Showing posts from November, 2013

National Standards' Credibility Dives

Two major pieces of research on National Standards were released simultaneously in the last week that seriously question the effectiveness and value of the National Standards in Education. Martin Thrupp published the final report of his three year qualitative study involving six schools and Cathy Wylie released the results of a comprehensive survey that included 180 principals, 713 teachers, 277 members of boards of trustees and 684 parents.

I was lucky to attend the launch of Martin Thrupp's report "National Standards and the Damage Done" at the New Zealand Association for Research in Education conference in Dunedin. Martin's research is well regarded internationally because it is the first time that the introduction of a high stakes assessment system has been so comprehensively studied in the school environment.

Through ongoing interviews and classroom observations, six schools were closely studied as they grappled with the untrialled system that was forced upon t…

Charter Schools All Go Despite Setbacks

Hekia Parata is a Minister on a mission, by hook or by crook she is going to continue to shove unpalatable pills down the education throat. These pills are not liked by the profession or many communities, but they need to be taken for "the public good".

Little that Parata has tried to do to education has been successful: she has lost two court decisions regarding school closures, she had to backtrack on increasing class sizes, Novo pay is a continuing disaster and the PaCt tool will no longer be mandated. The Charter Schools are a last ditch hope to get a pill fully swallowed and digested despite the gagging and coughing from the education sector.

Charter Schools were always on National's secret agenda. Lesley Longstone was appointed to the job of Education Secretary because of her background in establishing UK's equivalent of Charter Schools (Free Schools). National had not campaigned on introducing Charter Schools but it was obviously always their intention to intr…

The Greens, A Credible Alternative

The National led Government has had a painful twelve months. The sale of state assets cost $250 million to implement (well over budget) and the money raised has been well below what was predicted. The citizens initiated referendum has been stubbornly ignored as Air New Zealand was dealt to in the manner of a weekend fire sale. Novopay and school closures have been managed particularly badly and the dairy shocks have shifted international attention to our poor environmental management. There are almost daily revelations of police behaving badly, and the Government's refusal to recognize their part in the Pike River tragedy is raising questions about their moral backbone. A whiff of corruption and self-serving behaviour refuses to go away while John Banks faces court action, the SkyCity deal progresses and it is revealed that it wasn't just Bill English who took advantage of loose rules to extract personal gain from the public purse.

The National led Government are desperately …

13 Reasons for Voting No!

From Friday the 22nd of November voting papers for the citizens initiated referendum on state asset sales will be arriving in letter boxes. It is important that everyone eligible to vote does so, and votes NO,  for the following reasons:
1) It is a civic responsibility to engage in any democratic process to ensure that they continue to be used. CIRs are a useful way of establishing the public feeling on a single important issue whether they are binding or not.
2) Governments need to be able to be held to account between elections, no Government has a mandate to ignore the people who they are supposed to represent after they are elected.
3) It is important that the current Government is in no doubt about the public feeling around selling our state assets. All independent polls have shown around 70% opposition and this referendum is necessary to confirm that.
4) The whole idea of selling almost half of our power companies was flawed from the beginning as the dividends gained through re…

National's Position Desperate

There is an air of desperation around the National led Government, they are no closer to balancing the books than they were a few years ago and debt continues to be high (36% of GDP). Our current account deficit is still one of the largest in the OECD (as a country we annually earn around 10% less than we spend).

The Government has never had a broad economic strategy but instead have put all their faith in get rich quick schemes and supporting already successful businesses. The collapse of Solid Energy and the dairy scares have made us very vulnerable. We cannot call the boom in property prices and the construction activity in Chrischurch a sustainable economic recovery, no matter how much it is talked up. The $12 billion motorway spending has been exposed as having very limited economic benefit as has spending on irrigation schemes to encourage dairy intensification. Even their attempt to introduce ultrafast broadband has ended up to be an expensive mess.

Selling state assets, despi…

Another Three Years Under The Blue Taleban...

We have around another twelve months of a National led Government and there is always the possibility of them achieving another three years, possibly with the support of Colin Craig and the Conservative Party. For those who are concerned about social justice, a sustainable economy and a clean environment the thought of three more years under this regime is the stuff of nightmares. If we look at the trends up till now, what is currently being planned and the logical outcomes if National won another term, we could probably predict the following:

Inequality will continue to grow at a faster rate than other OECD countries and things like breakfast in schools and food parcels will be relied on by more families as the numbers of working poor continue to grow. The Government will continue to block attempts to introduce a living wage and will only increase the minimum wage by around 50c an hour ($5 short of the living wage). Revelations of widespread corruption and profiteering in the Christc…

Climate Change is Determined by Science, Not Politics!

The Philippines has experienced possibly the worst typhoon that has ever been recorded. Extreme winds battered the country and left damage that resembled the effects of a major tsunami. It has been estimated that around 10,000 people may have been killed. Guiuan, a city with a population of 40,000 was largely destroyed; Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people was flattened; many towns in the Cebu province suffered 80-90% damage and Baco, with a population of 35,000, was 80% under water. The devastation that the Philippine people suffered makes the Christchurch earthquake a minor incident in comparison.

The highest category for a storm is five and each catagory has winds of around 30 km faster than the one before. Hurricane Katrina (one of the deadliest hurricanes to hit the US) was a category five storm, with winds of up to 265 km an hour, Typhoon Haiyan brought winds of over 320 kilometers an hour, enough to easily make a sixth category.

Yeb Sano, the Philippines' lead negotiator at …

Something Rotten in the Education System

Ever since the beginning of the National led Government in 2008 there has been a history of close scrutiny of those who have very little and a blatant disregard of those in positions of responsibility. It was recently revealed that a mother had to re-verify that her son still had Downs Syndrome (a congenital condition) for a $60 a week allowance and yet Finance Minister Bill English thought it was perfectly reasonable to claim a $1000 a week housing allowance for living in his family home (other MPs are still taking advantage of this). If the Dominion Post hadn't exposed the expenses scam, English would have continued receiving the allowance and would have currently gained $260,000 (of taxpayer money) to live in his $1.2 million Wellington house.

The Government has decimated the public service through wide spread cuts across many departments and Ministries, resulting in the loss of over 3,500 jobs. There has been concern that many of the cuts were done in an arbitrary manner and …

Roast Busters Rethink

I have been thinking a lot about the issues around sex and teenagers and have decided that, rather than blame our youth for their dysfunctional and highly worrying behaviour, we (as in the wider community) should be taking greater responsibility. I am actually appalled at the whole media flurry around the Roast Busters issue and how our society is managing the issue of teenage sex.

Being a parent of teenagers (a boy and a girl) and having a background in teaching young adolescents I have some idea about the developmental stages young people have to work through. Sadly, as a society, we probably make the transition to adulthood more difficult for our young people than we need to and expect them to be more responsible than is biologically possible. Recent research shows that it is not until the age of 25 that the brain is fully developed and impulsive decision making is common until then.

Before I say anything more I would like to celebrate our youth for what they actually add to our s…

Roads, PPPs and DDDs

I struggle with the fact that our Southland roads are under-funded while the Government pursues its flawed Roads of National Significance programme. It also worries me that there is interest in developing new roads through national parks when we can't even maintain our existing ones. The following letter to the Southland Times supports a decent long-term transport strategy that seems only possible under a Green influenced Government:

Dear Sir

We desperately need a national transport strategy that has a long-term vision and ensures any project using taxpayer money passes a thorough cost-benefit analysis. Sadly we have another Government, blinded by thinking big rather than thinking smart, that has committed the country to $12 billion worth of dubious motorway projects. Obviously nothing has been learned from the Solid Energy debacle (anyone want a briquetting plant?).
Dr Michael Pickford (previous Chief Economist, New Zealand Commerce Commission) has exposed the current flawed approa…

Teacher Council Plans Concerning

Education Minister Hekia Parata has announced her plans regarding the new Teachers Council. This has followed a review of the existing one that was driven by the Government's concerns that the disciplinary process was not dealing with high profile cases involving inappropriate behaviour fast enough. The review highlighted the widely held belief that an independent, higher functioning teachers council was needed to raise the status of the teaching profession.

NZEI has promoted the value of a teachers council that operates independently of both Government and unions and serves as the main authority for promoting and maintaining professional standards. For too long the teaching profession has had to endure ideological swings in education every time a government changes and the bodies given the responsibility of overseeing teachers have been under resourced and lacked real authority or independence. The current Teachers Council has done some good work in establishing new professional…