Sunday, 12 May 2019

I'm calling #Bullshit on Minister Chris Hipkin's claim that teachers will be $10,000 better off!

I'm going to start out by saying I really like Chris Hipkins.  He knows education and he's grown up at the knee of a great education academic.  He's passionate about our education system and I know he wants what is best.  I know he advocates for us.  But I know he is one of many in a Cabinet competing for money.

I also know that my colleagues are over worked, many are struggling financially, many feel their students are getting the raw end of the stick and many are wanting to bail.  And if I do not see any real change by the end of 2020, I may bail too.  I can't sustain my workload forever.  Already my health has suffered in the last year.

I also know this government has a healthy surplus.  Finance Minister Grant Robertson talks about saving the money for a rainy day.  Well Grant, the rainy day for teachers is bloody well here.

Minister Chris Hipkins claims there is no more money for teacher Collective Agreement negotiations.  His MOE negotiation team keep recutting the same pie over and over again, but it will not solve the problems the teacher population currently face.

Last year our NZEI negotiators went into the Collective Agreement negotiations for primary teachers with four issues on top for teachers across New Zealand:
  • a pay jolt - we asked for a 16% pay rise over a two year contract
  • a plan for recruitment and retention - the numbers entering teacher training have dropped dramatically in recent years and the number of experienced teachers leaving the profession have created a teacher supply crisis as schools struggle to staff themselves and put teachers in front of classrooms full-time, let alone when a staff member is sick.
  • a reduction of workload - while National Standards have gone, the assessment are still there.  ERO and the MOE still demands a lot of assessment information.  There are a few principals who need some direction about teacher inquiry too.  But a lot of stuff has been piled onto teachers via the Teacher's Council which became the Education Council and is now known as the Teaching Council and it has blown completely out of control as planning to justify the reading of a story is expected by some principals under the guise of needing it to sign off teacher appraisals and registration requirements.  Then there are the excessive meetings and the paper work for getting extra assistance for students.
  • help for students with special learning needs, so we asked for a SENCO in every school - these students often have learning needs over and above what the average classroom teacher can manage without support.  But where does this support come from currently?  How much education are these children missing out on because there is a lack of funding and expertise to access what these children should be getting?
These issues were the claim presented to the MOE.  It was a bit different than previously.  For the last three negotiations figures and statements were presented.  We had to fight to keep existing conditions  and earned increases that equaled or were just below the rate of inflation.  We needed to change how we negotiated.  But the MOE could not get their head around it.

The negotiators for NZEI told the stories of thousands of teachers and why these were the issues they wanted addressed.  I was told by a negotiator that they were rather disinterested in the stories and even disputed the truth of the stories.

These issues were the issues we as a membership voted as our claim in March 2018.  These issues have not changed.  So to hear Minister Hipkins claim a number of times that the claim has changed and that teachers don't agree on the claim is rather annoying.

Like schools across the country have different issues that are on top for them, teachers across NZ also have issues on top for them.  I put this to Minister Hipkins in a tweet thread earlier this week.

Our negotiators put a range of options on the table to address the issues above.  The NZEI team expected that the MOE team would pick out some options they were willing to negotiate on.  But they did not.  They ignored all the suggestions put forward by the MOE team.  Our NZEI team was told teachers could not have their cake and eat it too.

Now they have bunched those options together and claimed that we want all of the options and we won't budge and it will cost $4 billion over four years to implement all of these options.  Remember, we put these as a range of options to be negotiated on as to which could be implemented.  We did not put these on the table as a combined must do package.

And a couple of days later I felt it important to emphasise this again.

Teachers currently feel that Minister Hipkins is no better than Hekia Parata as they do not feel he is listening to them.  I'm sure Chris is listening and feeling like he is caught between a rock and a hard place - I hear the rock is Winston Peters and the hard place is Grant Robertson.

In the mean time I hear the stories of teachers struggling and those who have left the profession:

This is just a snapshot of what I am currently hearing and what I have been hearing for the last four or five years, in person and via social media.

So why have we been refusing the MOE offer?

  • the pay offer does not stack up.
  • while the government last week announced a $94 million package to attract people into initial teacher education, there is NOTHING offered to retain current teachers.
  • there is an offer for an extra 2.5 hours of classroom release time per term - that's 150 minutes divided by 10 weeks of term equally 15 minutes a week.  I guess it gives me time to go to the toilet once a week and maybe make a coffee.
  • while they government in November 2018 announced an ambitious plan for 600 inclusive education co-ordinators.... there's still a lot of questions and the feeling this is not enough and will not impact on classroom teachers very much.

In the meantime the Minister of Education has been talking up the MOE offer and telling all and sundry there is no more money.  Mr Hipkins has made much of the idea that teachers will be increasing their wage on average by $10,000 if we accept the MOE offer.  This is disingenuous, or just not accurate.  And so this tweet stream below illustrates that.

For a better look at that extra step, here is the picture Chris Crumble kindly supplied me.

I'm not holding my breath on this new step however.  I feel this may disappear in the final wash.

The ethos of this post is just to say, don't believe everything that you are hearing come from the Minister.  He is a good Minister.  But his hands are tied by Cabinet and he's been given his lines.  As a profession, if we want to uplift the status of our profession, we need to target the big players in Cabinet alongside Mr Hipkins. 

We need to focus on the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters.  Race Courses have done well under Mr Peters, but he needs to listen to Tracey Martin more - and send Tracey letters too, after all, she is the Associate Minister of Education.  Grant Robertson's mum is a teacher, so Grant should know better - let's keep the pressure on him.  Dr David Clark is not only the Minister of Health, he is also an Associate Finance Minister - so let's apply pressure there too.  Phil Twyford may be Minister of Housing and Transport, but he has a lot of sway in that Cabinet - hit him with the letters too.

Finally, the 29th of May with our mega strike with the secondary teachers offers us new leverage.  Let's not let the momentum fail after that and let's keep the pressure on this government because we teachers are worth more.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Chris Hipkins, I have the solution to the teacher supply crisis!

Today, Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, announced an extention to the programme to recruit 850 teachers from overseas, up from the original 400 teachers, hoping to attract New Zealand teachers currently teaching off shore. This follows the MOE asking Immigration NZ to put teaching on the skills shortage list on Friday.

This plan has a fatal flaw however. As NZEI president Lynda Stuart pointed out in the NZEI press release today, "Overseas recruitment may be necessary given this crisis point, but it's a bandaid solution - there's a global shortage of teachers, and if we don't do something about the workload and remuneration of teachers, overseas teachers won't last in the system any longer than our homegrown teachers."

Everyday in the last two weeks I have heard of teachers quiting teaching to do something else in New Zealand or leaving New Zealand to be a teacher overseas.  I've also heard repeated stories from teachers who came home from teaching overseas to New Zealand, only to discover they worked such long hours in New Zealand for such poor pay they never saw their families, so they have gone back overseas for worklife balance.

On top of all this is the last National led government's Minister of Education, Nikki Kaye, telling the current Minister, Mr Hipkins, that he is not doing enough.  See this press release via Voxy.  A complete act of hypocrisy considering during nine long years of National, teachers were villified for "failing students", given 1% pay rises and had increasing teacher workloads amongst all the GERM battles.

So my message to Minister Hipkins is this - the fastest way to get teachers into our classrooms is to attract those who have recently left back. How can that happen:
  • a pay jolt.
  • reduce workload (get ERO to pull their head in and stop insisting on useless data and let schools use their small data to drive the learning).
  • reduce class sizes.
  • increase classroom release - teachers shouldn't have to be using their weekends and evenings to do work in preparation for school and dealing with data input and writing reports.
  • give us more help for children with special needs - a SENCO in every school.
Solve all these issues and we wouldn't be hemorrhaging teachers from our schools.

In regards to teachers required to do the Teacher Refresher Course to retain a practicing certificate, I believe we should be approaching that differently and with a more cost effective programme. Instead of doing the course:
  • those returning to the classroom in either a fulltime or part-time role should be getting an advice and guidance programme for a minimum of one term.
  • relief teachers should have a base school with which they can do PLD and receive guidance and appraisal to meet the conditions for being a reliever. 
Then we have the problem of attracting people to the profession via training programmes.  Over the last ten years universities have been under pressure to put bums on seats.... but teaching has become unattractive.  

Universities have slashed and burned their faculties that do initial teacher education.  The Faculty of Education at Waikato University is unloved, nothing has changed physically since I did my initial teacher education in the 1990s.  Add to that the fact Prof Neil Quigley has gutted the Faculty of staff, it is even grimmer.

Now we have the University of Auckland cutting most of its initial teacher education programmes and staff and its advisory service.  How will this help with the need to train new teachers?

I understand that the current negotiations with primary teachers and principals and secondary teachers mean that co-operation between the Minister's office and unions has taken a battering and is on hold, but we really need to suck it up on both sides to work together to solve these issues.  

The Ministry of Education continuing to offer teachers pay rises without addressing the issues of workload (class sizes, classroom release, etc.), recruitment and retention, and special education is not helping.  

Tracey Martin is doing great work in special education, but that is a proposal currently.  Teachers have seen working party after working party over the last two decades with nothing achieved and won't wait anymore for this issue to be addressed.  Hence why it is in our pay claim.  

Until the Minister gets ERO to pull their heads in, principals have their hands tied to reduce workload and teachers continue to collect data that does not necessarily mean much.

Without classroom release, teachers will continue to be forced to use their family time to work in the evenings and at weekends.  Chris Hipkins will claim we don't have enough release teachers because we have a teacher shortage.  I think the teachers will emerge from the woodwork to do the release if they increase classroom release.

So Chris, how far are you prepared to come to solve the teacher crisis?

You should have hired me when you had the chance, but I went back to teaching.  But if you ask my current boss Nigel nicely, I'm sure he'll let me pop down to Wellington to help you out.  Jacinda has his contact details.  But then again, I'm pretty sure you have mine.  😁😁😁

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Why didn't teachers strike when National was in? I'll tell you what we did!!

Why were teachers so quiet when National was the government?  They didn't kick up a fuss then.

Why didn't teachers go on strike when National was the government?

They've been offered heaps more that National offered.  So why are teachers being so unreasonable?

Teachers get so many holidays and only work from 9 until 3, so why are they complaining about workload?

If teachers don't pull their head in, Labour will be a one term government.  Then where will that leave them?

You know, I've seen these statements and questions a lot.  I've heard them from Labour party members.  I've seen them on the NZ Teachers Facebook page.  I've seen them on various Facebook pages.  I've seen them in the Stuff/Herald comments.  I've even seen and heard it from teachers themselves.

This blog post aims to put that to bed.  Because teachers did not sit quietly during National's tenure.  They, with the NZEI and PPTA, stood strong against #GERM neoliberal policies set up to destroy our free quality public education system.  Because of teachers, Minister of Education Chris Hipkins and the coalition government have the bones and a bit of flesh still left.

Teachers opposed National Standards - this could have evolved into a national testing system like in the UK or Australia or the US, all countries sliding down educational world rankings.  NAPLAN in Australia, Key Stage Testing in the UK and the plethora of testing across the US has dragged those countries down.  National had a national testing regime on their radar back in the 1990s and it was only a Labour led government being formed in 1999 and continued union opposition alongside quality academic information that prevented it from coming to fruition then.

We stood firm against allowing PaCT to take traction within our education system.  This tool would have been used to monitor teachers and as a gateway to introduce performance pay.

Our teachers, with the unions, stood firm against performance pay - this system does not work.  It does not promote a core value of teaching: collaboration.  It is ripe for fraud by teachers and being used by senior leaders unethically, clearly demonstrated in the US and UK.

Teachers opposed privatisation of our state schools - how many more charter schools and public private partnerships would have been established without the teachers standing firm against these measures that have devastated the English education system and the education systems of US cities like New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit?  NZEI and PPTA led the opposition to charter schools.  But really, the evidence from overseas speaks for itself.

Remember that time in 2012 when Hekia Parata had the brilliant idea of increasing class sizes?  Remember the impact that was going to have, particularly on intermediate schools and their specialist teachers?  That was a campaign led by NZEI, PPTA and AIMS (Association of Intermediate and Middle Schools) to raise public awareness and get the parents onside.  And it worked.  Poll numbers showed National losing core support from middle New Zealand, from the "Mums and Dads" John Key always blah blahhed on about.  So he made the call to Hekia from Europe, and nek minute, the back downs of all back downs saw Ms Parata back down.

Teachers, through NZEI and PPTA, vehemently opposed many of the changes to the Teachers' Council.  Hekia Parata, despite 90+% of submissions opposing, changed it to the Education Council and removed the right of teachers to vote on their own representatives to their professional bodies.  Other changes made by the new Education Council have also directly led to the issues we face with a shortage of teachers and relief teachers.  We are incredibly thrilled to see the changes go back through Parliament during September to return the democratic right of teachers to elect their own representatives to our governing body.

Us teachers not only thwarted efforts by previous Education Minister Hekia Parata to increase class sizes, but also her attempt to reintroduce the failed policy of the 1990s, bulk funding (disguised as global funding).  That took a concerted effort.  In fact we can thank Hekia for doing something no Education Minister had previously achieved: uniting NZEI and the PPTA in a common cause.  Add in E Tu, who represent cleaners and caretakers in our schools, and we ran a formidable campaign that forced Ms Parata to back down from global funding including the #betterfunding for #betterlearning bus and campervan tours.  NZEI and PPTA remain close and united while advancing their own kaupapa.

We were not quiet during the National years; we were considerate. 

Considerate that the country was suffering from the Global Financial Collapse.

Considerate of the country needing to put Christchurch first after the September 2010 earthquake and the February 2011 earthquake and all the aftershocks. 

We saw the Rockstar Economy proclaimed and received none of the benefits promised to us. 

We saw the silverware sold off and John Key's promises that the asset sales would benefit health and education.... but nothing.

The decision was made last year, well before the election and endorsed by members at our Annual Conference in early October before the new coalition government was established, that no matter the hue of the government, we would no longer be patient.  We would fight for our profession and our students because we are at crisis point. 

We've warned for several years we were in a state of a shortage of teachers. 

We've warned for many years that teachers were burning out under the workload. 

We've warned for many years that too many students are falling through the systematic cracks and teachers are powerless to prevent it.

We made the decision that now #ItsTimeNZEI #KuaTaeTeWa.  Thats why we decided to strike on Wednesday 15 August for a full day.  It's why we are now planning action geographical rolling strikes for the week beginning Monday 12 November.

Many of us worked to put this government in.  They promised to fix things. 

There's more wrong than they knew (but we knew that and have been saying it for years) and it is harder than they expected - but everyone knows Labour coming into government always has to fix a complete disastrous mess created by National. 

But when you have the country's leading economists saying, " Bugger the Budget Responsibility Rules - borrowing is currently cheap and education and health need fixing"... then don't you think that might be a good idea?

Otherwise we condemn yet another election cycle of children to not receiving the Education they are entitled to and we increase the crisis in our teacher workforce.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Why Primary Teachers and Principals (and the Secondary Teachers too) Rejected the MOE Offers

I was last week quite surprised by Acting Education Minister Tracey Martin being surprised by primary teachers and principals rejecting the MOE offer to us.  

Thanks to the amazing Green Grub's lady for this graphic.  Check out Green Grub's Facebook page.
When Mrs Martin came to the NZEI President's Dinner at the NZEI Annual Conference on Sunday night, she told my friend Dianne (from SOSNZ) that she did not understand why teachers had turned down the offer.  Dianne told her it's because teachers are exhausted from the workload.  The work is never ending, and teachers can be their own worst enemy, but they do it for the kids and because there is this never ending demand to accelerate learning. 

Teachers can not wait three more years for this government to get a bit more money to solve these issues.  We are at crisis point now.  We have limited relievers now and teachers are coming to school sick or classes are being split to allow teachers to take sick leave.  

We have students who are not getting the help they should get because teachers are so overworked that they do not get through the referral system in a timely manner and then there is often little funding or no room for that child on the roll of the RTLB or RTLit or there is no speech language therapist available or whatever.

We now have teachers cutting down to 0.8 or less so they can get through the workload in the working week so they can reclaim their weekends for their families.  Some have quite teaching to do relieving so they can be more present in their families.  What is there to attract them back into full-time teaching when the workload is astronomical?  My friend Dianne was offered a full-time teaching job for next year last week - her son cried because "Mum will always be working now".

There has been a 40% drop in people entering initial teacher training in the last five years (unsurprising after the National led government constantly running teachers down over their time in government).  Coupled with the high rate of attrition of teachers within their first five years of teaching leaving our profession for good or heading overseas to greener pastures, we do not have the younger teachers required to replace the aging population of teachers heading towards retirement in the next ten years.  It is predicted we will be up to 1800 teachers short.

As I lay awake this morning (thank you hacking cough), I read a response by Labour MP Marja Lubeck to a comment on a Facebook post by Education Minister Chris Hipkins (currently on paternity leave) he did after attending the PPTA Conference in Wellington yesterday.  

Ms Lubeck also seemed perplexed about why we had rejected the offer and proceeded to lay out what Labour has done in the Education space in the last year.  While these were all things we wanted, not one of them addresses our primary teacher or principal claims.

I wrote this response to Ms Lubeck:

Marja Lubeck Labour List MP, those are all great things, but getting rid of National Standards was not about workload, that was about pedagogy; about not labeling children as failures and "weighing them like pigs".

Democratising the Education Council was important to us because we should have a say in the body governing us.  However, this does not improve my workload.

Providing new classroom spaces does not improve my workload.  However, can someone organise a heat pump to be installed in my prefab; we sweated through term 1 and huddled around a tiny fan heater in terms 2 and 3.  I'm not looking forward to sweating out term 4.

I'm stoked ECE received more funding after years of freezes, however, this will not improve workloads in ECE, primary or secondary sectors - it will just allow centres financial breathing room.
What will improve my workload as a primary teacher?

* release time: currently CRT (Classroom Release Time) for primary teachers is two days a term or, as written in the Primary Teachers Collective Agreement, ten hours per term.  This does not give me enough time to complete all the reading and maths assessments I need to do for my class.  Consequently I need to complete the remainder during time I should be teaching - therefore my class end up doing "busy work" to try and manage them while I try to assess kids.  This is not ideal for the child being assessed or my stress levels.  This also means I get no time to do planning.  Currently I spend three hours minimum after school each day to do my planning, collate assessment, respond to whānau, make resources.... and I am often back at the weekend for at least three hours.  And then there are the meetings...

* Retention and recruitment: where are the incentives for young people to stay in our profession?  Where are the incentives to join our profession?  Why would a young person choose a job that pays possibly $50,000 but requires you to work 60 hour weeks and subsidise the education system out of their own pocket when they could work at 40 hour week elsewhere and not being using their own money to get the job done?  Where's the incentive for teachers who left our profession or cut back from fulltime to 0.8 so they could have family life to be full time teachers or relief teachers?

* A SENCO in every school: our most vulnerable kids are missing out.  Recently half of one of my CRT days was spent on working on an RTLB referral for one child.  That's 1/4 of my CRT time for the term on ONE CHILD.  Is that efficient use of my time?  It's still incomplete.  I haven't had time to go back to it.  Meanwhile a child goes without help.  A fulltime SENCO would have it sorted well and truly by now because that would be their focus.

Teachers are burning out.

I've already left the profession once due to National Standards.  I came back because of the promise of a Labour led government.  If nothing changes in regards to workload, I will be yet another teacher forced to leave the profession again in order to preserve my own health and wellbeing.

Many people will say we need to go a bit easier or this will be a one term government, that the cupboard is bare and they need time.  We don't have time.  Teaching is at a crisis point of a lack of teachers and the others burning out.  Children have missed out for too long already due to austerity in education.  I worked bloody hard in 2017 to get a change of government, and I will work bloody hard to ensure they are still the government beyond 2020... but our teachers and our children can no longer wait.  

This government needs to deliver to teachers and children to ensure Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's goal to make New Zealand the best place in the world for a child to grow up in.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Are you being paid to attend that Teacher Only Day?

It comes around every year, the time when teacher only days and the set up of classes in preparation for school beginning.

Every year new teachers enter the profession and teachers who were out of the profession or are on fixed term contracts come into new schools.  And every year these teachers have a similar problem: getting paid for teacher only days.

The issue is that the Ministry of Education says the education year begins on the 27th of January.  But schools begin their year with new staff before this date.  New teachers to a school are required to attend induction days, teacher only days, team meetings and set up their classrooms - and most of this is done before they are officially on the payroll on the 27th of January.

This year my school begins teacher only days on the 22nd of January, yet I am not officially on the payroll until the 27th of January.  But as a teacher who has come off a fixed term, and has had all the meager holiday pay I am due, am I now expected to attend several days of teacher only days and then set up my classroom ready for the new school year without getting paid?

Many will say, well that is how it has always been.

But I say, just because that is how it has always been, it doesn't mean it is the way it should be!!

I am not saying I will not be setting up my classroom, I just choose to do it when I am actually being paid for it.

We teachers are professionals, and we should be paid for every day we are in school and we should be treated as professionals, not as volunteers.  Some people, particularly beginning teachers, may have to give up some actual paid employment to attend these days in school.  Others may need to pay for child care.  Therefore these days can be at a cost financially to new teachers to the school.

And in how many other professions are you expected to work up to a week in advance of officially being on the payroll and set up your work space without being paid?  It is an insult to the teaching profession to treat teachers in such an unprofessional manner.

And here is the clanger: what if you are onsite working before you are officially on the payroll and you are injured in anyway?  Will ACC cover you and call it a workplace accident?  It really is a health and safety issue.  What other employment laws will I and my new employer be breaking by me being onsite and working before my official contract of employment commences?  (I mention this because the youngest victim of Pike River was not on the payroll officially when the disaster happened - not that something that bad is likely to happen in a school, it's just his family was not compensated fully for losing their precious son as a result).

This year the 27th falls on a Saturday.  The Saturday of Auckland Anniversary weekend.  Should I spend the weekend setting up my class so I am worn out and tired for when school starts on Wednesday?  Why should teachers work so many weekends anyway?

Currently it is rather hit and miss if staff new to a school are paid.  I've been teaching for 22 years.  I've started a new school at the beginning of the year a number of times after a break in my service to study/relief teach.  I only remember one new school paying me once for attending these meetings.  I was younger then and less bolshy and less aware.  So now I am more prepared to stand up and say we should be paid.

Add to the fact that, particularly for a beginning teacher, it is expensive to set up a classroom.  Mostly teachers buy many things to set up the class themselves.  Sometimes they can claim items back through their classroom/team budgets.  But often they are buying items over and above what is necessary and creating resources from their own money to use in the classroom to enhance teaching and learning that the school may not reimburse at all.

I personally think there is a simple solution to solving this issue every year.  Move the date of the education year start a week forward.  That way it will fully encompasses the full week before school starts and ensures new staff to a school are paid for the teacher only days, meeting and classroom set ups they will be doing.

I would like to see NZEI and PPTA back this and take it to the Ministry of Education in the collective agreement negotiations this year.  I would like to see Education Minister Chris Hipkins take some leadership on this very small change to the calendar that would demonstrate good will to new and returning teachers in years to come, especially in a time when we have a shortage of teachers to start the school year.

Disclaimer:  I am not taking a dig at any school, especially my new employer.  I'm just stating this is a problem nationwide that needs addressing.  And I have no idea how my school is approaching this issue.

UPDATE:  the PPTA have a distinct clause in their STCA for this situation.  This is their clause:
3.2A.1 Regardless of the first day schools are open for instruction in Term 1, for normal pay and employment purposes the start of the school year is 28 January for those teachers that are employed for that year, except that for teachers being employed for the first time in a state or integrated school, or being employed after a break in service, their start day is as advised to payroll by the employer.

After some help we have found a similar clause in the PTCA which many teachers and principals may be unaware of (I know I certainly was and so were many of my NZEI friends including principals):

So if you find your school is not paying you for those teacher only days and meetings before the 28th of January, you now know where to find the right clause to sort that out.  

But it would make it easier in my eyes if the MOE start of year changed so no one missed out.

UPDATE TWO:  NZEI has approached the Ministry of Education for clarity, particularly as some principals have found some Novopay workers will action this and others have found some Novopay workers will not action these clauses, stating it would muck up holiday pay.  I would like to see the School Trustees Association also come on board to deliver clear instructions to schools to use the above clauses to ensure people are appropriately paid.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Thank you Chris Hipkins!! Goodbye National Standards. But....

Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins.
Sourced from
Labour campaigned on it.

New Zealand First campaigned on it.

The Green Party campaigned on it.

Last Monday, the Minister of Education, Chris Hipkins, finally announced it.

From 2018, Primary schools will no longer have to report on National Standards to parents or the Ministry of Education from the new year.  Education Minister Chris Hipkins said reporting would shift from the standards to reporting on children's progress. Reports would be written in "plain English", he said.  Read more here:  Government confirms primary schools to scrap National Standards (NZ Herald 11/12/17).

He also said parents and teachers had lost confidence in the "narrow policy" that he called "nothing more than a compliance exercise" and a "major distraction to schools".  (Government scraps National Standards, Newshub, 12/12/17)

I'm stoked that National Standards will not be compulsory, Chris Hipkins.  Thank you very much.

I've been campaigning against them since the legislation was enacted under urgency in December 2008.  I've joined Facebook groups, commented on numerous forums, written blogs opposing National Standards, attended protests, lobbied politicians, informed colleagues, friends, family, parents of students and the general public of the futile and stigmatising nature of National Standards.  I became a co-admin of Save Our Schools New Zealand and upped my involvement in NZEI.

Personally, over the years, while I have met the requirements of my job description as a teacher in regards to National Standards, I've mostly ignored them.  Here's how:
  • the original National Standards document I received is still unopened in the plastic it arrived in.
  • that document is buried in my storage locker with 99% of what I own - that's how little I value it.
  • I actively ignored National Standards as a teacher and minimalised my involvement in doing anything involving them.
  • I minimalised my discussion of the National Standards with students and talked to them about where they sat according to age norms and the curriculum and the progress they were making from a certain point to that point. 
  • I taught with good practice to encourage the love of learning, not the need to need an 'aspirational' standard that did not meet with how we know children learn.
  • I avoided putting anything on display or in the student's books that referred to the Standards.
Then I decided I needed to do more:
  • I joined the Labour party and began having the conversations with various politicians from not only Labour, but the Greens and NZ First, to push the need to see National Standards gone.
  • I assisted with campaigning in the 2014 election.
  • at the end of 2015 I decided I really could not stomach National Standards anymore.  After a whole term of testing instead of teaching and writing labourious reports to the Standards and crying over the 'Well Below' children and consuming far too much chocolate and bourbon, I called it quits.  I decided not to teach again under a National government.
  • I began my Masters of Education focusing on Global Education Policy.  Just the dissertation to go.
  • I protested Hekia Parata, the former Minister of Education, at the largest education conference in New Zealand, ULearn.  Out of hundreds of messages and personal conversations and likes, only two people called me disrespectful and disagreed with my protest.  Over a year later, I'm still getting people thanking me for taking my lone protest to the middle of ULearn during the Minister's speech, right in her line of sight.
  • 2017 was all about my goal to #ChangeTheGovt - this involved becoming even more involved in the Labour party and managing the Taranaki-King Country Labour campaign and assisting in the campaign thoughout the Waikato as well as supporting the campaigns in the Rangitikei, New Plymouth and Te Tai Hauauru electorates.

So imagine my excitement that night that Winston Peters announced that New Zealand First would be going into coalition with Labour and that the Greens also had a supply and agreement document with Labour.  All three parties would not let National Standards continue.  No more National Standards!

So once again, Chris Hipkins, thank you very much for saying that National Standards will not be a requirement in 2018.

However, what I'm not pleased about is that you will still allow schools to "choose" to use them as a tool.  

Schools who still want to use National Standards to report a child’s progress to parents can continue to do so – despite the Government saying they’d scrap them.  Education Minister Chris Hipkins has confirmed National Standards would no longer exist, but any school that wanted to use them as a tool to report progress wouldn’t be forced to stop doing so.  “We’re going to require schools to report child progress against the curriculum.  What tools they use to do that is up to them.”  From National Standards will no long exist but schools can still use them - Chris Hipkins (Stuff, 14/11/17)

That just makes a mockery of your announcement.  When my principal heard this he was dismayed.  He thinks you have stumbled at the final hurdle and given BOTs the opportunity to continue this folly, overriding the teaching staff and principals.  

This is a man who was hanging out for a change of government prior to the election because he knows National Standards has not done his students or staff any favours over the years.

I'm also rather concerned by this line:  "We will take the next few months to work with the sector, students, parents, whanau and iwi to develop a new approach for understanding progress across the curricula that will meet their needs, and contribute to the education system supporting the success of all students."  (NZ Herald, 11/12/17 - as linked above).

During the election campaign, Mr Hipkins repeatedly said that there would be no replacement because we have a world leading curriculum which should inspire learning and be the baseline for assessment.  I am therefore concerned about the need to 'replace' National Standards.  I believe that Mr Hipkins is very sincere when he says he will work with the sector and relevant interest groups.  However, I believe he has forgotten why Finland had a successful education system and how it got it: by copying the world leading child centred education system New Zealand had prior to the formation of Tomorrow's Schools.

I've made the decision to step back into full time teaching in 2018.  I did this on the basis of having a Labour led coalition that was disposing of National Standards and returning our New Zealand Curriculum to the front and centre of our education landscape.

I will be watching this very carefully.   I will be advocating for my students, colleagues and the system.  I am not going to accept any neoliberal programme over the top of our world leading curriculum.  

Thank you Rod Emmerson for saying it how it really is!!
So Mr Hipkins, let's get that National Standards legislation repealed once and for all.  Let's ensure the New Zealand Curriculum is front and centre.  And let's ditch National Standards into the history books (aka rubbish bin).  Completely.  Nothing less will be acceptable.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

World Teachers Day - It's Time!

It's time!  Kua tae te wa!!

Last week was World Teachers Day and it is time!!!

It's time that teachers were once again held in high regard and not pushed around by politicians and the neoliberal agenda pushing their GERM policies.  It's time our professionalism, knowledge and experience is respected and we are fully consulted on and collaborated with in regards to education policy and how the New Zealand education system is run.  It's time our workload is reduced and we are renumerated appropriately.

Last Wednesday I came back from a four day conference.  It was the annual conference for the New Zealand Education Institute, NZEI.  People generally know us as the primary teacher's union, but we also cover primary principals (and primary includes intermediate schools), kindergarten teachers, teachers in ECE centres, special education teachers who work directly for the Ministry of Education, and school support staff who work across the kindergarten, primary and secondary sectors in a range of roles.

People usually view NZEI as an industrial union, as they mostly hear about us talking about how much teachers are paid and Collective Agreement negotiations because that is what the media talks about.  But NZEI is more than an industrial union, because the 'I' in NZEI means 'Institute' and that is because NZEI is a professional body.  What you do not see in the media or public eye is the professional and pastoral sides of the Institute, how NZEI aims to develop teachers, principals and support staff as professionals so that children are provided the best education possible.

Because in the end it is all about children.  Children are the ones that benefit from a strong teacher profession promoted by NZEI.  Children are the ones that benefit from having support staff who are focused on supporting the child and their learning and wellbeing.  A teacher's working/teaching conditions are the learning conditions of our students.  When you shortchange and restrict teachers, and fellow staff, the ultimate sufferers are students.  And I think this sign below, drawn at the Annual Conference, sums that up quite nicely.

The last eight and a half years have been difficult for the education sector as a whole.  This list is not an exhaustive list of what has been inflicted on us, but it is representative:
  • revoking the goal to have 100% of ECE teachers fully trained and registered.
  • funding freeze for kindergartens and ECE centres.
  • the destructuring of the kindergarten model into the industrialised day care model.
  • constant slamming of the teaching profession and the focus on the "tail of underachievement" without the explanation of the children who make up the "tail of underachievement".
  • support staff receiving miserable pay rises and not recognised by the government for the integral part they play in the education of children.
  • allowing children to start school before their fifth birthday.
  • National Standards.
  • narrowing of the curriculum, teaching and learning to reading, writing and maths.
  • expecting all children to be assessed against the National Standards, including students on IEPs and receiving ORS funding.
  • league tables in the major newspapers.
  • bullying principals and BOTs into taking National Standards on.
  • advisors sent into schools with little or no experience of the schools or the levels.
  • Commissioners sent into schools and BOTs and/or principals being fired.  These Commissioners are also paid for by the schools, so are financially draining.
  • the killing off of the Teacher Advisory Service and privatisation and corporatisation of professional learning development providers who never knew what they would be doing from year to year.
  • the closing of Learning Media and the consequently lower quality and restricted variety of the resources now supplied to schools for learning.
  • changing the leveling of School Journals with no consultation with classroom teachers to fit in with National Standards.
  • PaCT.
  • Charter Schools.
  • Teach First.
  • allowing people to teach in Charter Schools who are not trained registered teachers.
  • Charter Schools not coming under the requirements for OIA (Official Information Act).
  • continually cutting funding for Reading Recovery.
  • not spending all the money in the Special Education fund despite the desperate need.
  • closing several residential schools for children with special education needs.
  • trying to close Salisbury School and make Halswell a co-educational facility despite the court ordering that housing these girls within the same school as boys would put all the children at risk.
  • IES that devolved into Communities of Schools that became Communities of Learning.
  • freezing the school Operations Grant and giving schools money for children deemed 'at risk' but not naming who those children are.
  • job insecurity for support staff as they are at the mercy of pressures on the Operations Grant.
  • the attempt to reintroduce bulk funding and disguising it by calling it global funding.
  • the decision to go with the Risk Funding model.
  • refusing to fund food in schools programmes.
  • ignoring the effects of poverty and the housing crisis on children.

Many of these things were predicted by the NZEI General Secretary, Paul Goulter, each year in his speech to the NZEI Annual Meeting.  This year Paul put out a call to teachers, principals and support staff that is is time.  It is time to stand up and be paid what we are worth and that we will not be nice about it anymore. 

Below is Paul Goulter's address to the NZEI Annual Meeting 2017.

Teachers are quite fed up.  While we love the job, we don't love the workload.  We don't love the teacher bashing we have endured under National.  We absolutely abhor National Standards.  We don't like PaCT.  We have little time for CoLs being forced upon us.  We absolutely hate that our profession is constantly disrespected for our knowledge and experience we bring and the constant call for accountability, which is out of control and increasing the workload, taking the focus off our core reason to exist: teaching children.

I was surprised by these statistics Paul spoke about in his address:
  • New Zealand teachers have 922 teaching hours on average annually compared to the OECD average of 794 hours.
  • New Zealand has the 11th worst child:teacher ratio in the OECD.
  • New Zealand teachers have the 19th worst buying power for their salary in the OECD.
There are 35 member countries of the OECD.  We are at the wrong end of the statistics.

Add to this that New Zealand has the highest rate of youth suicide in the world and, in one study, the worst rate of homelessness, we really need to wonder if this country is doing the best for the children of New Zealand.

Below is a Storify of tweets illustrating Paul Goulter's address to the Annual Conference and how our members feel about the issues our members face.

The Primary Teachers Convenor, Michelle, stood to read the pledge we are making to all members.

I am a primary school teacher, so most of what I have written above is focused on that.  But NZEI promotes a kaupapa of whole of union.  So below I am going to discuss issues for other sectors within NZEI, because I will support and activate for these members too, because it benefits every other sector and, most of all, children will benefit.

Let's start with ECE, early childhood education outside of the Kindergarten sector.  This is dominated by the industrialised day care chains and peppered by community based day cares (which are often now being squeezed out of the market).  Most teachers in this sector are not unionised.  There are minimal requirements for child:teacher ratios or for the numbers of trained, qualified, registered teachers to be in these centres.

I won't go into my own personal issues in regards to the quality of education and care in these centres, but when I read the statements in these pictures below and hear the stories in person, I wonder how staff subjected to such poor employment practice can consistently deliver quality education and care to the students in these centres.

Anyone reading these statements has to be moved by the fact we have a fair chunk of the ECE sector under stress and working in centres that are not meeting the legislation requirements for workers and for children.

Our Kindergartens have been undermined by this current government, who have lumped them under the same legislation and policies and ECE centres.  The result is that the ethos of Kindergartens is being lost.  They have been turned into the day care model, therefore reducing choice for families looking for the best fit for their preschooler.  Kindergarten teachers have had their professional status undermined and their conditions eroded.

Our support staff are on the lowest wages in education.  Our support staff have been subjected to years and years of job insecurity due to being funded through the Operations Grant.  If a school suddenly needs to cut costs due to financial pressure, the support staff budget is one of the few places they can make cuts to balance the budget.  The result is that students suffer because that teacher aide is gone or there is no longer someone running the library or one of the many other roles support staff take on.

Teachers have a phenomenal workload, but principals really take the cake.  The amount of principals burning out or creating a poor culture within their schools due to the workload is continuing to increase.  The government has tried over and over to pit principals against teachers and principals and BOTs against each other.  The fact is, a principal needs to have a close, quality, collaborative relationship with both their staff and their BOTs.  Without that, the principal will fail, the school will fail, the BOT will fail, the staff will fail, and ultimately the children suffer.

Resource teachers are often the bridesmaids and forgotten in all this.  Resource Teachers of Literacy (RTLits), Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) and Resource Teachers of Maori (RTM) as well as Resource Teachers for the visually impaired and hearing impaired, Health School teachers, Correspondence School teachers, and those who work for Special Education in the Ministry of Education are often forgotten by the mainstream.  They get reorganised, renamed, have staff not replaced and are expected to work wonders with limited resources and time frames.  It's time they were treated with more respect and listened to as well.

Teachers have been nice for too long.  We will not use children as the bargaining chip because children are at the heart of everything we do.  Without children we have no purpose.  If we want to do the best for children we have to fight for the best we can get.  When we have the appropriate staffing, funding and resources we make magic everyday with our students.

So it really is time.  Kua tae te wa!