Wednesday, 30 April 2014

My Submission for the Education Amendment Bill No.2

Below is my submission to the Education and Science Select Committee on Education Amendment Bill No.2. 

I can't say I'm specifically hopeful on our submissions carrying much sway, after all, Hekia Parata's style of consultation is on public record and leaves a lot to be desired.  But being the crazy Sagittarian optimist that I am, I believe our voices have to be heard.

After all, if we do not stand up and let our voices be heard, tell the world our opposition to these ideas and our reasoning behind our opposition, then can we really call ourselves informed educators, people who understand how learning works and what our students need to fuel them as they embark and travel down the road of learning?

As teachers, we should be setting the standard.  By trying to gag teachers, devalue teaching qualifications and not giving teachers their democratic rights to determine the direction and standards of their own profession, Hekia Parata and her Tory mates have failed the standard.

To: Parliament's Education and Science Select Committee

I am submitting to oppose the changes in the Education Amendment Bill No. 2 establishing EDUCANZ to replace the Teachers Council.

Specifically, I submit that:

1. The Bill undermines quality teaching by giving teachers substantially less control over our own profession (Section 380 and Schedule 22)

I do not believe that it is in the best interests of students or teachers or the wider education profession for the proposed EDUCANZ to be a group that is totally appointed by the Minister of Education.  Each sector group in the teaching profession should be given the opportunity to elect true representatives.  This would ensure that EDUCANZ has a true understanding of how the different education sectors work, an understanding of the roles in each sector, and will ensure that teachers will "own" and respect EDUCANZ.  After all, if teachers will be funding 90% of its operation costs, the body should also be accountable to teachers for how they use that money, and the best way to do this is to make the body accountable through a democratic voting process.

2. The Bill undermines quality teaching by making it easier for non-qualified and registered people to work as teachers (New Part 31)

I am greatly concerned at the prospect of people who do not hold teaching qualifications and who have been employed as 'teachers' at charter schools being allowed to become "registered teachers" under the EDUCANZ body.  I am also concerned that people will be able to get a LAT (Limited Authority to Teach) easier and that these people may even be accepted despite previous criminal convictions.  Research demonstrates that children in all sectors will have greater success in their learning if they are taught by teachers with sound teaching qualifications.  Our New Zealand parents expect to have a qualified and registered teacher as a minimum benchmark to ensure quality teaching and learning for their children.

3. The Bill could gag the freedom of teachers and principals to be voices for children and their learning

The Bill (Section 382) replaces teachers' current aspirational Code of Ethics with a more prescriptive Code of Conduct. The Bill could gag the freedom of teachers and principals to be advocates for what is best for children by not allowing them to criticise Government policy: the new code must “take account” of the State Services Code which prevents public servants in core state services from publicly criticising Government policy. This provision might have been used, for example, to prevent principals and teachers voicing their concerns about the National Standards policy.  This "gagging" mechanism is a violation of our democratic rights as voters and citizens of New Zealand.  How can teachers develop our students' skills in critical thinking and understanding and participating in our country when one of the most vital aspects of this, freedom to express their opinion, is suppressed?

Thursday, 24 April 2014

GERM attacks again: Hekia Parata is canning the Teachers' Council.

The 30th of April is a crunch point for quality public education in New Zealand.  It is the day that a pitiful amount of pitiful consultation, Hekia styled, ceases on some very important and possibly catastrophic changes to education in New Zealand. 

During the first half of last year, consultation for changes to the Teachers' Council began, after a review had been conducted since 2010.  Some very knowledgeable people in education were tasked with going out and gathering and collating opinions and ideas about how the current Teachers' Council was going and how it could be reformed.  By July the consultation was over and a report was compiled.  For most teachers, busy with running a classroom, and life in general, this probably did not even cause a faint blip on their over stimulated radar.

In early November Hekia Parata announced that she would be disbanding the Teachers' Council.  It will be replaced by the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and a transition group working towards having this established started in the new year.  Legislation has to be passed to allow this all to happen, which has begun its progress in Parliament and the latter stages will happen very soon.  Further down this post I have links so you can have your say.

Below is a list of people who have been appointed by Hekia Parata to the transition group of EDUCANZ:
Now I only personally recognise a few names on this list (John Morris - former Auckland Grammar principal; Steve Maharey - former Labour MP who was the Minister of Education for a time and now the head honcho at Massey University; Linda Tame - principal at a Christchurch high school whose name fails me and mother of Jack Tame the TVNZ reporter based in New York), so you'll see that I've linked in the transition group's MoE page and I've google searched their names and added links to everyone from other sources so that you and I know who they are.  For some it was hard to find a profile on them, so I've linked to a news story or such other thing to give you a glimpse of the person. 

An interim Chief Executive, Julian Moore, has been appointed and took up his role on 31 March. 
Mr Moore has significant experience in senior management roles across the public and private sectors in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. He was recently the interim Chief Executive Officer at the Central Region’s Technical Advisory Services Limited (TAS) – a shared services company providing regional and national services to six District Health Boards.
He has also held senior management roles at the Wellington City Council and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
The role of the interim Chief Executive will focus on managing the transition arrangements with the New Zealand Teachers’ Council and working across the education sector to establish a professional body that reflects the needs of teachers and education leaders in the 21st century.
Mr Moore has a strong background in leading organisations through complex periods of change. He also has considerable experience in governance, relationship management, branding, and establishing new boards and sub-committees.   (Early Childhood Council)

Reaction in November from the right wing commentators and politicians was very vocal.  Initial media reports hailed Hekia Parata's reforms as essential and to the benefit of the profession, children and how well educated children will be due to the reformation of the Teachers' Council.  Media (especially the NZ Herald and Fairfax) had been long campaigning that the Teachers' Council were enabling dodgy paedophiles to infiltrate schools and then protecting them (see this link as an example of their arguments).

Naturally the teacher unions, NZEI and PPTA, were unhappy about the prospect of their members being unable to elect representatives directly (Teacher unions to fight council reforms 2/11/13).  The two teachers' unions said the change contradicts the council's goal of leading and representing the teaching profession.  NZEI's Judith Nowataski has continued to push the need for EDUCANZ to be a meaningful body for teachers due to having teacher participation in press releases such as Teachers will fight loss of voice on Government's new Teachers Council.  And the PPTA has been running paid union meetings (PUMs) over the last term over the issue of the changes to the Teachers' Council.  This article, Teachers' union concerned over new council (The Waikato Independent, 11/4/14), demonstrates that 800 secondary teachers were concerned enough to pack out the Founders Theatre in Hamilton.

Slowly it has filtered through to the awareness of the average teacher, and it seems that in the last month or so, after a lot of articles in the newspapers and discussion in local teacher union meetings finally getting noticed in staff rooms, that teachers are getting heated up about the implications of EDUCANZ.  Teachers are not happy that they will have no opportunity to elect representation and that changes to the Teachers' Code of Conduct could stifle teachers' voices in the education debate.

Editorials such as this Stuff editorial, Improved Processes, published in the Southland Times and the Marlborough Express (16/4/14), will have annoyed quite a few teachers.  Little gems such as: "Little wonder teachers are protective of the Teachers Council. It's probably only polite since it has been so very protective of them.  Unhappily, this has been at the expense of accountability to parents and the public."  And then this one:  "They may have a point for decent representation, but frankly a stronger say by the Government is looking preferable to the outcomes of the teacher-controlled club that has been ready, willing and able to close ranks for far too long, and which is showing a professed interest in openness only when the do-next-to-nothing option has been utterly exhausted."  All very emotive of course.

And those of us who are vocal, active in social media and other circles have been having discussions and sharing thoughts.  Some have even published their thoughts.

A blog post, EDUCANZ, Professionalism and Politics, by bsprout (14 April 2014), hits the nail on the head as to why these changes are being pushed by Hekia Parata and her puppet masters.  What follows are some of bsprout's comments that stood out for me:

I find it appalling that we have a Government that is deliberately and dishonestly undermining the teaching profession by suggesting that there is a crisis in teacher quality and discipline and that political measures are needed to solve it....
There are more than 103,000 registered teachers in New Zealand and in the last financial year 59 were brought in front of the disciplinary tribunal and the majority were removed from the Teachers Register and barred from teaching. This means that probably less than .05 of teachers have behaved badly enough for the most serious consequences and not all of those would be sexual in nature....
It seems overly heavy handed to use misconduct as the driving reason to change the current Teachers Council. If that was the case then some adjustments to current practice and the existing body is all that would be necessary. Instead we have a whole new entity that will have all those on the Governing Council being appointed by the Minister of Education....
Under a National led Government, teachers will lose any professional independence and become classroom technicians that have to support politically prescribed programmes and data collection. Children will not have teachers who exist to meet their individual needs but be forced meet whatever targets the Minister feels necessary to set for them. Any teacher accused of misconduct is likely to be named and shamed before guilt is proven, which will possibly see many of the remaining males in the primary sector forced out of the job through the stress of false accusations.

Boonman has managed to address the facts and take a chance to put a bit of satire into the discussion.  His post EDUCANZ? Of course we canz!! really cut to the point of what is wrong with the proposed EDUCANZ: 

There has been some concern expressed by people working in the education community that EduCANZ will become a kind of proxy board appointed by the minister and tasked with getting rid of anybody who disagrees with government policy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Let me elaborate.
The board of EduCANZ will be appointed by me. We have a huge pool of talent available to us which I will be completely ignoring and instead appointing only people I either know personally, am related to (including by marriage), or are members of the various business lobby groups who often wine and dine members of the National Party at the many official and unofficial functions held around New Zealand.

Boonman has also blogged his submission to Education Amendment Bill No.2 and it is well worth a read.

Dianne at Save Our Schools NZ has been a tireless blogger on all the issues in Education over the last two years since the class size debate stirred her activist heart back into action.  In her post Easy way to make a submission on the Education Amendment Bill 2 Dianne listed the following facts about EDUCANZ:

  • All members are to be appointed by the Minister of Education.
  • Teachers do not get to vote in a single representative to EDUCANZ.
  • The Bill stipulates a maximum of teachers possible on the council – no minimum – meaning it is possible that there would be no teachers of the council at all.
  • Even if some teachers were on the council, they would still be hand-picked by the Minister of Education.
  • The new “limited authority to teach” (LAT) provisions mean that someone “with specialist skills but not a teaching qualification” can be authorised to act as a teacher for three years at a time without the employer having to prove that they have tried unsuccessfully to fill the position with a trained and qualified teacher.
  • LATs have a lower good character and fitness to teach threshold than registered teachers, as LATs with criminal convictions are not barred whereas registered teachers are.
  • The Bill (Section 382) replaces teachers’ current aspirational Code of Ethics with a more prescriptive Code of Conduct, which could be used to gag teachers from opposing or speaking out about government policies (such as National Standards, PaCT, performance pay plans, and so on).
  • Teachers will still fund more than 90% of the operations of the Council through their registration fees.
Now the parts in bold and red I've done to really drive those first two points home because it's never a good sign when the government appoints people to an organisation they want to replace that belongs to other people.

In Dianne's earlier post The new Teachers Council: Just what is EDUCANZ' remit, exactly? (8/4/14)she quotes a letter from the PPTA to Hekia Parata regarding the EDICANZ chair, John Morris:

More concerning for me is the contempt that Mr Morris is showing for the 70,000 or so teachers who are going to be expected to fund the operation of his grandiose performance pay scheme. It is unacceptable that before teachers have had an opportunity to comment on the legislation and before the actual board has been formally established, the chairperson of the Transition Board has declared what the role and function of the body is to be. How can teachers have any trust in the process for establishing the new council when the chair of the interim board has revealed an agenda to use the body to introduce performance pay?

So what can you do?
It doesn't matter if you aren't a teacher or a parent or that you are just a plain old member of the public, because your voice counts.  You can contribute a submission to the Education Amendment Bill No.2 because you want to be heard.  But you have to do it by Wednesday 30 April. 

If you want to do a quickie submission you can click this link below:

If you want your submission to really reflect your thoughts you can click this link below

And if you would like some further ideas about how to do a submission, I suggest that you look at Claire Amos' submission that she has posted on her blog (21/4/14) Teaching and E-Learning: The EDUCANZ Bill - I have made my submission, have you made yours??  It is well worth a read.  I particularly like her points about the make up of the Medical Council - after all, do you think doctors would put up with their council having no actual doctors elected to it or on it at all?

I'm still working on my submission, so my next post will be my published copy of my submission.

But I am worried.  Hekia Parata's history of consultation is pretty dismal at best.  Just think Phillipstown School and the Christchurch reorganisation and the stuff ups over Salisbury Residential School - the courts found fundamental errors in the consultation and the Ombudsman is looking into it all.

If the worst comes to the worst, and Hekia gets her way with representation and some of the more concerning things such as naming teachers accused of something before any hearings, then consultation will have been ignored Hekia style.  If this happens then Hekia will have failed the standard and then I think every teacher should send their practice certificates back in protest and refuse to pay for the next one if our professional body doesn't actually represent us as teachers. It would soon be a problem when there are no teachers at schools and because ten days is all you can teach without a current practicing certificate. Do you think doctors would put up with this shit with their Medical Council?

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Ongoing Saga of Novopay and the Minister of Misinformation

This morning I was cruising through all the news apps on my phone and I spotted this wee story from late yesterday afternoon from 3 News:  Ministry chasing Novopay overpayments.

Steven Joyce, the Minister of Misinformation, is at it again telling us that Novopay is settling in.

Bullshit Minister!

It has been 20 months since Novopay went live thanks to being signed off by Hekia Parata, Craig Foss and Bill English and it is still a dog with fleas throwing up new issues frequently.

At our last NZEI branch primary teachers PUM (paid union meeting), with maybe 70 odd attendees, 90% put up their hands to show they continued to have ongoing issues with Novopay personally. These ran from not being paid, to not being paid correctly (not at right level, under or overpaid, not paid units & allowances), to stuff ups with sick leave, maternity leave, unpaid or study leave. 
And that doesn't include principals, support staff or caretakers and/or cleaners.
In early March I was talking to a principal of a city school.  She is a strong character and doesn't take things lying down.  She told me one of the Novopay stories at her school: 
At the end of 2012, just as they were breaking up for the end of term four, Novopay made an overpayment of $17,000 to support staff, some teachers, and a teacher who hadn't worked at the school for months.  That $17,000 sent the school bank account into the red.
No reimbursement was made throughout 2013, despite numerous phone calls and letters and emails to Novopay and the Ministry of Education. 
As 2013 progressed, our heroine principal decided on a new plan of attack.  The local MP, a back bencher who doesn't get a lot of noticing outside the local city newspaper (he's really seen in the region's major newspaper, let alone in National media), was approached to help solve the problem.  This principal applied substantial pressure on this MP to advocate for the return of the monies owed to her school.  She applied this pressure regularly, so regularly that he decided that to get some peace he would get the MOE to reimburse this city school.
So early in 2014, the money was finally returned to this city school.  Then the MOE tried to tell the heroine principal that it was "just a loan" until Novopay paid back the money.  Back to the MP she went.... and he got the MOE to retract that statement.
I have another friend with a wife, several children and a mortgage who wakes up every second Wednesday and wonders if the Novopay Lottery has come through for him that morning.  Each fortnight throws up new wonders for him.  One week no pay, the next fortnight underpaid, the following correct, the next one overpaid....  Every fortnight brings new stress for him and his family.  It has an impact on him paying his mortgage, putting petrol in the car, child support payments....  It impacts his principal and office staff who deal with the fact that Novopay has stuffed up yet again.
So if you or a fellow staff member are still being given the short end of the stick 20 months after its implementation this is what you need to do:
  • inform your principal/admin staff responsible for Novopay in your school asap each time. 
  • ring NZEI on 0800 NZEI HELP (or the PPTA one if you're a secondary teacher) to get their support, but also so they can keep tabs on the problem and create general pressure.
  • keep a record of every Novopay stuff up and how it has affected you and what's been done to resolve it. Keep adding to the record each time a stuff up happens.  Make sure you have dates and even screen shots of your payslips and missed payments and extra charges from your bank accounts.
  • email that record of stuff ups to your local MP, Steven Joyce, Hekia Parata and even John Key and Nikki Kaye (Associate Minister of Education who seems to have a better grasp of the portfolio than Hekia) to show them that there is still a problem and it's ongoing.
  • send a copy to opposition education spokespeople like Chris Hipkins, Catherine Delahunty and Tracey Martin so they can keep the acid on the government.

I've said it before and I will continue to say it over and over again:  Novopay is a dog with fleas and should be dumped Steven Joyce.  Hekia Parata, Craig Foss and Bill English should have lost their jobs for signing off this project, and Hekia and Craig as well as Anne Tolley should have lost their jobs for not monitoring the project as it was developed effectively.

Essentially, these ministers, Mr Joyce, Ms Parata, Mr Foss and Mrs Tolley have failed the standard.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

What I saw and heard: Sue Moroney and Chris Hipkins host a chat on education in Hamilton

Last night I went to a discussion held at Pukete School in Hamilton, hosted by local Labour list MP Sue Moroney (ECE and Social Development spokeswoman and party whip) and the Labour Education Spokesman Chris Hipkins.

Below is my Storify of my tweets and retweets, and below that was what I consider the highlights and important messages to be of the discussion.

Also at the meeting were most of the Labour candidates for the greater Waikato.

Back:  Hamilton East candidate Cliff Allen and Taupo candidate Jamie Strange.
Front: Waikato candidate (to be confirmed) Christine Greer, List MP and Hamilton West candidate Sue Moroney, and Coromandel candidate Korbinian Poschl. 

These were the big things that stood out for me tonight:

Education is an investment and not everything can be measured:
  • Chris Hipkins and Labour believe that any money spent on education is an investment.
  • School is not just about what can be measured for literacy and numeracy - it is also just as important for the interpersonal skills, the skills that are very difficult to measure, but are vital.
  • Not everything can be measured.
  • Visiting education professionals love the New Zealand Curriculum.
  • But they can not understand why we are not teaching with the Curriculum, but rather letting National Standards take over.
  • Chris said National Standards do not recognise that children develop and learn at different rates.
  • National Standards are not a fair way to assess a school's performance.
  • Chris accurately explained why National Standards are harder to achieve for students at low decile schools than those at higher decile schools - simply the kids at the lower decile school have more to learn than the kids at the higher decile school to meet the standard, in general.
  • Chris is unimpressed with using National Standards to allocate funding to schools; he thinks the schools that will need the money most will end up with the least.
  • Chris believes that despite Hekia Parata's back track on using National Standards data to allocate funding, that there are Treasury documents advocating doing this, and plans are well advanced.
  • Chris says we don't need National Standards to tell us which kids have problems.
  • Not one extra dollar has been put towards the kids that need the most help.
  • National Standards tries to do 4 or 5 things but achieves nothing.
  • We need parents talking directly to teachers to find out how their children are doing.
  • National Standards will be gone-burgers under a Labour-led government.
Teacher training, qualifications and workforce planning:
  • Chris believes we should set high expectations and standards for potential trainee teachers to get into teacher training.
  • He believes that teacher training should have a post graduate qualification required to be teacher.
  • Chris finds it incredible that the government talks about being more rigorous in expectations for teachers and then does the opposite for Charter Schools by allowing them to have unqualified, untrained, unregistered teachers.
  • Chris believes that there should be better workforce planning for teaching due to the number of newly qualified teachers unable to secure positions.
  • We have too many PE teachers being trained, but not enough maths teachers.
  • 50% of our current teaching workforce is over the age of 50.  We have to ensure we train the right number of teachers to have the overlap of experience in schools as teachers retire and new teachers enter into the teaching workforce.
What Labour commits to funding:
  • Labour will fully fund Reading Recovery for all schools.
  • Labour will fund special needs education.
  • Labour will fund quality teacher professional learning development (PLD) to ensure a confident, quality teaching force.
  • Novopay is a disaster.
  • Steven Joyce is living in a parallel reality with his statistics, because every school which Chris Hipkins has visited has at least one Novopay issue that is not resolved. 
  • Labour will get a new payroll system that actually works.
Charter Schools and Public Private Partnerships:
  • Labour will repeal the Charter Schools legislation.
  • Existing schools will be offered the opportunity to be independent private schools, or to become intergrated schools when the legislation is changed.
  • Labour is not happy about schools being built amongst Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) being used to build/rebuild schools in Christchurch and elsewhere.  It has a lot of potential sticking points for schools.
Teachers' Council and changes:
  • Chris believes that teachers should have democratic representation on the new body replacing the Teachers' Council.
  • Chris believes that the new teachers' council should be setting the standard for enters teacher training.
Early Childhood Education:
  • Chris believes that the challenges in ECE are similar to those in the primary and secondary sectors.
  • He wants to get the funding in ECE back up to achieve the goals of 100% fully trained, qualified, registered ECE teaching force and more engagement in early childhood education in low income areas by creating more community based centres, due to the fact that commercial ECE centres are not opened in lower socio economic areas because they are not seen as profitable.
Independent/Private Schools:
  • Chris said Labour will not be increasing funding to private/independent schools.
  • The Aspire Scholarships to private schools are widely known as a rort as the private schools are cherry picking from the public schools.
Feed the Kids:
  • Labour considers Feeding the Kids to be very much on the agenda.
  • As Hone Harawira's bill was drawn first, they have to wait for that bill to be advanced first before their own bill can be addressed.
  • Chris will reintroduce the healthy food guidelines to schools that National dumped.  He believes initiatives such as school gardens that teach students skills for their own families should be supported with government policy and funding.
Support Staff:
  • Labour is investigating solutions to the variety of issues for Support Staff funding and career pathways.
  • First a funding system has to be sorted.  David Cunnilife has already committed to centrally funded Support Staff funding at the Living Wage and Inequity protest march on Saturday in Auckland.
Community Hubs:
  • Chris is very supportive of schools becoming a community hub, but sited the MOE as the biggest barrier to this, as the footprint of school buildings is controlled by the MOE, and the extra space that could be used to create a community hub is often removed by the MOE as it is deemed in excess of what the school needs to deliver to the students they have.
  • He wanted to align the government agencies better to help the schools have an easier pathway to help the students and families they are already doing a great job of helping.
  • Sue talked about how Melville High School in Hamilton (my old high school) is having perfectly good buildings demolished by the MOE because they are above their footprint, and how these buildings would be great to use as a community hub.  Chris talked about a school in his electorate that to keep a building had to remove the roof and reclad the building inside just to keep it as an 'outdoor facility', costing way more than any other options, just so the school stayed within the MOE deemed footprint.
  • Chris does support the Greens' policy of nurses in schools.
Special Needs Education:
  • Labour believes in inclusive education for special needs students.
  • He supports the rights of parents to choose the education setting for their special needs child.
  • Chris likes the idea of special units attached to schools so special needs students can get a mainstream education, but can also access intensive special needs education expertise more readily - the best of both worlds.
  • Chris is very concerned that the needs of children with moderate learning needs are not being met with the assistance they need due to funding.
School governance and BOTs and reorganisations and funding:
  • Chris said that Labour's stance on governance of schools is still be developed.
  • He said that the Tomorrow's Schools model is being unsystematically eroded and chipped at with no clear direction or philosophy.
  • He did agree that a review is likely and needs to allow for strong and robust community consultation and good research.
  • Chris does agree with Hekia Parata that the decile funding system is a blunt tool to determine funding to schools.
  • We have to get rid of the decile tarnish on schools but ensure that funding is targeted to schools that need it.
  • In regards to school reorganisations, if anyone has got any bright ideas on how to do school reorganisations with less pain to communities, please talk to Chris.  This is always messy.
The task ahead:
  • Sue then talked about how we have a project ahead of us this year to address in inequality and inequity and the best way to do this is to change the government.

I found the meeting to be a great way to clarify the vision Labour has for education in New Zealand under a Labour led government.

The one thing I think that was unclear and needs further discussion is the future of pre-service education for teachers and how that will look, and what the ultimate minimum qualification for new teachers will be.  The current National government policy is piecemeal and all over the place, and I would like to see Labour set a clear course on what they would expect.

Chris Hipkins and Sue Moroney met my standard for what education policy should be in New Zealand.

If you know of any other political parties coming to Hamilton to discuss their education policies please let me know.  In fairness, and for my own education, I would like to engage and feedback with as many parties as possible on their education visions.