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.