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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Sean Plunkett’s mouth-frothing misogyny on Radio Live this morning has been well covered and deservedly so.

Another bizarre angle to his ‘argument’, that hasn’t had much attention, was that Catton shouldn’t be allowed to criticise New Zealand because she has a publicly funded job, working as an academic at AUT.

Last year I sat in on a bunch of Education and Science Select Committee hearings on the Education Amendment Bill. That’s the Bill which introduces Educanz, and also, will turn university councils into ‘slimmed down’ corporate boards rather than the broadly representative and democratic institutions they are now.

One of the submitters I heard there was Dr Phillip Catton, Eleanor Catton’s dad. He argued, like many other academics, that universities’ role as critic and conscience of society was going to be undermined by making their governance structures more corporate. Focussing academics on work that grows the economy and that’s readily quantifiable rather than more social or esoteric ends is exactly the purpose of this Bill.

Plunkett’s labelling Catton a ‘traitor’, as well as vilifying other academics who dare to criticise government policy, like Massey University scientist Mike Joy, is consistent with this. This is the authoritarian streak in NZ politics, with its implied message to public servants to shut up and get to work growing the economy and doing the government’s bidding.

But it’s more than just the university council section of the Bill that expresses this distressing view. Educanz, and its Code of Conduct for teachers, written by a group that’s accountable to no-one but the Minister is completely consistent. Teachers are public servants too remember, so what’s the chance we’ll be labelled traitors by Plunkett and his ilk, next time we disagree with the government in anything but the mildest terms. 

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Thanks to Kim Campbell from the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) for the cheery welcome back to the school year.

I’m sure he feels he has something valuable to contribute, but frankly it’s the same tired narrative that is trotted out ad nauseam by similar groups - that teachers are failing to prepare school leavers for the world of work.  And of course this is simply another version of the “hopeless young people are going to hell in a hand cart” story that grumpy old buggers have always banged on about.

Credit to RNZ for getting former principal Prue Kelly’s response, which is a good one, that school’s about much more than simply about preparing young people for the workforce.

Another response can be found in the Productivity Commission’s research on why our GDP growth is slower than many similar countries. Their answers have nothing to do with schooling. Two major reasons they put forward are employers’ unwillingness to invest in growing the knowledge based capital of employees, and the low quality of management.

And looking further into the press release from the EMA, here’s another purler: “Overall employers tended to rate the skill levels of tertiary graduates higher than those of secondary schools.

Quelle surprise.  The implication here seems to be that they would like young people straight out of school to come with tertiary level skills – presumably so employers can pay them school-leaver wages. 

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To make any reasonably legitimate claim about whether charter schools have been worth it or not, two basic questions need to be answered.

First – how well have these students done compared to how well they would have done if they hadn’t been in charter schools?

Second – what’s the impact been on other schools in the areas where the charters opened?

If we only answer the first part of question one (how well they have done) without any comparison to how well they may have done otherwise, we’re not getting useful information. Sure some of them might get good results at NCEA or in their National Standards, but without knowing (with some certainty) how these students would have done if they hadn’t been at a charter school, it’s meaningless.

How could an evaluation work this out? Well, there are quite a few different methods that could be useful. One is to look at how comparable cohorts of students do at regular schools. The crucial word here is ‘comparable’. I’ve no doubt that the MoE is already comparing the charter school results to data from other schools with similar profiles of students in terms of ethnic make- up, and the national and regional data for the groups of students in the charter schools. But is this really a comparable group of students?  For one thing, these students and their parents have chosen a charter school. Perhaps then a comparison with students in other ‘schools of choice’ such as state integrated or special character schools would be fairer. Ideally, the best ‘control’ group to compare to would be students who applied to the charter schools but didn’t get in on a ballot – this won’t happen because so far the charter schools have been able to take everyone who has applied.

The second question, about impact on other schools matters because this is supposed to be a policy about addressing student underachievement as a whole. If the charter schools are getting great results, but the schools that the charter students are leaving are seeing their results slide (perhaps as a result of losing the more motivated students, or the impact of falling rolls meaning they can’t offer the educational options they could before) then it can’t be said to be an effective policy.

Anyway, neither of these questions will be answered by the charter school evaluation that the Ministry has contracted, nor by the reports that the Ministry and the schools themselves release trumpeting their successes.

The evaluation will no doubt provide interesting insights into how they operate, which is mostly what it is designed to do, but based on the proposal the Ministry put out for the research, is going to go nowhere near these difficult questions.

Finally, a question that won’t be answered by evaluation or research, that certainly is worth considering in any broad and honest appraisal of the policy is, could we have got something better if the money had been spent another way?

We know that programmes that cost less than charter schools ($15 mil in 2015), like Te Kotahitanga, can make a significant difference to large numbers of students.  So what is the opportunity cost of the charter school policy? And on one side of the ledger has to sit the damage that this policy has done to the relationship between teachers and the government.



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Yesterday's story about quarter of a charter school’s students leaving in the course of a year throws into relief some of the inconsistencies between the way the government treats charters and regular public schools.

Charter school operator Nick Hyde has said that students leaving during the year , supposedly having finished their qualifications, is something to be celebrated*.  I’m sure that plenty of secondary school principals would like to be able to agree – but that’s not the way they are supposed to operate.

In 2011 the government introduced a new funding regime to try and make schools keep students all year - by penalising those that don’t. Quarterly funding means that if students leave (for any reason) during the year, their school loses funding. Here’s the Minister at the time explaining the new policy:

Education Minister Anne Tolley said quarterly roll counts were introduced to ensure funding was more accurate, and directed to where it was needed.

"I'm sure taxpayers will be astonished to find out that schools have previously received funding for students who are no longer attending.

"This change provides an incentive for schools to retain students. If students are at school and engaged in learning they have a much higher chance of gaining qualifications and skills.

Contrast this to charter school funding – guaranteed for a minimum roll for the whole year, however many students leave during that time (not to mention the generous funding rates…)

Currently three of the five charter schools are below their minimum roll (down 29, down 21 and down 2), and two above (up 2 and up 17). I wonder how many students who were enrolled at charters are now at other educational institutions, receiving more state funding there?

And while I’m on inconsistent funding regimes, the MoE will be shortly calculating the automatic inflation adjustments to next year’s charter school resourcing. This is something people in public schools can only dream of.  Schools’ operational funding is adjusted during the Budget round at the Minister’s discretion (and admittedly has generally kept pretty close to inflation in recent years) but the largest part of school funding is salaries. Teachers’ salaries have fallen around 5% behind inflation over the last six years.


*Of course he claims that these students have done well – maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. Later this week I’ll post about how we’ll never know the actual impact of charter schools on students’ results, because the Minister and Ministry are designing the evaluation to make sure we don’t.

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Apparently  "The Treasury is looking to "crowd source" policy ideas about how to improve the effectiveness of welfare spending." 

The request for information is titled "How can government improve results for our most vulnerable (at-risk) children and their families?"

It states:

"We want to focus on how to get better results for children and their families at most risk of poor education, criminal justice and employment outcomes. They will probably have multiple risk factors, including being:

School building, students, black and white, •children vulnerable to abuse or neglect

•unsupported/vulnerable teen parents

•children and young people with conduct problems

•children needing a range of services to succeed in school 

•people not in safe, secure housing

•children in families with gang connections

•children in families with prison connections

•violent families, including victims and perpetrators."   

This is ground already well traveled.

Treasury seems loathe to review or take on any advice, analysis, or research that may be available from other government departments or published in other studies and reports.

Let's see what has there been lately - and maybe we can save Treasury just a little time by providing the crowd without reinventing the wheel:

Submissions were called for the Inquiry into Engaging Parents in the Education of their Children - and there is a select committee report (of sorts).

Submissions were called for the Vulnerable Children Bill - now an Act.

There's the Children's Action Plan - and there were submissions called for the Green Paper for Vulnerable Children.

The Children's Commissioner has a number of reports and briefing papers - including 

Solutions to Child Poverty - Evidence for Action and

Preventing Child Neglect in New Zealand 

Families Commission work - the Families and Whanau Status Report 2014   oh and the Review of the New Zealand Longitudinal Studies.

Treasury you should take a look at the actual longitudinal studies.  

Then there is the sterling work done by such groups as the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) - Our Children, Our Choice: Priorities for Policy should be essential reading for Treasury, among other documents.

The Unicef Report - Kids Missing Out

The Youth 2000 publications 

I have missed many reports and studies but I think you should get the picture.  There are similar themes in the reports. There are similar recommendations.

To not take those recommendations, to not support the work that has been done, seems counterproductive.

It seems, to me, that rather than taking action - it is much easier to be seen to be doing 'something' by a 'consultation' process that you can call 'crowd sourcing' just to make it sound better. 

And you never know - someone might come up with the answer Treasury wanted, presumably one that doesn't cost much, doesn't require long term commitment, and puts some money in private pockets.


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As is often the case, a recent PPTA conference paper helped set the agenda - with headlines in newspapers up and down the country in recent times about ‘white flight’ and the increasing segregation of our schools. And they’re right to be concerned.

We identified a real problem in that paper, one that is widely agreed upon, but as is so often the way, the solutions to it are not straight forward at all.  

NZ has entrenched school choice– and many people on both side of the political spectrum would be loath to reverse it entirely and insist on strict zoning, and the complete removal of schools of choice (like kura a iwi, Catholic integrated, Steiner schools etc…). But even with a (probably impossible) return to strict zoning, as a result of the economic and social divisions within cities we would still to a large extent have segregated schools.  

So, what can be done? Probably the best answer, and certainly the one that would contribute most to equity, is to make the schools that are currently the least desirable for aspirational families much more so – and without a doubt this involves resourcing. Even the inequity in school buildings and grounds contributes – Auckland Grammar’s plan to raise millions from their exclusive network to build a new block that will cost around double what a regular school would spend on a similar space is a classic example – at the same time as half empty schools to the south struggle with outdated and run-down buildings and grounds.

In the US they have been struggling with desegregating schools for decades. In a system where school choice is generally less entrenched (except in charter school districts, which brings in rafts of other problems) options such as mass busing of students from one area to another has been a common place practice – similar in some ways to what happens in Auckland already, but for the opposite purpose (mixing schools up instead of making them more homogenous). This can happen because of local school boards controlling entry to schools.

I recently read a response to the awful Time Magazine cover story on teacher tenure and in there was an interesting answer. Recognising the importance of schools as a place for students to mix with, and learn from, students of different ethnicities and cultures, some districts deliberately set up their school rolls to reflect the make-up of their wider community. (There also is an element of choice in the example discussed here, as families can rank their preferred schools, and are then placed by the district.)

Thinking about this then – perhaps something that schools could aim for, and talk to parents about is reflecting the cultural makeup of their community – not just the suburb they are in (as it’s unlikely students will spend their whole lives in their little suburb) – but at least the wider area that they are in- say the local authority area, or the Ministry of Education region? Maybe even, at a smaller scale, Communities of Schools could work on this goal – to be reflective of the community. Is this something that the Ministry’s regional offices or ERO talks to schools about? I’ve never heard of it – and in our devolved system, many principals would probably take affront.


I’d be interested to know which schools are around that already reflect this – noting that the demographics of young people are different from the whole population. At least it might be something that the journalists busy ranking schools by their results could helpfully consider doing.

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Posted by on in Uncategorized

A fairly common response to Investing in Educational Success has been ‘I’d prefer the money to be spent on…(fill in the blank)…”. Fair enough. In my ideal scenario I’d rather that the money was spent differently too. Some options would include:

·         Equipping schools to provide social and health services to their students and communities (schools as hubs – unsure of cost as would depend on how comprehensive).

·         Reducing overly large class sizes (implementing the SSSG, costs around half the IES spend)

·         Across the board pay rises for secondary teachers (we could get around 10% for the cost of the IES, enabling us to get ahead of inflation after years of real terms pay cuts)

·         Or possibly a direct $520 per child annual payment to the families of the 285,000 children living in poverty (close to $150,000,000)

And so forth. But there are two problems with this response.

1. Saying you’d prefer the money be spent elsewhere isn’t the same as saying the policy is bad. Just because you choose a chocolate cake for your birthday doesn’t mean that there’s something fundamentally wrong with carrot cake. If you are allergic to carrots, or have reason to suspect the carrot cake is poisoned, that’s a different matter.  More on that later.

2. It doesn’t look at what the policy is aiming to do. Let’s tease this one out.

The aim of the policy is raising student achievement.  Now there are a few ways that this could be approached. One is to look at the very significant out of school factors that affect learning – this would lead to a cross-sector child poverty approach, and would be certainly a good idea. But admittedly, at $500 per year per child, this isn’t going to go very far. What the government decided on was to focus was on what happens in schools. Now, this is arguably less effective (that gap between in school and out of school effects), but on the other hand, it should be a bit easier for them to have an impact on.

So the choice was to work on the in school factors to raise achievement and equity of achievement in schools. So the question here is – what’s the best way to spend $150,000,000 per year in schools on raising student achievement? This is, hopefully, where policy makers turn to the evidence. Unfortunately the reality of ‘evidence based’ policy is that it’s almost never going to be so clear cut and incontrovertible that a single answer jumps out as the way to go. But what we do have is a clearly emerging picture that:

1. what teachers do really matters, and that different ways of teaching have different results

2. teachers can learn and improve in their practice, and there are good ways (working with peers and experts for extended periods of time) and bad, or ineffective, ways (one off whizz-bang PD sessions, being given targets and held to account with high stakes testing) to make this happen

3. school systems that foster collaboration (between teachers and schools) and mutual responsibility for students do better than those that compete


 And it seems that it’s an evidence base along these lines which is informing IES. Of course there are other things which work to make a difference in schools too – there are lots of possible ways to make cakes, but these three are common elements of recipes that work.

What I haven’t seen from the ‘I’d prefer…’ crowd is any evidence that their recipe is necessarily going to make a tastier cake than this one.  Decreasing class sizes in years 4 to 6, more teacher aides, 100% registered ECE teachers may all be worthwhile things to do, but they haven’t made the case for them being better ways to achieve the aim of the policy. And as for the the claim that these would cost the same – wildly wrong, and oddly enough, would entirely benefit the members of the organisation that is advocating for it.

Of course the stark reality is that whoever’s in charge gets to decide what sort of cake it is, and while we can encourage them to use a good recipe rather than the one with baking soda and zucchini in it, the government of the day gets to decide on policy, and final accountability for that is at the ballot box.

And to go back to the ‘poisoned cake’ scenario – this is a different objection some people have raised – i.e. it might look delicious, but it can’t be trusted. All we can do then is try to ensure it isn’t- keeping an eye on the ingredients as they’re put in (i.e. our engagement with negotiating it into the collective agreement) and then not everyone chowing down at once (i.e. it’s rolled our gradually, and voluntarily). We’ve achieved both of those things. 

So yes, you may prefer a different cake. But get your arguments right. Is this a bad cake? How do we know your one will be better? And is your solution a cake, or is it a sausage roll?



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Posted by on in Uncategorized

Noob National MP Chris Bishop has already had plenty of attention; for the scare he gave Trevor Mallard in Hutt South, for being one of two former tobacco lobbyists that entered parliament this term, and not least, for being a smart chap with a clever turn of phrase who will probably go far.

But there’s one little phrase that he used recently he should expunge if he wants to continue his stellar trajectory.

In his maiden speech he busted out the line “…the soft bigotry of low expectations…” (See here, from 14.30). He was talking about Investing in Educational Success.

Not only is it wrong (see the link and compare home effects and teacher effects), it’s not original, nor is it in step with his Minister of Education’s position.

Parata’s been careful recently to make clear that Investing in Educational Success is not about fixing bad teachers, but about sharing good practice.  She has made a concerted effort to be seen celebrating teaching, not blaming bad teachers.  


Bishop doesn’t need George Bush’s help to come up with memorable lines. And, he, and all National MPs, should read up on Investing in Educational Success and how it’s changed since Key’s speech in January before they chuck more rocks into already murky waters.

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Posted by on in Career pathways

They said they didn’t want it.


The govt said 

– OK you don’t have to take it.


And they’ve been whinging and moaning about what they didn’t want 

- ever since.


Go figure.


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Posted by on in Charter schools

Act’s fresh-faced MP for the rotten-borough of Epsom wants a cabinet post, and John Key thinks it’s a good idea so he can get the extra funding.


David Seymour has his eyes on the education portfolio, on the basis of his work developing, in his words “the best charter school policy in the world”. These are the schools that are costing three times as much per student as public schools. In Whangarei two new ones opened in an area with 900 spare school places already.


Act’s education policy, as Jamie Whyte described it, is to make schools like supermarkets. I guess teachers can kiss goodbye to the idea of ever belonging to a respected, reasonably paid profession in that scenario.


Showing unusual self-awareness, Act also writes that “many in the educational establishment express intense hostility” to their policies.


Key assures New Zealand that his third term isn’t going to see a radical step to the right.  Appointing Seymour would put this under doubt.


What’s worse, it would antagonise a sector that the government is working with on the delicately balanced, but potentially very positive Investing in Educational Success initiative.


(An abbreviated version of this post appeared as a letter to the Dominion Post on 29/9). 

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Posted by on in Charter schools

Charter schools the future of education?

"Did you know what a charter school was?" a parent is asked.
No - she responds.

Maybe she doesn’t know because the NZ difference is not educational. The difference is one of ideology and, in order to encourage the development of this privatisation model, these schools get greater resourcing and support which in turn allows for smaller class sizes (1:15) and more attention to the child’s learning needs.

Resourcing and support that all schools would love to have access to. Smaller class sizes would provide a learning opportunity that all NZ children deserve – however children also deserve the safeguards that are in the (non-privatised) state system too, for their health, safety and education.

The question must be this - why are local and foreign entities - including trusts, profiteers, religious outliers, the mad, the bad, the disenchanted, the wheeler-dealers, the self-important, the rich, (or a combination of) - being encouraged to sign up for this.

Why does such an entity have to opt out of the NZ education system, and all the associated safeguards, to get the charter school level of resourcing and support? They opt into a business contracting model and, for higher dosh, have a lower level of responsibility for students and less accountability to the NZ public.

Why are models such as the South Auckland Middle School and Mt Hobson Middle School not OK for integration into the state school system but are OK as charter schools?
It seems that Mt Hobson Middle School (aka Alwyn Poole’s model) was operating successfully in Remuera without public funding. So why is the state (aka taxpayer) funding what is effectively the franchising of a private school model?

Is it because the authorisation board needs a charter school flag flyer  - a safe pair of hands and one that can be rolled out as a benign face and the reason for the scheme’s existence - regardless of the risk that the model poses to our education system.

It is not educationally innovative.

The expansion of the scheme does make it sound ripe for the picking ... especially if you are a wheeler-dealer.

Oh wait a minute - it was a wheeler-dealer or two that created imported the model in the first place.


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Students on Act’s Aspire scholarship cost the taxpayer twice as much to educate as students in the public system, yet results for these students are only marginally better than their publicly educated peers. 

The 250 students on these scholarships, who receive a public funding to attend private schools, cost on average $15,600 each year. Students in the public system are funded at around $7000 a year.

This programme is another example of Act’s bankrupt educational vision. Their only plan is to wildly over-fund private outfits, while somehow promising to shrink government spending.

In an NZ Herald story today David Seymour claimed "We are taking students who we know are disadvantaged and put them into independent schools and they have dramatically outperformed the New Zealand average."

This is bizarre. To get on the Aspire Scholarship students need to be from low income families (below $56,000) – but this does not necessarily equate to being disadvantaged. Having a family that will seek out the opportunity to apply for a scholarship to a private school is a likely indicator that this student comes from a background that values educational achievement. To a large extent, the most disadvantaged students are those whose families, for whatever reasons, are completely disengaged with education.

To be fair, this is complex, as incomes are a feature of disadvantage. But they’re certainly not the only one, and if Seymour thinks that being on less than $56,000 a year is disadvantaged, one has to ask – what’s his plan for the hundreds of thousands of other students in the same situation? If he really is proposing doubling the government spend on them, well, that’s great – but it might be a bit hard to do that while introducing that flat tax rate. Or does disadvantage only need to be addressed if your parents can be bothered to apply for this scholarship –i.e. they are the ‘worthy poor’ who will ‘do something about it’ – presumably kids whose parents aren’t doing something about it don’t deserve this massive extra resource.

And to claim ‘dramatic outperformance’ takes some dramatic license. 20 percent of the students on the scholarship who finished school in 2013 did not achieve the government’s bench-mark of Level 2 NCEA or equivalent. This rate was worse in 2012 and 2011.  In the state system in 2013 the achievement rate was 74%. There was a higher rate of Aspire Scholarship students achieving Level 3 than the average, but if there is still 1 in 5 not getting the bottom benchmark, that is a problem.

Furthermore, the Aspire Scholarships programme is not being evaluated. A high quality evaluation of a programme like this would involve tracking a matched group of students and comparing outcomes.  This would be easily achieved, by tracking the results of students on the programme with students who applied but didn’t get on. 

OECD research backs up the fact that the Aspire programme is a waste of money.  A PISA in focus report states that almost all of the advantage that private schools seem to have academically over public schools is a result of the socio-economic status of the students who attend.  Because of this, it states “…there is no evidence to suggest that private schools help raise the level of performance of the school system as a whole.”

Between charter schools, including the new ones, and this programme, Act’s educational programme gives almost $15 million a year to private providers for the education of around 800 students. A large secondary of double this size would be cheaper than that to run.



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Posted by on in Uncategorized

The Minister of Education wants it both ways. One hand  she says that teachers use out of school factors “as an excuse and an explanation” for everything bad that happens in schools, and then says a charter school losing students and falling apart is okay because they’re dealing with kids who have drug problems and tough lives.

What grates even more is that while these kids at the failing charter school are no doubt doing it tough, the resources that they have available to help are vastly more than similar kids get in public schools – around 3  to four times more.  Even students in Alternative Education centres receive far less government funding than charter school students. And these are ones that genuinely do have it tough - we don't have to rely on charter school operators to tell us. (Who knows how the kids at any of the charter would be doing at public school - there is no matched evaluation,  and we rely on self-reporting to know the demographics/baselines of their students.) 

Sure, these are new schools and the funding for new schools is always high. But they’re tiny, which makes them  particularly pricey, and the almost all the funds that the schools receive can be spent directly on the students as the overheads are so low. A new school like Hobsonville Point is also very expensive on a per student basis –but almost all of that cost is tied up in buildings. These schools don’t have that at all. The fact is, they have far more to spend on each student than any other school in the country. This should be making a difference.


To be charitable, maybe this is a ‘road to Damascus’ moment for Parata. Perhaps the lives of these kids at Whangaruru have made her realise the error of her ways and she’s now going to be more understanding of the realities of students and teachers in all schools. I’m not holding my breath. 

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Posted by on in Career pathways

There’s a lot of fear in the education sector that many of the big decisions that affect schools, teachers and students are not made by educators but economists.  That, to put it simply, Treasury is setting the agenda.

It’s clear that there are instances of this – the attempt in 2012 to increase class sizes for example.  And it’s fair to say that charter schools have been enthusiastically embraced by them and no doubt encouraged from that quarter.

But documents released recently show that the big policy of 2014, Investing in Educational Success didn’t emerge from number 1 The Terrace. Indeed, it seemed to surprise them as much as it did most teachers. And probably freaked them out even more - as they're the ones who are supposed to be balancing the books. 

Papers from November 2013 show that up to then, not long before Key’s big reveal, Treasury knew nothing about it, and had 'given' Minister Parata an envelope of $50million to spend on new education initiatives.

And after Key’s speech in January, the next meeting between Treasury and the Minister of Ed, the finance wallahs were scrambling to work out how make this new spending fit their cap.

This doesn’t prove that the motivation behind IES was as totally educationally pure and evidence based. There was no-doubt a large measure of real-politik in spending this amount on a sector that had caused such grief for the government over the last 5 years.  But it could put to rest some of the wilder speculation about IES being part of a performance pay agenda driven by econometrists  under the influence of people like Hanushek or Chetty.



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Well it didn't go too well.

Trying to explain that PPTA's information about IES is in the public domain.  

And trying to sum up an hour's tweeting by saying that what is there to be told - is there to be told

- meaning it's all in the public domain at present and there isn't anything else (as tweeted earlier) -

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Posted by on in Career pathways



There has been a deliberate misinformation campaign about the proposed Investing in Educational Success (IES) which calls for some straight-talking.

1. Get with the programme

The cabinet paper (January 23rd 2014) that talked about “executive” principals and “expert” teachers and performance pay has gone the way of dial-up and leg-warmers.   PPTA has been bargaining with the ministry to turn the initial offer into something that will work in schools.  The primary aim of a union is negotiate better deals for its members.

2. What's so wrong with collaboration?

Everyone acknowledges that the competition fuelled by Tomorrow’s Schools is bad for schools, bad for kids and bad for teachers but when there’s a chance to do something about it, we get patch protection.  Up and down the country,  schools have been trying to work together to improve things for their students – now they will get some funding and staffing to support their co-operative activities.  Those who don’t want to be in a community don’t have to – though they will not receive any of the community resources. And those who don't want to apply for any of the positions don't have to.  Collaboration can't be mandated.

3. There’s no such thing as a super principal

See 1 above. The people continuing to use terms like this haven’t kept up. The new role is called community of schools leadership role and the task is to facilitate the effective functioning of the community. Each school remains autonomous within the community. There will be no bogey, “super principal” coming into schools and bossing other principals around – the role might even be filled by a local DP, a recently retired principal or it might be job-shared.

4. They’re regular roles with regular pay plus an allowance. No performance pay

The new IES roles are just like those of specialist classroom teachers or HoD positions. They are roles with specific functions, with money, time and PLD attached and job descriptions that require the holder to work to share their best practice with their colleagues,  within schools and with other schools in the community. There will be a transparent advertising process (the law requires it) and appointment on merit. Some of the roles will be fixed-term and members have signalled they don’t mind that because it means more people can get experience in the job. It also allows the community of schools to re-appoint if its priorities change.   And all these people will be regular classroom teachers working with their colleagues to share their expertise.

5. Variation and voting

This is a proposal from the employer between collective agreement rounds, technically known as a variation.  PPTA averages about one a year and they always follow the same process.  The PPTA advocates get to work with the ministry and NZSTA to shape the proposal into something that they believe will work for secondary schools and teachers, and then members vote to either accept it or reject it.  There are almost no circumstances when we would go straight to members with a completely unformed, employer proposal without first negotiating the detail so members can vote from an informed perspective.  

Presently, we are a long way from a variation.  All we have so far is an interim agreement on some key elements because there are working parties around such things as appointments, professional standards and community of school operations that have yet to report. We anticipate that the full variation will be ready for voting early in term 4 which is a helpful timeline given the possible impact of the election.

6. PPTA is a union of professionals

IES is a political initiative because it comes from the party that is in government and because it's election year but its aims are entirely consistent with PPTA professional policy around such things as:

  • collaboration between schools
  • openness and the sharing of expertise
  • career paths -  especially for new and beginning teachers.


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Posted by on in Uncategorized

What happened with the Education and Science Select Committee report on engaging parents in the education of their children?

This is one of the most wishy-washy and banal reports I’ve seen from a select committee – it’s not even in the ball-park with the ambitious 21st century learning report from this committee, or the gutsy health select committee report on children’s health.

Quite apart from the limp recommendations, it’s characterised by muddled thinking.

This paragraph is probably the worst, and deserves to be looked at closely.

The ministry told us that all countries exhibit an association between socio-economic status and student achievement. One New Zealand-based project, Competent Children, Competent Learners, found that socio-economic status explained 18 percent of the variation in achievement in the Programme for International Student Assessments, an international study that assesses reading, mathematical, and science literacy in 15-year-old students. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, by Professor John Hattie, (Visible Learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement, 2011), concluded that socio-economic status was the 32nd most influential factor in achievement. An OECD report, Strong performers and successful reformers in education, indicates that in the best-performing countries in the world, students’ performance is only weakly linked to socio-economic status. Nevertheless, some of us consider that factors such as poverty and transience remain significant obstacles to some parents engaging in their children’s education.

Let’s go through this mess sentence by sentence.

1. The Ministry told us that all countries exhibit an association between socio-economic status and student achievement.  For real. If the MPs didn’t know this already they should not be on the Select Committee. It’s an incontrovertible fact; it’s the nature and strength of that ‘association’ that are interesting and debatable.

2. One New Zealand based project, Competent Children, Competent Learners, found that socio-economic status explained 18 percent of the variation in achievement in the Programme for International Student Assessments….  Oh dear. Competent Learners is a sophisticated and nuanced longitudinal study of children educational experiences over fifteen + years. It makes no mention of PISA, and certainly no mention of any percentage associated with SES. The 18% figure is one that Minister Parata plucked out of the last PISA report,  which presents a very narrow reading of the ‘out of school’ factors that affect learning.  Mixing these two together is either incompetence or an attempt to give a dubious claim a lot more credibility than it deserves.

3. A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement… Yet another example of misrepresenting Hattie.  He explicitly states that the greatest factors influencing achievement are characteristics outside of school -  50%, students peers, 5-10% and the home, 5-10%.   Once again, SES is very narrowly measured in this report, but the recognition that it’s out of school factors that are the dominant ones is clear.


4. An OECD report, Strong Performers and successful reformers in education, indicates… It is clear that the link to SES is stronger in New Zealand than some OECD countries (one reason could well be that we resource schools that students in poverty attend only a small amount more than those where wealthy students go), but it exists everywhere.  The following table shows it clearly. 



5. Nevertheless, some of us consider that factors such as poverty and transience remain significant obstacles…  Okay, so some of them don’t consider poverty or transience a significant obstacle.  Well, there we go then.  Just ignore 50 years of education research, data like the graph above, and the submissions to the inquiry.


And as a result of that you get a weak report which adds very little to the education policy debate.  

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So yesterday it emerged that Willie Jackson’s application for a charter school has been accepted. It’s not official yet, but it’s almost certainly true, given the wackiness of most of the rest of the applications.

This map tells you one crucial thing you need to know about this charter school. It will most likely be where the blue dot is – at Nga Whare Waatea Marae.



That’s right, it’s within a couple of kilometres of a kura a iwi, a kura kaupapa Māori and numerous other schools.

Now, the local kura a iwi, Nga Tapuwae, won’t suffer as a result of this new school. They’re a designated character school, which means that they take students from all across Tāmaki whose parents chose to buy into the Tainui tikanga of the school. They have a long waiting list and are set to expand from 270 to around 600 students in coming years.

But over the other side of the motorway is Te Kura Kaupapa o Mangere. This school has 190 students, and is not a designated character school. In 2012 the ERO review commented on student behaviour that wasn’t being well managed. There is no waiting list at this kura. 

And check out this table which is from a parliamentary question in June this year.



There certainly are times when school should be closed down, and similarly there are times when new schools need to open. But applying the Starbucks approach of cannibalizing local schools isn’t the way to go about this, and the Minister knows it.  This should be about prudent fiscal management, good use of the school network – and as a result, much better and more equitable outcomes for students.

So, can the Minister guarantee that if Willie Jackson gets his kura, that students staying at TKKM o Mangere won’t lose curriculum breadth or extra-curricular options? And that student losses won’t put pressure on the viability of other local kura? Can she guarantee that, unlike with the first round of charters, an analysis of the impact on other schools in the area will be done, in the same way as when any other school is opened?

And it has to be asked whether there’s been an approach to any of the schools within a 5km radius letting them know that a new school is about to open? If not, this shows how seriously the Minister really believes in the IES rhetoric of collaboration.

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Posted by on in Charter schools

Every time Jamie Whyte opens his mouth the chance of Act having any influence on the next government plummets.

Native Affairs on Monday night was a case in point.

Act has been trying to appeal to Maori leaders with various anti-state policies for some time, promising to roll-back the oppressive burden of government and give autonomy to iwi groups. The latest manifestation of this is of course charter schools. Catherine Isaac asked Dame Iritana Tawhiwhirangi to jack her up a chance to speak at the iwi leaders forum this year to sell them to this influential group.

 It’s not hard to picture how iwi leaders would have responded when Jamie Whyte goes off on one about rolling back ‘Maori privilege’, including getting rid of whanau ora (which he, self admittedly, doesn’t even know what it is). I doubt too many of them are regretting not putting their hands up for the second round of charter schools – no major iwi groups applied, despite Isaac’s best efforts. No need to spell it out to this crowd when someone’s trying to pull a swift one.

What’s more, Minister Parata’s hardly going to be beside herself with joy at National’s preferred coalition partner’s ‘grotesque and inflammatory’ comments.  Remember, Parata left the National Party after Brash’s Orewa speech.  Even if, somehow, Act is returned in a National led government, I am sure Parata (who I suspect will still be Minister of Ed should National win) will be absolutely clear that her portfolio has had quite enough damage from the junior partner over the last three years, and it’s someone else’s turn to cop it.  


Of course, Whyte wasn’t fussed about the iwi leaders or Minister Parata with his latest rant; this was aimed at Louis Crimp and his type, and was about cajoling him to get out the cheque book again. However, 2014 isn’t 2004, and even Act party members are finding this dog-whistle politics grating. 

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A note to all presenters  who announce proudly “my child / grandchild can use my iPad (iPhone, tablet, slate...) therefore they are gifted tech users and therefore we need to do this ... (pick your re-engineering, reverse engineering, reformist, future focused,  digital, technological, jargon words to apply)  … to education (school, teacher)”.  

I’ve been to a number of presentations that included such announcements.

I’d like to offer this quote from Silicon Valley 

…we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible.“  

Educators deserve to  be treated with more respect. Let’s move beyond anecdote driven conversations and presentations. 

I don’t really want to see a picture of your ‘cute’ 3 year old as the evidence for your statement. Especially if you don’t have a topic related qualification or a school teaching practice background.  I’d like you to offer research based content and information gathering conversations.  

I’d like presentations with a purpose – using evidence and practice-informed ideas to improve the learning opportunities for our students, and with ideas to improve the resourcing of schools.  

I don’t want to hear that education needs to be reformed based on your family experience and your techno fascination.

The plural of anecdote is not data 




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