The Destruction of New Zealand's Public Education System
In 2008 New Zealand was internationally ranked in the top seven for educational achievement, and when you compared us with other countries that were also culturally diverse and experiencing growing inequality, we were extremely successful.
At that time our Early Childhood sector had received a much overdue boost in funding from the Labour Government after being underfunded (as a % of GDP) compared to other OECD nations for years. The sector was working towards a target of having 100% qualified teachers in all centres.
We were also in the process of implementing a new National Curriculum and a complementary curriculum for Maori (Te Marautanga o Aotearoa). Teachers were excited about putting all their energies into the new ideas and approaches that were espoused in these co-constructed documents that had taken around seven years to review and write. Evidence, research and practitioner input had created something that would allow us to prepare New Zealand children to become resilient in a rapidly changing world.
We were just on the cusp of something great when an election occurred…
A National led Government was elected and New Zealand's public education system came under heavy attack:
- $35 million gifted to private schools (4% of students). Elite private school Wanganui Collegiate (400 students) receives $3.9 million bail out despite Ministry advice not to.
- $25 million slashed from the Education Ministry (according to assessments it is the worst performing ministry).
- Introduction of new curriculum abandoned and National Standards implemented without trial, against advice and with limited consultation (legislated into law).
- Cost of repairing leaky school buildings over $1.2 billion (after National's de-regulation of building industry in 1991).
- $400 million wiped from the early childhood budget and the target for qualified teachers dropped to 80% (many centres operating at 100% had massive budget cuts).
- Curriculum narrowed to literacy and numeracy and all other advisors sacked (Science, Technology, Arts…).
- The expectation that schools provide healthy food wiped to allow commercial interests into schools again to sell processed food and fruit in schools scheme slashed.
- Funding for technology teachers in intermediates cut.
- Class sizes over 1:27, 6 more than the OECD average
- Health camps closed.
- Pasifika immersion and bilingual community child care centres suffer funding cuts despite being a 'priority' group.
- Residential schools for behavioural needs closed (one illegally).
- Schools that questioned Standards were threatened with having boards and principals sacked and had PD withheld.
- Christchurch school closures are poorly managed and questioned by an ombudsmen and found wanting by a court decision.
- New Education Ministry head employed from UK with a background in Charter Schools and limited knowledge of New Zealand system.
- Novopay signed off and implemented without a proper trial despite having 147 software faults. Schools are having to devote hours of time every week to deal with past and ongoing problems.
- Charter Schools introduced despite no evidence of need and are given a financial advantage over public schools. The Civilian's satirical take on Charter Schools is actually not far from the truth.
- Private schools capture special needs funding over low decile schools.
- Te Kotahitanga dumped despite being highly successful in lifting Maori achievement.
- Disbandment of the Supplementary Learning Support tier of special education funding, putting an increased load on our already overworked Resource Teachers for Learning and behaviour (RTLB).
- Hekia Parata remains in ministerial role despite poor performance and little respect from the public or the education sector.
- After five years under National, New Zealand's international ranking plummets to as low as 23rd.
- Internationally regarded research reveals New Zealand schools are suffering serious harm under the National Standards regime.
- Government pays $2.5 million in grants and subsidies to Kidicorp a corporate child care provider with a history of overcharging the Ministry ($1.6 million) by manipulating teacher numbers.
- The Prime Minister announces that $359 million will be spent on Executive Principals and Teachers who are successful in raising achievement in National Standards. Many question why the money is supporting a corporate management system and isn't being spent directly to help children with high needs.
Despite the serious damage already done to New Zealand's education sector this Government is not letting up, they will not be happy until they have complete ideological control and can shut down professional engagement completely. They are planning to do away with the current Teachers Council and replace it with a new authority (EDUCANZ) that will be led by those approved and appointed by the Minister only, with little professional input. The Education Amendment Bill (No2) is currently being progressed through parliament that will support the ongoing restructuring of the system.
Hekia Parata is also considering wiping the current support for lower decile schools and shift extra funding to those schools that perform well in National Standards. The head of the EDUCANZ transition board John Morris has recently produced a paper that suggests teachers should be paid based on the attainment of their students.
This government is destroying our amazing collaborative, holistic public education system that recently led the world. They are determined to implement systems that have failed spectacularly overseas. Professional knowledge based on evidence and research should lead education, not political ideology. What angers me the most is what is being denied to our most vulnerable children when they should be the real focus of spending and any systemic change.