Posted by: PPTAweb on 21, Nov, 2012
Dear Ms Longstone,
Some of us who have been involved in educating students for many decades in NZ cannot understand the recent attack on NZ's education system.
It is obvious you have been appointed by some who feel that you can make some progress in bringing NZers to heel as this government is not prepared to spend money on education.
The comments come in the wake of imposed policies on (a) national standards (b) charter schools and (c) the abortive attempt to increase class sizes – all of which run counter to the equity outcomes that Longstone now professes to be dead keen on promoting.
I think we can add the attack on struggling Christchurch schools to this list.
Unlike England, many members of this government and perhaps some of your advisers, NZers have a long history of egalitarianism.
To attack the fact that you say education is not equitable for all in NZ, when our education has unfailingly demonstrated its robustness even under the extreme attacks from governments is folly on your part. No-one believes you for a moment.
Just as in England, public school educated people feel that their education system is the best ever, so do most kiwis.
Fortunately the facts support our education system as being far superior for the majority of students, to that of countries like the U.K.and the U.S.A.
Admittedly these countries do have many successes but not the 80% we have. Why do you not focus on this, as any good teacher would when addressing their class and deal with the positive impacts as this then, without overlooking the shortcomings, would lead to a far greater effort by educators to deal with those not meeting the requirements.
Having taught in low and middle decile schools in Auckland there is no doubt in my mind that most of the problem, which you are calling under-achievement, is related to a host of social problems, some created by governments that fail to meet their responsibilities and have a hands off approach to the economy so that entrepreneurs get more advantages. This can lead to many experimental strategies, often designed to be profitable.
This is a road fraught with disaster as experienced in the UK.
If you are to look for the root cause of any failings in the system then the blame lies solely with the education policies over the past few decades, not the educators or the education system. You may find this statement contradictory but at least it is not as hypocritical as saying you want more equity in education yet you wish to introduce charter schools for elite students and let those thrown out of those schools suffer in other schools, which the Ministry is now dooming to failure with its policies, many under your direction (I hope this will not be your legacy).
Why does John Banks want charter schools? Dare I say it but it may be the only responsibility they have really given him as he is a well renown loose canon sure to put his foot in his mouth sooner or later. This gives him a sense of purpose and keeps him out of the way.
My final comment has got to be about the dismissive way that you are treating teachers at the moment over pay/conditions negotiations. Many of these people are the finest who have worked at the forefront of education at times and at other times have made great efforts for many of their students. Admittedly there are some who become disillusioned with the increasing bureaucracy and the increased attacks on their abilities to educate students. If they have any failings at all it is because of the new imposed systems that in large make little sense. Endless pieces of paper that mean nothing that moulder in file cabinets or in lists of meaningless statistics. Many only want better classroom and school conditions so that they can perform better for their students.
Instead teachers face falling departmental budgets and an increase in challenging students.
Many feel that the ministry is failing in its response to the problems teachers face.
I hope that some among your advisers are putting these sorts of issues before you because these are what make the changes, not politically motivated policies that keep people in high paying positions and create endless money spent on consultants fees.
I feel that it is high time that the Ministry people in your team got to know the real NZ education system again and not be at the whim of politically motivated attempts to manipulate one of the few successful social constructs in our society.
29 October 2012
Letter to Lesley Longstone from a PPTA member (reproduced with permission)