Tuesday, December 20, 2011

School Principal Appointments Becoming Political?


I have grave concerns regarding the Ministry taking over the appointment of school principals from boards of Trustees, especially when we have a government that has the potential to impose political and ideological criteria on suitability for positions. However, I also have concerns about the current system of appointing principals as the career pathway for leadership positions is flawed.

Prior to tomorrow's schools applicants for leadership positions needed to have a number of years experience and also have gone through a professional assessment (Grading) before applying and while the system wasn't perfect only those with some experience of staff management and proven professional knowledge would be considered. No one would be appointed to a position as principal of a large school unless they had proven experience in a smaller one. I am aware of many principals who have been appointed in the role for nonprofessional attributes such as just being male or because they had attractive qualifications yet no management experience. A large school that has hundreds of children and twenty to thirty staff is not an institution for a novice principal to lead and yet that is what can currently occur and I have also heard of small schools being led by beginning teachers.

It is not so much who makes appointments but the process that is followed and having appropriate career pathway that allows future leaders in education to develop appropriate skills and experience. It is also important to have professional and properly moderated verification of their abilities. A successful trial of a system of professional attestation for classroom teachers has recently been completed and could easily be adapted for aspiring leaders.

Education leadership needs the best people in these roles, people who are driven by the needs of the children they are ultimately responsible for. Principals should have an in depth knowledge of what makes the most effective teaching and learning and be able to motivate and lead a team to deliver it. They should not be solely motivated by meeting arbitrary and ideological criteria and become gagged civil servants who cannot speak out about poor policy that could potentially damage kids.

(It is interesting that even Kiwiblog's David Farrar has questioned the sense of this potential change)

7 comments:

melulater said...

I believe that this move by the government would kill the aspirations of many teachers to become principals, and in the next several years, if this policy is enacted, we will be in short supply of quality principals - therefore allowing NACT to bring in non teaching personnel as 'managers' of schools rather than have a principal, thus following the privatisation model that we know Charter Schools is.

Vigo said...

This is another step to downgrading the quality of NZ public education. All of the steps taken by KeyNationalgovt will result in lower educational outcomes as the focus moves from quality classroom teaching to system changes which will take away the constant focus on pd that currently occurs. Education is being turned into a commodity that will be focused on results at the expense of quality teaching and learning environments.

Very few people have been appointed to large schools as Principals without experience and the number of beginning teachers who have been appointed as principals similarly would be negligible.

bsprout said...

Melulater and Vigo, the current system isn't perfect but my fear is that, rather than just improving what we have, we will again throw out even the good elements for something even worse. If the New Zealand education system is generally rated internationally amongst the top 5 in the world we don't need major change.

I am also concerned that we will end up with a situation found in much of the US, that the professional status of teaching becomes so degraded that the calibre of those within it drops. We seem to be in a mad race to emulate the States and yet one international assessment of their primary education rates it 39th in the world.

Vigo said...

Excellent points bsprout. The great underlying purpose of Nationalparty education gerrymandering is to downsize the cost of public education - at any cost.
The only way to do this is to create a parallel system that does not involve unions, hence charter schools.

To create an 'acceptable environment' for charter schools the govt had to

[1] create the illusion that schools are failing
[2] intro national stds to show this
[3] introduce an alternative - ie charter schools
[4] schools privatised
[5] cost per unit reduced through ie contracts with
charter schools limit the amount of funding
[which can't be done currently]
[6] govt spending less on educ

bsprout said...

Vigo, I think your assessment of National's strategy is probably pretty close to reality. It is a real pity that they see education as a cost not an investment. By cutting investment in education they are effectively strangling our future. Their stupidity and shortsightedness knows no bounds!

Anonymous said...

I have been involved in appointing principals while being on a Board of Trustees. It can be done if you have the right advisors to keep you on track.

The harder National tries to intervene in education, the worse it gets. Now Anne Tolley can leave her legacy for someone else.

XChequer said...
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