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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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Villa Education Trust, which runs two charter schools and a private school, recently appointed a new board member, and he's someone who should fit in perfectly. 

Cameron Astill was chair of the board of Pigeon Mountain primary school when the Ministry of Education decided it was going to convert an old special ed school next door into a school for children in CYFS care, creating the new Thurston Place College.  The saga of Thurston Place is one of the uglier episodes of NIMBYism we've seen in recent years and Astill was at the centre of it.  His howls of complaint  at the time make quite a contrast to the deep concern for educationally disadvantaged kids that charter school advocates like him claim to have. 

Astill not only revved up the community about the 'risks' that the children in CYFS care presented, setting up a website and huffing and puffing to local media, but took the Ministry to task for 'lack of consultation' with the local community about setting up the new school.

National MPs and conservative city councillors leapt on board, and Thurston Place College was canned. 

And now Mr Astill is helping to run charters, established not only without consultation, but completely against the wishes of local schools. 

But it's all okay - Mr Astill "is also passionate about making sure that children succeed to their full potential in education", according to hi bio from the Villa Education Trust. Just as long as they're not 'risky' kids in CYFS care. 



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Once again Northland branches have shown the rest of us what staunch means.  

Massey University, knowing full well that that PPTA members have democratically determined that they will not put their professional and intellectual capital in the service of secretive, profiteering and politically-motivated charter schools, enrolled a student teacher from a charter school in their teacher education course. No problem there – the problems come when they try to pressure local secondary schools to take this student teacher on.  Local teachers have seen at first-hand, the disruption and corruption and division that charter schools bring to school communities.

There are other options –  private schools and other charter schools. Why isn’t the student being stationed at Terenga Paraoa’s sister charter school in Whangaruru?  

And as for the Ministry of Education – what wallies!   Deputy Secretary, Dr. Graham Stoop, thunders self-righteously about  how out of order it is for PPTA members to refuse to provide support and succour for his flagship project, charter schools.  Meanwhile up and down the country, teacher education providers struggle to find placements for teacher education students because secondary teachers are so busy we can't always take them.  Deputy-Secretary Stoop has nothing to say about this issue (he could, for example, table a clause in our STCA bargaining to increase the associate teacher rate) but hops to when a student placement problem arises in a charter school. 

The ministry appears to have been very hands-off when it comes to providing support for the beleaguered public schools in Whangarei which, I understand, are not only suffering roll drops and job losses as the result of having two school plonked into the city but are also picking up students from the charter schools, minus the funding.  

Of course, it’s almost certain that Stoop is responding to pressure from the MP for the electorate of Gerrymander, one David Seymour. (Remember when public servants were just that and not part of political PR machine?)  David Seymour, frothing at the mouth and fulminating, has described PPTA as disgraceful.

Well!! Being called names by a man who slithered into parliament on the back of a grubby deal in Epsom, immediately engaged in a sleight of hand to have himself declared leader of the Act Party to double his income and then engineered a position for himself that’s all status and no responsibility (under-secretary indeed!) is almost a badge of honour.

I'd say it'll be a cold day in hell should PPTA take advice on ethics from the Act Party’s parliamentary puppet.

As Confucius said on the topic of moral leadership – being loved isn’t enough; “When the good like you and the bad hate you, that is enough.”  

 And another thought for ACT…





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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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Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and… Australia

So the hopeful travelers who have been given free tickets on the Hindenburg are now boarding excitedly. 

According to the Minister of Education they will be “trailblazers” which promises a lot of excitement for all of us.


She also says that they are among New Zealand’s foremost practitioners and education experts.  That would be except for the Australian, Tony Mackay.   Is it really the case that we are so short of teaching expertise in New Zealand that we have to pick up an international jet-setting consultant to show us the error of our ways?   Especially since he comes from a country that has a shameful record for running down public education.   Look at this from an Australian blog dedicated to fighting for greater equity for public schools:     

New figures show that private schools were massively favoured over public schools by government funding increases between 2008-09 and 2012-13. Funding for private schools, adjusted for inflation, increased by a staggering eight times more than for public schools. Save our schools

You won’t catch Tony Mackay compromising his OECD contracts by fighting an injustice like this.

Another intriguing appointment to Educanz is Helen Timperley from the University of Auckland and latterly a member of the Professional Learning and Development Review group which was supposed to clean up the mess that resulted from contracting out of professional development.  The report has been languishing on the Minster’s desk (probably because it proposed a system that had schools and teachers more involved with the management of PLD).  Given that the initial ministry papers on Educanz suggested dropping the PLD spend into Educanz, one doesn’t have to be clairvoyant to see where this is going.  Teachers resent paying fees to Educanz and Educanz needs a lot of money because it has acquired a set of extra tasks around professional leadership that should be funded from the public purse and not from teachers’ pockets. Give Educanz the $80,000,000 PLD budget to dish out amongst its consultant friends and solve two problems at once.   The door for racketeering will be jammed wide open.

The other Council members (whether they realise or not) are just placeholders. They are there to give a veneer of educational credibility to an organisation that is firmly under the thumb of the minister.

Their puppet masters in government, the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office and Treasury will pull the strings for more contracting out, more privatisation, more standards for teachers and performance pay and the council members will dance merrily.

A little known fact that may or may not be relevant: The Hindenburg was as big as the Titanic.


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Something that Minister Parata has made a point of recently is how keen she is to raise the status of the teaching profession. From asking business audiences to ‘speak well of teachers’ to saying she wants teaching to be a top choice for graduates alongside medicine and law, she’s  resisted opportunities to bag teachers (such as that provided by the recent NZ Initiative Report on maths) and stuck solidly to her line of ‘backing teachers to win’.

This is cause for some optimism in our bargaining for the secondary teachers’ collective agreement. The Minister is aware of the pay cut that secondary teachers have had over the last five years. She will know that as teacher pay gets closer to median pay rates (with other sectors’ earnings growing much faster than teachers’) that it becomes less and less desirable to become a teacher, or stay in teaching, particularly in subject areas like technology or science.

The Minister likes to be able to list things she’s doing to further her government’s policy objectives – and at the moment some of the ones to ‘raise the status’ of teaching look pretty weak.*  I’m sure that she would love to be able to say, “This government values secondary teachers, and that’s why we’re ensuring that they don’t suffer a permanent pay cut as a result of the recession.”

Is this a sign?


The Minister may have to tough time to convince her Cabinet colleagues of this, but she can make a strong case that this government’s legacy in education can be a strengthened teaching profession, and this investment for the future is one that’s far more important than roads or fibre.



* Of course I’m aware that one of these, EDUCANZ, actually does the complete opposite. But the professed intention is to ‘raise the status’…

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A bunch of charter schools put their ‘annual reports’ out yesterday, beautifully produced pieces of PR fluffery that would make any company seeking investors proud.*

In the Vanguard report there’s a page dedicated to busting ‘Vanguard Myths’. Trouble is – most of them are nonsense. 



Vanguard chooses to teach (some of) the NZC, but charter schools in general don’t have to. Section 158D of the Education Act makes clear that the contracts of charter schools will establish the curriculum and qualifications that they offer –they don’t have to be the NZC or NCEA.

The curriculum options at Vanguard are much narrower than almost any other schools teaching senior students. Students in years 11 to 13 do three compulsory subjects and choose from seven others.

Compare this to other small low decile secondary schools such as:

·         Queen Elizabeth College in Palmerston North – 21 options at level 3

·         Ruapehu College – 16 options at level 3

·         Whangaroa College – 15 options at level 3

This is not counting the subjects available at other levels.  And contrast this to some other secondary schools on the Shore – Birkenhead has 30 options at level 3, Northcote 40, or Glenfield 33.

Because Vanguard chooses to offer this very narrow range of subjects they can put far more resources into them.



So despite what the first paragraph sentence says, they do have ‘unregistered’ staff – just read sentence two.  Someone who is ‘unregistered’ does not have a teaching qualification; therefore they’re not a teacher.  Having a qualification in another field means nothing, there are thousands of qualifications available out there, it’s no guarantee of anything.

The Vanguard contract states it clearly – in 2015 they have 10 registered teachers, and 4 non registered, i.e. people who are not teachers.

So the ‘myth’ is in fact true – “They can use non-registered teachers and that could be someone off the street.”

The Dominion Post story, by Jo Moir is not about teachers who are unregistered, but people who have not renewed their practising certificates.  These teachers have for some reason or another not filled out the form to get their certificate updated (a three yearly process).  They are not unregistered.




This myth is partly right and partly wrong. It’s right in that they don’t have a zone. They could, in limited situations, refuse a student who lives right next door.

They are supposed to take all comers though. But the trouble with this is twofold. This is not like a regular public school where students can just rock up on day one (or two or three…) of term and expect to be able to go to school. Public schools have to take all comers. Vanguard’s cohort self-selects to a large degree. There’s a reason there are no ORS or high needs students there.

The other side is what they do when students are there. Charters overseas are well documented at perfecting the art of moving students on who are going to damage their reported grades. The four exclusions in 2014 could well mask a higher number of students who were ‘counselled out’ in less obvious ways. This (unfortunately)  happens sometimes in public schools too. All we have to explain the roll drop from the start of 2014 to the end (of around 30 students) is that Vanguard says these students achieved NCEA and left. We have to take their word on this.



Vanguard’s roll did decline significantly over the course of 2014. It was 104 in March; 93 in July and 79 in October.   

While they say the reason for this decline is that students left to pursue military careers, we don’t know that for sure, and the school has a lot of good reasons to say it. Contrast it to the status of public schools – if students (of any year level) leave during the year they lose funding. Retaining students at school is one of the major goals that regular public schools are given. This doesn’t seem to apply to Vanguard – who are allowed to shed students and act as if this is a great accomplishment.




Vanguard’s funding in 2014 and 2015 is much higher than most schools, at nearly $20,000 per student. The average state school funding per student is around $7000 per student. One other charter school received over five times regular state school funding.

Some very small low decile secondary schools do receive per student funding that is comparable to what Vanguard gets.  It’s worth noting a couple of things though. Because tiny secondary schools are hugely expensive it’s not really considered a good idea just to open them up willy nilly. The comparably expensive schools are generally in the wops, or have a historical significance and special character which explains their existence.  What’s more, their funding is high because of the base funding which secondary schools get to offer a full and complete curriculum at senior level – it’s expensive to offer that wide range of subjects. Vanguard doesn’t do this, so they have heaps of cash for small classes – and hey presto – high grades which they can trumpet about in glossy brochures like this.

Yes, building new schools is expensive. But the state owns them, and the school property portfolio is worth around $10billion. Charter schools’ facilities are privately owned.




* Except they are very quiet on the money side of things. Funny that.

Tagged in: Charter schools Myths
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