Tuesday, 2 February 2021

My two cents on the student achievement "failure" in maths and science

On Tuesday morning I was awoken at the beach by the dulcet tones of forestry workers cutting down trees at 4:30am, so my Tuesday doomscrolling started quite early. 

The first thing I came across after 6:00am was an article on RNZ about the Principals Federation writing a letter to the Secretary of Education, Iona Holsted, at the Ministery of Education entitled Principals challenge Education Ministry over student failure

The Principals Federation says achievement in maths and science in particular should be ringing alarm bells and schools need more direction on what they should be teaching and the best ways to teach it. 
In a letter to the secretary for education, Iona Holsted, the federation's president, Perry Rush, said New Zealand's falling scores had not provoked an urgent response and the lack of "thought leadership" was a serious weakness. 
Holsted responded with a letter that said the Ministry of Education (MOE) was already working on the problems the federation raised and schools already had the ability, and the funding for teacher training, to change how they taught. 

You can hear Perry Rush of the Principals Federation speak to Corin Dann on Morning Report on Tuesday 2 February here and you can hear the response from Pauline Cleaver from the Ministry of Education on Morning Report here.

This follows on from the release of the latest results from the TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) in December (see here) where Scores for New Zealand nine and 13-year-olds fell in both maths and science in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, with the 13-year-olds recording their worst results ever - 482 for maths and 499 for science.

Before that, in late November, the latest data from the National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) run by the University of Otago and the Council for Educational Research shows there has been no real increase in achievement in reading, writing and mathematics since the study started in 2012 and that Year 4 boys in high decile schools were doing worse in writing than previously.  Read more here.

Naturally, this is right up my alley and I have a lot of thoughts on this.  And I immediately set about tweeting about this and sharing with my teaching colleagues on Facebook.
This was my follow up tweet to John Gerritson, the reporter on the education beat for RNZ.

I followed that tweet up with the following:  I believe that Y1-6 teachers should do proper unit studies on butterfly life cycles, floating and sinking, kitchen chemistry and the like in science, as well as in social studies, health & technology. Give kids knowledge to hang further inquiry on.

By doing this we teach kids basic scientific knowledge and processes. We better guide questioning and help them build the inquiry skills they are more capable to use from Y7, with knowledge and experience. We could even start guiding Y5/6 kids in term 4 with their own mini-inquiries for something they learned during the year they want to extend on. (Apparently, according to someone on Facebook, this is how IB do it. So I guess someone researched what I figured out from experience).

And these statements will upset the apple cart. I've been saying it at my school for the last few months.

And then I found out there was another article in the New Zealand Herald, behind the paywall, so, on my drive home from the beach, I had to go buy a hardcopy newspaper to read it. From now on I have copied my tweets I made as I read the newspaper and I will use those tweets to flesh out some more thoughts in this blog post.

I have so many thoughts on this and the first ones are: Anne Tolley and Hekia Parata have a lot to answer for with: 
* National Standards being inflicted on children 
* killing the Teacher Advisory Service in 2009 
* killing the PLD in Literacy and Numeracy in 2009.

As seen in the picture above, 45% of children who were tested in Maths at Y8 are achieving at the expected curriculum level in maths in 2018 and only 20% achieved the expected level in science in 2017.  These children in 2018 started school in 2009/2010, meaning most of their primary school years were blighted with National Standards, little access to meaning maths PLD for their teachers, and a narrowing of the curriculum, meaning science fell off the radar as many schools focused in on reading, writing and maths.  Science advisors ceased to exist along with the Teacher Advisory service at the end of 2009, so there's you answer to why Y8 kids in 2017 were achieving so bloody poorly at science. I have all the swear words in my head directed at Anne Tolley, the Minister of Education at the time, killing the Teacher Advisory Service - again. But more on that later.

This is where I make my first defense of the much derided and maligned Numeracy Project: And to all those people who slag off the Numeracy Project: I was a shit mathematician and an average maths teacher before I went through the Numeracy Project training. All the blocks clicked into place once I did it and I believe I'm a better teacher of maths as a result.

In response, on page 4: The ministry's deputy secretary of early learning and student achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, said the ministry was concerned about "the pattern of decline" in achievement and was considering "specific actions need in particular areas of learning including social-emotional, literacy and mathematics".

"A priority for us this year is developing a maths strategic plan.

"We will be working with the sector this year to develop a high-level plan to support a systems approach to shifting the dial in mathematics.  This will identify and address the current issues impacting on mathematics teaching and learning, so there is sustained improvement.

"We are currently building a strong evidence base to support this work.  We have commissioned a Royal Society Te Aparangi convened independent papter on the mathematics knowledge and skills learners need to know, and when, and what needs to be changed in the NZ Curriculum to achieve this.

"We will also be establishing a diverse group of sector practitioners to critique outcomes evidence, including TIMSS and NMSSA data to help us understand and respond to practice and implementation challenges."

So this is where I turn my attention to the make up for the Royal Society Te Aparangi.

My concern is there is a lot of representation from the Universities of Auckland, Massey, Victoria and Canterbury - yet there is none from the University of Waikato nor the University of Otago.  I wonder why this is?  Is it because the Numeracy Project emerged from Waikato?  Is it because NMSSA is administered via Otago?

Also, what does "We will be establishing a divers group of sector practitioners" look like and how will this happen?

Today I had a chance to read past page 4 of yesterday's NZ Herald I bought and I found even more on pages 8 and 9. So I went down the rabbit hole again.

It starts off outlining the problem, what's going wrong & then what can we do. Associate Professor Jodie Hunter, co-director of Massey University's Centre for Research in Mathematics Education, and Dr Gillian Frankcom-Burgess, NZ Association of Maths Teachers president and lecturer at the Faculty of Education at University of Auckland, give expert comment in this article. Perry Rush is frequently quoted with his concerns. Massey University Distinguished Professor Gaven Martin, as the chair of the Royal Society is quoted, as is the ministry's chief scientific advisor, Professor Stuart McNaughton.

Firstly I was taken by the graphic down the right hand side of page 9.  There were a lot of downward arrows that are concerning.

The graphic to the right of the article struck me first. It looks at the latest TIMSS (Trends in International Maths & Science Study) results for Y9s (aged 13/14).
This top part shows where NZ is compared to Singapore, Japan, Australia, England & the US. And we're behind!!! We are usually ahead of Australia, England and the US, and this is our strong argument against a nationwide standardised assessment programme.

The middle graph looks at each strand: * statistics * number * geometry * algebra
(Where is measurement?)
We are trending down in all of these. Why? While statistics and number appear to be the strength of New Zealand students, it is of great concern that even these are dramatically trending downwards.

The bottom of the graphic looks at the kind of learning: * reasoning * applying * knowing
Knowing has had the most dramatic fall.
The Numeracy Project tackles all of these - but I don't think the Numeracy Project, despite its official status, is understood by many newer teachers.

So this photo below sums up the problem. Our Y9s a strongest in statistics & number, but even that's declining, and while reasoning (or explaining why/how they worked it out) is strong, that's declining. Concerning is their ability to apply a known strategy to different problems and their ability to "just know" certain things is declining too - the knowing in particular.

The knowing means things like knowing your times tables, that 4+b=10 is b=6, or if 4+6=10 then 40+60=100 & 400+600=1000 and so forth, that half is 1/2 or 50% or 0.5.

So how did we get it wrong?
Back in 1989, when Tomorrow's Schools was introduced, the curriculum advisory service within the Department of Education was disbanded when the Ministry of Education was formed. The Teacher Advisory Service came into being, hosted by universities and Teacher Training Colleges, which became Schools of Education within universities (now known as Facilities of Education).
National got rid of Teacher Advisory Services in the 90s, the Clark Labour government revived them in 2000 for Key's National government to kill them in 2009 again.

Consequently, since 2009, private providers have had to fill the gap and that could be practically anyone. Funding is contestable and smaller schools are at a greater disadvantage. Even in bigger schools, if you're not buddy buddy with the right SMT (senior management team) member you could miss out.

Which is the right way for principals, as senior leaders of curriculum and learning, to go?
Perry Rush, from the Principals Federation, outlines the confusion below. There are so many options. Rush notes many principals have rejected the Numeracy Project because "it confused students by giving them multiple ways to solve every problem" but declares there is no alternative.

Here comes a personal opinion here. I've already stated that the Numeracy Project was a revelation for me personally as a person who struggled with maths all through my own school years. What the Numeracy Project did for me was helped me understand place value and see the patterns. No longer was I reliant on a pen and paper to do an algorithm, I now had the ability to image the numbers in my head, compensate and create tidy tens - all language I never had until I did the Numeracy Project training in 2005.

Then is 2016, during my year of doing Masters papers, I met one of the original developers of the Numeracy Project. She told me it was never meant to be the silver bullet be-all-and-end-all of how to do maths replacing all the other ways of doing maths. It was meant to build teacher capability and confidence and be another tool in their kete.

So, naturally, back in the day, someone in the MOE must "have known better" and it was rolled out as the "must do" in the 2000s. Oh dear.
Personally, I think kiwi teachers, rather than looking to Singapore or Australia for overseas products to teach maths, should be looking at resources from New Zealand sources, like Caxton Educational, based on the NZ Curriculum.

Now the good news is that we are doing maths for similar time lengths as other countries.

And I was happy about that, until I read the highlighted portion. WTF???

Why is maths not happening in some classes? Is there other things crowding it out? Teacher confidence? Poor organisation? Lost in other exciting work? If you have a student teacher in your class, you need to be modelling best practice of teaching and I am alarmed if a student teacher is in a class for a week, and it is a fairly calm, normal week for a school, yet there is no maths actually happening.

Ability grouping is big in NZ. I personally refuse to do it in writing because I conference with every child and prefer and individualised process. I find it essential for most guided reading activities, but when they are not in their guided reading groups with me, the children are in mixed ability groups or independently doing other literacy tasks. I do ability group for a significant portion of my number and some of my algebra learning in maths - but I see no need in statistics, geometry or measurement to do so.

The concern that some kids don't get exposed to higher-level maths and specific concepts like fractions caused me to make changes in my programme a few years ago. So I introduced Maths Talk, where I have different problems everyday to start and warm us up each day. We see lots of ways to solve the same problem. I also use this time to introduce concepts like fractions or how to use a ruler to measure.

Also, every day my class looks at the MetService three times. We may see at 9:00am the temperature is 15.6°C, but the expected high is 23°C. So we work out the difference between the two numbers (7.4°C) which brings in maths concepts like decimals, rounding, tidy tens - a lot of place value. As the last year went on, we began doing it in te reo Māori as well, so the kids have a bilingual choice.

There are ways of introducing maths into many of your daily routines in your class.

The head of the Royal Society expert panel, Distinguished Professor Gaven Martin, says, "Our feeling was that the basic curriculum was good, so the real disjunct is what is promised from it and what is being delivered against it. That is a big issue."

Yes and No.

Yes, our New Zealand Curriculum has a lot of freedom to tailor to your local needs and community.
No, there's some wishy washy stiff to tighten. Do we really need such freedom in maths? Shouldn't maths be tighter with its objectives to be learnt?

I think the big issue is do teachers know the curriculum? Do they feel confident to be inspired by the curriculum and know how to teach the curriculum? Do they have the resources and support to do so? Have they received ongoing PLD to inspire, remind and consolidate their ability to teach maths?

And my answer is no to many of these questions.

In my observations, since National Standards was made non-compulsory at the end of 2017, many teachers did not know the curriculum because they based everything on National Standards. They didn't know where kids should be without National Standards. They didn't know they could assess students against objectives in the curriculum and at the curriculum levels. They looked for a replacement - sadly many have turn to PaCT and now base everything they do around that. PaCT is not a curriculum, it is an assessment tool!!!!!!!!!!

I see so many teachers also asking in NZ Teachers for units and resources rather than planning their own, or buying a ready-made one on Teachers Pay Teachers. It's almost like the growth of the internet and the National Standards years have taken all the creativity out of being a teacher and planning for your class.

I was so concerned about this, I wrote a blog post about it on my teaching blog in January 2018, For those who are crying: "How will I plan and assess without National Standards?" here is some inspiration. Feel free to check out some old school teachering.

Also, since National Standards came in, many old school principals have retired and the number of principals who have only known the years of accountability in education or have only taught under the shadow of National Standards is increasing. How can they lead their staff in unpacking the New Zealand Curriculum if they are clouded by the Standards still?

In 2017 I said this directly to Chris Hipkins and Tracey Martin (former Associate Minister of Education), and I said it again to their faces in 2018. I told them that PLD in the curriculum was vital. Hmmm. Too little happened.

The idea of hiring specialist teachers of math for upper primary and intermediate schools by Professor Stuart McNaughton, the MOE's chief scientific advisor, is ridiculous considering high schools are struggling to find staff, with actual maths teaching qualifications, to fill mathematic teacher vacancies. This is the sort of useless thinking that sets the MOE up for ridicule from the education sector over and over and shows that they are too far removed from the chalk board and the practicalities of classroom teaching and running a school.

Perry Rush and Dr Frankcom-Burgess are right in their assertion that every primary and intermediate teacher should be able to teach maths. Just because you don't like a subject or it is not your strength doesn't mean you do not get to teach it. You ask for help to get upskilled and grow your confidence. I have the same argument about teaching swimming, but that's for another ranting thread another day.

I look at what Associate Professor Hunter & Dr Frankcom-Burgess say in this photo below and I feel completely vindicated!!! I say this to my class all the time, that maths is about patterns and using what you know about smaller numbers to apply to bigger numbers.
It was the Numeracy Project that opened my eyes to THIS.
The Numeracy Project can boost a maths timid teacher's abilities!!

Yesterday I tweeted Chris Hipkins and Jan Tinetti (Associate Minister of Education) to ask where our promised new Teacher Advisory Service is.

No reply.
So it is heartening to see the "Curriculum Centre" with regional subject advisors in the proposed Education Support Agency is getting off the ground finally. Thanks to the NZ Herald for pointing that out.

The "refresh" of the NZ Curriculum is starting, beginning with introducing the Aotearoa NZ Histories curriculum, released today coincidentally for consultation, which I'm so looking forward to seeing how they resource this for Y4 & below - I'm available to consult on this MOE.

As much as I love the freedom of the NZC, in 2005/2006 when consultation happened, I expressed my concern over it being too vague. I was greatly concerned that knowledge was being sidelined by inquiry, and I think my concern in the last 15 years has been borne out. Why? I was really concerned we would be creating future adults who knew nothing, who had nothing to initiate a conversation or be able to participate in a conversation, who would be unable to enjoy the fun of being in a pub quiz team, people who could only talk shopping and gaming.

Initially my concern was for a lack of knowledge teaching was for science, social studies, health and technology, but now it extends into maths.
How can children inquire and ask questions if they have no knowledge base to ignite from? Too many teachers have included maths in their inquiry units, rather than explicitly teaching the foundations of maths. They are missing out on igniting the passion of a future potential mathematician, revealing the patterns maths has and how they are reflected in nature and music and art and dance - even the Arts link into maths!!!

Today there have been calls from science teachers that science needs just as much attention as maths to improve achievement outcomes, but the issues with maths are over shadowing it. You can read this RNZ article Science educators raise concerns while the Ministry of Education focuses on maths results.

Science educator House of Science chief executive Chris Duggan said there were too few specialist primary school science teachers, and not enough resources.

An Education Review Office report showed 73 percent of primary schools did not have an effective science programme, she said.

"Walk into most primary schools in the country and ask to see their science resources and there'll be one little bookshelf dedicated to science stuff which will usually consist of a box of random magnets, some electronic stuff and maybe some broken glassware.

"And nobody uses it because they don't know what to do with it."

She is not wrong. Science has become a poor cousin in the curriculum budget. Not only has this been driven by the narrowing of the curriculum thanks to the introduction of National Standards, but I am going to point out that former Prime Minister Sir Bill English, when he was the Minister of Finance, closed down Learning Media and that has had consequences. Learning Media used to produce resources across the curriculum subjects, including wonderful provocation for science in a long running series. Now we don't get anything like that unless we buy it from a publisher and it is expensive.

We are missing fabulous resources for the Arts, health, social studies, maths and physical education as a result of Sir Bill's lack of vision and understanding of the long term impact of his financially driven decision.

Inconclusion, this situation has come to a head, and at all levels, government, MOE, academic, kahui ako, school, individual teacher, we all need to look at how we do things. We should not throw the baby out with the bath water, but maybe we relook at how we use what we have better to grow teachers so they can improve their practice.

Writing this today, has allowed me to reflect on my own practice and ask some hard questions of myself as a teacher. I want to contribute to making achieving in maths great again.

How about you?

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.