Showing posts from September, 2012

Hekia Parata is Listening...Yeah Right!

Q + A today revealed a calm and smiling Minister of Education who was able to avoid giving a direct answer to reasonable questions and continues to give the impression that her main function is writing Tui Ads.

All those Christchurch schools that have been earmarked for closure must have felt incredibly reassured that the Minister is listening and they have been given a few weeks at the end of a stressful year to compose a defense for the retention of their schools. The Minister is consulting.

All parents and schools should be celebrating the fact that the National Standards (despite their ropiness) are providing the ability to compare their school with others and the resulting healthy competition will raise achievement overall.

Yeah, right!

National and Due Diligence.

Due diligence is a term usually used in reference to legal obligations or a robust investigation before a business deal, but I think it should also apply to the process of governance.

With this National led Government we are being continually confronted with a huge lack of diligence in ensuring decisions are supported by good advice, research, consultation or evidence. One has the feeling that papers cross the desks of our current Ministers, with major decisions needed, and yet they are signing things off based on nothing more than pure ideology and gut feelings. Seat of the pants governance may work some of the time but when such decisions relate to millions of people's lives, the health of our economy and the state of our environment it is inappropriate and dangerous.

When Julie Anne Genter asked Gerry Brownlee to reveal the evidence he used to support the Roads of National Significance, all she got was bluff and bluster. After several questions failed to get a straight answer …

Dear John, The Love Has Gone!

"Ah, how do you sleep? Ah, how do you sleep at night?"

Dear John

In the beginning there was love.

For many years I admired your little Pacific paradise from afar, its low corruption and its 100% pure image called to me from advertising billboards. I loved the way that this little country had stood up against the powers of the world to become nuclear free, it had huge integrity and put truth and human rights ahead of shallow expediency. This was the place where I wished to bring up my family.

You can imagine the joy in my heart when I was welcomed to your land, established a wonderful home for my family and looked ahead to years of contended bliss. When I was granted residency my happiness knew no bounds and I had hoped that the public display of my gratitude went some way to thank you and your people for kindness I had received.

I had welcomed your eccentric little friend with the dark rimmed glasses into my home (in fact I flew him there in my helicopter) and when he asked f…

National Standards Defy Logic

Reading the published National Standards results in the Southland Times resulted in the following letter:

Dear Sir
The countries that have the highest educational performance do not use league tables. League tables turn the evaluations they are based on into "high stakes" assessments that do not focus on the broad needs of children. Teachers and schools will now give an inordinate amount of time to boosting the results in one area of our curriculum to the detriment of everything else. It saddens me that we will soon be changing our successful teaching and learning culture to that of education systems ranked well beneath us.

National Standards have provided us with some unmoderated and highly suspect data with which to compare schools and yet only two of the eight learning areas are covered and there is no reference to any of the following:
The number of children who have English as a second langauge.The number of children who have dis…

Natiional Standards Solve Nothing

Hekia Parata has released the first statistics available from the collection of National Standards data and was able to claim that 76% of children in years 1-8 were above the Standard for reading, 72% were above the standard for Maths and 68% in writing. Given the flawed, unmoderated nature of the standards this is nothing more than a rough estimate that isn't far off what could have been estimated using other data. Parata also revealed that Maori and Pasifika children scored significantly lower with up to 46% of Pasifika children below or well below the standard and Maori children scoring 42% below for writing, 34% for reading and 38% for Maths.

Parata promoted the data as if we wouldn't have been aware of these concerns without National Standards and yet this knowledge has existed for many years and far more useful assessments have been used in the past to establish it. All National Standards does is give a broad idea of those above or below standards in three areas, with n…

Spring Bursts Through Political Gloom

I haven't posted for a number of days, partly because I have been doing other things that are more pressing and partly because of the depressive nature of commenting on the misguided and callous decisions constantly emanating from this National led Government. 

Spending time in our Invercargill quarter acre, listening to our visiting tuis and bellbirds, and watching the evidence of Spring bursting forth helps me believe that there will be an end to our political Winter as well.

Pear blossom
White turnip flowers
A Rhododendron I was given 25 years ago that first flowered only 3 years ago.
Purple sage, foxglove and grape hyacinth
A healthy bunch of wisteria buds.

Christchurch Suffers Schooling Shock

Schools are the hubs of their communities, they are an obvious gathering point for families and tend to have a lot of community input in terms of fundraising and cultural and sporting activities. Many schools have been in operation for generations and there is an emotional attachment to them because they are the environment where lifelong friendships are formed and they contribute to a person's most important early experiences.

Many schools have had large investments of community money to assist in providing facilities not covered by government funds. The value of a school is often reflected in school reunions where generations come together to share memories and appreciate the changes to the facilities over time. Secondary schools have their honour boards with the long lists of past duxes and the photos of successful past students. Schools also have important roles in times of emergency, most are civil defense bases and many have been used as shelter or a coordination centre in …

Polluters Benefit, Beneficiaries Bashed

While beneficiary bashing is growing in intensity with the latest announcement from Paula Bennett, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, reveals that polluting businesses will have their handouts assured for some time yet.

In a bizarre piece of social engineering, Paula Bennett has essentially made it compulsory for children of beneficiaries to attend formal early childhood education from the age of three, not to do so could result in a 50% cut in the benefit. It is my bet that Bennett has no evidence or research to support that this draconian idea is even practical. While most will agree that there are huge benefits for children from disadvantaged homes to receive quality early childhood education, her initiative is based on some rather simplistic assumptions:

That most beneficiary parents are not capable of providing the same quality of care for their children as an Early Childhood Centre or Kindergarten.That affordable and quality childcare is accessibl…

Rio Tinto Blackmail Tactics

I don't know how many times I have heard about the imminent demise of the Tiwai Point smelter and it generally occurs at the time that their power agreement needs to be renegotiated or the ETS threatens profits. Even our local MP Eric Roy has questioned the sincerity of their claims that their profitability is under threat and suggests that it is "a case of brinkmanship from the multinational commodities giant". One of the roles of government is to protect our country from exploitation by powerful multinationals and ensure we maintain sovereignty over our resources. While such companies provide useful capital and employment we must always make sure the cost of the relationship does not outweigh the benefits. When one considers the resources that we have made available to the smelter and the supporting infrastructure that we continue to maintain (at tax payer cost), do we really get a good return from our ongoing investment? The smelter has averaged around $1 billion a year

Bill Gets a "D" for Science & Technology

"So whether it's Southland students working hard to break new ground, or hi-tech businesses striving to maintain their competitive edge internationally, science and innovation are key drivers of economic growth and the Government is ready to support them."

Dear Sir
I thought it ironic that Bill English was promoting the success of the Southland and Tecnology Fair (September 5) and a little disingenuous of him to imply that the science and technology teaching has good support from his Government.

Primary Schools have struggled to teach Science and Technology as well as they would like to since the funding and resourcing for these learning areas has been largely wiped since the introduction of National Standards. The fixation on literacy and numeracy has seen almost all professional development in the other learning areas cut and the school advisors for Science and Technology have been sacked. The Government's own Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, has ex…

RONS Wreck Rural Roads

Gerry Brownlee has already admitted that the investment in the Roads of National Significance (RONS) is largely based on his belief that they are a good idea, not because of research or cost/benefit analysis. Investing over $12 billion in motorways that fail, or barely survive, economic analysis has resulted in sucking funds from more deserving transport infrastructure investments.

Local councils are struggling to maintain rural roads and yet when you compare a region such as Southland with the Holiday Highway the economic argument in giving the motorway the priority just doesn't stack up. The motorway provides few economic benefits yet the rural roads of Southland support 11% of our export returns. Southland's rural roads are constantly being used by milk tankers, logging trucks, stock transportation and servicing and supporting the tourist industry. This roading network is an essential part of the nation's economic success and to underfund them is already having negativ…

Lock the Gate in the South

It was a pleasure to host Drew Hutton when he took his New Zealand "Lock the Gate" tour to Southland. Drew is an Australian environmental legend, a founding member of the Australian Green Party and founder of the Queensland Greens. He is a successful man in so many areas: a respected education lecturer, a writer (on green philosophy, ethics and history), an environmental, social justice and antiwar campaigner and an athlete (now in his mid sixties he is a state champion for middle distance running in his age group). Drew has led a number of successful environmental campaigns and is never one to spend time resting on his laurels before starting the next. Lock the Gate is his latest campaign and possibly his most successful.

Greens were generally enemy No1 for Australian Farmers and yet Drew, as an iconic Green, has become the farmers No1 friend. This interesting turn around occurred because  of the rapid expansion of coal seam gas extraction, or fracking. The best source of …