Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Education Ministry Gets Poor Report
The StateServices Commission, the Treasury and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet have completed a combine report on the performance of the Education Ministry. This report was presumably instigated after the Ministry was ranked near the bottom of 37 Government departments in an earlier review.
The ten areas assessed were given either an A, B or C.
An "A" represented a strong result, a "B" represented being well placed to achieve and a "C'' indicated some development was needed.
A Experiences of the public
B Curriculum and National Standards
B Early Childhood Education
B Provision of Special Education Services
C Vision, Strategy and Purpose
C Leadership and Governance
C Engagement with Staff
C Delivering the Tertiary Education Strategy
C Provision of Infrastructure for Schools
It is difficult not see this report in the context of the $25 million in cuts that took effect last year and would it be useful to see the levels of performance pre and post the cuts in funding to be able to judge how much staffing cuts have contributed to poor performance. Anecdotally I am aware that frontline special eduction staff are struggling with their workloads and are passing more higher end cases to RTLBs and my work with helping write the draft IEP document made me a aware of a scarcity of human and financial resources (the Ministry funded one person, part-time, to put this important document together).
It appears that the Education Ministry is more focussed on public relations (where it achieved the highest grade) and National Standards than actually funding anything of substance and this reflects the ideology of the current government. It is a pity that the New Zealand Curriculum and National Standards haven't been separated in the report because we all know our National Curriculum is strong after many years of consultation and collaboration, but National Standards are still fraught with high levels of frustration and non-compliance (750 principals voting against the current Standards). It is also a pity the Early Childhood received a strong assessment when the ability to deliver a high level of service to children has been seriously compromised.
National has managed to get away with a lot that it has done to education because of a high level of performance that was in existence before (continually ranked within the top five countries internationally for some time) and it takes a little while before changes to delivery occur. When there has been a huge funding shift to nationally implement a half baked assessment system (and try and make it function), money had to be taken from other areas and it looks like school infrastructure and general efficiency has suffered most.
Martin Thrupp's Rains Project (Research, Analysis and Insight into National Standards) has been criticized by National supporters because it is being funded by NZEI, however it is unlikely that the government would fund such a study when there could be a negative outcome. Martin is an internationally regarded educationalist and to have someone of his standing research the extent that school cultures and teacher delivery will change (either negatively or positively) after the introduction of the Standards is hugely important. His qualitative research will be peer reviewed both locally and internationally and it is not likely that he would risk his reputation through poor method and analysis.
It will take 3 years before Martin's research is complete but after reading this report on our Education Ministry, I think to wait that length of time before dealing to impending crisis would be negligent. The easiest way to turn things around to save our quality public education system would be to change the government in November.