It’s no surprise that two of the four opinions published by the Ombudsman this year are against the Ministry of Education. Add these to the High Court ruling on Phillipstown (which hinged on not giving the school information it required), and the vision of a ministry incapable of meeting its duties of public accountability and transparency is confirmed.
I had hoped that by September when I put in an OIA request for the evaluation of He Kakano that Peter Hughes’ ‘new broom’ might have found its way into the crevices of the Ministry and stirred the dust a little. But no such luck.
Twenty working days after the request went in I get a call from the Ministry saying that they’re about to release it publicly and “Did I mind waiting until then?” On asking when this ‘about to’ would be’ I’m assured, “By the end of November”.
November comes and goes and the Ministry again assures me, it’s with the Minister, just waiting on the final go ahead to be released.
Another complaint to the Ombudsman later (fourth this year) and still no information.
It’s not just about the principle of publicly available information. This report matters – its evaluating a programme that has gone into 100 secondary schools over the last 3 years, cost millions of dollars and now is supposedly being used to inform the ‘Building on Success’ programme which is going to cost over $31 million. And Hekia claims that it works.
But that’s not what the rumours say. People who saw an early draft of the evaluation at the start of this year claimed that it raised some major problems with the programme. And participants talk about it being totally leadership focused – giving principals the chance to have interesting hui on marae around the country, but not doing anything for the teachers actually working with Maori students. This is in major contrast to Te Kotahitanga – which was classroom focused and rigorously, and publicly, evaluated. Not releasing this report, and allowing Hekia to trumpet how good it is, while quietly shuffling the programme aside and replacing it with the next incarnation is too convenient.
How opportune for this report to be massaged into bland obscurity, with a summary that glosses more than reveals, and slip it out onto Education Counts just a few days before Christmas.
Hughes has asked the sector to give the ministry a break and assume cock-up rather than conspiracy. It’s getting harder and harder to do that.