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!

Comments

Anonymous said…
I agree that Hekia Parata smiled a lot and looked calm. She was also unfailingly polite, not talking over Shane Taurima each time he interrupted her, which was quite frequently.

She may have good reason to look confident.

I thought, and still do, that the meeting with Christchurch Principals was ham-fisted and the colour coding of name badges very poor public relations. Her explanation today, on Q&A, that Principals of schools affected by closure had been pre-advised, makes a difference in my perception of that meeting. Her other point that if schools were not advised of the prospective plans for each school, then they could scarcely prepare comprehensive arguments against those proposals, seems eminently reasonable to me. So schools do have the opportunity to have objections examined by the Ministry, and the Ministry will take those objections into account before final decisions are made, and school still have a right of review beyond that.

Despite all the good will in the world, I very much doubt that the result of these consultations will be summed up other than in these two catchcries:

1. The Government had already made its mind up and did not listen to our objections.

2. The Government backed down once its ill-conceived plans were challenged.

I do, however, believe the general public will be the fairer judge.

robertguyton said…
Parat showed in the House recently that she is determined to obfuscate whenever it suits her, and is unable to see how she is coming across to those who don't adore her. Her performance on Q&A deserves your 'yeah, right', sprout. That she was able to wear her 'calm and smiling' mask doesn't impress me at all, having, as others seem not to have, a memory.
bsprout said…
Today our NZEI AGM was graced by the presence and the views of our Minister of Education. We were basically told how much money the Government was spending on education and the vast majority was for paying teachers. The Government was setting targets for student attainment and it was our job to make sure children met them. Of course she didn't say it in those exact words, but we got the meaning loud and clear.

Anonymous, I do strongly believe that the word "consultation" has an entirely different meaning for us than the one used by this government. I do hope that Christchurch communities and the general public do take up the fight as you suggest because the views of the profession are largely ignored.

Robert, Parata is a talented speaker but I do find it interesting that no matter how gifted she is she still has difficulty explaining the logic behind her Governments education policies. Since the class size debacle she has learned that if a question can't be logically answered then you just avoid answering. If you do your evasion pleasantly and with a nice smile then perhaps most people won't notice.
Anonymous said…
You definition of consultation might suggest the "committee" style of leadership is the way to go.

The leadership style this government appears to favour involves presenting a probable solution based on the known facts, then seeking input from affected parties as to why it should not, or should, be implemented.

Two very different styles, as you suggest, but leadership does involve leading.
bsprout said…
My definition of consultation is when interested parties are asked for input and then that input influences the final plan.

I would have expected the Minister to put forward a plan that is accompanied by a rationale that explains the Ministry/government agenda but also demonstrates where the wishes of the professionals and communities have been taken into account.

Consultation isn't just allowing stake holders to have their say, ticking the consultation box then totally ignoring their input.
Anonymous said…
Your definition of consultation would not pass square one if the interested parties are hellbent on the status quo. The Government has stated that the facts do not support the status quo.

The Minister has put forward a plan. Are you suggesting the rationale for that plan is not spelt out?

The professionals and communities have been asked to examine the plan, and make submissions.
Do you think the professionals and communities will ignore the Governments rationale, and demand the status quo?
Should those locals have the right of veto?
If the Government sets aside the emotive arguments and the facts favour the planned changes, does that mean the locals have been ignored?

I am now even more certain that the two catchcries, that I enumerated in my first comment, will accompany the outcome.
Armchair Critic said…
Hi anonymous. Sticking to the status quo would be sensible if the quo has not lost its status.
NZ has a world-class education system and changes must improve it. When the ministry cannot demonstrate that the changes it proposes are an improvement, it is obligatory for the education sector professionals to challenge the changes. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty.
bsprout said…
Anonymous, many of the Christchurch schools that have been recommended to close have no logical reason for them to do so, their communities are growing the schools were not damaged and their rolls are strong. Christchurch schools realized some changes were reasonable but such a drastic reaction was a complete shock. Schools deserve to know what fiscal and professional criteria was used to determine what was presented. Without explanation it looks as though there are no professional or community considerations.

The only reason Parata would refuse to provide the reasons and justifications for the plan is that they wouldn't hold up to close scrutiny.
Anonymous said…
I have just been listening to an interview, by Leighton Smith, of Professor James R. Flynn who has book about to appear in NZ "How to improve your mind". He made the statement that no school is greater than its teachers. Rather profound, don't you think, yet rather simple at the same time.

Good morning, Armchair Critic. We do not know that the proposed changes are not an improvement. Nor do we know that education professionals have not already had an input to the proposed changes. The ones that we are hearing from opposing all change may not have been consulted earlier (perhaps for good reason), but they certainly have that opportunity now.

Good morning, bsprout. We do not know that there is no logical reason for any of those schools to close. The plan has been presented and all of the information that was used in the process is available for examination. The community and professionals have that opportunity to express their verdict and offer alternatives if needs be.

"The only reason Parata would refuse to provide the reasons and justifications for the plan is that they wouldn't hold up to close scrutiny."
That can only be presumtion on your part.
The reasons and justifications are available now, are they not?

Law changes are presented to Parliament as Bills. The plan is laid out, then Parliament debates the Bill. Sometimes amendments are made, sometimes not. Sometimes Bills are sent to Select Committees where further consultation with the public takes place, then recommendations made back to the full Parliament.
How is this process different?

I believe I have an advantage in being totally neutral in this broader discussion. I am completely open to valid and constructive reasoning from all sides of the issues. And ultimately I have no say in the outcome, one way or the other.
robertguyton said…
I think anonymous is doing a great job - the one he/she was assigned, in neutralizing your influence in this field, bsprout. At least, those he represents will feel happy. He/she has entered the debate and you haven't dismissed him/her as a shill for the Government, as I have.
You are such a patient fellow!
Armchair Critic said…
The double negative you use, anonymous, doesn't cut it
We do not know that the proposed changes are not an improvement...
If a doctor tried that approach to informed consent, or prescribing medicine, they would pretty quickly lose their licence to practice.
Back in Christchurch, this is not some triviality we are dealing with. Education is a foundation upon which lives are built. If it is working well at present, then proposing changes on the basis that we don't know they won't work is not good enough.
bsprout said…
Anonymous, I didn't see it but I understand Campbell Live exposed the shonky data that was used to inform the Christchurch decision. There is ample proof that this government doesn't do it's home work before making decisions and ample more to show that consultation is never what it seems.

Robert, I'm not particularly concerned about Anonymous' blind support for his government's actions. There is no way that anyone can really justify throwing a plan as drastic as the one that was presented at a community already struggling, and then them give them a few weeks (including a school holiday) to respond. It is just plain cruel. Even commentators that are generally supportive of the government have expressed horror at the process.

I agree, Armchair, education or the schools that provide it have a broader value than the one that they have been given.
Armchair Critic said…
It would be nice to reclaim the language. The data are not "ropey", that overestimates their usefulness. What they actually are is "unreliable" or "useless".
From that basis we can decide what to do next
Anonymous said…
We ( Armchair Critic,bsprout and I) are three blind mice. We do not know all of the rationale in this debate. We are none of us privy to the Government's reasons and justifications for the plan, nor are we privy to the individual school's considered responses. And yet both of you have taken a position on the matter. I have not.
bsprout said…
Anonymous, that is the crux of this discussion, WE SHOULD KNOW THE GOVERNMENT'S RATIONALE! What is the point of the consultation if the government won't share their criteria. To respond, schools have to guess the intentions to mount a convincing counter claim and what we can see from the plan provided is that the Ministry wants no small schools, few Intermediates or middle schools, 50% of kura Kaupapa will be closed and most schools with bilingual or full emersion classes. We have to guess intentions, if we don't we will be done to, trust cannot be part of this consultation process.

Even CERA has made different schooling projections from the Ministry and there has been a good relationship with schools and local ministry officials, this plan has come from the top and with very little local involvement.
Armchair Critic said…
The government exists to serve the interests of its citizens, in part. We deserve to be "privy to the government's reasons and justifications". A goverment that says they have a plan that affects us and our families, that it will fund by either taxing us or borrowing in our name, but they can't or won't explain, is not fit for office.
As for not taking a position - this is an important issue. I don't care if you disagree with my views, but failing to have a view, and being proud of that, is contemptible.
Anonymous said…
You have both taken a position without knowing the facts, either why the Government is suggesting such a plan, or how this will affect those concerned, either for better or worse. I do not make conclusions before facts are known. That is simply logical in my view. And you, Armchair Critic, find that contemptible?
Until the consultation period is complete, and all of the facts are known and evaluated, taking a fixed position is pre-judicial.
Do either of you live in Christchurch?
Armchair Critic said…
My position is, in my opinion, clear, reasonable and not complex. I want to see that what the government proposes is based on sound reasoning and is better than what we have at present. If it is, then the government won't have any trouble at all explaining. Perhaps you could explain how I am being unreasonable.
Making decisions and forming opinions before all the facts are known is pretty common practice. I could resile from my statement about your apparent refusal to take a stand if I thought you didn't care about the issue. The fact that you've taken the time to comment shows you do care. However you don't care enough to have an opinion, or so you say. Seems kind of unlikely. What seems more likely is that you do have an opinion, but for some reason you won't put it out there. All said and done, your high horse is not that high - it looks more like a shetland pony to me.
Perhaps you'll explain the relevance of whether I live in Christchurch or not. As I see it, the education system is for the whole country, so an attack on part is an attack on the whole, so it doesn't matter where I live.
As it happens, I do live in Christchurch. I reckon you don't.
bsprout said…
I'm sorry, Anonymous, I find your arguments illogical and ill-informed. Parata and the Secretary for Education have already claimed that there has been consultation and detailed assessments made to inform the current plan. What schools have been presented with is the official summation of the consultation and data and there was not expected to be too many changes after the next round of consultation. It has already been stated that a dispassionate and detached approach was needed because of the emotion involved in school closures.

Some schools have already been told to prepare for closure at the end of this year. You are arguing as if this is only the beginning of the process and it is too early to have an opinion. This is actually the last phase of Parata's process and by the time that you have formed an opinion it will be all over.

I am not from Christchurch but I have colleagues directly involved with the process and schools targeted for closure
Anonymous said…
Armcair critic:
"Making decisions and forming opinions before all the facts are known is pretty common practice."
Unfortunately that can be so.
It can create undue concern and needless worry.

bsprout:
"All those Christchurch schools that have been earmarked for closure............. have been given a few weeks at the end of a stressful year to compose a defense for the retention of their schools."
and
" I do hope that Christchurch communities and the general public do take up the fight.................."
This suggests that all those schools have no intention of closing, regardless of any rationale that the Government might present.
Or is that the talk of political activists?

"I would have expected the Minister to put forward a plan that is accompanied by a rationale that explains the Ministry/government agenda but also demonstrates where the wishes of the professionals and communities have been taken into account."
and then later, which I presume does not meet your criterion.
" What schools have been presented with is the official summation of the consultation and data and there was not expected to be too many changes after the next round of consultation."

I asked as to whether either of you are Christchurch residents because it matters. Because you are, Armchair Critic, your judgement matters. bsprout and I do not live in Christchurch so our opinions should count for less, if anything.

This comment, Armchair Critic, places a political aspect onto the Christchurch situation that, in my view, can only be unhelpful:
" As I see it, the education system is for the whole country, so an attack on part is an attack on the whole, so it doesn't matter where I live."
I do not think we should be organising protests for political gain, or inflaming any differences between the Government and the Christchurch communities.

bsprout claims I am ill-informed and illogical. Uninformed certainly, but ill-informed would require me to have been given bad information, and that has not happened. The illogical charge is his opinion, based more on desire to prevail than to objectively assessing what I have said, I suspect.

The Government plan, I would naturally assume, is the work of Ministry officials, and not the work of individual National MPs. Cabinet may well have a preferred view where options were presented, and having Treasury responsibility that seems only reasonable.
For any regional plan to succeed, it is likely that schools unaffected by the earthquake may still be redundant if the overall plan has bottlenecks of overcapacity where nearby change is imperative. I do not have that information, but the Ministries do. I would caution that adopting a fixed position school by school, is a recipe for disappointment.

The two school closures that have affected me, were done without rancour or vilification of the relevant Ministers. The logic was apparent to most. All I suggest for Christchurch is cool heads, open minds, and rational discussion. Is that too much to expect?
bsprout said…
"All I suggest for Christchurch is cool heads, open minds, and rational discussion. Is that too much to expect?"

Anonymous, you are ignoring the main tenor of my argument. I am mainly concerned about the process and you appear to be implying that there is too much emotion and little logic in responses to the plan.

There are many schools that have accepted what has been presented because their school buildings are seriously compromised and their communities have largely left.

For those schools whose buildings are sound, whose rolls have barely altered (or they are recording a healthy increase) and have very supportive communities, being told they are to close or merge on another site is nonsensical. The decisions have probably not been established locally (as you have said) and the whole approach has been callous in the extreme. To call for cool heads is a bit rich when the emotional response is a reaction to shocking process.

If some sensitivity was shown; if the data was even remotely accurate; if there was a rational explanation for the plan; if even a slight reference to community views was evident and the timeline was less pressured, then I'm sure the response would be more reasonable.

You say that "logic was apparent to most" but it certainly hasn't been apparent to most journalists, communities, teachers and children. The "most" you are referring to must surely be a cluster of Ministry and Treasury officials based in Wellington. You claim that because I don't live in Christchurch invalidates my views and yet you are comfortable having a plan imposed by nonresidents...logical?
Anonymous said…
I think using words like "callous" only exacerbates " ....the emotional response is a reaction to shocking process."
Are you suggesting the plan is mostly being opposed because of the process? That the merits of the plan are secondary?

The plan drawn up by Ministries, with far more background material to consider than we might be aware of, presumably has been done without the partisanship that would most likely occur with a locally prepared plan. A local plan would almost certainly favour the higher decile areas, don't you think? Or favour the views of a self-interested group? An independent assessment of the future needs of Christchurch is surely a good thing?

I think using words like "callous" only exacerbates " ....the emotional response is a reaction to shocking process."
Are you suggesting the plan is mostly being opposed because of the process? That the merits of the plan are of secondary concern?

"..... if the data was even remotely accurate...."
The plan should fail on that alone. Who has the accurate data? It must be presented.

Anonymous said…
Oops on the double up paragraph.
bsprout said…
What I am saying, Anonymous, is that if the process had been more transparent and robust than much of the angst and aguish could have been avoided.

"The plan drawn up by Ministries, with far more background material to consider than we might be aware of..."

Why can't the Ministry share that information? What has been shared has been substandard and we need the reassurance that other information used is robust.

I have never disagreed with you regarding the need for a broader view outside community emotion, however schools are more than bricks and mortar and spaces where children and teachers work. They do need to have community ownership and support to function well and a school culture is an important part of creating a successful learning environment. Some collaboration with communities is necessary and the recognition of their concerns.

The schooling review in Invercargill revealed the difficulties of arbitrary decisions that are purely fiscally based. Seven years later the dust is still settling and children's learning has suffered. Throwing different communities together is not as simple as drawing lines on a map and creating figures with a calculator.

As a defender of the process can you actually provide any proof that professional and community input had a large part in the plan? It looks like a treasury dominated process to me.
Anonymous said…
I am not defending the process per se , but I seriously believe your energies are wasted arguing about the process however bad it might have been so far. What has happened has happened. Forget the witch hunt and move on. You have evidence that the plan is based on highly inaccurate data. Put your energy into presenting a cogent argument based on your far more reliable data. Do not parade it at an open meeting where political posturing has no positive value, but find the right ear and make a compelling case for a different structure for a better Christchurch. Maybe Mayor Bob Parker, or the highest person you can meet from the Education Ministry. Meet with the people who prepared the draft. Convince them there is a better way. Don't look backwards, skip the hyperbole and personal abuse. Work with them, not against them. Are you up to that?

bsprout said…
Certainly not under the current process, Anonymous. Why should Christchurch people have to waste energy arguing against a flawed plan. Rather than throw the whole city into a reorganisation when there are still huge unknowns about how it will grow and stabilize, there needs to be a staged process.

The first is to properly assess each school regarding the actual state of the buildings and the roll (including reasonable projections). This wasn't done.

The next is to produce options for the schools that are most obviously in areas of dropping population and buildings that are badly damaged.

All schools with strong rolls and safe buildings should be left. This will minimize the stress on communities and children until the population stabilizes and the areas of growth can be clearly determined. This may still take a year or two.

I would hate to see what happened in Invercargill occur in Christchurch, especially after all that families have been through. This is nothing about political posturing but an appreciation of what people are going through. It is knowing how important it is to not rip communities apart and disrupt children's learning unless it is absolutely necessary. It is about compassion, professionalism and quality education.




Dave Stringer said…
BSprout said:
The Government was setting targets for student attainment and it was our job to make sure children met them.

How does this differ from any other job? Expectations are established by the employer and the employee is expected to meet those expectations. Road sweeper, banker, accountant, solicitor, consultant, policy analyst, factory worker, etc.; why should teachers be viewed differently from everyone else?
bsprout said…
Dave- because teaching is a profession similar to the medical profession. If doctors were given a target that was related to the number of patients that survived breast cancer, the implication would be that all the contributing factors to cancer survival is under the control of the GP. Teaching and practicing medicine is not like shearing sheep or picking fruit where setting targets can be just an expectation to work more efficiently.

The targets or expectations that Hekia was talking about is in regards to National Standards and these are professionally flawed and aspirational. Most teachers find the setting of narrow targets that don't recognise the whole child nor the full curriculum is simplistic and unreasonable.

It is especially frustrating that at the same time that there is greater pressure placed on teachers to lift children's achievement in English that we have an increasingly multicultural society (around 20% of children have English as their second language) and growing levels of poverty. This government has also sacked most advisors, cut funding to frontline Ministry staff (special needs) and increased the focus on assessment and data collection rather than just good teaching. it is like they are dismantling the support systems at the same time as they are expecting better performance.

However, nothing is wrong with having high expectations for quality teaching, this is perfectly reasonable and there are ways of assessing this, but the Government's current approach isn't practical nor realistic.

I was told of a special needs school that was questioned over the fact none of their children achieved the National Standards (the majority of the children have intellectual disabilities). A school I taught in last year was a magnet school for disabled children because parents liked its inclusive culture and it has a high number of migrant children. The Principal told me he despairs because he believes his staff are performing well but they will never be seen as a high achieving school. This is the sort of ridiculous culture that is being introduced.

Please read my more recent post on Paci Sahlberg and you may have a greater appreciation of where I am coming from.
Ballard said…
Hi anonymous. Sticking to the status quo would be sensible if the quo has not lost its status. NZ has a world-class education system and changes must improve it. When the ministry cannot demonstrate that the changes it proposes are an improvement, it is obligatory for the education sector professionals to challenge the changes. Anything less would be a dereliction of duty.
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