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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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I’ve been reading the harrowing tale of Pike River by Rebecca Macfie recently, and one of many things that struck me is how in so many cases information given to directors and share-holders was feel-good garbage, spun and polished to make sure that the money kept flowing and hard questions weren't asked.

Obviously Pike River is in a different league in terms of the potentially catastrophic impact of this phenomenon, but I think we’re seeing a similar class of ‘misinformation’ in documents like this:



This is from a report which went to Minister Parata in February. It’s about the charter school in Whangaruru, the one that the Ministry of Education said should not be opened as it wasn't going to be ready, and they had concerns about the capacity of the people involved to run a school.

Stories out of Whangaruru in the last few months ( e.g. here and here) show :


  • ·         Staff left in the first weeks
  • ·         It never had the full contingent of teachers appointed
  • ·         There were health and safety concerns from the outset
  • ·         Relationships between school leaders broke down, leading the Ministry appointed facilitator to take over the running of the school
  • ·         And we know that the facilities were not ready at the start of the term.


The point of this isn’t to single out this school for the rough time they’ve had. The Minister should never have signed them up, and the Ministry should not now be colluding with this terrible decision by sugar-coating the pill.  But, as we know too well, this sort of fluff keeps the money flowing.


* The title of this post is from this description of Macfie's book on Pike River. "Shares in the company had been rapidly taken up by investors, swept away by predictions of extraordinary returns. Beneath the hype, though, lay mismanagement, mistakes and wilful blindness that would cost men their lives."


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Red Queen - John Tenniel - WikipediaAlice laughed. "There's no use trying," she said:

"one can't believe impossible things."

"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen.

"When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day.

Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." 

1. There has been no consultation.

This might be true if these changes had been legislated in place but that’s not what happened. The $359 million was an employer offer made to unions for them to bargain and amend with the aim of eventually putting it into their collective agreements.   If using the democratic structures of unions to make changes for teachers isn’t consultation what is?

2. The money could be better spent on…

It possibly could but it was approved via the Budget process to be spent on a specific educational initiative.  Budget spending decisions are a government prerogative.  Anyone waiting for the day when a democratically-elected government sets its budget priorities by national plebiscite will be waiting a long time.  If it is more important to spend money on addressing issues of poverty than teachers does that mean teachers will never seek another pay increase?

3. IES creates a layer of management…

Two of the positions are very clearly classroom teaching positions tasked with sharing their expertise and supporting other teachers.  They have no management responsibilities at all. The position previously called change principal is a standard principal position with extra remuneration to take account of the school’s recruitment problems and the role that was entitled “executive principal” involves facilitation not management.

4. The evidence is lacking

There is plenty of evidence on the professional benefits of mentoring and the positive results that focusing on collaboration rather than competition will bring.

5. There is growing disquiet and concern in the sector…

Only in a small part of the beltway in Wellington.  Elsewhere schools are thinking about what clusters they are already in and what they need to do to be ready to pick up the extra staffing and funding that will come in next year.  Listen carefully – that is the sound of professionals collaborating.

6. It will suit secondary schools better than primary

There is no reason why it should.  Most of the NZ experience with clusters is that the one secondary school in a cluster of primary schools doesn't feel that it gets a look in.   There is a risk, though, that if primary don’t engage the end result will be secondary –focused - but them’s the breaks. 


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The timing was immaculate. The day after the Auditor General condemned a school’s dubious spending, it emerged that its principal had applied to open a charter school.

The Auditor General report stated that at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori O Whakawatea – “The kura spent $5,120 on Christmas gifts and vouchers for its staff and board members bought from a business owned by the principal. In our view, spending of this nature illustrates waste and a lack of probity on the part of the board.”


The business is a beauty spa with a side-line in colonic irrigation – which offers such things as microdermabrasion (from $99) and Hopi Ear Candling (from $55). It's owned by the principal and her husband.

The principal, Susanne Simmons-Kopa, went in the local paper to claim that the spending was all above board and was after all, only $200 per person – enough for a coffeeberry yoga with enzyme mask specialised facial.

How they managed to find 25 staff and board members at a school with 110 students is mystifying – the school I’m on the board of has a lot fewer staff with more than double the students.

Anyway, it turns out that the principal had in 2013 applied to open a charter school as well, under the aegis of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, a clever way to get around the rule that existing schools can’t apply. The application form is revealing. Simmons-Kopa calls herself the ‘innovator-director’ of the Whakawatea Kaporeihana, an incorporated society that is paid over $30,000 a year by the Whakawatea Kohanga Reo for ‘administration services’, as well as getting MSD funding for afterschool care, presumably at the Kura Kaupapa that Simmons-Kopa runs too.

At this point it’s obvious that she’s a very busy woman – nothing necessarily wrong with that, though most principals I know report that the job is fairly demanding on its own.


But what is wrong with this picture is that if she does open a charter school, spending tax-payers money on things like gift vouchers from her beauty salon won’t be picked up, as the Auditor General doesn’t have any oversight of charter schools. 

And, in the US and UK where this experiment is well down the track, cases of fraud, misspending and funnelling public money to dubious ends, are regular news. 

One question that strikes me - why isn't the Taxpayers' Union crying foul about charter schools?

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Random thoughts after reading about the faith based franchise charter school that wants to open up in Porirua.  

Charter school cartoon on Frank Macskasy blogWords that came to mind were missionaries, colonisation, deficit thinking.

Apparently children in Porirua don't need qualified registered professional teachers, just people passionate about education.

Some kind of choice aye. 

A choice the ACT party thinks those kids deserve and National are rolling it out for them.

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So many submissions, so little time

The Education and Science Select Committee are putting in long days (and nights) travelling the country to hear, mostly,  from  teachers counting the ways they are opposed to this legislation.  The committee is in a race against time because they need to hear the submissions, agree a report and get it back to the House by the 21st of July.   Parliament dissolves for the election on July 31st.

What’s the rush?

So the whole thing is being rushed - always unwise with legislation but particularly injudicious when the legislation lacks widespread public support and the very profession for whom it is supposedly designed, is actively opposed to it.

It’s hard to see the consultation process as anything other than perfunctory, considering the EDUCANZ Transition Board was set up in December 2013 but the legislation did not appear until March the following year.   And it will probably be followed by minor changes then rushed through under urgency; disrespectful to teachers, the public and democracy.

PPTA submission 

President Angela Roberts presented the PPTA submission on Wednesday 7th of May. She left the Committee in no doubt that the bill in its present form would not be acceptable to teachers.

"What it does is it tells the world, it tells parents, it tells employers and it tells my colleagues that we cannot be trusted to do the one thing that is fundamental to every profession, and that is hold each other to account," she said."That is so offensive to my colleagues and to myself."

She also said that teachers would have to pay for the council and did not want to if they were not going to be represented.  "We're happy to take responsibility for it and continue to pay for it," she said.   "The taxation on the profession - nearly $7 million a year - we're comfortable with that to pay for its core business, but there is no taxation without representation."

She also questions why anyone would pay the premium it costs to become a qualified and registered teachers if the it was possible to just walk into the profession through the proposed new door labelled “personalised LAT”.

Secondary Principals’ Council Submission

Rosey Mabin Principal of Inglewood High School presented the SPC submission. As well as reiterating that there must be representation – including of secondary principals, she objected to the range of functions and the suggestion that the code of ethics could be reduced to a code of conduct. 

She explained to the committee how professional learning had to come from action research inquiry and respectful discussion and couldn't be demanded by diktat as seems to be planned in this legislation.  She expressed some concern that the new functions given to the Council will eventually lead to it interfering in curriculum.  

Were they listening?

Yes they were!   Well at least the opposition parties were. Catherine Delahuntey, Tracey Martin, Megan Woods and Chris Hipkins asked thoughtful questions and showed they had really understood what teachers’ concerns were.  Like teachers, they were bemused that the government has, on the one hand, loosed the requirements for registration in charter schools while stropping up everyone else. 

The National Party MPs were not so engaged.

Maggie Barry looked positively bored and left the room at one point and returned clutching a banana. (I don’t think that was symbolic but it might have been).    

Tim Macindoe seemed more interested but created a distraction by getting under the table to fiddle with the power cords causing Tracey Martin to remark “We seem to have brought the government to its knees.” 

Cam Calder was charming as ever - he is very good at helping submitters feel at ease and Colin King asked a good question about LATs.  But even those two got up and swapped roles in the middle of a presentation.  

Is it just teachers who expect people to sit still and listen when someone is talking?

Umbridge decree

Did they understand the Harry Potter reference?

The cleverest submission came from the NZ Students’ Association  who wittily and wickedly compared the legislation to an incident in Harry Potter when the  ruthless, cruel, brutal and  corrupt dictator Dolores Umbridge posted an Educational Decree at Hogwarts  that disbanded all student organisations and forbade any unauthorised student meetings.  



Teachers Council

Peter Lind (the CEO of the Teachers Council) and Alison McAlpine the chair, made a fantastic submission.  

As well as challenging the silly name for a teaching body,EDUCANZ, they questioned how a council could deliver on vague functions like “raise the status of the profession.”

Best of all they went through the sections line by line pointing out where the changes would create logjams and inconsistencies in the practical operation of the competence and discipline functions. 

Clearly in the haste to get the Bill drawn up and in its determination not to risk the dreaded “capture” by consulting with people who knew stuff, the Ministry has drafted a bill that is dangerously unworkable and will need extensive reworking.  

The Council kindly offered to work with the ministry to clean up the mess – which is more than the ministry deserves. 

What next? 

The Bill should be scrapped and the people in the ministry who helped prepare it and advised on it should be moved to sections in the ministry where they can do less harm.   

There was never any need for such “root and branch” changes anyway – changes could have been made to the competence and discipline functions without the creation of this ugly new body and without freighting it with a load a functions that it is never going to be able to deliver on.


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Following two public slappings from the Ombudsman in 2013 the Ministry of Education promised to ‘proactively release’ information about charter schools rather than waiting for it to be dragged out of them via Official Information Act requests.

Following an extensive 'document dump' late last year, they seem to have fallen back into their old ways. Is this an example of what the May 2013 review of the MoE said was “…changes … not yet … fully driven down into the Ministry so that they are understood and followed by all staff”…  (i.e. blaming the workers) or is it something else? I suspect something else, and that something is the Minister’s need for political management.

PPTA was assured that there was an information release on charter schools due by the end of March. Funnily enough it hasn’t arrived. What was going on for the Minister then? Well – the storm around Te Kohanga Reo Trust had Parata very much in its grip , and there was the ISTP happening which was all about Parata getting some good vibes from her much trumpeted ‘world cup of education’.

Thus, no more information on this round of charter school applicants, which, amongst other things, would no doubt have included the newsworthy  confirmation that a US applicant was lining up for the next bite of the cherry. 


All of this is understandable – if disappointing. The question is, why would the Ministry promise to change when it won’t? This is public service 21st century style – where service is about serving your minister, not the public. The cynic wins over the optimist again and proactive information releases will be to the minister’s timetable.

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My experience with Novopay has been a deeply fraught, frustrating, and indeed frightening narrative.  Qualifying as a PRT in 2012 I began work as a day relief teacher and then ongoing work in fixed term relief positions.

The process of becoming a registered teacher is straightforward and robust, as it should be.  The process of becoming a paid teacher is akin to mating elephants.  A complicated courting, accompanied by high level squealing and trumpeting and taking nearly 18 months to see any results.  Since February 2013 I have either not received the complete amount of money owing to me or the taxation on my earnings has been incorrect.

Teaching is not easy Minister Parata. I reflect constantly if not hourly on how to help all the children and young people that I deal with. I plan and read, I travel 140 kms daily to do this. If I so chose I could qualify to be on a benefit.

Minister Parata, I live in a three bedroom home that belongs to the Ministry of Education, it has no insulation, an open fire for heating.  I need a regular and correct salary so that I can move into a warm well heated home so that my children and I do not get sick. 

Minister Parata  I am doing it by myself .

Minister Parata I have been in the situation where I cannot pay my rent properly, put petrol in my car, go to the doctor, physiotherapist or dentist or buy the shoes I need because Novopay does not pay me properly, or worse still takes money from me unlawfully.

I am running out of energy to fight any more.  I have had to threaten to go on a hunger strike in the last year, make constant phone calls and emails and speak to some outstanding idiots at Novopay in an attempt to get my correct pay.

Minister Parata, I am a quintessential kiwi battler, and my needs are very simple.

Minister Parata I do not want to be anxiously waiting for my pay advice every Tuesday,  I want to be able to trust that Novopay pays me correctly, taxes me correctly and puts the money in my bank account.  Not much to ask for is it?
Can you tell me when this might occur? Why must I use the Union, the press, a hunger strike, embarrassment for this to occur?

When I say that is all I want, that is not completely correct Minister Parata. I am a member of a profession that values education, we recognize the difference it makes in our children’s and young peoples lives.  We strive for excellence and success, it is a collective so the things that I want for myself Minister Parata are those that I want for all members of our profession.

I want our principals to be freed up from having to be worried about the ongoing effects that this absolute shameful debacle has on their, teachers, their absolutely essential and just as valuable support staff.  I want our executive officers to be freed from the petty mindless bureaucracy that Novopay is and allow them to concentrate on the areas that they really need to.  I want our Boards of Trustees to be free from becoming a bank and personal lending institution, I want our creditors to not have to hear I am sorry I can’t pay this week because of Novopay.  We don’t want charity Minister Parata, we want justice.

If this was the parliamentary pay system it would be sorted in a day, if not a week.

Minister Parata, it is a disgrace and it reflects on your governance and the National led government's impotence and incompetence.

If your advisers are telling you all is well at Novopay, Minister Parata, and you believe them, then it appears that the emperor really believes that they have  new clothes.


This is a guest post from PPTA member Paul Cronin. 

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One of the promises of charter schools was that they would be innovative. And as every educational expert from business sponsored think tanks, marketing companies and discredited political parties knows, one of the biggest hurdles to innovation is the collective employment agreement.

The immutable laws of Freidman and Hayek tell us we can’t have 21st century, child-centred instruction while teachers have such industrial era expectations as a set number of hours, class size controls, non-contact time or payments for extra duties.

So, what is going on here then?

Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru, Whangaruru (2 positions)

(10 Mar 2014)

Our secondary, bilingual school, nestled within the picturesque setting of Whangaruru, is an inpiring land and water environment which will be embedded in our curriculum delivery. We seek registered, experienced teachers to fill two positions. (1) 0.5 junior science teacher. (2) Full-time English teacher. Applicants will have proven teaching ability, can motivate and engage students to learn to their potential, inspiring our students to excel. We offer small classes of 15 and individual contracts with high-quality working conditions – equivalent to the Collective Agreement. If you are seeking a teaching opportunity to make a difference for our youth and want to work in idyllic surroundings, we welcome your application.


Have they forgotten what they were established to do? They have to show that our ‘long tail of underachievement’ is all a result of the lazy, incompetent teachers hiding behind exactly such outdated protections as collective agreements.


 (Before you rush off to apply for these jobs, they’re now advertising three positions. Out of four teachers. Within two months of opening.)

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The Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay found problems with governance, with the process, with accountabiliity, with implementation, with trust - with the system.

8 months later the Minister 'bought in' to fix Novopay - Minister Fix-it Joyce - hasn't fixed 'it'. 

The explanation Minister Joyce made  to the teachers and support staff who were, thanks to Novopay, left without pay - or without the right pay - was that the problem is the:

"huge amount of pointless data entry required at the start of every school year."

Apparently schools like to "make work".

Minister Joyce believes it is "time to reform other parts of the education system to prevent this happening again."

So in order to meet the needs of an Australian software company the Government is going to reform the education sector.

By May 2014 Novopay will have been stuffing up for 2 years – 24 months - a whole lot of pay periods, a whole lot of heartache and whole lot of work for a huge number of school communities.

But you know what - according to the Minister - it’s your fault not Novopay’s …


Afterthought - would this call to reform the education sector, to fit Novopay, have anything to do with an ex Talent2 shareholding Minister and a 'red tape' taskforce provided for in ACT’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with National?

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