Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Lesley Longstone resigns - I'm riddiculously happy - but...

So Lesley Longstone resigned on Wednesday 19 December from her role as the Secretary of Education in New Zealand.  The State Services Commission, Iain Rennie, announced her resignation at a press conference in the middle of the day.  He said that the decision was reached three weeks ago after relationships with Hekia Parata, the Minister of Education, had reached a tipping point after being rather strained for most of the year.

It is interesting to note that Lesley Longstone left the country the Friday before the announcement to spend Christmas in the UK.  The Prime Minister's office also told reporters that Hekia Parata is on "holiday" (translation:  we gagged her!).  Considering that thousands of teachers, principals, teacher aides, other support staff and cleaners/caretakers are still having issues getting paid correctly thanks to Novopay being such a dog, one wonders why these two are on "holiday" at all.

I wrote a blogpost about Lesley Longstone back in October reviewing her time in the position up to that point and I found that she had not met the standard required in a Secretary of Education.

Many people with the announcement of her resignation have said that Lesley has been the fall guy for Hekia Parata's incompetence.  I would agree with that to an extent - but in my opinion, Lesley should never have gotten the position in the first place.  National only put her in that job because they knew no Kiwi in their right mind would dismantle our high performing education and advance GERM.  National knew they had to put a foreigner in charge.

They have also done this in the Treasury, Health and Social Development portfolios.  The lady put in charge of Social Development, Janet Grossman, bailed a few months ago, after nine months in the position.

The problem with using foreigners in these key positions is that there are things about New Zealand they just don't get - they don't understand our ethos of egalitaranism; they don't get our committment to the Treaty of Waitangi and the pain we have taken to recognise it; they don't get the cultural intracicies of the Maori and Pacific cultures; they don't get the history of our education, health or social welfare systems. 

With the resignation of Lesley Longstone, many people are now calling for Hekia to also fall on her sword.  It would seem that along with Hekia's miss steps this last year in the Education portfolio (another blog that I have yet to attempt!), Hekia has also had some difficult relationships with not just Lesley, but also with her private secretaries and key advisors.  This is somewhat telling.

Yet John Key continued to state he had full confidence in Hekia Parata as the Minister of Education - after he'd finished doing Gangnam Styles and "marrying" a radio DJ.

Iain Rennie has appointed former Public Service chief executive Peter Hughes as acting Secretary of Education when Lesley leaves the post on 9 February 2013.  Lesley will not have completed her five year contract, so she is getting paid out, a number expected to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Mr Hughes is described as someone who will take Education out of the headlines by running a tight ship.  If the Novopay debarcle hasn't been sorted out by then, it should be one of his top priorities, along with ensure a fair, accurate and transparent process for the provision of education in Christchurch.

Now our government has the task of replacing Lesley.  I should think that the first criteria should be someone who knows the nuances of New Zealand education.  Someone who holds dear the values that our education system was founded on back in 1880, the values that Peter Fraser and C.E. Beeby installed as our education system matured, the values that our widely admired (but stymied by National Standard), New Zealand Curriculum strives to teach our children.  There is a real opportunity here for the government to redirect education policy to improve what we already have rather than continuing to break it down, denegrade it, destroy it.

But our government clearly has their sights set on the GERM doctrine.

So I dread to think who they will take on to carry on their GERM agenda.