Alternatives to study leave for senior students: PPTA advice
When we use the term 'consultation' we do so in the same way as in the PPTA advice on developing timetable policies. This definition of consultation was developed under the Employment Contracts Act 1991.
The current employment legislation, the Employment Relations Act 2000, expects good faith behaviour and the development of mutual trust and confidence between the employer and the employees in their employment relationships. This implies mutual responsibility to seek ways to make the working environment operate effectively, which will guide the staff and employer towards agreed outcomes. This includes Justice Goddard's ruling about what constitutes a fair and reasonable consultation process.
Should a school wish to make changes that will impact on teachers' timetables and work conditions, there is a natural justice requirement that genuine consultation is undertaken with the branch, and that any resulting changes are implemented with reasonable lead times.
Valid qualifications systems
A valid qualification system needs to be fair, inclusive, cumulative, clear, motivating, coherent, constructive and manageable. In respect of manageability, "assessment arrangements [should] involve acceptable levels of workload and stress for learners and teachers, and justifiable expenditure for the community." Further, "an appropriate balance needs to be found between the thoroughness of an assessment process, its educational value, and its costs to participants and the wider community."
Assessment must arise out of a coherent programme of teaching and learning. Any suggestion that students could be offered a compressed teaching programme on a new aspect that was not part of the year's programme in order to allow them to achieve further credits has suggestions of 'credit shopping'. Should they agree to develop any type of 'catch up' or end of year programmes, schools must take care to ensure that students are given relevant and appropriate programmes of learning and assessment.
NZQA's further assessment opportunity rules
These are very clear. Up to one further assessment opportunity may be offered for any standard, if the conditions "including manageability" warrant it. All students must be offered the further opportunity, irrespective of their previous grade, and the conditions must be similar to those offered for the original assessment task. If the latter conditions cannot be met, no further opportunity should be offered.
There is some evidence that in situations such as those posed by 'alternatives to study leave' programmes, teachers may experience an unreasonable workload due to professional and ethical imperatives that drive them to do the best they can for their students. It is crucial that school systems are reviewed and developed to ensure that staff and students are supported in their teaching, learning and assessment programmes, and that unrealistic expectations are not created.
Organisational arrangements that 'incentivise' teachers to give students credit for standards, e.g. so that they are not faced with students returning during study leave, are dangerous.
Schools need to ensure that sufficient time is put in place for departments to review current courses and plan for the upcoming year. Traditionally much of the detailed preparation for the next school year takes place during the second half of term four. Should a school decide, following consultation, to change this practice, other appropriate time needs to be made available for this planning and preparation to take place.
Before implementing any alternatives to study leave schools must:
- ensure that any changes comply with good employment practices
- ensure that any alternative programmes offer appropriate teaching and learning to students
- continue to meet NZQA's assessment requirements.
 Te Tiro Hou. Report of the Qualifications Framework Inquiry. Commissioned by PPTA, June 1997, pp 99-100.