Friday, 12 April 2013

NZEI's Day of Action & the Education Amendments

Today, Saturday 13th April, NZEI members up and down the country will be making a stand in the
NZEI Day of Action.  I will be attending two events.  My branch has organised a mini-march in our town at 9:30am, and then I will head into a bigger march in Hamilton starting at 11:00am where I will be a marshal manning a red light at an intersection!!  Oh, the power!

So why are NZEI members doing this?  For the following reasons:
  • the Ministry of Education is not acting constructively in the negotiations over the Primary Teachers' Collective Agreement (PTCA).
  • there are a number of claw backs in the MOE's offer, and most disturbingly is their assertion that the Secretary of Education be granted new powers, which could affect our Collective Agreement without any negotiations.
  • The direction of education policies by this government that are directly linked to GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) such as: National Standards, standardised national testing, the messing around with assessment tools we previously trusted, the development of PaCT (Progress and Consistency Tool), league tables, Charter Schools/Partnership Schools/Kura Hourua, unregistered/untrained teachers, performance pay......
  • Changes to the Education Act that are contrary to good practise and are being implemented despite thousands of submissions which oppose a number of amendments.
  • The ramming through of school closures and mergers in Christchurch despite the Ombudsman investigating the process of consultation and decision making.
  • Teachers know this government has no respect for them.
While all of these impact teachers in some way, they also impact on the students we teach. 

National Standards were not researched and trialled.... and yet they have been forced upon our students, with no opt out options.  Even schools with severely disabled students are forced to assess their learning against the National Standards.  These are labelling students in a way each student is very aware of.

We are worried about the possibility of standardised national testing - which has not improved outcomes for learners in countries like the UK, USA or Australia.  The development of PaCT that has the power to over rule a teachers' OTJ (overall teacher judgement) is most concerning.  Since when does a computer know better than a teacher how a child is achieving?  Who will have access to that data and how will it be used?  And towards the end of last year, Kelvin Smythe revealed how our trusted tools like STAR and AsTTle have been tutu-ed with causing some alarming so called improvements to student's achievements that experienced teachers and principals were very concerned about. 

If teachers' are over ruled in how they assess their students by a computer and we can not trust our assessment tools, plus a standardised national test makes a mockery of our well researched and trialled curriculum and teaching to the individual needs of each child..... well, can you see how that impacts on each and every student?

Finland has no national testing regime until the last year at secondary school - and they are top of the world rankings for education.  That is not to say their teachers do not test their students - they do.  But the testing is used to the benefit of the individual learner's learning journey - not to big note dodgy politicians.

PaCT also brings in the concerning issues of performance pay for teachers and another angle on league tables, which were brought into our education sphere last year despite the data from National Standards being, in PM John Key's words, "ropey".  PaCT data could be used by the MOE to identify "top performing" and "failing" teachers, and apply performance pay or other sanctions that fall outside the PTCA.  This method would not take into account the cohort each teacher has, the personal learning journeys of each individual student, or outside impacts (i.e. an earthquake....).

In Finland there is no performance pay.  Teachers are treated with the utmost respect and teaching is a difficult profession to get into as only the best are accepted into teacher training (I do think NZ could do with some tightening up on who gets into teacher training).  Performance pay comes with so many fish hooks, for example, teaching to the test, personality conflicts with the person who makes the decision, "cooking the books" when it comes to student outcomes, fewer teachers will want to work in 'under performing' schools.....

And then there is the Charter School, or whatever they are calling them this month, issue.  Charter Schools are classic GERM.  This involves tax payer dollars going to private enterprises to start their own schools.  The government would prefer these schools started in underprivileged South Auckland and earthquake devastated Christchurch first.  The government are helping clear the way in Christchurch by closing down a number of schools.  These schools will not have to follow the NZ Curriculum or assess and report according to National Standards (unlike your normal state school), will not have to have community representation, will not have to respond to the Official Information Act, will not have to employ registered teachers - or even trained teachers!

Again the fish hooks are huge!!  There will be no oversight as to what these schools will teach due to them not having to use the NZC.  For all we know, these schools could be teaching children that mushrooms grow on the moon!!  And if they are not assessing against the National Standards (as much as I detest them), how can you compare achievement in a Charter School against achievement in the nearby state or integrated school?  And as for allowing unregistered and untrained teachers to be employed by these schools, well that down grades the professionalism of teaching and all the theory of how to teach.  It puts children at risk in more ways than I care to consider.

The US, UK and Sweden have gone the way of GERM infected Charter Schools.  Finland does not have Charter Schools, and very few private schools.  Under our Tomorrow's Schools model (being rapidly eroded by GERM) there is ample opportunity to have a school with a special character, although I note in last weekend's Marae Investigates that road blocks have been put up for this in an effort to pave the way for Charter Schools, forcing schools that want to integrate into the state system to go through the Charter School process.

Yesterday the Education Amendment Bill for the second reading in parliament was released after submission were made to the education and science select committee were held in February.  Well not a lot has changed as a result of thousands of submissions opposing Charter Schools.  The one obvious change is that the Ombudsman will be able to have some oversight into Charter Schools - in regards to suspension/expulsion/disciplinary issues - but not achievement, not how they are using tax payers' dollars (check out this example of abuse of Charter School funds in the US).

People who have participated in the submission process on this Bill are furious that all the evidence and submissions that were presented have been ignored.  It makes a mockery of consultation in the New Zealand democracy.  It's that old attitude of "let's give it a go" despite evidence to show how detrimental it will be to childrens' learning.

So when teachers and the academics who study education are so blatantly ignored, is it any wonder that they feel the need to take to the streets and show how they feel, to share with the public what is happening?

Despite the fact that the consultation and decision making process of closing and merging Christchurch schools in the post-earthquake shake up is being investigated by the Ombudsman, the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, is pushing ahead with the unrealistic timeframe.  Warnings have come out of Christchurch that the reorganisation forced on them by the minister is a blueprint for what will happen to other communities, despite denials by Parata.  The thing is, it smacks of what happened in Dunedin during Anne Tolley's tenure as the Minister of Education, and the discussions now happening in Auckland to accommodate the current bulging rolls in certain areas that are set to increase with infill housing under the proposed Auckland housing plan.  The common denominator is all these reorganisations is the lack of listening skills by the minister (past and present) and her officials when it comes to consultation.

All of the above consolidates into a definite lack of respect for teachers and the education community.  We are branded with the "self-interested" slogan.  That we are "blindly following the union's propaganda".  According to our old friend Cameron Slater of Whale Oil fame, we are bullying people to participate today and are having to "rent a crowd" (has he not heard of humour?).  Even Michael Laws has slammed teachers for standing up for their beliefs and informing their school community (this begs the question if we should include information about healthy eating and exercise in our newsletters for fear of politicising the issue).  It was obvious that Laws didn't read the pamphlet because his opinion piece was full of holes.

I really do have to wonder why they think anyone teaches.  I could possibly get paid more.  I could possibly get a job where I don't fork out so much of my own money so I can do my job.  I could get a job with way less stress and work that impinges on my time when I am not at school.  I could get a job that would involve not being exposed to so many germs, and, on the odd occasion, the odd violent parent or student.  I could get a job where I had more respect.

But I don't.

I don't because I love children, I love learning, and I love the fact that every day is different with the potential to for not only my students to learn, but I learn too!!

Again I will have to assess against the standard.  I find this government has failed the standard for consultation.  I find this government has failed the standard for listening to and comprehending sound research and facts.  I find this government has failed the standard to uphold and resource a quality public education system.  I find this government has failed the standard for doing what is best for our learners - the people who are our future.


  1. Well-written. The worrying part is that many teachers have not been told about PACT yet. I think if I was to take a survey at school about how many colleagues know about this, it would be 3, myself included.

  2. Im too gobsmacked to comment, except to say "When are we going to do something about this government" Maybe some more forceful action would be appropriate, otherwise they just gonna walk all over us. New Zealand as a whole has to start taking notice. Just finished reading The Penguin History of NZ and there are some startling similarities from the past to what is happening today. Im seriously worried for the future. Im a teachers mum by the way

  3. Yes, PaCT is a worry. My principal has signed us up for looking at the PaCT tool at the moment. She believes forewarned in forearmed. When I have looked into it more I will make more informed comment. The guff arrived on Wednesday.... but I've been off sick since then.
    And yes, I agree something has to be done about this government. Their reinvented model of consultation, the use of legislation to feather the nests of the rich and powerful, the lax attitude to how our spy agencies and top echelon of police act, and the fact that John Key is so "comfortable" make me very uncomfortable.
    Looking back into NZ's history, you may have read about the education act brought in in 1880... the one that started state funded education. It replaced what was essentially charter schools, where only the rich were educated and the education varied. Someone should give the Nats a copy of the history of education in NZ.