Teaching Profession Rejects Parata's Plans

Classroom teachers, the New Zealand Educational Institute, the New Zealand Principal's Federation and education academics have all strongly rejected the Government's proposed $359 million Investment into Education Success (IES). All believe that this substantial amount of money will not produce the results that the Education Minister claims and would be better spent elsewhere.

At a recent meeting of primary classroom teachers in Invercargill, one teacher was particularly upset. She had shifted to New Zealand to escape the failing English schooling system only to find the same changes are about to be implemented here.

Respected US academic David Berliner happened to be in New Zealand when the Prime Minister first announced the new spending and he strongly rejected the claim that teachers make the biggest difference to child achievement. He claimed that the socio-economic background of the child has the largest influence on education outcomes (according to all research) and he accused our Prime Minister of lying for stating otherwise.

Prof Martin Thrupp has made a number of useful points in a recent article on the IES. He voices concern at the lack of media engagement with these major changes to school management and questions the evidence for them. Few New Zealand academics have been consulted despite the fact we are internationally regarded for our education research and any changes should be based on our own contexts. Prof Thrupp is concerned that the government is using a management centered approach to lifting children's achievement rather than a child centered one and we are losing the professional culture that made our education system so successful in the past.

NZEI has listed a number of alternatives where the funding would be better used. Rather than removing successful principals and teachers from their schools and classrooms for several days a week NZEI suggests the funding would provide better outcomes if we:
  • Increased funding for our Special Education Service so that 20,000 more kids could get specialist support.
  • Worked towards having 100% of our early childhood teachers being qualified and registered.
  • Reduced class sizes so that all children can benefit from more individualized learning. 
  • Provide sustainable funding for teacher aids so that children and teachers can get consistent support. 
One would think that primary principals would welcome the opportunity to earn $50,000 more on top of their current salary as one of the new 'Executive' Principals, and yet they have solidly rejected the concept. They cannot see how they could do the job of leading their own school well if they are removed from it for several days a week.

Education Minister Hekia Parata has been less than convincing when attempting to justify a corporate styled model of education management. Although she continuously talks about the importance of collaboration in the sector, her understanding of what that would mean is quite different from the profession's view. She talks about data and achievement outcomes and doesn't refer once to the real needs of struggling children. It is also interesting that she claims to be working positively with NZEI and the NZPF and yet neither has supported the outcomes. 

Parata claimed that they had been working on the changes for a year, but the profession only became aware of them when they were announced in January and any consultation has only occurred over the past few months. In reality the IES has been presented as a fait accompli and full consultation and discussion with the wider profession has been deliberately limited by the tight time frame. National Standards were implemented without a trial and without the support of the profession and after five years they are still problematic, these new comprehensive changes are being introduced in the same flawed way.

The Green Party has taken a different and cheaper route to lifting the achievement of struggling children. Over 80% of our children are actually doing well in the current system and far more could be achieved if we addressed the real barriers to learning for our most disadvantaged children; ill health, poor housing and struggling families. Health and welfare hubs are already working well in some schools and, as a proven model, it makes sense to establish them in all low decile schools. The Green Party believe in targeting funding and support rather than inflicting the entire system with a corporate model that has failed elsewhere.  


Keeping Stock said…
That's not what the PPTA is saying Dave - http://ppta.org.nz/resources/media/3007-media-ies-consultation-3jun2014
bsprout said…
You're right, KS, but they don't have to deal with the crazy National Standards and their sector will not be affected in the same way as primary schools. I also believe they do not understand the full ramifications. This is systemic change by stealth.
Keeping Stock said…
On the contrary Dave; I think the PPTA understands only too well what the Government is trying to achieve. They have chosen though to take off their ideological blinkers.

You might find this interesting:

bsprout said…
KS, I don't agree with PPTA. Here are my responses to the same statements covered in your link.

1. There has been no consultation.

The IES never started as an employer's offer to be worked through agreement negotiations, this has been demanded from NZEI and PPTA since.

The positions of Executive Principal and lead teacher will be highly influential ones and pay far more than any other positions of responsibility. In shaping these positions there was no work done with the profession and, as Martin Thrupp said, little local evidence or research had been used. Parata claimed that they had been working on them for a year, but the first time we knew about them was at the end of January, just over four months ago. We were given about 9 weeks to read through the reports presented and try and consult with the wider profession. This is not robust consultation.

2. The money could be better spent on…

The primary and early childhood sectors have had far more done to them than secondary and our special education support and advisory services have been substantially cut. There are many areas that would make more of a difference to children's learning than removing some teachers and principals from their schools to work with others and then pay them generously for it. Secondary schools tend to have far more staff and have greater flexibility, but the average primary school only has 120 pupils. What happens to the schools or classes when the leadership is absent for two days a week?

3. IES creates a layer of management…

This is clearly the case. The Executive Principal is employed by the Ministry to oversee a cluster of around 10 schools and they will appoint the lead teachers. It is clear that the EP will have a major role in determining the priorities of teaching and learning for the cluster and the lead teachers will be following their direction. This is clearly a new layer of management for primary schools who will most likely be clustered around a secondary school and will lose their current autonomy and their relationship with their boards will no longer be the paramount one.

bsprout said…
4. The evidence is lacking

NZEI continually asked for the research and evidence that supported this particular model and very little was provided. Obviously there is good evidence in support of mentoring and collaboration as this has always been important in teaching (the broader concept isn't being questioned) but we have major concerns with how this will be managed.

5. There is growing disquiet and concern in the sector…

There definitely is. Auckland Principals have come out strongly against it, the New Zealand Principals Federation (not a union) has real concerns, many boards around the country are worried about their future roles and as teachers are becoming informed (over the last two months) many are really angry about the waste of money.

6. It will suit secondary schools better than primary

I went through the highly damaging schooling review in Invercargill some years ago when Trevor Mallard allowed an open slather local approach to determining the final outcome. The Secondary schools had greater resources than the Primary schools and dictated the outcome. When they were informed that there was an ideal size for a secondary school, and most were under that, they aggressively went into self protection mode. They took over all the intermediates and one middle school to boost their roles even though surveys of parents came out strongly against this as they did not want their 10-11 year olds experiencing the high school environment too early. We now have no intermediates or middle school although all were viable and performing successfully. PPTA know that if schools are clustered it is unlikely that the Executive Principal would come from a primary school of 200 pupils and the principal of secondary school of 2,000 students would be unlikely to take direction from them anyway. Sadly there is a perception that the shoe size of the students dictates the status of the teacher and this is likely to be a factor in this process as well.

My concern would be that if this model is introduced across the country then while there may be some successful outcomes, there is a real possibility of some huge failures as well. A lot depends on those appointed to the roles and real damage could be done to many schools if a poor appointment was made. At least with employing more frontline staff in special education there would be a direct and positive outcome.

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