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Classrooms are complex places. Perhaps more than ever before teachers are responsible not just for the transfer of knowledge in the academic sense but also for the pastoral care and social development of young people. Added to this, the growing expectation that teachers will quickly learn to harness new technologies and implement the latest techniques for engaging, supporting and challenging the learners in their charge, makes the job ever more complex and demanding.

Of course, such expectations are not baseless: In fact, teachers themselves place great value on their professionalism and ongoing learning and, despite their ballooning workload, most somehow manage to find the time to hunt down, ingest and implement what they need so they can ensure that the interactions that occur in their classrooms are transformational for their students – that is, after all, their role.

However, there is a difference between expecting teachers to acquire additional skills and strategies and creating the environment for this to occur.

Unfortunately, this is often a stumbling block.

Because many teachers have had to be heroes – finding, building and sharing strategies to meet the needs of their learners – there seems to be an expectation that this should continue without having to resource it. Subsequently, approaches to professional learning by the Ministry of Education have typically involved system level priorities -and funding – which largely requires individual teachers to access their own professional learning (PLD), outside these mandated areas, on their own steam.

Further complications arise when centrally funded PLD that is available is often disconnected from the needs of teachers. In fact, instead of supporting on-going learning for teachers, Ministry funded PLD has been used in many cases as a fulcrum for Ministerial pet projects or system changes that may make sense on paper -in the broadest terms- but have varying degrees of relevance for those teaching students in our schools. …Sadly, schools often jump to sign up for any PLD which is centrally funded – putatively so that they can provide something for their teaching staff without blowing the meagre PLD resources they have.

Educational guruism, in the form of externally provided initiatives for purchase by schools, has also run rampant over the past decade, resulting in myriad (sometimes conflicting) professional learning opportunities that occupy teacher time and energy. Unfortunately, many of these too are ‘nice to haves’ rather than ‘need to haves’, providing something new rather than what teachers need to do the best job they can with the kids in their classrooms. Instead, private interests such as CORE and Cognition appear to have generated a cottage industry in new approaches for teachers to try (and Senior Managers to implement to pad out their CVs) that are often just another thing teachers have to make space for – on top of trying to do the best for their learners. (Jut ask teachers participating in CORE’s Academic Mentoring programmes whether this has helped them access Subject Specific PLD).

Of course, some of these programmes are robust and some of the gurus reputable – but, sadly, ‘one size fits all’ approaches to PLD still leave the teachers who need (or simply want) particular professional learning having to find (and fund) it themselves.

This tension, between what teachers need, what the Ministry choose to prioritise and what market providers and gurus are selling is unlikely to be assuaged without a wholesale reconstruction of the PLD framework.

Happily, we are told this is currently underway. (However, only the very naïve would expect that a sudden change of outlook will occur, where teachers’ ongoing professional learning becomes needs based, teacher centred and well resourced). Ironically, exactly what is needed is least likely to result from the new PLD framework. Instead it will likely prioritise the system level goals du jour, provide a new set of parameters for private providers and gurus and likely leave the mechanism for accessing needs based or teacher identified PLD as the status quo.

In short, it will be a lost opportunity.

Expecting that a ‘heroic’ model should continue is simply unsustainable – teacher time is not infinite – rather, all teachers should have access to funded and proven PLD to bootstrap their practice. If we are all to be great teachers such access should be a given. At the same time, professional autonomy needs to be protected – mandated participation in centrally provided PLD is not the answer.

How then, should the PLD Reference Group enable teachers to continue developing their practice without placing unattainable expectations on them?

One way might be identifying the expertise that already exists within the system and creating the time and space for this to be shared. Certainly, the dismantling of the competitive Tomorrows Schools model may well lead to increased opportunities for teachers to collaborate on what is best practice, likewise the Communities of Learning. But there are still substantial hurdles:

One. The premise that teachers will find the time themselves to do this collaboration.

Two. The reality that schools’ purchasing power to ‘buy in’ the professional learning their schools and teachers need is limited.

Three. The preponderance of private professional learning providers who have not always demonstrated the flexibility to tailor their products to what is needed for the teachers in schools.

Four. A draconian ‘compliance’ approach that seeks to mandate participation in professional learning without targeting professional learning to the identified needs of the teacher.

Certainly, in the current context, with greater emphasis on each student reaching their potential through analysing evidence and the latest focus on personalised learning, it is a given that teachers will need to engage in further on-going learning to ensure the best learning opportunities are there for their students. But, while teachers are almost always supportive of evidence based, well-resourced and effective professional learning, they are also likely to baulk at another set of forced changes and expectations – especially if they cannot see that they actually need them or if they are going to have to find the time and training to do it without sufficient support.


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I am  surprised at the comments made by some Principals over recent days. I have sat on a cross sector Health and Safety Forum that was formed on 9 December 2014 and has met regularly since.

Every agency involved in any aspect of education in NZ has been represented. This group has cooperated, debated, argued and resolved issues that suddenly have reared their heads again.

The liability and ability to sue individual teachers and principals has been around since the 1992 Health and Safety in Employment Act was passed and continues through various amendments until the present day.

These fines were for failure to provide duty of care and gross negligence and where serious harm was caused, as such nothing much has changed.

1992 penalties

(a) imprisonment for a term of not more than 2 years; or
(b) a fine of not more than $500,000; or
(c) both.

Or

a fine not exceeding $250,000, who fails to comply with the requirements of……….

Or

Every person who fails to comply with section 16(3) commits an offence, and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000.


So what has changed?

2015 penalties

The Act creates three offence tiers relating to breaches of the health and safety duties. The offences and the respective maximum penalties can be summarised as follows:

Reckless Conduct (has a duty and exposes any person to whom the duty is owed to risk of death or serious injury/illness and is reckless as to that risk) – fines up to $3 million
(or $600,000 and/or up to five years’ imprisonment for individuals).

Failure to comply with a Duty (with exposure to risk of death or serious injury/illness) –
fines up to $1.5 million (or $300,000 for individuals).

Failure to comply with a Duty (no exposure to death or serious injury/illness) – fines up to $500,000
(or $100,000 for individuals).

So let me see prior to the new act fines of up to $500,000 caused no issues ($500k is approx. $808K now) but $600,000 now is a problem? That means individual houses have to be put in trust?

 

Who is kidding who?

The new law clarifies and tightens up lines of responsibility and that post Pike River is a good thing but in order to qualify for these fines you must have done something reasonably (extremely) bad.

Today saw the launch of a health and safety practical guide for boards of trustees and school leaders. The guide provides clear explanations, example policies, procedures and checklists. The Ministry have also separated out the individual tools and put write enabled versions under the appropriate sections on the webspace.

The dual NZSTA and Ministry resource, the guide has been peer reviewed by over 80 schools and the Health and Safety Sector Reference Group, (the forum) made up of your principal associations, PPTA, NZEI and NZSTA. NZSTA have also committed to printing and sending all schools a copy of this guide.

To ensure a positive health and safety culture, as well as compliance, at all workplaces the general expectation is that schools will review their practices in this area to ensure they are meeting the requirements. Our practical guide and factsheets will support principals and boards to meet their obligations.

As the forum have said all along, if you have sound robust current systems then you have nothing to worry about. Do ensure that you get feedback from your organisation representative at the very informative forum.

If you are a PPTA member get the latest updates by contacting us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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PPTA teachers have voted not to support charter schools – their staff and their operation – it was well publicised at the time and the PPTA discussion is available on our website.

 

Our opposition to charter schools is evidence-based and well documented.   Countries that have gone down the charter schools route, including Chile and Sweden, are seeing inequality increase and results declining. PPTA members have chosen not to divert resources from state schools or their students in order to prop up a model that threatens to weaken our public education system. It might well be that given the funding advantages and smaller class sizes in charter schools, we will see pockets of success in New Zealand - but the costs to the rest of the system, and the students served by it, remain too high.

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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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My experience with Novopay has been a deeply fraught, frustrating, and indeed frightening narrative.  Qualifying as a PRT in 2012 I began work as a day relief teacher and then ongoing work in fixed term relief positions.

The process of becoming a registered teacher is straightforward and robust, as it should be.  The process of becoming a paid teacher is akin to mating elephants.  A complicated courting, accompanied by high level squealing and trumpeting and taking nearly 18 months to see any results.  Since February 2013 I have either not received the complete amount of money owing to me or the taxation on my earnings has been incorrect.

Teaching is not easy Minister Parata. I reflect constantly if not hourly on how to help all the children and young people that I deal with. I plan and read, I travel 140 kms daily to do this. If I so chose I could qualify to be on a benefit.

Minister Parata, I live in a three bedroom home that belongs to the Ministry of Education, it has no insulation, an open fire for heating.  I need a regular and correct salary so that I can move into a warm well heated home so that my children and I do not get sick. 

Minister Parata  I am doing it by myself .

Minister Parata I have been in the situation where I cannot pay my rent properly, put petrol in my car, go to the doctor, physiotherapist or dentist or buy the shoes I need because Novopay does not pay me properly, or worse still takes money from me unlawfully.

I am running out of energy to fight any more.  I have had to threaten to go on a hunger strike in the last year, make constant phone calls and emails and speak to some outstanding idiots at Novopay in an attempt to get my correct pay.

Minister Parata, I am a quintessential kiwi battler, and my needs are very simple.

Minister Parata I do not want to be anxiously waiting for my pay advice every Tuesday,  I want to be able to trust that Novopay pays me correctly, taxes me correctly and puts the money in my bank account.  Not much to ask for is it?
Can you tell me when this might occur? Why must I use the Union, the press, a hunger strike, embarrassment for this to occur?

When I say that is all I want, that is not completely correct Minister Parata. I am a member of a profession that values education, we recognize the difference it makes in our children’s and young peoples lives.  We strive for excellence and success, it is a collective so the things that I want for myself Minister Parata are those that I want for all members of our profession.

I want our principals to be freed up from having to be worried about the ongoing effects that this absolute shameful debacle has on their, teachers, their absolutely essential and just as valuable support staff.  I want our executive officers to be freed from the petty mindless bureaucracy that Novopay is and allow them to concentrate on the areas that they really need to.  I want our Boards of Trustees to be free from becoming a bank and personal lending institution, I want our creditors to not have to hear I am sorry I can’t pay this week because of Novopay.  We don’t want charity Minister Parata, we want justice.

If this was the parliamentary pay system it would be sorted in a day, if not a week.

Minister Parata, it is a disgrace and it reflects on your governance and the National led government's impotence and incompetence.

If your advisers are telling you all is well at Novopay, Minister Parata, and you believe them, then it appears that the emperor really believes that they have  new clothes.

 

This is a guest post from PPTA member Paul Cronin. 

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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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