Sunday, 26 May 2013

Privacy will be breeched by publishing National Standards data.

An announcement has been made that National Standards data from 2012 will be published at the end of May.  It will be broken down into percentages for each year group and likely by gender and ethnicity too.
This concerns me greatly.
This is the data of children's learning at one point in a year.  It is not the weight of pigs.  It is not how much milk a cow produced.  It is not the number of metres gained by a rugby player as they broke the defensive line.  It is not how many widgets were produced and sold.  This is our children! 
I work in a small school.  A very small school.  We currently have 36 students, we started the year with 28 students.  I've been there only since January, so the results that are going to be released are influenced by the previous teacher in my class.  When I look back to last year's class photo more than half my class are not in the photo.
I have five year groups in my class.  I have five year fours, seven year fives, five year sixes, one year seven (a very recent addition) and one year eight.  Within my nineteen students one is ORS, two are intellectually delayed and I have serious concerns about the learning of three other students.
With the fact that my year groups are so small, I am very concerned for their privacy and their belief in themselves as learners.
I believe that where they are in their learning is not for public consumption.  This information is for the student, their parents and the teacher.  The principal and BOT would use this information to plan for resources and staffing.  Bob down the road does not need to know about how this child is doing.
The Ministry of Education expects the data to be sent to them in full, but without breaking privacy.  Recently a principal posted this in a Facebook forum about National Standards:
NAG2a annual reporting requirement. The email today reminding us to send the data with the annual reports and make sure we remove data that might break privacy issues. Today I emailed the Ministry asking them to advise me on whether or not the data i sent earlier had the potential to break the privacy laws. I worded it that as the authors of the excel spreadsheet they were in the best position to analyse our data as to the risk to schools in regard to the privacy issues.
The reply he received was to look at the advice and guidance sheet.  I asked him if the advice and guidance sheet was helpful, because in my experience that is the answer someone using gives when they do not have an answer.  He then said:
No. Already knew... 4 is the magic number for a group... Just wanted to see what they said and try make them accountable
I was astounded about the number 4 as the magic number for a group, because as you can see above, I have a number of small year group sizes in my class.  I believe that every member of our community will be able to identify each and every child if the data is published.  And I said that to the principal I was discussing this with.  He replied:

That means you take the year group reporting out of the report and only send in the whole school results
As I have no control over this, I hope this is what my departed principal has done.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

The mockery of the Christchurch school closures and the Ombudsman

Dame Beverly Wakem of the Ombudsman's
office making the announcement.
In March it was announced that the Ombudsman would be taking a fresh look into the process of the proposed closures and mergers of Christchurch schools as part of the review of education in Christchurch post earthquakes.

Here is the link to the video on TV1 News:

The Ombudsman said they would investigate the process of consultation process used last year.

This investigation will focus on how information was not released or was not released in a timely manner to allow schools to use and respond to it when presenting their submissions against the closure.  The results of this investigation will not be known until the second half of 2013.

After the announcement was made, Hekia Parata, the Minister of Education, said that it would not delay her decision making.  Hekia Parata said the government and the Ministry of Education had acted properly in their consultation.  She is expected to announce her final decisions to be actioned before the 2014 school year begins later this month.

What is truly galling about this investigation however is that the decisions and actions of the Minister will not be investigated.  Only the actions of the Ministry of Education will be investigated.

I truly believe this makes a mockery of the Ombudsman's office when they can not properly assess the whole process.  The MOE acts on the directives of the Minister, so surely the Minister's actions should be taken into account.

And if the Ombudsman does find discrepancies in how the consultation process was managed, it will be far too late, because the Minister will have already made her decisions and the process of the changes being made will be in action.

I believe that the process should be delayed until the outcome of the Ombudsman's investigation is complete and reported on.  I believe that the actions and the decisions of the Minister should also be included in the review for the sake of fairness and transparency.

After all, once the changes are made, it will be too late for some schools when they find they have been acted against unfairly.

The law surrounding the powers of the Ombudsman are well below the standard on this occasion.