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This is based on data from the August 2015 School directory, filtered for state, state integrated and independent secondary (year 9-15, 7-15) junior high (7-10) and senior high (11-15) schools. 

A few schools, without decile ratings, are not included. 

Would be interesting to break this down by regions too, and size of schools. 

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PR 'expert' and charter school pusher Catherine Isaac came up with the great idea that rebranding our version as 'partnership schools' would differentiate them from the US model they're based on and avoid some of its grubbier connotations. 

That didn't work, everyone still calls them charter schools, and to no-one's surprise, they've been proven to be behaving like their US counterparts too. As this Huffington Post headline reads, 'Charter schools spend more on administration, less on instruction than traditional public schools.' 

The NZ Herald reported in depth on the weekend about the fees they're sluicing out to their owners and sponsors. The article noted that in normal schools 10% to 25% of costs go on administration. My experience, from being on Boards of Trustees and asking around, would be that the lower figure is more realistic and common. 

Now a public school principal has sat down and compared their audited accounts line by line to one of the charter schools. Check out a summary below:



(Click for the bigger version)

A few things that stood out to me about this:

The charter school should be spending far more on curriculum resources and so forth than the public school as they're just getting set up. They aren't.  The curriculum area where they wildly outspent the public school was extra-curricular activities - this was the school that was in the news for bribing students with KFC...

The public school outspent the charter on teaching staff, This is really surprising, as they charter school claims to have classes of 15. From what I hear this is often achieved by not actually having a teacher in the class with the students, and leaving them to be supervised by a non teacher.

I wasn't surprised that the admin costs for the charter were high, as the economies of scale and the reality of the establishment period would mean there'd be a fair bit of admin required. However, the admin salaries, consultant fees and 'management fees' add up to nearly the same as they spent on teaching staff - this seems exorbitant.


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Posted by on in Education

There is a lot of jargon when education and technology are combined, especially when there is a sales opportunity in the offing.

I have noticed that the combination of assumptions around ICT/technology and the jargon of the sales pitch are about creating a 'club'  those who are in and the rest are out.  To create the club you need to pick your market - and then play to the 'self image' of those you want to market to - part of this strategy is to also create a group of outsiders/others. This strategy requires neither facts nor context - it works on stereotypes and picking one identity to play off against others.

One interview last week* gave us many examples

"While 50 is the average age of IT secondary school teachers in this country, most are already well and truly on the back foot and have long since surrendered."

This plays on the stereotype that increasing physical age is correlated with decreasing intellectual ability and an inability to manage change  - on this basis if you are over 30...35 ?  you can't 'do technology'.  

The market here is younger teachers, primary teachers and maybe the secondary teacher who has refused to be insulted by the quote above. The identity of teaching professional is divided into the identities of primary teachers and secondary teachers.

“I think we want to be very clear what we’re not trying to– we don’t want kids coming in thinking they’re going to school. With the staff and team we’ve developed, we want them to wonder and to ponder."

Here is the stereotype that school aka the compulsory education system is not about wonder or pondering - or in fact learning.  'Those kids' the 'genius' and 'entrepreneurial' kids will not find learning opportunities at school.  Here the promoter is seeking funding support, a failing system narrative can be highly profitable for education technology business.

The* Last week a similar interview was reported slightly differently* in Computer World  (they skipped the ageist quote):

"While the real world of business and industry has adapted, adopted or disappeared in the face of technological advances and disruption, the high school learning experience has become stuck, unprepared for the students who are about to throw the legacy education model into disarray."

Still looking for business funding here - a bit of jargon - 'legacy education model', earlier the reference was to primary children as a "formidable force of young change agents who have never experienced a traditional class" (what's a traditional class?). Compulsory education is divided into two identities - good primary schooling, bad secondary schooling.  

What this and articles like it illustrate is that facts are not required. Generalisation is easy, context can be ignored and so can evidence, especially if you are an 'entrepreneur'.

Interviews are of course at risk of generalisation and a lack of depth -  the interviewer doesn't always have the opportunity to say: where's the evidence? what experience of teaching and learning do you have? what is your background? why do you say that? is your observation supported by the data? what is the context? ...

When it comes to teaching and learning we have compelling evidence that always and most importantly it is relationships that matter.

When it comes to technology in education the OECD sums it up as "technology alone will not enhance learning, but using it as part of good teaching practice can open new doors to learners and teachers".

It would be nice if making a buck in education included an approach that publicly supported teaching and learning. Working together for all our students. It might be harder to make headlines from the facts (evidence informed, not carefully selected anecdote), from acknowledging differing schooling and education contexts, and from good news stories, but it would be more honest. 


 *see comment below - the Computer World article was last week (21 August 2015) the Mind Lab interview was in 2013.




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As New Zealand edges towards shortages of secondary teachers in some regions and subject areas, it's worth considering what the impact of this will be on students. 

Experience in schools tells us that students don't do as well when they don't have people skilled in their subject area teaching them. And in the voluminous PISA 2012 reports there's real evidence of this, and evidence that it was happening in some areas of NZ even then, when recruitment issues were less than they are now.  

Worst of all, the impact of shortages of specialist teachers is felt heaviest on the students who need the most support and are most at risk of not achieving. 


This report is primarily about maths achievement, one of the areas that principals are increasingly reporting they are having trouble recruiting suitable teachers. 

Now correlation is not causation, and this report doesn't  claim that the difficulty recruiting teachers of maths in low SES schools leads directly to lower achievement. But the fact that at that point in time principals in low SES areas were more likely to report difficulties recruiting in specialist areas should have been cause for concern to the Ministry and Minister. 

A Ministry of Education survey at the start of 2014 showed that 47% of secondary jobs were advertised more than once. This seems to signal a fairly widespread supply problem, and there is no indication that things have improved since. 

How we go with this year's STCA round could have a big impact on this. The relativity of teachers' earnings to other jobs matters for people who have other options. Teachers have not just been falling behind inflation as we all know, but our wage growth has been slower than average increases in the private sector. Earlier this year Bill English said we are looking at average wage growth of 2.9% a year for coming years. 

If this government is happy to let teachers earnings shrink relative to both inflation and other professions, then they should expect to have increasing problems recruiting teachers. As PISA warns, the impact of this on students won't be good, and it will fall disproportionately on the students who need the most support.




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The minister has announced another round of charter school applications despite having assured parliament earlier this year that that was it for 2015.

According to “a spokesman from Parata’s office” the minister’s assurances were correct at the time but subsequently “Mr Seymour mounted a persuasive case for more partnership schools.”  

It doesn’t take a genius to figure that the persuasive case would have been the Prime Minister, John Key, telling the minister she had to suck it up because David Seymour was threatening to pull his vote on some piece of legislation (perhaps the new Health and Safety Bill).

Once again – the last time was over class size – the boys are making Hekia swallow a live rat. The minister has really grown in the education portfolio and no one can question her commitment to kids – it’s beyond belief that she doesn’t know how unsuccessful and destructive charter schools are.

John Key knows this too and he would also know from his focus groups that the public hate charter schools. His aim would be avoid damage to his reputation by keeping well clear.  He has no such scruples about Hekia’s reputation and no conscience about using scarce education funds to bribe Seymour.


How delightful that one of the private member’s bills to be drawn from the ballot proposes that the David Seymour sinecure - education undersecretary – should be subject to the Official Information Act.  The Act Party with its high standards of probity and transparency will no doubt want to support this legislation and it’s hard to see why any other party would vote against it.  What fun we will all have then when the machinations that underpin the charter school model are exposed for all to see.


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Posted by on in Uncategorized

The tension between assessment and learning is one that all teachers will be familiar with. A secondary school curriculum that's driven by NCEA is something that many schools grapple with - yes we know that student achievement as measured by our national qualification is essential and central to our work, but there are other worthwhile and valid goals for schooling too. And to what extent are we really making use of the flexibility that our curriculum and assessment system allows? Recent evidence would suggest not much - and that's encouraged by the powers that be.

One of the premises and key features of NCEA is that it's modular and allows a whole lot of flexibility in designing assessments that adapt to students' & school communities' interests and needs. At the Select Committee last week when NZQA was being questioned about their annual report, the Chief Exec, Karen Poutasi revealed something that was concerning in this regard. 

What she said was that over 90% of NCEA courses offer standards from single subject areas, and that this is a good thing because it shows they are 'coherent'. The implication here is that QA does not approve of courses that use NCEA standards from a range of subject areas.  This narrowing of the scope and flexibility of NCEA has also been heavily encouraged by the universities with their insistence on students not just achieving level 3 but having 3 lots of 14 credits from approved subjects - which contributed significantly to the big dip in UE last year.

What's going on here? Why is a course that uses standards from a range of areas, say a cross-disciplinary course on an issue like climate change (which could use social studies, geography and physics standards) or a combined ag-hort and business studies course considered 'incoherent' , and thus is unlikely for schools to offer?

The conservatism of universities has a chilling effect on the senior secondary school curriculum, and has for years, but this is a crazy situation when  only around 30% of students go on to university. What's more NZQA doesn't work for the universities and should be encouraging schools to make use of the flexibilities of NCEA rather than enforcing an agenda that's often not in the interests of the majority of students. 


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Just yesterday I was defending 'mainstream' education reporting to a new-media type who was very skeptical and unimpressed, so today's feature and series of stories in the NZ Herald felt like vindication. How heartening to have Liz Gordon, Allan Vester, Cathy Wylie and Peter O'Connor, educators and researchers with decades of experience and mountains of research behind their views, as the leading voices. 

The data showing the increasing and extreme segregation between Maori/Pasifika and Pakeha students in decile 1 & 10 schools is what's caused the biggest splash from this, and deservedly so. It's a massive issue, that challenges some of the basic tenets of fairness and  social inclusion that we think of as fundamentally kiwi. It's also something PPTA has been talking about for a while now.

Another thread to the story of the impact of opening up the schooling 'market' to increased choice is also the shrinking of low decile schools, and commensurate growth of those that are high decile, as Kirsty says in the story.

Secondly, the drift upwards has left a significant imbalance in school size, with popular high decile schools becoming huge while those in the lower decile stagnate or shrink.

For some high decile schools, this has lead to overcrowding, "zone cheating" and increasing expectations on staff to ensure kids achieve at extremely high levels.

At the other end of the scale, academics say the drift away from lower decile schools is further entrenching inequality.

NZCER chief researcher Cathy Wylie says this is because many low-decile schools are now smaller than they were and less able to attract their community's higher-performing students. Instead, they migrate up the decile ladder leaving the schools to struggle with fewer funds and a concentration of high-needs students behind them.

The Ministry of Education data sets allow us to track this change. b2ap3_thumbnail_Proportion-of-students-in-decile-bands-of-schools.jpg

In 1996 there were only slightly more students at decile 8-10 schools than the lowest three schools and the largest number were in mid decile, 4-7. Now 40% of students attend schools in the top three decile bands, while around 5% fewer are at low decile. Cathy Wylie pointed out what some of the effects of this are above. 

Another effect is that it saves the government money - as students in low decile schools attract more funding. This essential (and barely adequate) component of school funding is intended to allow schools serving students from low SES households to access the same educational opportunities as those from the leafy suburbs, where parental investment in education is so much higher. 

This graph shows the difference in funding that would be going into each decile band of schools if the proportions of students in each had stayed constant since 1996 -  as  showed in the darker blue bars above. 


The bottom three deciles would be getting over $20million extra decile related funding. On top of this of course, there would be millions in staffing, which has shifted from them to the high decile schools. The trouble is, with this decile related funding, it's not money that has shifted within the system like the staffing funding does by following the students, but it's simply not being spent. It's not that these students don't require or deserve extra support and resource either - but parents' choices are depriving students of resourcing that they should be getting.  It's another consequence of what Hattie is talking about below:

Except, says Melbourne University education professor John Hattie, it needs to be remembered there is a "vicious" end of school choice, in that too many parents are using socio-economic status as a proxy for quality.

So what's the solution, if we can't or won't move to limit, or 'nudge' against, the 'choosing up' that's happening so rampantly? My two cents worth - make the schools in poor communities AMAZING - with the best facilities, small classes and the best trained and most supported teachers. Surely then motivated parents in and around poor suburbs will send their kids to the local schools... unless it really is just racism, which is a thought that's a bit too depressing to contemplate. 

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So school boards can essentially opt out of offering Te Reo Māori if they are getting good NCEA results?  That seems to be what the Minister of Education is saying in this interview on Native Affairs.

The interviewer Ward Kamo points out at the start,

“Japanese is offered year round at the high school, while Te Reo Māori  is offered for just six weeks of the year”

Kamo asks Parata “Is it okay with you if Te Reo is offered as an option alongside skiing at Taumaranui High?”

and the Minister responds

“It’s more important whether that’s okay for the parents of the kids who are enrolled at Taumaranui High and whether the Board of Trustees is representing what the wider community interests are…”

While many would disagree, and would like to make sure that Te Reo is much more central in our curriculum, and there are certainly good reasons for that- the Minister is on one level correct in leaving this decision up to the Board. It’s what Tomorrow’s Schools and the NZC do. Thank god we’re not in the UK where Minister of Education essentially sets the texts that will be studied at each year level!

However, the reason she gives for this isn’t about the Education Act and school autonomy. It’s about results.

“What I can tell you is that there has been a significant increase in the achievement generally at Taumaranui High in the last five years, and in particular Māori  students’ achievement has gone up at a very significant rate. SO I think there’s a lot to congratulate Taumaranui High school about in terms of making sure that Māori  students are getting qualifications that they can leave school with.”

 This opens up a massive can of worms. If schools were to follow this is to its final conclusion, could they ditch any subject areas that they wanted in order to get students through NCEA ? If the Minister will not defend Te Reo Māori , will she defend science, or English? We already have examples of incredibly narrow and ‘functionalist’ NCEA offerings at charter schools like Vanguard – is this what is being encouraged?

With a ‘single minded focus on student achievement’ (the Minister’s phrase) as measured by NCEA level 2, what else is the Minister willing to let Boards do to get students across the line? And if there is, as hinted at the Minister’s discussions about the resourcing review,  moves afoot to gives schools with ‘good results’ more money and even greater autonomy to decide how it’s spend, what’s being incentivised here?


There is a big discussion to be had about individual student needs, school autonomy and the interests of a nationally coherent and equitable curriculum, and it’s one that we shouldn’t shy away from.  But the Minister’s response seems to be,”Forget about that, as long as they meet my achievement targets”. 

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Last week the Northern Advocate ran an editorial about our charter school boycott that got a few things wrong, and missed a bunch of context which is pretty important for understanding the situation. They ran our response on Saturday, but it didn't go online, so here is the letter from Angela Roberts in full. 

It’s a pity that the editorial in the Northern Advocate about the charter school student teacher ended on a plaintive note about the students missing out, because it’s contradicted by the facts and the details in the rest of the piece.

As the writer notes, the student teacher has the opportunity to complete his initial teacher education placement at a private school or other charter school , which was suggested by PPTA when we became aware of the situation.  He can still complete teacher training, and when he’s done so will be very welcome to teach in the public sector. This is not a boycott against individuals; a teacher who leaves a charter school and gains a teaching position in a public school is very welcome to join PPTA.

While Mr Kahukiwa may be temporarily inconvenienced, he is in a situation that very few other student teachers are in, with paid employment and the support of a well-endowed school. The salaries at his current employer are significantly higher than public schools, and they can offer conditions, like small class sizes, rivalled only by exclusive private schools.

PPTA’s boycott on supporting charter schools is about them standing or falling on their own merits. They were set up on the premise that public school, and teachers, are doing a terrible job. The application from He Puna Marama Trust says it clearly, it states they are “ acutely aware of the gaps in quality, delivery and relevance at each of the schools” in the area.

The great irony of their seeking assistance from teachers in schools which they rate so lowly is not lost. And nor is the fact that they are banking millions of dollars surplus which could be used to purchase all the support they need on the open market, a situation that no other schools in the area can match.



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Posted by on in Uncategorized

The Northern Advocate asked PPTA for answers to a few questions about the boycott in Northland, a small portion of which was published in this story today. 

Here are the questions and the complete response.

·         Why has the PPTA implemented this ban?

PPTA members are deeply concerned about how charter schools will damage the education system in New Zealand, fragmenting provision, wasting resources and undermining our strong public system. The people who will ultimately suffer will be students, as we have seen in countries like Chile, Sweden or the USA where charter school type policies are leading to far worse education outcomes.

 After opposing the charter school policy all the way through the legislative process, PPTA members decided that it would be consistent and principled to continue this opposition when charter schools are established. Charter schools are a politically driven experiment, and it’s clear that they are premised on and directly contribute to ‘failure’ of public schools. 

 The politicians who developed the policy and the people who have wanted to run charter schools have all said that public schools are failing students and that’s why they are needed. If this is the case, why would they then turn to the public system for support? The evidence is clear that while we have challenges in our NZ education system we are doing well and getting better – and that many of the factors which contribute to student success and failure are things that are out of the control of teachers, but that the government could act on them if  it was serious about all students doing well.  When a charter school is given more money because its students are from tough backgrounds and struggling in the education system, the same challenges in the public system are met with the message to ‘raise your expectations.’

 What’s more, the charter schools are funded, extremely generously, to offer a full curriculum. The Whangarei charter school has banked millions of dollars of surplus, while the Whangaruru one is this year being funded at a cost of around $50,000 per student. They could almost afford to employ one teacher per student – compare this with the average of $7000 per student in the public sector – many local schools would recieve less than that. Charters have plenty of money to purchase any support they need, and that’s the premise on which they were established anyway – give them the money and free them from having to do the sort of things that public schools do.


·         What does the PPTA hope to achieve through the ban?

 There are two things – one is to make sure that they (charter schools) succeed or fail on their own merits, that they aren’t propped up by the goodwill and expertise of teachers in the public sector.  The second is to continue to demonstrate the strength of feeling of teachers in the public system against this unwelcome political experiment. Charter schools were foisted on the public in a back-room deal after the 2011 election, and the development of the policy was as bad as I’ve seen education policy get. We are not going to treat them as a fait accompli and give up our principled opposition to them now.


·        The ban has been described as discrimination, how does the PPTA respond to this?

The ban that PPTA members agreed to means that we don’t support charter schools by giving them professional advice or access to the expertise or resources of public school teachers. These are all things that teachers do with colleagues in their own and other schools, or with trainees, out of good will for the profession. Charter schools were established with the rationale that the teaching profession is failing, and it’s highly hypocritical of them then to seek assistance from trained and qualified teachers in the public system.

It’s perfectly legal to choose not to employ or work with people on the basis of their current employer – it’s the same as a business not wanting to sell something to a competitor because they don’t want to be copied by them. A boycott is by definition discriminatory, but this is both legally and ethically sound,  like many examples of boycotts against unjust practices or bad policies in the past.


·         Has the PPTA either formally or informally circulated his name amongst state schools?

No. Teachers in Northland schools contacted PPTA as they were concerned that they did not want to support the charter school, and informed their principals that they did not want to have a student teacher who was employed there. Teachers at several high schools in the area were approached and when they realised the student teacher was employed at a charter school they declined to host the student teacher. Trainee teachers are turned down by schools for placements like this regularly for a range of reasons  and it is common for trainees to have to travel to complete a teaching practice. We contacted the teacher education provider and suggested a number of options for this student to complete their initial teacher education at schools which do not have PPTA members. This is what I understand has happened. 


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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!



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Before the July term break I had the privilege of attending Te Ara Whakamana; a conference forum on multiple pathways and transitions     i.e. about the secondary-tertiary transition and the transition to employment. The conference is jointly hosted by Ako Aotearoa and the Centre for Studies in Multiple Pathways at the Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT). 

One workshop - Internships: New pathways to employment - had some disturbing aspects. The workshop was about the MIT internship 'opportunity'.

 This is the spiel in the conference programme:

Auckland Airport, Manukau Institute of Technology (MIT), and retailers based within the international terminal have collaborated since 2012 to develop and implement a partnered internship programme that fits with the simple objective of local jobs for local talent.

While simple in its goal, the programme is detailed in its preparation to enable prospective interns to go through a series of interview and multiple job opportunities.  While unpacking the internship programme, this presentation will offer practical examples of modelling an internships pathway from classroom to workplace.

Sounds great doesn’t it?

The course is pitched at local Pasifika and Māori students, some of whom access this programme via the Youth Guarantee fees free scheme (called a scholarship by many tertiary providers including MIT).

Start the job before you get the job  “this scheme provides an opportunity for tourism students to obtain work experience and employment in customer-service positions with a variety of retailers at Auckland International Airport”.

The employers work with MIT to identify the requirements that they believe important for the students to meet.  

MIT slide - preparing students for internship 

MIT carries out a pre-recruitment phase that includes identifying suitable students - i.e. those that meet the employer requirements.  These students are rewarded by being selected to attend an employment ‘expo’ at the airport where they meet potential employers and the employers meet them.

Not on the slide above is this little gem: 


MIT do not prepare the student to ask ‘those’ questions (other than telling them not to ask during the expo).  

This part of the employer / employee dynamic is left entirely up to the student to negotiate when the employer offers the student a position (cue Tui’s advertisement here).  

The power and rights and responsibilities issues seem obvious to the union observer - but apparently not to MIT.

For MIT the end goal has been met and the students and their families are so very happy that the student has a job opportunity.

The internship positions are for three months and the employer may offer the student a job after the ‘internship’ period is over.

It seems that there is a considerable loss of connection, understanding and responsibility, by MIT to other aspects of students lives - such as those mentioned by other speakers at the conference - 

Informed choice:


The ability to live!


and to have "a good life".


Some of us care about education being part of 'the good life' others, perhaps unthinkingly - given that in some contexts a job (any job?) is a privilege when times are tight - are preparing students for being malleable biddable servants in the great work machine.


You can find the PowerPoint presentation that was delivered during the workshop here: 

More information about young workers employment rights - Young Workers Resource Centre


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This isn't supposed to be how it works. The promise was that the out of whack funding that charter schools get would come down as they became established and the rolls grew towards their maximum.

But the average per student funding in the first five charter schools has increased from last year, thanks to the Ministry’s generous (extravagant?) recalculations of their guaranteed minimum rolls, while growth has been slow or even negative. 

The biggest boost, unsurprisingly has gone to the deeply troubled Whangaruru charter school, which thanks to its declining roll and the extra boost of $129,000 they're getting - has more than doubled it's per student funding from 2014. 

Rise Up, which last year was the cheapest charter school to run, has received a boost of around $3000 per student – maybe they saw how much the other schools were getting and convinced the Ministry to double the number of students they are funded for (while the number of students actually enrolled increased at a much more modest rate).

Charter school sponsor

Total funding 2015

Students funded for

Students attending (July)

Funding per student

Villa (South Auckland Middle School)





ATC (Vanguard Military)





He Puna Marama (Whangarei)





Nga Parirau (Whangaruru)*





Rise Up











Two charter schools, which have had growing rolls, those run by Villa and ATC, have slightly less per student in 2015 than 2014, around $1000 each, but both of them are still funded at a level far above the public school average of $7055 per student.

As charter school defenders are keen to point out, establishing new schools is always expensive and small schools are much more costly to run that large ones. Both of these things are true, but we were assured that the funding would get more in line with what most students receive as time went on, not less so.



* This includes the extra $129,000 announced on 24 July.

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The most recent capital injection into the Whangaruru Charter School of $129,000  to cover “extra costs associated  with implementing its remedial plan”   along with the quarterly funding of $412,148 and including the cost of two audits by Deloittes of $150,000 puts the total cost of  per student at  $49,425.  (That’s not including the enormous cost of paying Wellington consultants to now run the school which  will be hidden in Vote Education.)

If the minister closed the school she would be able to fund every student or “the 39 vulnerable young people whose future prospects will be greatly enhanced by gaining qualification” as she prefers to call them, to attend Kings College.   This must be a good school because the prime minister sent his son to it and John Banks sent his son there as well - until he pulled him out and sent him to Vanguard which, curiously, is now a fully-funded charter school.     

Full board and tuition at Kings College is $37,647, the 21 day Outward Bound Course is $4010 leaving $5000 for weekly sessions with a psychologist and …there would still be money left for the kids to travel home.   

Or they could spend the money in the local community but sensibly. Whangaruru is not a school - it is barely a single class. The number on the roll might be 39 but we hear it’s more like 25.   It should be turned into a fully-equipped e-classroom operated as a satellite of one of the local co-ed schools.

 Now there’s an innovation we could all support.



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Posted by on in Teaching Profession

It must be Collective Bargaining time. The “teachers are lazy” chorus is being chirruped in the media. Its latest iteration arose from a speech made by a 15 year old objecting to worksheets. We probably shouldn’t blame her- when I was 15 I thought I knew everything too. 

Within a week Pebbles Hooper learned that having an opinion doesn't guarantee it’s worth airing; her chickens came home to roost. Perhaps an adolescent lack of awareness -that calling teachers ‘lazy’ might be offensive- is more forgivable. 

Sadly, any fledgling hopes she might learn there are consequences for lacking respect (and evidence) fell flat. Like birds of prey, journalists flocked to gather anecdotes about ‘lazy teachers’ instead.

Of course, the rational know that the plural of anecdote is not data. The data shows that NZ teachers help kiwis fly. They consistently perform in the top tier internationally, while PISA survey data shows that NZ teachers are ranked -by students- among the highest in the OECD. Such data reflects NZ teachers generally. 

Despite this, NZ teachers are paid poorly in comparison to other high performing nations. They are currently seeking to catch up a little- no wonder the speech got airtime.

Published in Dominion Post letters 21 July 2015

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Regarding the opinion piece  in the NZ Herald on Sunday " Secondary schools shut doors to trades" alongside the related article "Students miss out on trades

Media spin

Rather than an informed commentary it's a beat-up. 

The point is: 

... the funding change would also affect all year 12 students in the schools involved as it would shrink subject choice in academic courses.

"In this latest situation, the ministry has only been able to increase student numbers [in academies] by taking funding from elsewhere in the system," Fox said.


However, the ministry's modelling showed 43 schools would lose between one and one and a half days staffing a week.

A further 10 schools would lose between two and four half-days staffing."

The loss of a teaching position, generally means the loss of a subject from the school timetable. That leaves schools unable to provide a broad curriculum for the students who chose to stay in school  - and at the moment that is still the majority.  

And it’s not just curriculum either – every teacher lost also means a reduction in the number of teachers available to coach sports, run clubs and cultural events, direct plays, organise the choir and  to provide pastoral care.   The teachers will get jobs at other schools; the students stay in the school but have reduced opportunities. 

Giving students a chance at trades is a good idea but the ministry is funding it by disadvantaging another group of students.

The design of this system - with 'at risk' funding - also creates a workforce of teachers in ‘precarious’ employment, in fixed term and part-time teaching work.  An employment situation that does not value teachers or encourage loyalty.  

It is  worth noting that secondary schools have been teaching trades related education and courses for decades - not just since 2011 which is probably more about the latest government / ministry branding game. A game that relabels (smothers with jargon) the continued under-funding and under-resourcing of teaching and learning in our schools.

Alongside quarterly funding - it is a lose lose situation for schools.


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Tēnā koutou,

Ngā mihi e hoa mā,

On the back of a busy Term 2 it was great to see so many of our members turn out for PPTA’s 21st Māori Teachers' Conference in Rotorua last week.

The hui is a chance for Māori and non-Māori teachers alike to reconnect with kaupapa Māori in a union context – to find inspiration in the knowledge and experience shared by guest speakers and ask questions about all aspects of our mahi in a safe and compassionate environment.

This year many attendees expressed how heartening it was to hear from everyday people dedicated to improving communities so often neglected by government authorities – people who have made positive steps to curb violence, extend healthcare, defy notions of “limitation” and lead with the idea of Māori succeeding as Māori.

All of this makes a lasting impression on our young people. As our rangatahi panel told us – they are a generation hungry for role models.

Several of this year’s workshops allowed attendees to explore the kaupapa behind PPTA’s collective agreement claims (currently being negotiated with the Ministry of Education) in greater detail. Attendees said they found an examination of the increasing workload of Māori teachers in the last 20 years particularly insightful.

This hui left me with the impression that our many kaiako are working harder and harder in situations and circumstances that are becoming more difficult and thankless. But we recognise the value of your effort and dedication. Our rangatahi show us they recognise and value it too.

PPTA / Te Wehengarua remains, as always, committed to seeing that it is rewarded.


Te Makao Bowkett,

Āpiha Māori


Maori Teachers Conference 2015

Rotorua Girls High School students with Ally Gibbons and Aramoana Mohi-Maxwell


Maori Teachers Conference 2015

 Jeremy Tatere MacLeod


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Posted by on in EDUCANZ

A member writes to the Education Council...

Ms Barbara Ala'alatoa
Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand 

Dear Barbara and colleagues,

Re Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand

Thank-you for your invitation to talk in your letter of 1 July 2015. I have seen myself as a teacher since I was 18 years of age (now coming up 39 years ago) and entering university on a Division U programme. The profession has been good to me, there have been many exciting and challenging opportunities here in New Zealand and overseas. The children I have shared my own learning with have taught me much. It is such a precious privilege that their parents, caregivers and they themselves allow me to work with them exploring our world together. What a treat that there is so much more to still explore. To do so with young minds, with fresh challenges, with colleagues is invigorating and also keeps me young in thought and often quite humbled by what I gain as others share with me.
Your letter acknowledges that "some" are "unsure of this new council". That seems an understatement. It is wonderful to see the diversity and experience of the council members but that does nothing to reassure me that I am in any way represented by the new council. It is my view that the profession has been explicitly clear that your council cannot be seen as independent when we as registered teachers have no say in council membership. The submissions to select committee and our union voices have been ignored by government and the Minister who appointed you all to the new council.
The principle "no taxation without representation" dates back 800 years to Magna Carta and also to Irish and American grievances that led to conflict in those nations. Unless this principle is to be part of the new council's voice I have little confidence in your ability to lead our profession. Unless this issue is addressed you do not have my personal permission to represent me as a member of the teaching profession.
I am reassured when you state your agenda will be progressed through working with me. I look forward to one of the key aspects of that agenda being strong representation to Minister Parata and others that the profession wishes to be involved in choosing the members of your council not just being paying serfs under your direction. That I see as the very first issue in elevating the status of our profession and a solution to the uncertainty so many of us feel about the new council.
Ngaa mihi

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Posted by on in EDUCANZ


A member has copied us into his response to the letter received today from Julian Moore, the interim CEO of the Education Council.


Mr Moore,

Please be aware that we are deeply suspicious of the on-going government changes that have gone on since the TRB and that I am typical of teachers who have little faith in this quango.

The key issue is the lack of democratic representation and, since the legislation does not allow to remedy this, you must accept that the profession will perceive your organisation as just another government attempt to control teachers rather than an institution which has true engagement and support.

It will take considerable integrity on your part to earn our belief.


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So following on from puffer jackets a few weeks ago, the big education story of the moment is a student who may or may not have been stood down for posting a speech critical of her teachers on Facebook.

Despite the ethics of turning a 15 year old’s Facebook post into a news story without comment from the people on the other side of the issue, it’s out now, so let’s canvas some of the facts.

1. The speech doesn’t name anyone and while it’s harsh in its judgements of some teachers, isn’t any more challenging or offensive than many other things teachers will have heard.

2. The school hasn’t confirmed that the student has been stood down – in fact there is some uncertainty about this.

3. The media now are saying she was stood down ‘after making a speech’ rather than because of the speech – so if she was stood down, it could have been for a range of things.

4. It would be highly unusual for a student to be stood down for making a speech like this or posting it on Facebook. And it would also be highly unusual for a school to have to respond publicly about an individual student being stood down – but in this era of parents being quick to run to lawyers or media, maybe it’s something schools should be prepared for.

So, the facts are pretty uncertain.

But what about the wider issues?

It's definitley important to acknowledge that the experience she’s talking about at school, of being unhappy and not feeling engaged by her teachers is real. It’s an unfortunate, but perhaps unavoidable corollary of the law that makes school compulsory.  If we thought that school was going to be inherently and always engaging and fun and its value would be self-evident, then we wouldn’t compel people to attend.

I guess the reason though that editors have decided that this is a ‘big’ story is the idea that it’s reflective of a wider malady – that her experience is one that is symptomatic of something bigger. There’s a clear narrative here, that shown by the quotes selected from her speech – that teachers are lazy, that they don’t care about the students, that students are unhappy and ground down by teachers.

There are always people willing to promote this narrative – partly encouraged by people within the education sector who (maybe rightly) take the view that we need to be self-critical in order to improve and change. That’s fair enough.

More importantly perhaps, is this actually symptomatic of something broader?

The evidence would suggest not.

Are schools kicking students out willy-nilly for minor infractions? It doesn’t seem so - data the Ministry put out just the day before confirms this. The numbers for stand-downs, suspensions and exclusions are the lowest since records have been kept.

And what do students think about school? The Youth 2000 series, which surveys around 9000 high school students shows a steady increase in their sense of satisfaction with school between 2001 and 2012.  Students who report liking school a lot, a bit or thinking it is okay have increased from 85.5% in 2001, to 87.8% in 2007 and to 90.2% in 2012. This isn’t perfect by any means, but it’s a trajectory that is going the right direction.

What’s more, the proportion of students who think that their teachers treat them fairly has also improved steadily, from 42% in 2001 to 51.7% in 2012, and it’s a similar story of steady but gradual improvement with students reporting that their teachers care about them a lot.

Another major survey gave students at New Zealand secondary schools five statements to agree or disagree with about their views on student teacher relationships. With all five of these statements, things like “I get along well with most of my teachers” or ‘If I need help, I will receive it from my teachers” around three quarters of students agreed. And it’s worth noting that the rates were higher in New Zealand than the OECD average, and higher than in Australia, where, the student who sparked this whole thing is heading off to live it appears. I hope she has a better time at school there!





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