Tomorrow's Schools review
Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together
A review of Tomorrow’s Schools has been on the cards for some time and was first advocated by PPTA, over ten years ago. The need for some reflection on the NZ model of schooling was prompted by concerns on a range of issues including:
- Achievement – especially for Māori and Pacific Island students, children of immigrants and learners from poorer communities. Despite the promises made that Tomorrow’s Schools “will lead to improved learning opportunities for the children of this country” (Rt Hon David Lange 1988) evidence of improvement is patchy.
- Inequity and unfairness. Parents are legally compelled to send their children to school in this country. They have a right to expect that their child will be taught in a well-resourced, local schools staffed by sufficient trained and qualified teachers. This is simply not the case in many communities. Parents are expected to shop around to find a school that will meet their child’s needs.
- Underfunding: (Choose your own examples).
- Compliance as a substitute for practical support.
- Duplication, waste and excessive workload.
- Use of expensive consultants to fill structural gaps.
- Inadequate provision for special needs.
- Competition as a system lever, at the expense of cooperation and collegiality.
For a more detailed summary of the background to the Review and PPTA’s expectations around it, see The Tomorrow’s Schools Review (2018 PPTA Conference Paper).
Guidance on the Recommendations
It’s one thing to agree on what’s wrong; getting consensus on how to move forward is much harder. Below are some quick comments on how the proposals match up with 20 years of PPTA policy. For more detail, click here.
1. Governance: Recommendations 1, 2 and 3
PPTA policy since 1999 has been for the “establishment of regional agencies to support local education decision-making” and Annual Conference has, over many years, endorsed the need for more collegial approaches which cannot be achieved in the current competitive model. It has also called for more sharing of best practice, more support for boards and less duplication of effort.
The Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce (TSIT) has proposed the establishment of regional hubs which will undertake a number of tasks that boards may find onerous (property maintenance and buildings, human resources, procurement, digital technology services, accounting, financial reporting). The hub will also provide more focussed leadership support for principals with a view to providing early assistance so schools are not left to sink into a spiral of decline. Hubs would also coordinate PLD and curriculum support for teachers along with special needs support. It would manage zoning and suspensions and link to other government agencies.
PPTA Executive does not support the hub model in its current form, largely out of concern that it appears too similar to the District Health Board (DHBs) structure and a lack of clarity about the industrial and employment arrangements. More details are required about its role and function, and the employment implications, before Executive can be assured that this is the best option.
2. Schooling Provision: Recommendations 4 to 10
PPTA supports Recommendations 3, 4 and 6 which deal with Māori and Pasifika education and the importance of smooth transitions across schools types.
It also supports Recommendation 8 which proposes to establish full-service schools with appropriate health and social support on site.
Recommendation 10 which calls for an investigation to determine the role of Te Kura in the new system is also supported
PPTA opposes Recommendation 7 which basically calls for the breaking up of secondary schools and their replacement with middle schools and senior high schools. This would be expensive, disruptive and would severely undermine specialist delivery particularly in STEM subjects.
Recommendation 9 which asks hubs to design “flexible curriculum, assessment and timetable offerings” needs to be treated with the usual caution that teachers apply when enthusiasts are encouraged to undertake blue sky thinking about how to “fix” schools. Members could propose an additional bullet point asking that any change be thoroughly costed (including the cost of teachers’ time) and accompanied by a manageable implementation plan.
3. Competition and Choice: Recommendations 11 and 12
PPTA has consistently opposed those aspects of Tomorrow’s Schools that have created winner and loser schools, inequity and racial polarisation. Consequently it supports recommendation 11 which encourages:
- better management of the network,
- fair access for students with disability and learning support needs,
- enrolment schemes that do not deliberately exclude some students, and
- restrictions on donations and foreign fee-paying students.
PPTA supports recommendation 12 which puts integrated schools on a more even footing with other public schools. See PPTA conference paper 2009
4. Disability and Learning Support: Recommendations 13,14 and 15
There is little positive that can be said about the treatment of special education since Tomorrow’s Schools. PPTA wholeheartedly supports any improvements in this area.
5. Teaching: Recommendations 16,17,18,19 and 20
The five recommendations under this heading address concerns teachers have raised over a number of years; workforce planning (better late than…) more flexibility in Kāhui Ako, less compliance around teacher appraisal, support for new teachers/kaiako, use of paraprofessionals, better access to PLD – including teacher-to-teacher PLD and the addition of teacher wellbeing as a category in the evaluation of the quality of PLD. It is timely that the system be reoriented to better support classroom practice rather than governance, management, administration, compliance and blame.
PPTA supports these proposals with the reminder that a number of these issues could be resolved with improved salaries and conditions.
6. School leadership (Recommendations 21, 22 and 23)
Ineffectual principals can destroy a school and damage the educational opportunities of a whole cohort of children. Given this, PPTA supports the proposal to move some tasks from the principal into the hub/regional body to reduce principal workload plus the creation of leadership adviser positions in the Hub/regional body. These people will have the additional task of identifying potential leaders and encouraging their development.
Recommendations 21 and 22 suggest establishing a leadership centre within the Teaching Council. PPTA supports the thrust of this proposal because ensuring our schools are led by competent, ethical, collegial leaders with a broad understanding of teaching, learning and children, is the least we can do. Expanding the role of the Teachers Council must not increase costs to teachers or distract from its key registration tasks.
7. Resourcing: Recommendations 24, 25, 26 and 27
PPTA strongly supports recommendations 24 and 26. The current funding system is unfair and inequitable. Schools that have a disproportionate number of the most disadvantaged students with the most complex educational needs do not receive sufficient funding and appropriate support. For too long governments have refused to acknowledge how difficult this challenge is and have resorted to blaming teachers for what is largely economic inequality.
PPTA does not, however, support recommendation 25 which proposes that the salary unit formula for primary should be the same as secondary. Given the extensive range of problems with staffing and workload in New Zealand schools, it is bewildering that the Taskforce has chosen to privilege one very small element, while ignoring issues such as class size, non-contact time, understaffing of large schools and curriculum breadth.
Recommendation 27 shifts responsibility for aligning the school network to hubs which may well be better system as politicians are inclined to open/integrate schools to gain electoral popularity not because of roll growth. PPTA is not opposed to some rationalisation of the school network providing the process is fair and well-managed and the outcome is an improvement in the quality of educations for students.
8. Central Education Agencies: Recommendations 28, 29,30, 31 and 32
It has been PPTA policy since 1999 that ERO and NZQA should be reintegrated into the Ministry, in the hope that this will allow synergies and in policy development and reduction in red tape. ERO will no longer have a role in schools as the hubs/regional bodies will undertake evaluation and the more limited functions of national monitoring and reporting to parliament will be done by a proposed new body, the Education Evaluation Office. Few teachers will weep at the demise of ERO.
NZSPC chair James Morris’ initial thoughts on the report https://www.ppta.org.nz/news-and-media/our-schooling-futures-stronger-together/
PPTA’s submission to the review (August 2018) https://www.ppta.org.nz/dmsdocument/710
Extended advice for branches on making a submission on the Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together report
The Ministry's video responses to six key questions about the Tomorrow's Schools review
 The Stronger Together booklet has an error in that there are 2 recommendations labelled 10. This has been fixed on the online version. The paper follows the correct numerical sequence so numbers 10 and 11 in the book are referred to as 11 and 12 and so on.