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!


Sunday, 16 July 2017

We need to end poverty for New Zealand families

During the last week, both Labour and the Greens have released their policies for families, their incomes and how to end poverty in New Zealand.  It comes partly in response to the tax cuts announced by the National led government duing the Budget bribery in May, but mostly has an inducement by all three parties to woo the voter for the general election on the 23rd of September.
 
The stark reality is that too many of our nation's children and their families are in poverty, as this infographic below illustrates:
 
Source:  www.childpoverty.co.nz
 
Poverty is something that successive governments in New Zealand have battled to overcome since it began to govern itself with a parliament.  After the Great Depression, a constructive decision by consecutive governments for nearly five decades meant that New Zealand engaged in a policy of full employment via the public sector and public works to ensure every man was able to support his family and children would not be subjected to the poverty they endured during the Depression and war years.
 
However, with the event of Rogernomics during the fourth Labour government in the 1980s and then the subsequent National government duing the 1990s with agressive New Right policies implemented by then Finance Minister, Ruthless Ruth Richardson, poverty was once again well and truly ingrained in the framework of New Zealand society and has developed to a point where it can no longer be ignored and swept under the carpet by any political party leading up to the 2017 election.
 
The following is an exert from my Masters essay last year that I blogged in the post How does child poverty affect access to education and success in achievement for New Zealand children?
 
In 1972, the Royal Commission on Social Security had reinforced the role of welfare as “to ensure, within limitations which may be imposed by physical or other disabilities, that everyone is able to enjoy a standard of living much like that of the rest of the community, and thus is able to feel a sense of participation in and belonging to the community” (Kelsey, 1995, p.271).  The new National government of 1990 decimated this social contract in 1991.
 
Treasury’s Social Policy Branch decided they needed to determine what American economists called a minimum income standard – a poverty line.  They contracted some home economy researchers in Dunedin, who investigated four dietary budgets on which to feed a man, woman and several children of various ages for a week.  They came up with four budgets: liberal, moderate, basic and low.  At the low end, the researchers determined it would take careful shopping and considerable time and cooking skill to ensure a healthy diet, but that it was not healthy or sustainable long term.
 
Treasury took the lowest plan, without telling researchers, and reduced it by 20%.  They called this the New Zealand Income Adequacy Standard and used it as the recommendation for the new beneficiary payment levels.  The unemployment benefit was cut by one quarter.  Jenny Shipley, the Minister of Social Welfare, claimed it was required to “create a gap between work and welfare” (In a Land of Plenty, 2002).  The family benefit was also stopped and merged into a means-tested family support tax credit (Baker, 2011).
 
The impact of this move was devastating across the country and plunged families below the poverty line.  If Porirua alone had $400,000 a week slashed from its local economy, other communities around the country also faced similar circumstances, including the flow on of businesses closing and further job losses. 
 
The changes to the employment laws, continued restructuring and redundancies, plus the impacts of less money in the local economies caused unemployment to rise to over 11%, as can be seen in the graph below (Trading Economics, 2016).  This was key to poverty gaining a foothold in many communities who had lost significant and large, long term employers forever.
As a result, both Labour and the Greens have released their policies.  You can access their policies from this links:
Essentially both will cancel the tax cuts and amendments to the tax thresholds that National has proposed.  Instead they will put in place interventions to support families to be able to pay for the necessities of life.  These policies will allow both parties to enact change and opportunities in other areas in order for families to earn more and become independent from state interventions.  Naturally, the Green's policy reaches further than the Labour policy, but that is expected considering the Greens sit further to the left than Labour on the political spectrum. 
 
And I think that is a good thing, as these two parties have strongly shown they intend to form the next government and therefore they both need strong policy platforms that both complement each other and differentiate from each other.  Part of a coalition government is being able to find the common ground and then compromise on other aspects to get the best outcome for the voters, New Zealand's wider society and the balancing the economy.
 
I'm not going to sit here and compare the merits of these two policies to each other, I leave that to you as a voter.  But I do want you to compare which of these sits with you better in comparison to what National has done for nearly nine years.  I want to consider:
  • Is New Zealand the better for the policies of beneficiary bashing and sactions this government has enacted? 
  • Is it more economic to persue the benefit fraudsters or those who avoid tax - considering that tax avoidance is costing our economy far more but is rarely persued to recoup the loss or convict the avoider?
  • And is our welfare system still delivering the goal set in 1972, that everyone is able to enjoy a standard of living much like that of the rest of the community or is it condemning generation after generation to a life entrapped in poverty?


I want you to consider if the situation today is something you are comfortable with and what are the consequences for your children and grandchildren in years to come if we allow poverty to further entrench in our society.


I want to refer you to two other blog posts I have written about my experience and reflections with our welfare system:
I acknowledge that Rod Emmerson drew this very poignant illustration of the reality of family poverty.
Thanks for being such an awesome commentator of New Zealand, Rod.


And from the essay I quoted previously, I leave you with the symptoms and consequences of poverty....
The symptoms of poverty are clear: acute and chronic health conditions, poor quality housing, low attainment of education success, a greater potential to be either a victim or a perpetrator of crime (or both), increased risk of mental health issues, increased chance of abuse.


And the solutions to solve child poverty....
The solutions to poverty are clear: put children at the centre of all policy developments and implementation plans; stop using the unemployment rate as a mechanism to control inflation and keep wages low; increase all benefits to a level which enables a healthy diet to be maintained; increase the minimum wage to the level of the living wage; ensure free universal access to health, dental care and education; and improve the housing stock of New Zealand by demanding a minimum standard for state and private rentals.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

A Report Card for Hekia Parata as the Minister of Education

Hekia Parata Report Card:

Oral Language - Speaking: Above the Standard.
Hekia is a gifted orator with an ability to project her voice and use expression to captivate an audience.  However, Hekia's use of vocabulary often alienates her audience, so using a thesaurus to find words better aimed at her audience would be beneficial.

Oral Language - Listening: Well Below the Standard.
Hekia has displayed no signs of listening to others opinions.  She only follows instructions of her superiors, but never listens to those she considers beneath her, despite those people having considerable more knowledge than her on many subjects.

Reading Comprehension: Below Standard.
While Hekia is a capable reader and can decode accurately, her comprehension requires work.  Hekia seems to read things into a text that are not there and fails to inference what the author is actually inferring or even grasp glaringly obvious concepts and themes within the text.

Numeracy - Well Below the Standard.
Hekia fails to understand ratios, inflation, and has difficulty with the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.  She plucks figures from mythical places and then relies on her ability as an orator to 'convince' fellow classmates that her calculations are correct.  We are looking to place Hekia is a remedial group for basic numeracy.





Writing - Above the Standard.
As with Speaking, Hekia is a gifted writer, particularly in the genre of persuasion and fantasy.  Somehow Hekia excells when she combines these two genre to create an alternative planet we've come to know as 'Planet Key'.

Science - Below the Standard.
Hekia does not believe in this area as she wants to focus on Literacy and Numeracy and has not met the standard in any of the strands.

Social Science - Below the Standard.
Hekia has failed the standard here due to her inability to move past her focus on Literacy and Numeracy.

Health and PE - Well Below the Standard.
Due to Hekia's focus on Literacy and Numeracy, and her objection to only healthy food being sold in the school canteen, Hekia has failed this standard.

The Arts - Well Below the Standard.
Again, Hekia's focus on only Literacy and Numeracy means she holds scant regard for the arts and she is unable to demonstrate any grasp of conceptual knowledge in the arts or display any practical work during her time.

Te Reo Māori - Above the Standard
Due to Hekia's superb oratory this is an area she does well in.


Key Competencies:


Thinking - Below the Standard
Thinking has not been a strong point for Hekia, especially her critical thinking skills.  Once Hekia gets an idea in mind it is very hard to get her to look at any evidence to the contrary, even if she has based her thinking on faulty evidence.



Relating to Others - Well Below the Standard
Hekia has very real issues relating to others, especially teachers, principals, support staff and education academics.  Her turnover of staff in her 'office' has also been of concern at times.  She will require a referral to the RTLB service if inschool efforts fail to make progress with her social skills.

Using Language, Symbols and Texts - At Standard
Hekia is able to use language, symbols and texts to communicate with others at a high level, but her interpretation of these competencies has room for improvement.



Managing Self - Below Standard
Usually Hekia is able to present a pleasant veneer to the public and classmates.  Her smile has been perfected.  However, there have been times where Hekia has shown she has difficulty controlling herself, such as at ULearn16 and the NZEI and PPTA conferences in 2015.  We will be monitoring her closely.


Participating and Contributing - Below Standard
While Hekia attends many events, her absence at NZEI and PPTA conferences outnumber her attendances and this has not gone unnoticed by those who look up to her for guidance.  Hekia tends to dominate proceedings and last year showed she was unable to let others fully contribute to the School Funding Review as she dominated proceedings.  This will need considerable guidance.

Overall, I assess Hekia Parata to have Not Met the Standard in being a Minister of Education.







Acknowledgements:  The fabulous cartoonists who have faithfully captured Hekia Parata over the years.  You are my heroes.

Monday, 17 April 2017

It's not just the wellbeing and safety of students we need to consider, but the teachers too

As a profession - teachers, principals and support staff - we are extremely focused on the wellbeing and safety of our students.  We have extensive expectations, systems and processes in place to ensure the students in our schools are safe and if an incident were to happen, no matter how minor, it is documented, systems are improved or changed and dangers are rectifed.


But do we do the same for our staff?



In recent weeks there have been two big issues that impact the wellbeing and safety of school staff as well as students, and I have to question whether or not we are doing enough to keep teachers safe.


Firstly, it was reported last month that a number of Year 9 boys (that’s 13 year olds) at St Patrick’s College in Silverstream (Upper Hutt) had sexually harassed several female teachers.  The boys had apparently filmed the teachers in an inappropriate way without their knowledge and shared the footage.  This week it was revealed that the school had decided to keep the students within the school (after a short suspension) to ‘educate’ them, and that the female teachers had resigned.  See this article: Teachers resign from an Upper Hutt school after being sexually harassed by students (Stuff, 13 April 2017).


The other big story originated from Northland, where principal Pat Newman explained that P babies and children with other high behavioural needs were a danger to his staff as well as fellow students.  Principal Federation Chair Whetu Cormick echoed that this was indeed a problem around the country, more so in certain provinces than others, but still a nation wide issue.  See this article: Teachers kicked, punched, stabbed by disturbed ‘P kids’ (NZ Herald, 13 April 2017).


The implications of the sexual harassment of the teachers.  


I have seen the article above commented on in four forums on Facebook and on Twitter.  There have been a variety of comments.


I’ve mostly seen many supportive comments of the teachers and dismay at the actions of the boys and of the school.  The general consensus is that the school has made an unsafe workplace for the teachers by allowing the boys to stay within the school environment and a condonement of the actions of the boys has been implied.  It is intimated in the above linked article that the teachers have resigned and that legal action (a personal grievance perhaps) is being taken.  I am wondering where Worksafe fit into all this, because surely it does.


I did see the odd random comment asking about how the teachers were dressed to encourage the boys to behave in a disreputable manner.  Needless to say that commenter was well and truly informed about the professionalism of teachers and schools like St Patrick’s having a dress code along with condemnation for victim blaming.


I did see some comments commending the school on wanting to work with these young men to improve their understanding of what is acceptable or not.  But to prioritise the students over someone’s ability to earn an income and feel safe in their workplace?  I think the safety and wellbeing of the victim should have been the priority here, not the students.  They have parents to think about their safety and wellbeing as well as the school.  However, in this case, the principal and board should have prioritised the teachers.


And I say this because, as many commenters pointed out, if it had have been the teachers sexually harassing the students, the teachers would have been kicked to the curb, outted publicly and lost their jobs, with the support rightly being on the victims - the students.


You may remember the Losi Filipo controversy last year, the Wellington contracted rugby player who initially was given a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket after a vicious assault on four other young people…. Well, Filipo went to St Patrick's and one commenter said that St Patrick's had put their support in behind Filipo.


The classic Van Halen song,
'Hot for Teacher' does not apply
in this case.
Then there were the odd comments on “boys will be boys” and references to the Van Halen classic ‘Hot for Teacher’ were made.  Yes, “boys will be boys”, but that doesn’t mean we don’t call them out and make them take responsibility for their actions.  They need to learn that there are consequences for every action, good or not so good or just bad.  If we don’t, as a society we will continue to condone rape culture and sexist behaviour.  And yes, some boys will get crushes on some teachers, but this behaviour certainly is not indicative of a crush.


I did see another few commenters supporting the school’s stance, saying it is a very good school with a great culture, that you can not lay the responsibility of the actions of a few Year 9 boys only in their fourth week at the school on St Patrick’s culture.  But let’s just remember that this is the culture that Filipo was immersed in for five years.


And then there were some other commenters who sat on the fence, who felt there was more to the story and therefore they could not yet make an informed judgement.  Fair enough.  But don’t defend the school while you are sitting on that fence, because they do have the power to give out more information than they are… but they have a process to go through first.  We can only hope that when the process is completed the public are more informed.


Regardless of which commenter anyone is, the fact remains that the perpetrators of the unacceptable acts have been allowed to remain and it is the victims that feel they have to resign and leave.  That is unacceptable and it continues to allow the rape culture mentality that invades our society to keep bubbling away because the school has implied that the perpetrators’ rights are greater than the rights of the victims.


This comes form Employment NZ:  "Health and safety law requires that employees and others are given the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks, as is reasonably practicable. This includes risks to both physical and mental health."  Consequently St Patrick's in in violation of health and safety law they are required to uphold.

The leaders of St Patrick's have failed the standard as good employers and have now shown other schools how not to have the backs of your staff.


Children who can not control their behaviour and pose a danger to staff and students.


Pretty much every teacher will have had a student like this.  At some schools you may have classes with a lot more than one student like this.


I have personally had students that swore at and abused me, stormed out of class to go hiding somewhere or to leave the school, who have thrown chairs and desks, or have used sticks from the playground or metal bars they’ve acquired from out of bounds areas to threaten and attack other children.  I’ve seen children randomly physically attack other children.



What set them off?  It may be a disagreement over a playground game or an item in the classroom.  Someone might of said something nasty or looked at them the wrong way - or just looked at them.  They may be tired or stressed or under an influence of a substance from outside of school.  You may see it bubbling and try to avert it and, while sometimes you succeed, you fail and the kid blows.  Sometimes the eruption comes without warning.


I’ve had kids with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, ADHD, kids on the autism spectrum, kids with sensory issues, P babies, kids from homes with violence, kids who have suffered abuse, kids who are not handling a parental separation or have lost a parent or sibling to death, kids with conduct disorders, kids with low self-esteem, kids who are on ORS or should have ORS but don’t, kids who are frustrated due to learning difficulties, kids who just can’t make friends or form healthy social attachments, kids with anxiety…. All sorts of kids have "gone off" over my teaching career.


Sometimes my experiences have been very scary.  I had one child swinging a metal bar around like a taiaha and I had to lock my class in a room and go seek help.  Another time I had to, along with the principal, physically intervene to stop a student from hurting themselves and several others at great risk to our own safety.  Both these situations were incredibly scary.  I’ve had to sit on the floor and hug a child to me to keep him safe and calm in an assembly because the noise was too much to bare for him.  The unknown is when a child decides to leave the school grounds.  In a small school the conundrum is who will go after them, because who will supervise the other students?


And this then brings into question a teacher’s professional safety.  When is a teacher allowed to step into a situation and restrain or handle students to prevent them hurting themselves or others?  When should a teacher step back?  Who decides if a teacher went too far?  What if the teacher is condemned for not having done enough?


Last October the Ministry of Education released a document called Guidance for New Zealand Schools on Behaviour Management to Minimise Physical Restraint.  Within this document it says:


Physical restraint is a serious intervention. The emotional and physical impact on the student being restrained, and the person doing the restraining, can be significant. There are legal and reputational risks if a student is harmed.


Staff need to use their professional judgement when they decide whether to use physical restraint. They should consider their duty of care to students, their right to protect themselves and others from harm, and their obligation to act lawfully.


Physical restraint should only be used in emergency situations when the student’s behaviour poses an imminent danger of physical injury to themselves or others.


This is the basis I personally have always applied to these situations.  It is a common sense approach.  But teachers and principals feel the ground has shifted under their feet and do not trust their safety as professional if they have to restrain a student in the midst of a violent outburst.  See: 'It could jeopardise teacher safety' - concerns over new laws guiding when teachers can intervene in school fights (1news, 28 March 2017).


The Minister in a recent answer in Parliament Question Time advised schools to call the police to deal with violent students.  I question if the police would come or not.  They have their hands full dealing with mental health call outs because our mental health system can not cope with the demand on their overstretched services.  

This is from a transcript of Question Time on Thursday 6 April 2017, when New Zealand First MP Tracey Martin asked a question to Education Minister Hekia Parata:

1. TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with the Ministry of Education's National Director for Learning Support that schools in Northland should contact the police when primary school children threaten teachers and other students with violence?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes, I agree with the full quote that the ministry's National Director for Learning Support made and the context in which it was given. For the benefit of the House, he stated: "I would certainly see suspension as being a last resort. If we're talking about very violent behaviour, then that's a matter that schools need to be discussing with police." As per the Guidance for New Zealand Schools on Behaviour Management to Minimise Physical Restraint, released by the ministry in October last year, schools across the country should call the police in situations when a student cannot be managed safely and the imminent danger to students, staff, or themselves remains after all alternatives have been explored. As we expect in all situations, the police are the most appropriate people to deal with violence.

The Minister is correct in saying hat the Guidance for New Zealand Schools on Behaviour Management to Minimise Physical Restraint says the police should be called in situations when a student can not be managed safely and is a danger.  This is all it says:


In the event that incidents cannot be resolved quickly and where there is a sustained level of significant physical risk the police should be contacted.


In this press release from the Te Tai Tokerau Principals Association, A Cry from the Heart: lack of assistance for children’s needs, a principal states: “Last time I called the police to help in Kaitaia they told me very politely not to do it again. They took 2 hours to get here and the kid could have really hurt himself.”  So clearly the police are really not in a position to help schools deals with students who are a risk to themselves or others.


In the NZ Herald article, 'P babies' are now at primary school (13 April 2017), Principal Pat Newman says he is disappointed in the response from the Ministry over his claims that children in primary school are presenting with more violent behavioural problems now and that P is at epidemic levels.  Ministry of Education spokeswoman, Katrina Casey said on Radio New Zealand there was no hard evidence that schools were dealing with more children with behavioural problems.  Newman countered that with, "What evidence is needed? What is hard data? Do we have to wait until a child or teacher is seriously hurt? There is not one principal in New Zealand, and certainly not in Te Tai Tokerau, who is not telling the ministry that this is the reality.  In fact a few years ago we in Te Tai Tokerau, in partnership with the ministry, researched the levels of violence we were putting up with in the north, and the ministry has that information."


The article continues as follows:


Casey said the ministry spent about $95 million on behaviour assistance for about 10,000 children last year, and that number of children had not changed much in the last couple of years.


"If this is the case, why are we only receiving help to cover two hours a day on average for high-end behavioural needs? The answer is always that there is no more money available," Newman said.


"Why is there little help for psychological counselling for these children?
"Why does it take a year to get a foetal alcohol assessment done, and little funding to actually help the child once diagnosed?"


Casey had claimed that stand-downs and suspensions for assaults had remained static for the past six years, and a recent survey of secondary school teachers by the Council for Educational Research found student behaviour had become less of a problem.
Newman rejected that, too.


"We have severely abused children in our schools," he said.


"The ministry has the figure in Whangarei of the high behavioural needs children currently in early childhood education in this town who are due to come through the primary service, and it is huge."


What planet is the Ministry of Education on?


Clearly there is a disconnect between the Ministry of Education and the reality of what is happening in schools.


And Pat Newman is not a happy principal and I bet that he is not the only unhappy principal.


Personally, as a teacher, I am scathing.


I can tell you that there is not enough support for schools to help these children.  I can't remember when I last saw a any form of psychological counselling in a primary school.  The last time I saw a Ministry behavioural specialist was in 2006.  We can't even get a speech language therapist for the most needy children who can not speak properly.  And as for the Wrap Around Services Ms Parata crows about, well good luck ever seeing them!  I wrote about a young teenager who has fallen out of the system because it doesn't work in Where are those wrap around services, Hekia? last year.  Nothing has changed.


Everything that Ms Parata and her minion Ms Casey says is complete and utter BULLSHIT because at school level we never ever see them and children are falling through the cracks educationally because the Ministry of Education does not have the specialists we need to help these children.




This government is failing our most vulnerable students and their Predictive Risk Index to fund schools will do diddly bloody squat to change anything for these vulnerable children while there are no specialists in the Ministry of Education to support these children and no funding for schools to put programmes and support staff in place to ensure these children reach their potential.


This government, this Ministry of Education and the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, have failed the standard when it comes to our most vulnerable children.  And they are failing the classmates of these children and their teachers, support staff and principals as they are put in danger by these children for whom help is a mythological fantasy because the Ministry simply does not have the resources.



While Boards of Trustees are responsible for the health and safety of staff and students, they are being hamstrug by the Ministry of Education due to their lack of funding and support.

If only they had listened to those of us at the chalkface.  If only $359 million had been spent on the children where it would make the most difference instead of on that IES folly, Communities of Learning.






Acknowledgement:
The top picture regarding teacher wellbeing comes from this article:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/teacher-stress-needs-wellbeing-policies-daniela-falecki



Sunday, 16 April 2017

School Funding: dumping the derided decile funding system for the questionable 'Predictive Risk Index' funding method


Decile ratings as the funding mechanism for schools is on the way out.

That was the exclusive headline on Tuesday the 11th April from Newshub’s Patrick Gower.  I just happened to be leaving work when the alert popped up on my phone.  I had an immediate sense of dread, especially when I saw a new phrase: ‘Predictive Risk Index’.

This new phrase, ‘Predictive Risk Index’, is of course part of the National led government’s theory of social investment - identify who is most at risk, and then target the minimum amount of money at them.  Sounds great in theory, but, like everything this government has done (or attempted), it is a theory that can be likened to a can of worms.

What is social investment?

This is from the Treasury website:

Social Investment is about improving the lives of New Zealaners by applying rigorous an evidence-base investment practices to social services.

It means using information and technology to better unerstand the people who need public services and what works, and then adjusting services accordingly.  What is learnt through this process informs the next set of investment ecisions.


Much of the focus is on early investment to achieve better long-term results for people an helping them to beme more independent.  This reduces the number of New Zealanders relying on social services and the overall costs for taxpayers.


Social Investment puts the needs of people who rely on public services at the centre of decisions on planning, programmes and resourcing, by:
  • Setting clear, measurable goals for helping those people;
  • Using information and technology to better understand the needs of people who rely on social services and what services they are currently receiving;
  • Systematically measuring the effectiveness of services, so we know what works well and what doesn’t;
  • Purchasing results rather than specific inputs, and moving funding to the most effective services irrespective of whether they are provided by government or non-government agencies.
The way in which these principles are implemented will vary, and may include:
  • a particular focus on vulnerable or high-risk groups;
  • investing up-front to support people most at risk of poor outcomes later on in life;
  • greater input from outside the public sector in analysis, innovation and service provision;
  • working with local organisations to commission services within communities;
  • new citizen-centre services that cut across existing departmental service channels; and
  • interacting with each household through a single trusted relationship.


So how did we get here?

This is an except from a previous blog post of mine called How does child poverty affect access to education and success in achievement for New Zealand children? which I wrote for a Master’s paper last year.

The decile funding system was put in place in 1995 in an effort to fund schools equitably.  The range decided was 1-10, with one being the lowest, due to the highest degree of socio-economic disadvantage, and receiving significantly more funding per child than a decile ten school.  The decile ranking of a school factors in household income, parental educational qualifications and occupations, household crowding, income support payments and ethnicity of a small geographic area, or ‘mesh-block’, in the school community (Harrison, 2004).  There was a variety of reasons behind this initiative, such as a decile ten family having more opportunity to access educational learning in alternative ways compared to the opportunities afforded by a decile one family.  It was also considered that the decile ten schools had more ability to maximise effective fundraising measures from their community in comparison to a decile one school.

The impacts of this system included what is commonly called white flight – parents moving their children from low socio-economic schools as they believe the decile level could be a stigma and may mean the education provided at a low decile school wasn’t adequate (Gordon, 1997).  This changed the nature of communities as parents who could afford to would purchase or rent homes in communities with schools with higher decile ratings, ghettoising many areas as low socio-economic communities.
Education reforms in the 1990s entrenched many families with limited resources into the cycle of poverty generation after generation.
So essentially the National government of the 1990s initiated decile funding, which stigmatised schools in low socio-economic areas, and in combination with their other policy of getting rid of school zones, caused white flight from these schools meaning many communities were no longer a broad cross section of society.



In September last year I published another blog specifically about the actions taken by NZEI and PPTA in response to the School Funding Review and the threat of Global Funding.  In this blog Global Funding - Bulk Funding in fancy dress - why it’s a bloody bad idea I explain how the School Funding Review Advisory Panel were never given an opportunity to come up with solutions to improve how schools are funded fairly and equitably.

The eighteen members of the Education Funding Review Panel went into the first meeting expecting a blank slate and the ability to brainstorm proposals.


What they got was a wad of paper on the table by the Ministry of Education representative who said "This is what we will be looking at. That is the proposal."

The Education Review published the following in September last year:

Six out of seven of the School Funding Review proposals will go forward for further work following the Funding Advisory Group's report on the proposals. The unpopular global budget proposal was rejected by the group, following intense opposition from teachers who feared a return to the days of bulk funding.

The six proposals the majority of the Group agree should proceed for further work are:
  • Taking a per-child approach to funding
  • Additional funding for those most at risk of underachievement
  • Supplementary funding for small and isolated schools
  • Proposals over the way property funding is delivered
  • Better accountability for student achievement
  • Supporting a diversity of education options

Education Minister Hekia Parata says she was ‘not surprised’ by the Group’s recommendation that the proposed global budget not proceed to the next stage of policy development.

“The Group’s report, and together with feedback from around 90 regional meetings with teachers and principals, will help inform my report to Cabinet on the options to take forward. The insight from staff right on the frontline of education is invaluable”, says Ms Parata.

“I want to make sure that we take the time to get these vitally important decisions right. That is why our timeline for implementation at the earliest would be 2019.”

Where are we now?

So it appears, under the Social Investment model that the second option, additional funding for those most at risk of underachievement, has been chosen.  This is the model that was also applied to the School Operations Grant in the 2016 Budget.  Instead of schools getting a 1% increase to their Operations Grant as had been applied in the last few years (not even covering the cost of inflation), schools would receive extra money according to the children who had been identified as being at risk, and the schools would not be told who the at risk children were.

This, below, comes from the official government website, Education Counts, and is the government’s explanation of the funding for children at risk in the education part of Budget ‘16 (please read with a critical eye):

Budget 2016 uses a Social Investment approach to direct an extra $43.2 million, over four years, to about 150,000 children and young people identified as being at most risk of educational underachievement. These students are those, aged 5 to 18, whose parents have been on benefits for 75 percent of the first five years, or 75 percent of the most recent five years of the students’ lives.

These students have been shown by our research as one of the most at-risk groups in our education system. For example young people who, for an extended period have lived in a benefit-dependent family, have only a 48 percent chance of achieving NCEA Level 2 by age 21. By contrast, 73 percent of the general population with have this qualification by the same age. This research also shows that young people without NCEA Level 2 have more chance of ending up on a benefit, or in the justice system, than those with the qualification.

This additional funding is an investment into schooling where it is most needed. The funding will go to schools, regardless of their decile rating, based on the estimated number of students they have from long-term welfare dependent families. Schools have the flexibility to use this extra funding to support all of their students most at risk of educational underachievement.

This increased funding to schools with children from long-term welfare-dependent families is instead of a universal increase in school operations grant funding. Overall, this new funding approach provides more funding to low decile schools compared to a universal increase of the same amount.

The $43.2 million in increased funding for schools with these children is in addition to the $1.38 billion in operations grant funding that all schools will continue to receive in 2016/17. Operations grant increases have run well ahead of inflation in recent years. Cost adjustments have seen schools’ operations grant funding rose by over 15 percent from the 2010 school year start to the 2015 school year end. By contrast, CPI inflation rose 9.6 percent over the same period.

And that is how we have gotten to the ‘Predictive Risk Index’.

As if deciles weren't already stigmatising enough, what will a 'Predictive Risk Index' be for schools and students?

I'm just so disgusted in this move by the government.

Below is the text from the Newshub 11th of April 6 o’clock news piece (hopefully the video is within the link):

The decile system, which is currently used to decide school funding, is to be scrapped, with an alternative called the 'Predictive Risk Index' lined up to replace it.

It will track individual at-risk students and then use that information to target funding directly to schools.

Under the decile system, schools are ranked from one to 10 based on the socio-economic status of their communities, which determines funding.

But under the Predictive Risk Index, individual students are deemed "at risk" after being assessed by Government data and a school's funding is based on the number of students it has with risk factors.

"This is very much going to be a much more specific approach than the decile funding allows," Education Minister Hekia Parata told Newshub.

The Government will use its pool of data to identify students from families on a benefit, with brothers or sisters who have been victims of abuse, or parents that have been in prison.
But privacy has sprung out as an obvious concern.

"The technology is there, and there is no intention to identify - in fact we will ensure that children aren't identified, that their privacy is protected," Ms Parata said.

The Primary School Teachers Union is worried it could shift the stigma from schools onto students.

"In the past we've had stigmatising of low decile schools, will that mean that individual children will be stigmatised?" NZ Educational Institute President Lynda Stuart told Newshub.

Another concern is that while some schools could gain funding, others will lose it.

"I certainly think that some schools could be at risk of losing funding," Ms Stuart said.

Ms Parata said whether schools could lose funding is something "for the future" - but her political future is limited as she retires as Minister in three weeks.

Her goal is to get this signed off as her last project.

Hekia Parata steps down from her role as the Minister of Education on Monday 1st of May, with Nikki Kaye expected to take up the reigns.  Ms Parata wants to have this new funding system signed off before she leaves.  That is alarming in itself.



Patrick Gower did point out that ‘Predictive Risk Index’ is a title the government itself does not see as voter friendly.  He said to expect this to be renamed.  But to rename it will be like putting a dress on a pig and slapping some lipstick on it - it is still a dubious way to fund schools.

What do the people think?

I posted the Newshub piece in three different teacher/education forums on Tuesday and the responses from teachers and parents are still coming in.  They are horrified.  Any comment that may be deemed remotely supportive is an outlier.

The general concerns people have are:
  • that individual children could be stigmatised even though schools technically won’t be told who the target students are;
  • if the funding is targeted to at risk students and the schools are not told who those students are, how are they supposed to help those targeted students;
  • If the funding is targeted to at risk students, who are also usually the most transient students, what happens if the funding ‘follows’ the student;

I have included the comments teachers and parents have made, warts and all, so you can see what the people who work in the system think of this proposal:

On the surface, it sounds pretty ineffective. I bet they have worked out that the govt will save $X. I can't see how this can direct funding for extra assistance in a meaning flu way. Like getting $19.00 a student a year ????

And what if it's meant to follow students? So many of these kids are the transient kids. What a nightmare!

Yeah - if a school is funded for a kid, puts s programme in place with that funding [with others] and then that kid moves away and the school loses that funding.... so now the school has to reduce or downsize the programme - yes a flipping nightmare. And one of the side effects will again be the insecurity for Teacher Aides.

I don;t understand how they can use this 'tool' in this way. PRM is meant to be used to try and target children that may be abused - not for funding of schooling. How will this work when kids move around from school to school so much

As a teacher at a decile 1B school, l have never been a fan of the decile system. It places a stigma on schools and students, who are low decile. Schools already receive funding per student. Targeted student funding is probably not a bad idea. School funding is allocated quarterly anyway. Implementation is probably the main concern and the lack of consultation with educators(nothing new). Maybe they need to broaden the criteria to include students with learning disabilities and special needs? Orrs funding is really hard to qualify for and l have seen so many students over the years failed by the education system. There needs to be an intermediary agency that links the information between schools, ministries and other agencies to target students at risk from becoming a negative statistic.

Patrick Gower's piece on the news as now been added. He says that the name "Predictive Risk Index" is an issue for the government and needs a make over. Just like IES, they think putting the pig in a new dress and slapping some lippy on is going to make it more palatable to the masses.  (Yep, this is my comment).

The government's sole purpose is to spend less money. This is just another way to do it. Their 'at risk' children criteria is slim and does not cover the many many children out there who also need a great deal of support.

I wonder if school will then be expected to transfer any remaining funds from the massive payout to the next school

Especially as it states that they will anonymise the children involved - how will schools know who to pass funding on for anyway !! I can see it getting very messy !

Exactly. Imagine the nightmare of trying to keep a budget, programmes and support staffing on track.

We all know that so-called digital privacy is a joke!! What about schools that have wonderful parents / whanau who are in low-paid jobs, but because they parent successfully, their children are not deemed 'at risk' . No funding there, then! What is happening to the education system in our country???????? We are stressing our teachers, planning to exorbitantly increase registration fees, forcing MLE / ILE / FLS onto many, regardless of mutterings of discontent from around the world on this system

Typically National. A badly thought out initiative that will be rolled out so Hekia has the limelight, but before the kinks are ironed out. We will be paying (literally and figuratively) for this for years to come. It's the Novopay of school funding and the National Standards of curriculum reporting.

But since the funding is to be for specific children, one assumes that when these children change schools (as children who meet this criteria are likely to do - beneficiaries/ parents in prison these families are transient by nature) that the funding will go with them. What a nightmare to police! And probably will impact the benefit to the child of the said funding, due to admin costs associated with changing schools and setting up whatever support is required.

Interesting they are putting money into 'supporting' children who are disadvantaged socially, but where is the funding to help children with suspected learning difficulties who require outside assessment for confirmation of specific difficulty (eg dyslexia, auditory processing)? Which, with a diagnosis starts the ball rolling to get the supports in place so these children can achieve at their optimum.

"in fact we will ensure that children aren't identified, that their privacy is protected," Ms Parata said.

Sounds like the start of a bad Tui ad...

MSD data breach anyone??

What happens to those students who aren't identified through the new system as being at risk? Not all family violence is recorded, not all family members have the same surname so how will the system pick up a parent in prison unless it is "advertised" by the family etc. There will be a lot less "decile 1" schools in NZ with this system, so lots of money will be saved.

Doesn't this feel like an equilibrium system with a really low bar?

"You have at risk youths. Here's some funding".
"Oh you have less at risk youths. Take less funding".
"You've had to cut some programmes because of less funding? And you have at risk youths? Have some funding".

To summarise...

I really think Hekia Parata has failed the standard again.  I believe she missed a golden opportunity last year when she set up the School Funding Advisory Panel.  She had eighteen of the best people in one room to come up with some worthy systems for funding our compulsory education system and she dumped preconceived ideas upon them and stymied their creativity - just like National did when they dumped National Standards over the top of our awesome New Zealand Curriculum Document.

References:

Gordon, L. (1997). ‘Tomorrow’s Schools’ Today: School Choice and the Education Quassi-Market. In Olssen, M., & Matthews, K. M. (Eds.). Education policy in New Zealand: The 1990s and beyond. (pp. 65-82.  Palmerston North, N.Z.: Dunmore Press.

Harrison, M. (2004). Education matters: Government, markets and New Zealand schools. Wellington: Education Forum.