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?

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