Finding the fishhooks in the Tomorrow’s Schools report
The Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce report ‘Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together”- contains some positive recommendations on school resourcing, equity funding and support for new teachers. That said, there are also some concerns, stemming from the report’s governance model where it’s proposed the new Education Hubs will be individual crown entities similar to the DHB model in the New Zealand health sector.
Members and branches are encouraged to engage with the report which is currently out for consultation. The platform for comment can be accessed at conversation.education.govt.nz and submissions are open until April 7.
Here are eight potential fish hooks members should be aware of:
Undemocratic hub boards
The taskforce proposes that each hub be governed by a board composed of entirely ministerial appointments. This is undemocratic and it could result in the hubs being seen as political machines at a local level and is contrary to PPTA values. Between 2014 and 2017, members pushed back against the ill-conceived and undemocratic EDUCANZ, a battle we eventually won when the government changed hands.
Fixed-term principal appointments
The taskforce proposes principal appointments should be made by the hub for five year terms in each school. Why such an arbitrary figure was chosen is unknown. As a result, area and secondary school principals would be thrown into insecure work, many of whom are in an aging workforce and some in the twilight of their career. Since the report was published, there are signs that this recommendation may be changed following push-back from school communities.
The taskforce’s report is critical of intermediate schools, stating they create an unnecessary transition point in a student’s learning journey. Yet, in the same report, the taskforce promotes the introduction of more middle schools. Research by Hawk and Hill (2000) found that middle schools left students ill-prepared for their senior years at secondary school and noted that Year 11 should be avoided as a transition point. PPTA supports the introduction of more Year 7 – 13 schools instead, so students have access to specialist subjects at a younger age.
Primary/secondary resourcing differences “unwarranted”
The report states that the current disparity between primary and secondary general and management staffing is “unwarranted”. This assertion challenges the long-held belief that secondary schools receive a higher concentration of staffing, allowances and units because of the specialist subjects they deliver. This recommendation is surprising given there is a lot of intellectual grunt on the taskforce, including chairperson Bali Haque who is a highly regarded former secondary school principal and NZQA deputy chief executive responsible for NCEA.
Increased teaching council costs
Page 55 of the report details an expanding role for the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand in terms of establishing a ‘Leadership Centre’. With this new function there is a risk of increased registration and practising certificate fees. This risk could be mitigated provided teaching council fees become a permanent feature of the collective agreements PPTA negotiates, or that the government fully funds any expanded functions of the council.
School closures and mergers
The report proposes that hubs be able to close and merge small and rural schools (p. 112). Were this to occur it would result in job losses for PPTA members and other school employees. Currently, there is political risk for a government and minister when it comes to closing schools. Under the report’s recommendation, this risk would be removed with hub bureaucrats and ministerial appointees making these decisions instead. Think more redundancies and CAPNAs, more often, in the short to medium term.
Under the report’s recommendations, both principals and teachers would be expected to contribute to the education of students at “all schools” in the hub, not just in their current school (pp. 49, 57). This is likely to have workload implications, especially if this demand falls in the domain of appraisal, attestation and registration.
Additional complaints body
Page 53 of the report promotes a new parent and student complaint service. Currently, teachers already face potential triple jeopardy when a complaint is laid against them: police investigation, school level conduct and discipline, and a teaching council process. Having another mechanism to investigate complaints against teachers is likely to increase anxiety at an already stressful time.
Teachers working conditions are students learning conditions. And students learning conditions are teachers working conditions. What’s required is a governance model that supports teachers, students, their whanau and the wider school community - not one based on command and control. Please contribute to the debate between now and the 7 April closing date for submissions.
Submissions on the Tomorrow's Schools review report close on April 7