A huge opportunity to reset
I am currently teaching drama at Stratford High School and have a role within the Kahui Ako o Taranaki Mohoao. I have been an active member of the NZPPTA Te Wehengarua since I was a student teacher. I have led a wide range of committees and networks over the years and served the association as president for four years from 2013-16.
What are your views on the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand reform and fees?
While I was president and we were fighting to return democratic representation to the council, we were also fighting to narrow their functions and return them to their core and critical business of being a highly functioning registration body. It was great when the current government heard our calls for bringing elections back for the council but there is obviously still a great deal of work to be done.
One good example of an unnecessary function is the building of leadership capability. While this is an issue for the profession, this is the wrong solution to the problem. Inadequacies in PLD provision should be resolved through a better structure and resourcing, not through our profession paying our registration body to deliver it. There are further legislative changes needed in order to return the council to being an institution that the profession and the wider community both trust and support. Reducing the functions to core business will help to resolve many of the issues that teachers have with both trust and with fees.
Has your involvement with the union movement encouraged you to enter politics?
During lockdown, as the enormity of the challenge ahead of us unfolded, I realised that we actually have a huge opportunity through the rebuild to invest in critical infrastructure such as health and education. A significant reset of the economy can help us to push back against inequality and ensure our 'just transition' to a 'zero carbon economy'. I recognised that my decades of involvement in both the NZPPTA and the wider union movement has taught me much about effecting systemic change and that I wanted to be involved in this mahi.
I love my union. It has taught me how productive a process of robust, intelligent, democratic debate can be. Also, that a workers' voice and Te Ao Māori are integral to both problem solving and innovation, especially when courage and imagination are required.
I have always enjoyed the challenge of bringing extremely diverse groups, with a range of values and world views together and, using complex evidence and research, collaboratively develop and implement effective policy. I am excited by the prospect of bringing these skills to the current challenges facing our nation.
What are your thoughts on charter schools?
I have always been frustrated with the debate around charter schools. Supporters of these entities have always argued, quite cynically I believe, that 'liberating schools from the shackles of the public education system' is what is required to shift the inequitable outcomes in our system. They are wrong. The evidence is really quite clear. A system that puts highly trained teachers and support experts in sufficient numbers with the students who need them the most, resources strong pastoral care, and builds strong relationships with their communities will be able to bring about equitable outcomes. When our profession is supported to be innovative with our world class curricula and we build strong, collaborative relationships across schools, we can better enable students to achieve.
While I can understand the frustration of those that feel disenfranchised from the state system, charter schools are the wrong solution to their problems. We have so many innovative models already available in the state system; Kura Kaupapa Māori, Kura-a-iwi, integrated and other special schools as well as private schools. The only 'innovation' that charter schools provided in New Zealand was that they were very well resourced, didn't need to employ teachers and were not accountable to the system. Charter schools, in the end, are a mechanism that serves the proprietor. I will be putting a lot of energy into ensuring that these entities do not return to our shores.
What did you learn from teaching in lockdown?
The education system got through because of the commitment of the profession. It reaffirmed what we know about New Zealand teachers - we are responsive, nimble, and willing to take risks and undertake significant professional development if that is what is required to meet the needs of our students.
Lockdown also exposed and amplified the many inequities in our education system. The digital divide caused by a lack of access to devices as well as connectivity was often felt most keenly by our most vulnerable students and communities. When our whanau and communities were finding it tough, so were our students. We were reminded of how intimately connected education outcomes are to the health (economic, physical and mental) of our society. We were amazing at being innovative when it came to finding ways of removing the vast range of barriers that lockdown and online learning presented our learners. I was reminded that in the end, successful learning depends on relationships, and a successful education system depends on the profession.