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Recent blog posts


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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Yesterday’s press release from Minister Parata about the gazetting of EDUCANZ contained made up nonsense that is comically easy disprove.

The press release, “Trailblazing professional body a step closer” contains this nugget:

Ms Parata says the Education Council is the new professional and regulatory body for the teaching profession.

“It will work with the profession to champion new ideas and excellent teaching practice and provide inspirational education leadership in the same way as professional bodies in Australia, Great Britain and the United States do.

So, let’s have a look at these professional bodies in Australia, Great Britain and the US eh.

In Aussie each state has its own Teacher Registration Board (note the name, focused on core business, contains the forbidden word ‘teacher’).  Most have have elected teacher members, and most of them also have union representation.  None of them have the broad mandate for ‘professional leadership’ that EDUCANZ is saddled with. Their focus is on regulation of the profession, and that’s pretty much it.

In Great Britain there are the two extremes – from England where there is no registration body at all (it was scrapped in 2012) to Scotland, which has the most autonomous and well developed teachers’ council in the world,  the GTC Scotland.  The GTC Scotland does indeed ‘lead the profession’ in a broad and meaningful way – but its council’s make up is very different from EDUCANZ. It has 37 members, 17 of them teachers, 19 members are elected, and NONE are political appointees.

The US, like in everything, varies widely from state to state –but the most common type of teacher registration body is a state government controlled board that certifies teachers and that’s it. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which covers the whole of the US, is a very different beast – entirely voluntary and not connected to government at all, teachers can choose to seek certification from them if they want to, and pay their fees accordingly.

This basic lack of knowledge from the Minister’s office is worrying. Ten minutes on google is enough to show what rubbish this international comparison, used to give legitimacy to a ill considered and unwelcome new body, is.

It’s a pity that none of the government members on the Education and Science Select Committee considering the bill last year could be bothered to do that. But as we saw clearly, most of them couldn’t even be bothered paying attention to submitters, let alone doing their own independent research.



 *I haven't actually made a list of these.. but it would be close


**Image is Saltsjöbadsolyckan den 15 januari 2013 by Elgaard Holger. 
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In the last few weeks we’ve been accused of both putting too much effort into and not doing anything about disadvantaged children.

The latest accusation that we don’t care about the kids comes from none other than Alwyn Poole. He worked at St Cuthberts,  a private school in Auckland with fees of $20,000 a year, then set up his own private school ($13,000 a year fees) before becoming the self-appointed cheer leader  for charter schools.  

His post on Kiwiblog has one reasonable point, about unfair access to special exam conditions, which has been well covered elsewhere.

The rest though is a melange of context free stats, baseless assertions,   and self-serving sentiment. Bulk funding, for example, has solid evidence showing what a failure it would be.

His main point seems to be that no one (except for him and David Seymour presumably) cares about the achievement gap.  

He only just seems to have noticed the main challenge that the education sector has been researching, looking for solutions for, and campaigning about for decades. What prompted this road to Damascus moment? Oh yeah, the chance to get taxpayer funding for his own private charter school chain.

If you’re interested in PPTA’s views on the achievement gap here are some links to a fraction of the advocacy, policy work and research that we have done on this issue over the three years.  And don’t forget the thousands of PPTA members tirelessly giving their expertise, passion and commitment to the students in the schools that Poole writes off.

Needs based funding paper

Ethnicity, gender , socioeconomic status and educational achievement

Secondary teaching into the future, preferred scenario

Vulnerable Children’s Bill submission

Who achieves what in secondary schooling?


Schools as hubs paper

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Posted by on in Education

Whatever your obsession, the fixation you have
- that you know will/can fix the world,
- or the nation (if you are a politician),
- or just that wayward kid of yours.

Have we got the soapbox for you - SCHOOLS - the perfect platform on which to load the responsibility for your great idea.
An education for the 21st century means teaching coding in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching financial literacy in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching Mandarin in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching human relationships in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching swimming in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching work skills in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching parenting skills in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching cooking in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching manners in schools.

An education for the 21st century means teaching .............. in schools.

When you get a little tired of fixing the world and need something a little more satisfying than the soapbox - try this:

The New Zealand Curriculum

NZ curriculum - tki website

Oh and you might want to visit your local school - find out what they do, and how you can support your school community?
It might be a whole lot more satisfying, and healthier, than an obsession belted out from a soapbox.


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The pre-budget announcement of ‘new schools’ by the PM back in April was a flat affair, and now one of his Ministers is asking Parata exactly why one of the new schools is being built where it is.

Hastings-based Tukituki MP Craig Foss is asking urgent questions about a new school in his electorate, admitting he has been caught "on the hop" with the revelation that it is to be built on the site of the Arataki Motor Camp in Havelock North.

A minister outside Cabinet, Mr Foss said last night that he had been aware a new kura kaupapa, focused on teaching in Maori, was proposed for Hastings but learned of the actual location only by asking after he had heard of the possible site.

Foss doesn't sound super thrilled about this new school in his electorate (compare with David Bennett in Hamilton East)  – though he is ‘aware’ it was being planned.

Why might this be?

After the April announcement I looked at the areas where the new schools would be, to get an idea if there is actually demand for new schools (which we know are very expensive) in those areas.

(Latest roll figures, May this year, show both have gone up by a couple of students)

One of these schools is 5km from the site of the new one, the other is 10km away.

The Ministry of Ed has ‘government guidelines on roll size’ that state primary schools under 100 students and secondary under 300 are ‘marginal’. I’d suggest that for secondary 300 is actually too low – curriculum breadth seriously suffers in schools that size. But for some reason, here we will have 3 schools years 1-13 which all look unlikely to get to that minimum size.

And what does this mean for their students?

Well, Chris Whelan from the University Vice Chancellors told Radio NZ a few weeks ago that one of the theories about the drop off in Maori students achieving UE was because of small schools not offering a wide enough range of subjects.

Good on Foss asking about why they're getting a new school there, and what this will mean for students the electorate. I look forward to the answers. 

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While the education sector has begun a serious and important discussion about how to better resource schools, the reanimated zombie of bulk funding seems to be scratching its way out of the grave.

Following indications from Minister Parata that a review of school funding is imminent, the sector has begun developing an evidence base and principles for change. Without pre-empting anything, it’s clear that equity is going to be one of the crucial principles that have to underpin any changes.

Meanwhile, the Act Party, has come up with policy that could be titled Return of the Living Dead.  Consistent with their commitment to ignoring evidence and sticking to the failed classical economic theory that led the world straight to the Global Financial Crisis, they want to go back to the 1990s and give school boards the power to opt into bulk funding.

Framing it slightly differently this time – Act’s alternative budget contains this:

 Expanding the Partnership School model by allowing state schools, if their boards choose, to convert to the Partnership School funding model, thereby giving greater options and a wider range of choice for parents and their children.

Here are just three of the reasons why bulk funding schools is a dumb move.

1. Risks when boards and principals make bad decisions.

At the moment a badly run school can get into financial problems, but because the large part of funding for the basic work of the school goes directly to salaries, it means that a school is unlikely to completely collapse from not managing the finances well, and teachers (notwithstanding Novopay) will continue to get paid and come to work. This protects students from bad decisions that may be made by boards and principals.

2. Undermines collective agreements

The collective agreements unite the teaching profession, and provide stability and coherence to a highly fragmented sector. Policy initiatives such as support for beginning teachers (induction and mentoring), new roles to share good practice and so forth, will be out the door. The collective agreements strengthen the teaching profession – without them we would be open to far more casualization and rolling back of pay and conditions. A less attractive teaching profession means fewer teachers, and we end up with unregistered teachers or the Teach First example.

3. Removes public responsibility

 Through the way it resources schools the state takes a certain degree of responsibility for students, targeting particular students it knows are at risk and so forth. Certain resources are provided not in terms of money but in terms of central support – these are ‘cashed up’ in charter schools.  The responsibility for students is undermined if the state simply hands over a wodge of cash and says ‘do whatever it takes to achieve these narrow outcomes’. 



Just got this from a colleague who is a veteran of the 1990s bulk funding campaign:

The big argument here is that the ops grant is bulk funded. Over time it has been underfunded and even the most efficient fund managing boards have been forced to ask for more and more money from parents to keep running their schools. They don’t have to ask for more money for teachers because salaries are not bulk funded. And as their bulk funded operations gran becomes progressively smaller in real terms they do not have to make trade-offs between whether to cut costs on classroom resources or on the quality or number of their teaching force – like the hospitals are forced to do.

In the 1990s bulk funded schools generally hired more new teachers (and kept hiring them as they burnt them out) while centrally resourced schools continued to hire the more experienced teachers. Or they hired fewer teachers to save the money – which meant fewer options and larger classes for students, and higher workloads for teachers in an already stressful and demanding job.

 Ironically boards that went into bulk funding often argued they had to do it to make up for under-resourcing of the operations grant through a transfer from their salaries fund to their ops fund.

 We can also see the effects of bulk  funding on the employment of school support staff (also bulk funded) where any increase in salary costs tends to drive down the number or hours of people employed in support roles in schools as schools balance their budget. The alternative is to not increase the wages, which over time drives down the quality of the people boards can afford to employ in those roles.

 Ultimately central resourcing does cost a government more than bulk funding, but it ensures that boards can always select the best person not the cheapest to put in front of the students and therefore it  buys a better quality workforce and gives a far greater guarantee to every child that they will have well-qualified and experienced teachers.

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Posted by on in Social media

There have been a number of news items this week about the social messaging app Yik Yak

'Dangerous' app banned by private Auckland school
App used to bully students says school
Schools clamp down on anonymous message app Yik Yak

Should we ban students from crossing the road because they could be hit by a car? Should we ban cars? Or do we teach students to cross the road safely?

To quote Audrey Watters

“The lessons here do involve "digital citizenship" - do we help students understand how to negotiate and navigate these new communications technologies? Moreover, do students understand that anonymous apps aren't anonymous at all? (A security flaw last year allowed hackers to take over others' Yik Yak accounts, see their messages, and post new ones.)

And by focusing on technology and anonymity as the problems here, are we overlooking behaviors and practices that, as Reid highlights, also existed "pre-digital"?”

in “Anonymous Messaging Apps on Campus

Just asking.

Link to PPTA resource Digital citizenship - resource ideas for teachers






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While most schools in the country are feeling the pinch – with 95% of secondary principals reporting their funding isn’t enough to meet their needs, one school is so flush that they have just bought a $100,000 waka for their 65 students.

The NZ Herald reports:

He Puna Marama, which received $6 million of government funding for its two Whangarei schools over two years, but also gets revenue from elsewhere, says it bought the 22-person, 14m carved kauri waka with money specially "put aside" for the purpose.

The secondary school part of this charter school (which opened in 2014) had around 60 students last year, and with its $40,000 funding each student bought in, it employed 8 teachers.

And along with this it has $100,000 left over for a beautiful hand carved waka.

Post Primary Teachers' Association president Angela Roberts said she found the waka purchase "frustrating".

"It breaks my heart, because I know for a fact there are outdoor education teachers in state schools around the country trying to motivate the same kids as He Puna Marama are and they don't even have the money to buy a couple of plastic kayaks," she said. "That's what hurts.

An example of this – a great rural secondary school serving a predominantly Maori community just set up a senior outdoor ed course – and the Board of Trustees gave the teacher in charge a $200 budget for the year. Not even enough for one kayak or mountain bike.

This school – with over 80% Maori students, gets a quarter of the funding that the Whangarei charter does per students, and has a massive debt that a previous principal left.

And from overseas the issue of lack of accountability with charter school spending has been in the news again. The Washington Post reports:

A new report released on Tuesday details fraud and waste totaling more than $200 million of uncovered fraud and waste of taxpayer funds in the charter school sector, but says the total is  impossible to know because there is not sufficient oversight over these schools.

It’s to their credit that He Puna Marama was open about this purchase – but we have no idea about the general spending at most of the charters – how much the chief executives are earning for example. I’d hazard that this waka isn’t the only purchase that is out of line with spending at regular public schools.

 And, like with the 81 hectare farm bought by another charter, if this trust has its schools closed, or decides it wants to get out of the ‘education business’ their tax-payer funded purchases remain in their hands.

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So the plan to evaluate charter schools has been released, at last, and it’s as hopeless as expected.  David Seymour agrees that if it doesn’t compare the cohorts in charters with how they would have been expected to perform in regular schools, it’s not much cop.

What we didn’t know before it was released, that we do know now is:

1. The survey of parents, which is part of the evaluation, relies on the schools themselves to select the whanau and carry it out. This is seen as a problem by the evaluators, but apparently isn’t so serious that they won’t do it. Hmmm. So, what’s the bet that parents who are ticked off with the school won’t be getting an evaluation form sent home.

2. The total cost of the evaluation is $375,000 over the three and a bit years. This is less than 1% of the cost of the policy. You’d think for a pilot programme that a bit more would be invested in a high quality evaluation.

3. The Ministry of Education’s Chief Science Advisor, whose role is to “to use evidence to enhance the quality of policy formation and evaluation” was not involved in designing the plan.

Of course, with charters in New Zealand funded to a level that is wildly out of step with what is spent on almost all other students in the country, an evaluation that compared students in charters with students in regular public schools was always going to be problematic.

However, there may be some comparisons that could work. This would have to be with small schools of choice (i.e. that parents have to make an active choice to enrol in, that have maximum rolls, rather than zones), with students predominantly from amongst the ‘priority learner’ groups.  Three that spring to mind are Nga Tapuwae, a kura a iwi in Mangere, McCauley College, a Catholic girls’ school in Otahuhu, or Tai Wananga, a special character school in Hamilton.  All three of these are low decile, predominantly Maori or Pasifika, and their students achieve NCEA results well above the national averages.  (Search them out on the site, comparing those three with the two Kura Hourua in Whangarei and Whangaruru, and Vanguard, the three charters that did NCEA last year).

I’m not saying that the answer then is to simply more ‘schools of choice’ rather than regular public schools, as their students achieve better. That would be a very bad argument, which unfortunately some people will leap to.  Rather, if we’re looking at the impact of charters, we have to, like David Seymour says compare apples with apples. 



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Posted by on in Uncategorized

It’s fair to say that most people in New Zealand and indeed most of the world at least pay lip service to human rights. The best and most widely known expression of human rights is of course the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which most countries have signed up to, and we were one of the first.

Of course many people in positions of power violate these rights, while at the same time claiming to uphold them – everyone from Putin and the Saudi government to Tony Abbot, and arguably at times the NZ government too. But generally speaking, there aren’t many people who outright deny or repudiate them.

People who do straight up deny human rights tend to be extremists on the marginal fringe of established belief systems, the types of people who don’t generally get invited to dinner parties or sporting events.

Except that there’s one human right that a bunch of apparently ‘regular’ people do straight up deny – and that’s the right to belong to a trade union – article 23 (4) of the UDHR.

Belonging to a trade union means organising, and negotiating en masse with an employer rather than individually.

If you don’t think that people should be able to bargain collectively with their employer, you’re a human rights denier.

And yet we give plenty of people like this voices in the media, positions of influence, and even seats in parliament. (Scroll down to Seymour’s speech).

I’m definitely not saying that we shouldn’t allow this radical fringe opinion to be expressed, or that any human rights deniers shouldn’t be allowed to (generally speaking) say whatever they want.


Simply, they should be subjected to the same incredulity and public odium as we give people who deny others the right to change religion, or marry who they want, or not be a slave.  

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Posted by on in EDUCANZ



Lack of trust of ‘punters in punterland’ (as Don Brash put it so elegantly) is a common trait in a certain breed of politician.

So it’s no great surprise to see democratic institutions undermined by this current lot. And it’s not just Educanz, the shortcomings of which readers of this blog will be familiar with. ECan (what’s with those letters?) saw elected representatives dumped in 2010, (seemingly, because they weren’t doling out water rights to dairy farmers efficiently enough). And now they’re replacing it with a partly elected and partly appointed body. Nick Smith, the Minister in charge’s line is that a fully democratic body is too risky.

But hold the phone – even ECan gets a majority of members who are elected (seven to six), unlike Educanz.

Minister Parata’s response to the critics seems to be to simply wag her finger and sigh, with the superiority of someone who’s in their office thanks to elections but doesn’t really trust the people who put her there.

We don’t need elections, she says, because the ‘skill set’ that the people on the new Educanz council will have must be ‘transparent, and she will appoint people who meet the skill set (around the 14.40 mark, here ). Right oh then. She decides what is valued in that ‘skill set’ and then gets to decide who meets it. It’s a technocrat’s wet dream – no messy elections and contest of ideas, just the ‘best people for the job’.

Of course, low voter turn-out for the Teachers Council elections hasn’t helped our case. But the same argument could apply elected reps on a whole bunch of institutions from school boards of trustees to local authorities (and university councils, which are getting the Educanz treatment right now). No doubt there are people around the cabinet table with Parata who’d be dead keen to do that.  

What’s really ‘too risky’ is allowing this gradual erosion of democracy and public accountability. Even corporate boards of publicly listed companies are elected by shareholders. And if teachers aren’t ‘shareholders’ in the regulation and status of the profession, I don’t know who is. 


(The image is of Singapore - appropriate because it's a technocrat's paradise, where democratic institutions are so weak that newspapers regularly print Minister's announcements verbatim without any critique.)

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Posted by on in Teaching Profession

What teachers do

Nearly everyone has been to school so nearly everyone is an expert on schools and expert on the subject of  teachers and teaching.

So they say.

And while we grump about that saying and love Taylor Mali for his rebuttal  - we just sigh and flip the page or move on from the person trying to “bait the teacher.”  

It is incredibly important that we start and join conversations about our schools – about teaching and learning - and that we start doing this right away. 

We must not assume that people know what our secondary schools do. 

We must identify the strengths of our local secondary schools. 

We must identify the strengths of our teachers and of our students.

We should know the whakapapa of our school.

We should be able to explain how important our school  is to our community and explain what secondary schools do. 

We must be able to explain about teacher training – why teachers are expert in their fields and why they are expert in understanding how learning happens.

We must know what teacher registration requires and what it means.

We should also be clear that being expert in a subject isn't enough, caring about children isn't enough – you need to be a qualified teacher to be teaching our tamariki in our schools every day.

We should be uncompromising on the subject of teaching as a profession - and that we have the absolute right to be treated as trusted  and respected professionals.

We should expect no less for our students.

We should expect no less a valuing of our own work as secondary teachers. 

Leave no room for myths and anecdote, no longer remain silent, amenable and imply consent. Then we will see what value the government places on teachers, students, teaching and learning.


(with thanks to Edward Berger for his post "Saving community schools" http://edwardfberger.com/)


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Posted by on in Education

Our current Government loves to use words like 'efficiency' to mask its user-pays philosophy.

Hence, the current imbroglio around cutting the funding for curation services at the National Library can be laughed off as a necessary 'efficiency' - the resources are still there after all.

However, a more honest way of framing this sleight of hand is to say that the National Library is shifting the cost of bringing a collection of appropriate and engaging books directly to a student's lap, to schools.

There is, of course, a problem with this. In a highly-devolved system, such as we have in New Zealand, every time you remove a centrally-provided resource or support mechanism, you increase inequity of access to quality learning resources and experiences for our kids. When the National Library stops supporting schools in finding the most appropriate books in the collection for students, schools are left to do it for themselves.

This is most difficult for our poor, small, and rural schools.

They are the ones least likely to be able to find the cash or expertise to pick up yet another job being dumped by the government.

Efficient? Maybe.  Equitable? Not at all.


(Jack Boyle is the PPTA Executive member for Hutt Valley/Wairarapa. Letter published in Dominion Post 10 March 2015)


Library students WHS



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Ngāi Tahu announced today that they are considering a 1900s business model.  The model is not unfamiliar to New Zealanders, definitely not unfamiliar to Māori.

This is the model where a person supposedly representing the collective - in the interests of a business opportunity - sells something sacred to a 'rich' white man.

Because the man - from across the water - knows better than those who are tāngata whenua. Otherwise 'the man' wouldn't be so rich.

In this case Ngāi Tahu are thinking about importing an American model of education - they are putting education Aotearoa on the auction block to be stripped, sold, badly used and then discarded.

Ngāi Tahu are thinking of shunning kōhanga, kura, wharekura, models like Te Kōtahitanga, all the work of tāngata whenua in education - for a rich man from across the water, one whose political hero and pen-pal was Ronald Reagan




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The Ministry of Education put out a bit of propaganda a few months back that Cam Slater and his cronies seized on with glee. It tried to prove that charter schools aren’t really all that expensive, and that they actually are funded less than public schools.

It ignores a whole bunch of inconvenient facts.

1. When the state invests millions of dollars in a new school, it’s getting an asset that it owns. The school property portfolio is worth over $10 billion. Unused school sites are regularly sold. A charter school, if it buys its property, like the Whangaruru one, owns the assets themselves, and if they go belly-up, can walk away with whatever they’ve bought, paid for by the taxpayer. Funnily enough, I haven’t heard Jordan Williams or David Farrar making a fuss about this.

2. New schools cost a lot, whether they’re charter schools or public schools. However, before any new public school is opened there’s a thorough analysis which has to show that there will be significant roll-growth, above the capacity of existing schools to manage. Part of this involves talking with other local schools – like in this example of Hobsonville Point.  This is absolutely not the case with charters – see Whangarei in particular, or Alwyn’s middle school in West Auckland where there are hundreds of spare places at the year levels he’s teaching.  Hekia acknowledged this by making ‘in areas of roll growth’ one of the potential priorities for the second round – but it was a ‘nice to have’ priority, rather than a must have – and has been ignored.

3. The massive costs for new public schools, such as for example the millions on Hobsonville Point Secondary School, are almost all tied up in property and plant. In regards to teaching staff and operational funding, they receive the same as any other school of a similar size. The charters can, on the other hand, spend their money which in theory should be going on plant directly on the students, in small class sizes and free uniforms, or on executive salaries or whatever.  The best example of this is the Whangarei charter that opened last year. Its lease is $60,000 per year for property – which means that property costs only one and a half students.  It has a vastly disproportionate amount of resource available to spend compared to local public schools – and when you talk to Ministry of Ed staff, they’re well aware of this.

4. The most extravagant funding, for example for the aforementioned Whangarei charter, was based on the school’s assertion that they would be starting very small, and growing to a larger number of students (from 70 to around 300) – and property funding was based on the target roll rather than the actual roll. What a surprise – the roll doesn’t seem to be growing at the rate projected. But funding is still based on what they are aiming for.  And don’t forget, it’s highly unlikely that a new secondary would be approved that only promised to get to 300 students, simply because that’s always going to be a very costly school (compare to, e.g Hobsonville Point again – target roll, 1500 students).

5. One of the premises of charters was that private sectors would ‘partner’ with the state to provide education –and provision of property was supposed to be one of the ways in which this would happen. Unsurprisingly, the outfits that want to operate them haven’t brought anything to the table at all, and have needed the state to fund them entirely.

6. How much is spent on instruction makes a difference to achievement. See, for example, this research on ‘low ability’ students receiving significant extra funding. Comparing the learning outcomes of charter and public schools is unfair. Any good scientific test needs clarity about what the variables are that are being tested. If charters get better achievement results than their local public schools which variable is making the difference? Massively more resourcing for instruction would be a pretty decent candidate – but is that the point that charter school advocates wanted to prove?


Anyway – don’t take my word on the costs of charter schools. This MoE document spells it out – see sections 35- 38.

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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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