Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Novopay: A dog with fleas, a bad case of fleas.

Novopay is a dog with fleas.  Steven Joyce said that in February 2013 a couple of weeks after John Key gave him the responsibility of fixing Novopay aka Nopay, Novopain or Nevapay... we in the education profession have found the only fun in Novopay, apart from the surprise of actually being paid, is making up new names to describe its poor performance.

Here we are 18 months later and Steven makes this announcement:

After pouring $45 million in to fix Novopay, the teachers' payroll system is no longer a "dog" and teachers will be thankful that the Government has taken it over, Prime Minister John Key says.

Senior Cabinet Minister Steven Joyce, who last year described Novopay as "a dog" today said a Government-owned company would assume management of the system from Australian company Talent2 from October this year.

He said "pretty good progress" had been made in recent months to fix the system which has been plagued with problems including large numbers of over and under payments to teachers since it was introduced in 2012.

However, remaining issues prompted contractual issues in recent weeks and Talent2 had not been prepared to provide extra resources necessary for further development of the system.

It had become clear "that the best outcome would be a change in the provider relationship".

Opposition parties seized on today's announcement as yet another admission from the Government that the system had been a costly disaster, but Mr Key defended the decision.

"If you look forward, the sector will take quite a lot of confidence that effectively the Government is taking over the programme and the project. They'll know it will be properly resourced and properly looked after."

When reminded that Mr Joyce had called it a dog he said, "Yeah, but I think it's come a long way since then".

"It's actually fundamentally operating pretty well. This is a very complex sector there's a lot of different pay scales for teachers it's not an easy thing. But the Government has stabilized it and got it working reasonably effectively and I think a lot of teachers will say thank goodness the Government now has some control over the process."

He said it was possible to make the argument the Government should have assumed control earlier, "and hindsight's a wonderful thing".

However the Government had now made "the right call" over the system which he said was originally signed up to by the previous Labour Government.

President of the New Zealand Principals' Federation Philip Harding said his members were encouraged that Talent2 had withdrawn from managing the system, but warned "there is a long way to go before principals will have any confidence in the system".

"'The announcement does not cure the Novopay shambles that the sector has been battling for the last three years."

"The same challenges of random errors, frustratingly slow problem resolution, inaccurate personnel data, and significantly increased workload will continue," he said.

"Success will be determined by the way the new entity is managed, and more importantly, resourced to deal to these priorities."

Meanwhile, Mr Joyce earlier confirmed Talent2 will pay the Ministry of Education between $18 million and $22 million including $7m cash and other considerations such as license to use the core software by way of a settlement.

That sum was set against the $45 million the Government had paid to address the problems with the system. Overall Novopay had cost $110 million to date.

Mr Joyce said the agreement for the Government to take over should ''not necessarily be seen as failure on anyone's part any more than it had been''.

It was, he said, ''the next logical step''.

''This decision has been made in the best interests of all parties - staff administrators, schools and the Government.''

Talent2 said the "mutual agreement" settled a "flawed contractual arrangement" between itself and the Ministry of Education.

"This change allows Talent2 to better focus resources and investment on its core payroll business and broader New Zealand client base."

Labour's education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the announcement today would be "cold comfort to teachers and school staff still struggling with Novopay" and Talent2 was "dropping a hot potato in the taxpayer's lap".

"Goodness knows how much more (money) will be shovelled down this black hole before the problems are finally fixed."

He questioned why Education Minister Hekia Parata signed off on the system and why it had taken Mr Joyce so long "to finally decide to take action".

"Teachers and school staff have waited long enough for Novopay to be fixed. It has taken up their valuable teaching time, as well as hours and hours of school administration. Students and parents have also paid the price for this ongoing uncertainty."

NZ First education spokeswoman Tracey Martin said Mr Joyce had "admitted defeat" in cutting Talent2 loose.

"Mr Joyce cannot fix a system that National got so wrong in the first place, and has wasted tens of millions of taxpayers' dollars on."
(Novopay no longer a 'dog' - PM NZ Herald 30 July 2014)

Steven, we'll believe it when we see it mate.

You could talk to a cluster of schools and find that a significant portion of those schools are still experiencing issues.  Personally I believe Novopay has completely stuffed up my sick leave entitlements somehow and their pay slips would frazzle the mind of a top mathematician because they are incomprehensible.  But my concerns are minor in comparison to the people who still play Novopay Lotto every second Wednesday as they check their bank accounts to see if they have been paid or not.

But this also puts fear into principals and support staff who deal with the fall out of Novopay on a daily basis.  How will this new organisation cope with the End of Year actions that Novopay has failed so badly at for the last two Decembers?

And Metiria Turei raised an excellent point on One News Tonight and on Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint (sorry I couldn't get a link to the clip with Metiria on the late news but here is the one without her from One News at Six) about if National were to win the Treasury Benches on 20 September, is this move a step backwards into the 1990s to reintroduce the bulk funding of teachers' salaries and devolving pay roll responsibilities to schools? 

When Corin Dann asked John Key if it did mean bulk funding was on the horizon, John Key said no.  But teachers have heard John Key say no about a lot of things in education and then watch those things being introduced.  So teachers do not trust John Key.

Another concerning aspect is the government's adamant demand that the teacher pay roll has to be simplified.  Good luck.  It is not simple because teachers are not one size fits all.  Some teachers take on many more roles within their schools and consequently have to be adequately recompensed.  During our last primary teachers collective agreement negotiations, the MOE tried to have many of our hard fought for allowances scrapped.  We would not agree to that.  People deserved to be paid for the extra responsibilities they take on and the effort they put in.  Schools wouldn't function with out that effort and kids would miss out.

A member of Stand up for kids - protect our schools  on Facebook posted this copy of an email from Peter Hughes, the Secretary of Education, which was sent out today.

From: Peter Hughes <>
Date: 30 July 2014 12:45:15 pm NZST
Subject: Message from Peter Hughes

Good afternoon,

Earlier today the Minister Responsible for Novopay, Hon Steven Joyce, announced that school payroll services will transfer to Crown management on 17 October. I have provided a link to Minister Joyce’s press release here.

I thought it would be useful if I explained to you the reason for this change.

As you are probably aware, our plan was always to have a fully outsourced payroll system for the Education sector. The Ministry wanted to focus on its core business – supporting you to raise student achievement.

We ran into some major problems with Novopay. It meant that the Ministry had to get back involved to try and make things right and ensure you were getting the levels of service you are entitled to expect.

We have come a long way, with a steady pay period to pay period performance that is now well within the acceptable error levels defined by the Novopay technical review. However, to deliver on your expectations, we need to go further. At the moment we have a model where responsibilities and accountabilities are split across two organisations, and the Ministry is diverting time and energy away from what we should be focussing on.

From 17 October there will be a single Government-owned company solely focussed on managing school payroll services end-to-end. There will be clear accountability and expectations from the Government on ensuring staff get paid correctly on time, every time. It will be a company that is service-driven, not focussing on a commercial bottom line.

We will make sure the new company supports schools in the right way and we will focus on what we should be focussing on - raising student achievement and improving educational support to your schools.

We intend to transition Talent2 staff working on schools payroll into the new company to ensure the handover goes smoothly.

This new model will allow us to further improve payroll delivery and school support. The new arrangements will help us deliver the simpler, more user friendly service that you’ve been asking for. This change is in the best interests of the Ministry, of Talent 2 and most importantly of you and your teams.

I’ll keep you all up to date as the transition progresses. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch with me directly, or with your local Director of Education.

Kind regards,


Peter Hughes | Secretary for Education | Office of the Secretary for Education

This email is soothing to the naked eye, however I still feel unease that staff from the existing organisation will still be involved.  Yes, I understand they know the system, however, they have consistently provided a not positive experience for the last two years, so you question them naturally.

And naturally the unions have something to say.

In this press release, Government Novopay buy-out too late and schools still paying, NZEI makes a valid point about the monies still owing to some schools, some of that money from 2012, and there is also the issue of the extra workload on the principal and admin support staff.

Chris Hipkins in his post Taxpayer to fork out millions for Novopay rescue points out who signed off  this dog with fleas.  He also pointed out how much money has already been wasted on Novopay and how much it was costing to buy Talent2 out of the Novopay and future running costs.  I can tell you that Chris Hipkins says that Labour is discussing the Novopay issue and believes that something has to change from the current system.  Chris has said it may mean dumping the system completely and starting again.

In the Herald this morning there is an accusation that the government is trying to appease teachers by announcing these changes now in the lead up to the election.  Novopay move slated as a diversion says "Chris Hipkins, Labour's education spokesman, said the Government was trying to divert attention from Novopay before the election campaign because "teachers will be confronting National MPs and candidates with the clear message that Novopay hasn't been fixed"."  Which John Key countered with "the education sector "will take quite a lot of confidence that effectively the Government is taking over the program and the project. They'll know it will be properly resourced and properly looked after.""

Well Mr Key, the education sector does not trust your government.  You guys made Novopay go live despite the fact their were close to 200 flaws identified that weren't remedied when the go ahead was given (see Why Hekia Parata (and Anne, Craig and Bill) should go, Novopay - or Nevapay, Bullshit John Key says, Why Steven Joyce should just man up and dump Novopay) and then the buck passing and incompetence that has followed.

Teachers also don't believe or trust you Mr Key because your government has not consulted or listened to the education sector about anything in your education policy - National Standards, Charter Schools, truancy services, special education, residential schools, Te Kotahitanga, performance pay, IES roles, class sizes, professional development/Advisory Services..... the list goes on.

Mr Key says Novopay is not so much of a dog anymore, but teachers, principals and support staff will be more reserved.  While pleased that Talent2 will be taken out of the equation somewhat, we are wary.  Quite frankly, teachers will be watching from October to see if this new crown enterprise to take on Novopay will meet the standard or not.  I'll report back later in the year.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Election 2014: What Labour is doing in Taranaki-King Country.

As we head into the election, each political party is releasing policy, putting up hoardings, mobilising their volunteers (or paying circular deliveries if you are Colin Craig) to deliver pamphlets, and politicians are out kissing babies.

I live in the Taranaki-King Country electorate.  It's a dark blue electorate.  You could put a gorilla up as the National candidate and no one would bat an eye lid and vote it in as the National MP for Taranaki-King Country.

Shane Ardern has been the MP for Taranaki-King Country (TKC) since 1998.  The only thing he has ever done of great notice was drive a tractor up the steps of Parliament in 2003 to protest again the proposed "Fart Tax" that was being proposed to counter the greenhouse gases created when a cow farts.  It was a memorable stunt.

After that, however, nothing Shane Ardern has done is even worthy of putting in a Wikipedia site.

In fact, as a constituent, from September 2012 until April 2014 I tried to get Shane Ardern to meet with the Waipa Branch of NZEI, teachers and support staff, people who are his constituents.  He refused, point blank, to meet us.

So when he announced in early December 2013 that he would retire from politics at the 2014 election to spend more time with his family and on the farm, I was extremely pleased, ecstatic.  As it was my birthday that week I took it as a birthday present from the gods.

And Labour in TKC has been invigorated by the fact that there is no incumbent MP standing in the electorate. 

Late last year the call went out for a meeting to be held, and in late February a meeting was held, potential candidates put up their hands, and in late March a candidate was selected by ballot.  Penny Gaylor, a district councillor from Otaki on the Kapiti Council and active Labour party member, was voted as the candidate.  Then a Labour Electorate Committee (LEC) was formed in April, those members attended the Region 3 List Selection Day in May, and by June the campaign was in full force.

Penny Gaylor after the votes were counted for who would be the Labour candidate for Taranaki-King Country in the 2014 election.
The LEC has been very active in getting Penny Gaylor's name out in the community and she has been spending considerable time visiting people and organisations in Te Awamutu, Raglan, Kawhia, Otorohanga, Te Kuiti and Inglewood.  She has also attended events in New Plymouth with Andrew Little and attended a meeting in Taumarunui recently in order to raise the profile of Labour and the party policies as well as making herself known in the TKC electorate and beyond.

Some time in May we vaguely heard of a candidate for National being selected.  A farmer, female.  And then we heard of a Green candidate.  And then earlier this month a candidate from the Internet-Mana party.  So currently we know of four candidates duking it out for TKC.
Penny has been supported by some senior MPs in getting the Labour campaign started and promoting local issues that Labour is strongly concerned about.  One of the first MPs to visit was Annette King (Rongotai MP and Health spokesperson) along with List MP Sue Moroney (Chief Whip, Hamilton West candidate and Social Development spokesperson).  That day they visited a local kindy in Te Awamutu, Plunket and discussed the impact of the Matariki birthing unit being closed by the DHB with midwives and other community members.

Annette King, Penny Gaylor and Sue Moroney discussing issues at the Plunket rooms with parents, community leaders and health professionals of Te Awamutu.

Penny has also be actively visiting people in a number of communities, door knocking and has also done some phone canvasing.

Penny has visited Raglan Area School and other businesses in Raglan with List MP Moana Mackay (Environment, Climate Change and Science spokesperson) and Waikato-Hauraki MP Nanaia Mahuta (Maori Affairs and Treaty of Waitangi spokesperson) in May....
Penny Gaylor and Nanaia Mahuta and the team at the recycling company they visited.

Nanaia Mahuta, Moana Mackay and Penny at Raglan Harbour.
...she has done some canvasing and door knocking in Stratford with Whanganui candidate Hamish McDuall....
Penny Gaylor and Hamish McDuall in Stratford.
....attended the Fieldays with David Cunliffe (Labour leader, New Lynn MP and spokesperson for Regional Development and the SIS), Sue Moroney and Cliff Allen (Hamilton East candidate) on the Thursday and again on the Friday with Damien O'Connor (West Coast MP and Primary Industries, Fisheries, Food Safety and Biosecurity spokesman) and Cliff Allen....
David Cunliffe helps Penny out with some "adverstising".

Sue Moroney, David Cunliffe and Penny Gaylor with some Rhode Street School students at the Fieldays.
....a meeting (among others) with young people strongly involved in politics in New Plymouth with Andrew Little (List MP, candidate for New Plymouth and Justice and Labour spokesperson)...
Andrew Little and Penny Gaylor at the Youth in Politics meeting in New Plymouth.
...and just this last week, on Monday, Maryan Street (List MP, candidate for Nelson, spokesperson for Tertiary Education and State Sector) came and visited Otorohanga's Wintec campus and spoke with Grey Power in Te Kuiti.
Maryan Street and Penny Gaylor with some Wintec staff in Otorohanga.
And the next day, David Shearer (Mt Albert MP and spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Energy) and Chris Hipkins (Rimutaka MP and spokesperson for Education and Forestry) arrived in Te Awamutu and met with Penny Gaylor, the local Labour party faithful and Dean Taylor from the Te Awamutu Courier before heading down to Otorohanga for a tour of the Otorohanga Timber Company, a meeting with The Lines Company, dinner with more local Labour party faithful and a public meeting at the Otorohanga Rugby Club.
Chris Hipkins, Penny Gaylor and David Shearer outside of Churchills in Te Awamuti.

Steve Wilshier explaining how the OTC adds value to timber products before exporting them overseas and also supplying the New Zealand market.

Brent Norris (TLC CEO), David Shearer, Chris Hipkins and Penny Gaylor after a healthy discussion on electricity supply.

Penny Gaylor, David Shearer and Chris Hipkins taking questions from the audience at the public meeting at the Otorohanga Rugby Club.

People were very interested in the education policy that Labour had released the previous week, and were also very keen to hear about Labour's ideas in the energy portfolio, particularly to do with electricity.  Also discussed was the rehabilitation of offenders in prisons through teaching them to read, write and do maths; forestry exports and jobs; housing; tourism, railways/transport and dairying.
The next morning, David Shearer, Chris Hipkins and Penny Gaylor also attended a public meeting in Taumarunui and discussed similar issues before Chris and David visited the Wairakei geothermal electricity generation plant. 
I am also adding in here the Storify of my tweets and others who responded from the public meeting held by the Labour candidate for Taupo, Jamie Strange, at the Cambridge Primary School.  David Shearer, Chris Hipkins and Sue Moroney also spoke at this meeting and Hamilton East candidate Cliff Allen and Waikato candidate Christine Greer also attended the Cambridge meeting.  At this meeting electricity was especially the hot topic, but also issues on education, social welfare, homelessness, pollution of waterways and the minimum and living wages.
Next month Penny will be hosting Grant Robertson (Wellington Central MP, Shadow Leader of the House, spokesman for Economic Development and Employment, Skills and Training)  in Te Awamutu and Annette King in Inglewood and also hopes to have several other Labour MPs visit districts in the TKC electorate.
Labour is committed to encouraging growth and development in the regions.  They want jobs and businesses in the regions that add value to products such as wood (like at the Otorohanga Timber Company), dairy, meat, wool, and many other products before they are exported.  Go to most wharf facilities and you will see raw logs being loaded onto ships to China... and then watch it come back as building materials.  Why are we exporting raw product to have it processed overseas and then import it back in to New Zealand?
Just in the last year in Hamilton and out in the Waikato we have seen the closure of the Huttons factory with the loss of 125 jobs, 90 jobs cut from New Zealand Post, 93 jobs cut at the Huntly East Mine, 22 jobs gone from Genesis' Huntly Power Station and an unspecified number of jobs are to go from the Genesis Call Centre in Hamilton, Metso in Matamata closed down (due to the high dollar by the way) costing 30 jobs, Thames Timber cut 70 jobs and we know there will be job losses when the Waikato DHB shuts the maternity units in Morrinsville and Te Awamutu and if National gets back in and shuts down the Ruakura Research Centre. 
That's 340 jobs gone, plus the unspecified amount of jobs from the Call Centre, and the Maternity and Research Centre jobs yet to be given confirmation, in the Waikato alone since August 2013. 
That's another thing, why would you shut down a research centre that focuses on dairy research in the middle of the best dairy country in New Zealand and move them to Christchurch????
There are probably many other job losses that have not been so publicly recorded. has a page called Reported job losses which they are updating monthly from a variety of sources around the country.  At the end of 2013, the tally of job losses recorded on this page was 6,390, and at the time of publishing this blog in July 2014, the 2014 tally of job losses recorded was 2,669 - and July is not a closed book yet.
The website also has a page covering the Recession job-loss tally of late 2008-2009.  In November/December 2008, 4,486 jobs went nationwide, 594 in the Waikato alone (but there were others classed as nationwide that could include further job losses in the Waikato that have not been specified).  From January to August 2009, plus October, 18,699 jobs disappeared (a significant number were in the state sector), and 650 jobs were lost in the greater Waikato (plus additional ones classed a nationwide).  What is interesting when you look at both pages, both time periods, is the number of jobs gone in regional New Zealand is fairly significant. 
And it is significant to each and every one of those communities, because for every person who loses their job, there are people, families depending on that income that no longer will be getting that income.  It affects their communities because they no longer have that money to spend at the supermarket, the local book store, the corner dairy, for the sports club fees, the school fundraisers....
What many people in the regions forget is that the regions do well under Labour.  The Labour led government under Clark was good for the regions.  Unemployment went down.  Farmers prospered with the structure provided by Fonterra under Labour.  Horticulture and aquaculture expanded.  Research and development that benefitted the regions was encouraged.  When someone plans the economy, it allows and encourages development throughout the country.
As I drive down the street in Te Awamutu, there are a number of empty stores.  Then go further south in the Taranaki-King Country... there are pockets of inspiration, but still too many empty shops, closed down factories, mills and services.  Too many people for the jobs available, and many in poorly paid employment.
Under National's "hands off the steering wheel" policy, we've seen companies like Metso (which built large scale mining vehicles and crusher machines and the like which were exported all over the world) close down because the high dollar made their business unsustainable.  That was a long standing business in Matamata, (originally as Tidco, then as Svedala), around since sometime in the 1970s, which was hailed in 1988 by Mike Moore as an example of a New Zealand company as an exporter on the up and up.  Just about all my life I have known someone who works at this company, family and friends, which has now withdrawn from Matamata and New Zealand.
So it was great to visit a business like Otorohanga Timber Company with Penny and Chris last week that has an extremely strong commitment to their community (Steve is well known for supporting a good cause in Otorohanga), employing local staff year round as well as local students back in town for summer from university and tech, and even young rugby and cricket players from overseas in town for the season.  This business has had to adapt to the economy, but would probably do even better out of its exports if the New Zealand dollar wasn't so high.
While, obviously because I am a teacher, I am basing my voting choices on education primarily, I am also considering other factors.  Jobs is an important factor.  If there are great jobs for people in the regions then there will be children for me to teach.  If their parents are gainfully employed, earning a quality wage, then their kids are likely to be in a warm, dry house, fed and clothed, their health needs met, and ready to learn at school.  Employed people mean that a variety of businesses in the area flourish, also employing people.  And communities become vibrant because of the businesses that are well established support local sporting and community groups and also encourage new businesses to open.  And I love to shop, so a vibrant community is good for me!!
Like David Cunliffe said, this election is about people.  It is about their hopes and dreams.  It is about being valued and respected.  Having reliable, stable employment and being paid well for the job you do gives people hope. 
Labour wants to bring hope back to regional New Zealand.
To find out more about how Labour plans to do this, click here to go to the Labour policy on Regional Development.  It gives you a broad over view of the policies and the ability to download the detailed policy.
So if you are in the Taranaki-King Country electorate, get out and meet your candidates (all of them) and talk to them about the policies of their parties and find out about the people that have put themselves up as candidates for you to choose as your representative in Parliament.
And you never know... Taranaki-King Country could become a red electorate with Penny Gaylor as MP - you just have to get out and #votepositive #ForABetterNZ!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Labour's Education Policy - An antidote to the GERM infection of the last six years.

The first weekend of July saw the Labour Party well and truly launch its 2014 election campaign.  They had a three day Congress in Wellington, and I attended the Sunday when David Cunliffe made his keynote speech and laid out the bones of some very important policy Labour wants to base its campaign on.  And education was at the core of it.

I was very far away from the middle, coughing my germs I had to the empty space on the edge of the auditorium, hence this terrible photograph I took.

As a teacher, any announcements on education are of great interest to me, particularly if they are going to get rid of what I think is detrimental in education (GERM policies, National Standards, Charter Schools, performance pay, IES roles, no teacher representation on EDUCANZ) and will promote and/or improve what teachers know to be valuable in education (teacher education pre-service and for those in practice, special education, class sizes, work load, New Zealand Curriculum, and so on).

I was not disappointed.

But please do not think that I am merely basing who I will vote for on education.  Education will be the first thing I think about though because I work in it, I'm passionate for learning and children, and it pays for the important things I do like eating and shopping and the internet - the priorities in life.

However, I do also consider other things like the following:

  • the economy - will they balance the books and be responsible?
  • employment - will their policies create jobs or put people out of jobs?  Will they make it fairer to the employee so they have job security?  Will the Living Wage happen so that we don't have the working poor living in poverty?
  • housing - will I be able to buy a house before I truly get wrinkles?  Will rental houses be warm and dry and healthy?  Will all those families living in cars and garages get a state house?
  • environment - will they improve the health of our waterways so I can swim in the Waikato and Waihou Rivers with confidence?  Will the kauri survive the kauri die back disease?  Will our native birds be protected?  Will 1080 be used in the bush?  Will the Maui dolphin be protected?  Will oil drilling and fracking be placed under much tougher regulations?
  • Christchurch - will those poor people get a fair deal from their insurance companies?  Will the rebuild meet what a modern city should/could be?
  • manufacturing - will there will be manufacturing in New Zealand?  Will people be encouraged to invest in improving our primary goods (e.g. milk, wood, wool, etc) before exporting rather than sending off the raw product?
  • the regions - will the people of the regions be able to stay and have a good standard of living with a job close to home, or will they have to move to Auckland?
  • health - will they make the waiting list process more transparent rather than the lie it currently is?  Will more people get their operations sooner so they can become productive members of society again?  Will more get put into addiction services?  Will nurses get paid better and get more nurses in wards to reduce their workload and improve patient care?  Will care in our rest homes be upgraded for the elderly?
  • welfare - will we see children of beneficiaries taken care of?  Will solo parents get a fair shake of the stick when it comes to improving their education and work prospects?  Will WINZ go back to having caseworkers who know what's going on with each client so they don't waste time?
  • TPPA - will they give away our rights and freedoms to run our lives and our country free from foreign companies dictating what should happen in New Zealand?
So as you can see, I have a few issues to consider.  They may not be the same as yours, or we may have some in common, but it is our responsibility as voters in a democracy to consider who we will vote for and why.

So on Sunday as I listened to David Cunliffe's speech (you can watch his speech here, along with other speeches from other Labour MPs), I did have cause to be happy about a number of things.  Consequently I tweeted and retweeted things, and then I put it all together with Storify (please excuse the places where my fingers and the smartphone disagreed on what letter I pushed).  So here is what I heard and saw:

You can now see why I was a happy teacher.  And now I want to go and look more in depth at the education policy.

Early Childhood Education and Families:

You may remember back in the end of January David Cunliffe did his own State of the Nation speech and he announced some key policy for families and pre-schoolers, the Best Start for Our Kids policy:
  • All families earning under $150,000 per year will receive $60 per week for a baby’s first year of life. For parents who are eligible for paid parental leave, the payment will kick in once this comes to an end. Low and modest income families will also receive $60 per week between the child’s first and third birthdays.
  • Free early childhood education for three, four and five year old children will be extended from 20 to 25 hours a week
  • Paid parental leave will be extended from 14 to 26 weeks as set out in Sue Moroney’s Member’s Bill.
  • Free antenatal classes for all parents who want them and extra visits from organisations like Plunket for those who need it most.

This caught people's attention and the paid parental leave bill promoted by Sue Moroney is a particularly popular policy.  This bill has received support across the House - except from National who want to veto it and put up their own half-baked 18 week scheme in Budget 2014.  Hopefully after 20 September, Sue's Bill will be passed and enacted.

Labour will also do the following for pre-schoolers:
  • From July 2017 (the tenth anniversary of 20 Hours Free), Labour will extend the Free ECE policy to 25 hours for three and four year old children. The policy will also apply to those five year olds still in early childhood education services. (Extending Free ECE to 25 Hours)
  • Labour will restore over time National’s funding for highly qualified ECE centres. We will work with the sector to reinstate the policy of 100 percent qualified staff in all teacher-led services.  The first phase of restoring funding for 100 percent qualified ECEC centres will be provided in Labour’s first Budget in 2015 and come into effect from January 2016.
  • We will build more ECE centres in high-need areas so there are enough places for kids who need them.
And Labour has committed to the following by establishing a Ministry for Children:
  • We will do away with the Families Commission and focus funding on an independent Children’s Commissioner.
  • We will also implement a plan to measure and set targets to reduce child poverty that would be backed up by legislation, and report on progress every budget.
These are important steps in the early years.  For every $1 spent on children in the first five years of their lives, we save $11 later on for each child.  Getting in early saves money and creates a healthier individual in all ways as a citizen, and a healthier community.  I think that it is important that ECE services are teacher led and employ fully trained and registered teachers who understand how young children develop and to ensure their learning needs are meet alongside the growth of their social skills and physical development.

Schools - Years 0-13:

Now this was the part that was especially important to me, being a teacher of primary aged students.

Labour will back quality education and invest in 21st Century Schools by:
  • Hire 2,000 more teachers
  • Reduce the average size of secondary school classes from 26+ down to 23.
  • Reduce the size of senior primary school classes (Years 4-8) from 29+ down to 26.
  • Invest $104 million in new classrooms.
  • Support professional development for our teachers.
  • Put in place a programme that provides an affordable option, available to all schools, for Year 5-13 students to have access to a portable digital device, in the classroom and at home.
  • Commit $25 million to provide teachers with professional development during the 2016 and 2017 school years to assist them to make the most effective use of digital devices in the classroom.
  • Partner with schools, local government and communities to put in place infrastructure that will allow students, particularly those from low-decile schools, who do not currently have internet connections to use their portable devices to access the internet at home.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan for rebuilding out-dated and worn-out school buildings, so that every school has access to modern learning environments by 2030.
So far so good.  Every teacher will tell you that a few less kids in their class means more time for the remaining students, a relief from some paperwork those few more kids create.  It can mean the difference between teaching and crowd control.  And when you consider how big a 12 year old is, a few less bodies in the room creates space.

Teachers have been left in the wilderness since the Advisory Services were dismantled in 2009.  Professional Development for many teachers became a distant memory as the new arrangement has often been too expensive, so only selected people get to attend PD courses.  Also, it means that if you have a weakness in science, there were no advisors to come and advise you anymore.  Consequently teachers and principals are welcoming the long waited proposed return of the Advisory Service so schools can again access quality advice and cost-effective PD.

A digital device for all Year 5-13 students is music to my ears, probably because it would make what I want to do as a teacher who loves teaching digitally more of a reality in more schools.  It is good that Labour are also planning on backing this with PD for teachers (because plenty will need it) and internet access in the home.  The internet access solution will be interesting to put into practise as I can see there may be many pitfalls to overcome and it won't happen overnight.

And just this weekend I was with a friend who teaches in a decile one school in Porirua.  She told me her classroom was straight out of the 70s.  So an upgrade of her and her student's working/learning conditions is desperately in need.

Labour will also:
  • Fund schools $100 per student per year if they don’t demand donations from parents.
  • Scrap National Standards and return schools’ focus back to teaching the full breadth of New Zealand’s internationally acclaimed curriculum.
  • Require schools to report student progress to parents in all areas of their learning.
  • Ensure every child develops the basic foundations for further learning by extending Reading Recovery so kids falling behind can catch-up.
  • Re-direct resources spent forcing ‘National Standards’ on schools into teacher professional development programmes to assist students who are underachieving.
  • We will repeal charter school legislation and no more charter schools will be created under Labour. 
Donations have always been a bone of contention, and I can see many schools will be winning with this piece of policy.  I can see how schools like Auckland Boys' Grammar and the like will not be keen on this policy, but parents will like it.  For many schools the funding created by the donations system is the difference between having sports gear for the kids at lunch time to play with or not having any sports gear at lunch time; the difference between having a digital camera in each syndicate or not having a digital camera at all; the difference between having a school production or not having a school production.  Different schools rely on that money for many things that the Ops Grant does not pay for.
You many have noticed that I have bolded and highlighted in red two very important policies: getting rid of National Standards and Charter Schools.  These represent the cornerstone of GERM philosophy, of creating a crisis in education and then privatising our quality public education system.  Prior to National enacting National Standards, New Zealand was ranked in the top five of the questionable PISA rankings.  Since National Standards were introduced we have slid down the ranks.  Infact each country which has introduced policies like National Standards (i.e. Common Core in the US, Naplan in Australia, Key Stage Testing in the UK) and consequently Charter Schools, have slid down the international rankings in more that just PISA. 
Labour will require teachers to focus on our world leading and much acclaimed New Zealand Curriculum, on all learning areas, and to report to parents on all the learning areas.  This is great for children, because it means we can celebrate those children who also excel in art, physical education, science, music, drama, dance.... not just reading, writing and maths.
And I am really pleased to see that Reading Recovery will get a boost and that the National Standards budget will be redirected to help those kids that don't receive ORS funding but need extra help.  Reading Recovery funding has been tightly squeezed each year, and definitely there was less money for the end of 2012.  The earlier we can get in and help students with their learning, the sooner they will be able to become independent and confident learners.  One way the Professional Development could help is teaching teachers how to recognise dyslexia and help children with dyslexia overcome the obstacles that dyslexia likes to create.
"Every week 40,000 kids turn up to school without breakfast or without lunch and are fed by charities. But there a more kids who need help. The last nationwide survey of children’s nutrition undertaken by the Ministry of Health found 83,000 children aged 5 to 14, sometimes or often went to school without breakfast.
"Labour will partner with community and voluntary organisations, incorporating the most cost-effective approaches currently operating, to provide free food in every decile 1-3 primary, intermediate school that needs and wants it."

There are schools that see kids turning up day after day without having had breakfast and a poor lunch if any.  I recently read of a teacher who brings bread, butter and spreads to school to feed the kids without lunch - until her principal told her to stop doing it (so she had to get sneakier at feeding these kids).  I have a friend who teaches at a decile 6 high school.  She has a toaster, bread, butter, spreads, jug, milk and milo ready for any kid who needs it in her class.  And it is well used, and she gets better work out of the kids who ate than the kids who came hungry and did not use the food and facilities she provided.
Tertiary Education:
"The National Party is removing the right of students, staff and other community groups to be represented on university councils. It follows the Government’s introduction of voluntary student association membership and is a further silencing of students.
"Labour is making a commitment to students that when we are elected to government we will ensure they are represented on university councils and have strong student associations.
"We believe having those who are involved in learning and teaching on the governing bodies of universities is a good thing and adds value to the decisions being made."

This is not a good move for universities as it takes their accountability to students, staff and the community away.

There will be more tertiary education policy announced in the lead up to the election.

Adult Education:

Labour has committed to reinstating adult education:
  • Restore $13m per year for Adult and Community Education
  • Another $9m per year on top of that from 2018
  • $1m per year of extra funding for ACE English for speakers of other languages (ESOL)

"It’s a cornerstone of New Zealand communities and offers pathways for New Zealanders looking to retrain and reengage with education, and for new New Zealanders to gain the skills and community connections to grow and establish their new lives in New Zealand.  Labour recognises that a lot has changed since the National Government cut ACE funding, which is why the allocation of this funding will be made in close consultation with the adult education sector. We believe that to get the best results for all New Zealanders who want to access ACE we need to work alongside the sector."

I think that reinstating Adult Community Education is a win:win.  It was a conduit for people to get skills and further their education.  But not just for those people, I have taken my fair share of night classes: te reo Maori (excellent for increasing my te reo use in the classroom) and Spanish (I had two Uruguayan students whose English wasn't flash, and learning Spanish helped build my relationship with them and understand their frustrations).

These are the policies that have been released so far to do with education at the time of publishing this post (14/07/14).

I personally am pleased with the direction Labour is taking with education.  It is clear that it has consulted and actually listened to stakeholders and intends on being collaborative in the true sense once it takes over the government benches (fingers crossed) in late September.

I think Labour is meeting the standard when it comes to education policy.  I will endeavour to update when future education policy is released, and when Labour becomes the lead partner in government I will be reminding them of their policy promises and monitoring their follow through.

Kids at the Heart of Education Nationwide Tour - Hamilton Public Library

I think that it is pretty much not a secret that I am in no way of fan of this National led government and the choices they have made and the policies they have followed.  Some of you may have detected a rather obvious leaning towards Labour.  However, they too do not have all of the answers. 

I've always liked the Greens in some areas because they have a real social conscious and a lot of what they talk about when it comes to the environment makes sense.  I've been disappointed that during Helen Clark's time as Prime Minister with Labour the Greens were not inside the tent, but I respect their reasons for why and why not.

But I think 2014 is the year that the Greens and Labour can work it out.  They have a lot they agree on.  I think they have lots of areas they can work together and compromise on either side on.  I think there will be some big areas where they may have to agree to disagree, but I think, on the whole, these two parties have the talent, expertise and determination to form a very effective government with a social conscious.

I've seen Catherine Delahunty speak previously at NZEI's Annual Meetings and I love her enthusiasm.  She and Metiria Turei have been vocal in their opposition to National Standards, Charter Schools and the GERM infestation of our education system, so I was excited to hear they were doing a tour of the country to discuss education and their policy of Schools as Community Hubs.  I was even more excited to know Professor Martin Thrupp, a leading academic on education from the University of Waikato, would also be speaking.

As a teacher I am stoked to know that the Green Party would not have performance pay for teachers, can National Standards and Charter Schools, and reinstate our quality public education system to be the best it can be.

Martin Thrupp was very clear that our quality public education system is on the precipice.  This election will either be the death of it under a third term National led government, or it will be saved by a government from the Left.

Below is the Storify of the tweets I tweeted and received that night (by the way, I apologise for my fingers and the smartphone keyboard not always agreeing on the letter I actually wanted to type):

Reflecting back on this evening, I remember thinking that Catherine and Metiria really understand how important the school is in every community, that it is not just about the relationships teachers have with the children, but with the families and extended families - and the actual school itself as a focal point for all.

I have mostly taught in rural schools, where the school really is the focal point.  It disseminates the news for all the community - when tennis is starting, when the Anzac service is, when the community church will have a service, when the local clay bird shoot competition is, when the rugby muster is, what's happening at the play centre and so on.  It means that not only the families with students at school are in the know, but the wider community also knows.

And that is the beauty of the Schools as Community Hubs - it draws the community together even more.  By bringing early childhood services, health and social services onto the school site, a tighter community unit can be established earlier on.  The idea of it takes a village to raise a child will be reinstated in the public consciousness.

Victory School in Nelson have been doing this concept for a decade already.  They are in a low socio economic area, but have seen community relationships build, family health improve and educational outcomes exceed schools with similar demographics.

Metiria said that each school community would have to mould what they wanted their Hub to look like, that you just can not take the Victory model and implant it as the solution for each and every community.  The Hubs are all about making local solutions for local challenges.

The election on the 20 of September is an important election.  It is a choice we all have to make as voters about whether or not we want to continue with National's no social consciousness or do we want to make New Zealand the fair and better society we aspire for our children of now and the future.