curriculum subjects "“ nothing new there.

Considering we are now pretty sure about what features of schooling make the difference for kids, such a level of ignorance is unforgiveable.The best education systems in the world don't go near charter schools instead they do some or all of the following. Firstly, politicians of all parties work together to develop and fund an education system that works for learners not the favoured few; political stunts designed to shore up coalition agreements rather than genuinely address under achievement would have no place in such regimes. Two, teachers are valued, well qualified, have good access to professional learning and work collaboratively. There is none of the denigration of teachers that is implied in the charter school agenda.Interestingly, the OECD has noted that a feature of top performing countries is a positive and consultative relationship with teacher unions.Three,the curriculum and assessment systemencourages innovation,flexibility and deep learningnot the anti-science mind control that is being proposed in some charter schools or the teach by numbers rote-learning advocated in others.Lastly, attention is paid to inequality.Schools are funded to address the range of health and welfare needs these students have rather than developing policy based on a belief in miracles.

Of course, these initiatives cost money; predictably the people who are the strongest supporters of charter schools are also most hostile to taxpayer money being spent on welfare and outrageous indulgences like ensuring students are healthy and well-fed.The existence of charter schools allows them to feel smug and satisfied by the glory of their own charitable instincts (paid for by the taxpayer what's more) while ensuring that the financial privileges their own offspring enjoy in schools such as Whanganui Collegiate, avoid scrutiny.

If PPTA members, having considered the case against charter schools, choose not to expend the professional capital they have acquired at great cost and over many years, providing succour to a political experiment in privatised education, that is their business.All these activities are, after all, done in their own time and out of their own good will.

As a cheerleader for competition and as an advocate for the promotion of self-interest above everything else, surely Hooton is not telling teachers that they should put extra time and effort into students in schools other than their own, given the risk that the external students could do better in league tables than the students for whom the teachers are directly responsible?

Make up your mind Matthew. Either we have a system that works cooperatively and collegially for the benefit of all students or we run our schools as profit-making, balkanised warring states and accept that a proportion of kids will lose out.We know what we side we are on and we are not about to apologise for that.

Angela Roberts PPTA presidentb2ap3_thumbnail_charterschools_advert_PPTA2013.jpg

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