Sunday, 13 December 2015

My response to the Education Act Update

So Hekia announced she wants consultation on the Education Act Update (really it's her rewriting the whole Act and cocking it all up) and she did so at the worst possible time of the year - when teachers and principals are busy with assessments, writing reports, conferences with families and sorting out staffing for the following year.

Anyone would think she didn't want teachers and principals to participate.

Well I have.

However, I have contributed knowing full well from previous experience, that Hekia will already have written down what she wants to do, and that she will ignore all the amazing arguments that I and all those who are so much wiser than me, will have put up to try to limit the damage Hekia and her neo-liberalist GERM cronies will do.

Some of my answers may seem glib, but they are my honest opinions created from 20 years of classroom teaching and the experience that comes with that service to our children and the passion I have for education.

And below is what I put in, warts and all.

iv) Are you submitting as an individual, on behalf of a group of individuals or on behalf of an organisation?


Type of Submitter:


 
Individual


v) What region of New Zealand do you live in?


Region:


 
Waikato


vi) How would you describe yourself and your interest in education? (check as many as apply to you)


 
Learner, Whnnau or family of learner, Teacher




Other - please specify :


Making sure everyone knows the goals for education


1. What should the goals for education be?


Goals:


 
The goal of education in New Zealand should be for all people, regardless of age, ethnicity, religion or background to be life long learners and to be able to have ready access to education.

This means that quality public early childhood education should be accessible. ECE should be staff with fully qualified and registered teachers to ensure early learning is appropriate and safe.

At primary, intermediate and secondary levels, all students should be taught by a fully qualified and registered teacher for all year levels and subjects. Every student should have easy access to their local quality public school, along with appropriate transport options to travel to school.

Once students leave formal education, they should be able to choose the next step in their learning journey and be able to access that education with support through sustainable fees, student loans and a form of income that enables them to study. Access to student allowances or loans should not be cut off from any student yet to complete higher qualifications such as a Master or a PhD.

Special Education students and those with learning difficulties need to be fully funded to meet their learning needs and help their achieve their potential.

If we want to be known as an educated country we need to invest in education - all forms of education from being a brain surgeon to the certificate that allows
someone to operate a forklift.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


2. What process should be used for setting a national priorities statement for early learning and schooling?


Process for setting nationa priorities:


 
Talk to the teachers. They actually know what they are bloody talking about.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


Supporting boards to focus on what's important


3. What should the roles and responsibilities of a school or a kura board be?


Roles and responsibilities of boards:


 
1. Governance: set the budget and make sure the bills are paid; ensure health and safety regulations are met; ensure that the school is staffed appropriately and that appropriate and sufficient resources are available and used to teach the students.

2. Support: support the principal as the professional leader of the school to do their job by having a budget and regulations in place; support the teachers of the school to do their job by providing appropriate and sufficient resources, and ensuring their health and safety; allow the staff to be professionals who are innovative.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


4. What changes should be made to simplify planning and reporting?


Changes to reporting:


 
Get rid of National Standards.

There is nothing standard about them.

They do not marry with how we know children learn, or with the curriculum.

It's a huge waste of money and time.

I know this because I have experienced them in 8 schools and it's been a shambles every time because nothing is ever the same across any of these schools.

Learning should be measured against the best fit of the child's age and curriculum level for their year group.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


5. How can we better provide for groups of schools and kura to work together more to plan and report?


Working together on planning and reporting:


 
I think that the Communities of Schools and the Communities of Learning will be a complete waste of time and money. Their focus will be too narrow and the goals set will be too short term.

If you want schools and kura to work together better, stop making them compete. Currently they compete for bums on seats to get funding and staffing. They compete for the brighter children to try to up their achievement data. Take this stuff out of the equation and the schools will natural group together to share, plan and report.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


6. How should schools and kura report on their performance and young people's achievements to parents, family, whanau and

communities?


Ways of reporting:


 
Not through a public website where they can be compared to others - be that a Fairfax website or an MOE website.

At a small rural school, data is not anonymous. It is easy to identify the low kid, the high achieving kid, the "not the run of the mill" kid.

One school I was at collated all the data and put it in a folder kept in the foyer of the school. It was public, but not broadcasted.

Schools are very creative with communicating achievement of students to whanau. They use Learning Journey books, reports, blogs.... However, since National Standards came in I feel, as a teacher, I report on only a narrow aspect of learning. I used to have a Learning Journey book which gave a full picture of the learning my students were doing and showed the progress, alongside a full and comprehensive report that spoke the truth plainly. Now I write reports full of stuff that parents don't understand on reading, writing and maths with a bland general comment. Reporting has gone backwards in my opinion.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


7. What should the indicators and measures be for school performance and student achievement and well-being?


Indicators and measures:


 
That children are happy and want to come to school and learn. If they love school and are learning then performance objective met.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


8. What freedoms and extra decision-making rights could be given to schools, kura and Communities of Learning that are doing well?


Freedoms and extra decision-making rights :


 
We have the ability to innovate now - provided we don't offend the Minister and have a Commissioner put in to squash the innovation. (Case in point, Moerewa School).


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


Enabling collaboration, flexibility and innovation


9. What ways could boards work more closely together?


Boards working more closely together:


 
Boards have the opportunity to work together now, and many do consult each other on issues that mutually affect them. The biggest barrier they have to working together is competition. So eliminate the competition between schools and they will work together more.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


10. What do you think about schools and kura having the flexibility to introduce cohort or group entry?


Flexibility in cohort entry:


 
I believe, and recommend, that five year olds should be taken in as one group once a term. If a child has their 5th birthday within the first two weeks of a term starting, they may start then, or wait till the following term's intake. Any child with a birthday after the first two weeks of the term should wait until the following term.

I believe that this would enable schools to plan when they open new New Entrant classrooms more effectively and give certainty to parents on when their child will start school as well as the effective utilisation of teachers.

I believe this will also benefit children with less disruption of new students dripping into the room and will allow for the group to grow together in their learning journey at a similar pace.

Intakes in February and July would be my second recommendation. Annual intakes I would not recommend.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


11. What do you think about making attendance compulsory for children once they have started school or kura before they turn six years

old?


Attendance before six years old:


 
I think we should leave the legal age at 6 years old. But this will mean that children who are 5 and are in ECE learning environments will need to be fully funded for this.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


Making every school and kura a great one


12. What additional supports or responses could be used to address problems that arise in schools and kura?


Additional supports of responses:


 
I think BOTs and principals need more access to help before a Commissioner of LSM is landed in their school. Mentors for principals are often common and should be encouraged. I have noticed that the gutting of staff from the MOE in the last 7 years has meant that a lot of people with institutional knowledge that would support BOTs and principals previously are no longer there.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


Making best use of local education provision


13. How should area strategies be decided, and how should schools, kura and communities be consulted?


Area strategies:


 
Take it away from the Minister. She has botched up the process with Salisbury, Phillipstown, and now Redcliffs, and a number of her other decisions have been questionable.

An independent panel (including being independent of the Minister) should look at the evidence and make the recommendation. It should then be looked over by the courts or an ombudsman or commissioner to ensure it was fair and legal.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


14. What should be taken in to account when making decisions about opening, merging or closing schools?


Decisions about opening, merging or closing:


 
The impact on the existing student body.

The demographics of the community and the school roll currently and in the future.

Distance to other schools.

Impact on the community being served.

Impact on the surrounding communities.


Choose a file to upload:


 
No file was uploaded


15. What do you think about the proposed changes to improve how enrolment schemes are managed?


Enrolment schemes :


 
Where is this information?

Thursday, 1 October 2015

A tale of two Hekia Parata speeches.

This week is the first week of the term break.  Every term break there are teacher only days and planning days and professional learning days and conferences.  This week three conferences ran across the week, NZEI's Annual Conference, PPTA's Annual Conference and the School Library Conference (SLANZA).  I only found out on Tuesday that there were also conferences running for ERO and PaCT in Auckland as well.  So many teachers, principals, support staff and other educational professionals were well involved in many different conferences throughout the land.

NZEI began its conference entitled It's Got to be About the Child (see the picture on the left to see one of the banners) on Sunday.  They had a full agenda planned with different sectors within the Institute demonstrating their year's work and what was to come as well as CTU President Helen Kelly was speaking, Prof Bob Lingard from Queensland as the key note speaker and addresses from the Australian Education Union and Education International.

What was of note was our Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, was again not on the agenda.  Several weeks ago I had been told she had declined the invitation.

While not an official attendee for this year's conference, I decided to gate crash on Monday because of the speakers.  I really enjoyed Monday, and was as surprised as everyone when Louise Green stood up before the afternoon session and told the meeting that the Minister's office had rung to say Ms Parata wanted to speak to the membership the following afternoon and was rearranging her afternoon to do so.

So what prompted this?

I was not at the NZEI President's Awards Dinner on Sunday night (obviously), but I was told that Bill Noble, former NZEI President, did comment that previous to the current Minister, all the Ministers of Education of the day had spoken to the NZEI Annual Meeting each year.

It was then observed that the invited Ministry official was seen with two phones, and was texting away furiously on one of them.  To the Minister perhaps?

Join the dots from Sunday night to Monday afternoon.

Before the Minister arrived on Monday afternoon I engaged in the following tweeting exchange with the PPTA:



What was interesting was that after her greeting, Hekia address my tweet first.  Oops.


During the "acknowledgement" of my tweet, the Minister stated that she was supposed to be in China this week on a delegation regarding education or the like.  Well I know that Gerry Brownlee was in China on the day, apparently putting a deal about leasing pandas on the table.

The Minister also stated that she was going to Finland in a few weeks (here's hoping she actually takes a lot of notice of how they do things there!) and so her office decided she couldn't be out of the country so much, and withdrew her from the China trip.

She then claimed that the invitation was not reactivated within her office.


Looking at the explanation, then marrying it up with the fact that she had just arrived from two conferences in Auckland that day (the ERO and PaCT conferences), as well as the fact that she had been confirmed to speak at the PPTA conference in the next few days for several weeks... and well... you can see I thought (in polite terms), "CODSWOLLOP MINISTER!!"

Anyhow, you can watch the Minister for yourself in this video below.


The Minister aggressive at the beginning of her speech.  She then whipped through a 17 page speech in 12 minutes.  Note the video in 19 minutes long.  Ms Parata flung a lot of figures and numbers at us to justify what she has done.

Ms Parata also claimed that she wanted to be held to account.  That is very difficult if you do not front up to us each year, if you decide to show if three years after your last visit.

The Minister did not look at all comfortable with herself in front of the NZEI membership at all during her visit.

There were no questions.  There was no time for questions.  She had arrived at about 4:10pm and had to catch a flight at Rotorua Airport at 5:15pm. 

Please also watch National Executive Jan Tinetti's response to the Minister.  This is very clever and pointed.


Below is the Twitter feed from before, during and after Ms Parata's speech as a Storify.


Two days later, Hekia Parata spoke to the PPTA (I hope this embed works!).  Her demeanour was more relaxed, comfortable.  I wondered if it was because it was a smaller room with less delegates, if the NZEI members are more scary than the PPTA members... She was cracking jokes, spontaneously breaking into te reo (then having to translate when she realised 90+% of the attendees were not fluent bilingually)... it was all going so well until she got to answer a question on charter schools.  Watch and see... by the way this video is an hour long (if it is working).



On the plus side, at least Hekia Parata can remember her stance on the 1981 Springbok Tour, unlike the Prime Minister.

However, there is no comparison between apartheid and making a stance against charter schools.  I believe that the Minister may have been disappointed at the lack of media interest in her this week and was looking for a hook to get the media to sound bite.  Well it worked.  Here is an sample of the media coverage after this speech on 1 October 2015:
These articles were pretty much the first lot of press she had gotten since the 22 of September.

The PPTA has the right to make a stand against charter schools.  They have chosen to do so by not being professionally involved with charter schools or their staff.  This trainee teacher was still employed at the charter school at the time he wanted to do his student teacher practicum at a state school - hence the decision not to have him at the school by PPTA members who would have been required to mentor him.  As the PPTA has pointed out, those who have left charter schools to work back in the state schooling system have been welcomed back.  Besides, if charter schools are so fabulous, perhaps he could have done his practicum at one of those.  #justsaying

So some other issues to raise my ire:

Targeted PLD
The Minister said that there would be targeted PLD in reading, writing, maths, science and digital fluency along with a pilot for PE and health (note that National killed all the effective PLD in these areas in 2009 when they introduced the flawed National Standards and focused all PLD on implementing that very badly).

This PLD would be targeted at the regions with "consistently poor achievement data" - that would be Northland and Gisborne/East Coast schools - because "as tax payers we should be very concerned" that the current PLD has been ineffective.

To me that means that the Minister will be interfering directly in these schools with how they run and dictating what they do.  Where is the flexibility and collaboration in that?

While more PLD would be welcome, the Minister's signal that the Education Council (aka EDUCANZ) will most likely be responsible for this signals more warning lights.  It raises questions over the flexibility of PLD to meet the needs of individual teachers and schools, centralising education functions (after 26 years of decentralisation) and the ability the Education Council to administer and deliver PLD.

Funding of Schools
The Minister brought up how schools will be funded and the fact that it is now on the table for review.  While she says that no decisions have been made yet, think back to March last year when she accidentally slipped to a Herald on Sunday reporter that schools would be funded based on achievement data... and then back tracked after the article was printed.  From the article School funding shakeup looms (16 March 2014), I've copied these quotes

The Government did not want to fund schools according to their raw results in National Standards or NCEA, but on how much teachers had helped students to learn over the course of six months or a year, "the consistency and the progress".
"You've got to work out which school is delivering achievement, which schools are focusing on how they raise the quality of their teaching and leadership practice, and how is that translating into kids demonstrating that they're learning more?"

To hear Hekia come out with comments on this during her speeches worries me.  Angela Roberts from the PPTA was pointed in her reply to the Minister after her speech that the four meetings a year with the Education Forum the Minister established was not enough to collaborate and consult with the schooling sectors on how funding will work.  I agree.

I think John's Blog 8 Predictable Outcomes of Hekia's Planned Funding Changes alerts us to why the Minister's ideas on school funding are so flawed.

The Education Act is a dinosaur
The Minister stated in both speeches that the Education Act is a dinosaur and that there were parts of it that dated back to 1867.  I'm pretty sure that is the part of the Act that actually established education provision in New Zealand, and without it there would legally be no education provision allowed.  #justataguess

The Minister has said that children are not mentioned at all in the Education Act previously, that is keeps tripping her up (which means the Act is stopping her from completely destroying our quality public education system), and that she wants it to be child centric and all in one easy document.

Great -  just make sure that there is full and proper consultation with the sectors and all stakeholders.  And listen and use it.  Don't ignore us like you did with the Teachers Council!!

Early Childhood Education
Ms Parata acknowledged to the NZEI Conference that we had concerns over ECE funding being frozen.  She then proceeded to tell us how much more money is being spent on ECE now than in 2009 and that 98% of providers were meeting the standards.

What the Minister failed to consider was, that while more money is going into ECE, more children are participating in ECE and the funding per child has not increased.

Also, minimum standards does not necessarily equate to quality in ECE.  She did not address that.

Support Staff
Support Staff did not even rate a mention with the Minister.

IES/Joint Initiative
The Minister congratulated both unions on their participation with the MOE over IES/Joint Initiative.  But there was a smugness in how she gushed over the 31% of members who voted to return a 78% Yes vote for the Joint Initiative to go ahead.  NZEI has ceded all the power they earned in their rejection of IES in 2014 by taking the pig with lipstick that the Joint Initiative became after the negotiations with the MOE to the members and getting them to vote for it by saying it was the best we would get.

Jan Tinetti did acknowledge that the members were uneasy over the Join Initiative developments.  I'd say the members are furious.  I know I am, and this decision has meant I will not return to classroom teaching next year because I will not be party to the GERMification of our education system.  NZEI threw out the inoculation to the GERM by presenting this vote to the membership.

I know the Joint Initiative team put in a lot of hard work.  They collected a lot of data, examples and information that will continue to be useful in many ways.  But I consider what was put up to the membership to be an insult to their hard work.

I see the Community of Schools/Community of Learning model to be the vehicle to controlling what is taught and how, introducing and embedding PaCT in schools (because Hekia waxed lyrical on how it would make our workload better - yeah, right), bringing in super principals and replacing BOTs for each schools with Boards covering the cluster.  Just a few predictions.  I'll be devastated to see them come to fruition.

Invitations to the conferences
As stated above, Hekia said she would attend if invited.  She said that at the NZEI conference, and the PPTA conference, but her tone of voice inferred she had not been invited.  After the Minister left, last year's invitation to the NZEI Conference and the rejection from the Minister's office was put up on the big screens.  A comment was made as to "I don't know what goes on in the Minister's office but she is invited every year."

Today I challenged Ms Parata directly on her Facebook page about what she said in regards to invitations to conferences at the NZEI and PPTA conferences.  Her response was quick and concise.


I believe that this Minister of Education is incredibly dangerous.  What she has done, along with what Anne Tolley did before her (and she was a shocking Minister of Education too), and what Ms Parata is about to do will be devastating to our quality public education system, and too much of it will be irreparable if we don't stand up as NZEI members to stop her from implementing even more flawed right wing neo liberal policies.  If we don't, then we have failed the standard as professionals of the education sector.


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

EDUCANZ members announced.

The members of EDUCANZ have just been announced by the Minister of Education Hekia Parata this afternoon and the D-Day for EDUCANZ taking effect is 1st of July 2015 - yep, just a matter of four weeks away.  The Council members are:
  • Barbara Ala’alatoa (Chairperson)
  • Anthony Mackay (Deputy Chairperson)
  • Claire Amos
  • Simon Heath
  • Ripeka Lessels
  • Iva Ropati
  • Lynda Stuart
  • Helen Timperley
  • Clare Wells
Hekia Parata's statement said,

The council will be chaired by highly-regarded Auckland principal Barbara Ala’alatoa, and comprise eight other leading educationalists, all but one of whom emerged from an exhaustive public nomination process.

”The nine members of the Council are leaders in the education sector who bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the new body,” Ms Parata says. “I’m delighted we’ve got a group of such outstanding calibre.”


Note that she said all but one of whom emerged from an exhaustive public nomination process.  Who was the one?  That would be Anthony Mackay.

“Of the council members, all but Mr Mackay, who is based in Melbourne, emerged through the public nomination process. Six are registered teachers which will ensure teachers are well-represented on their new professional body,” Ms Parata says.

Who is Anthony Mackay?  Anthony Mackay is CEO, Centre for Strategic Education (CSE) in Melbourne.  You can read more about what he is into here.

Tony is one of our Board of Directors. His work specialises in the areas of school and system leadership, improvement and innovation and he is currently working on a number of ‘Next Practice Projects' on school leadership and school improvement and reform around the world.

I have to wonder about why Anthony Mackay was selected by Hekia Parata and the costs to EDUCANZ of one of the members not being based in New Zealand.  Because ultimately the costs will fall on teachers.
Ms Parata says Ms Ala’alatoa, who was last year awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education, is an energetic leader, who brings a combination of vision and pragmatism to the position. She sees the big picture while understanding the issues teachers face on the ground.

“Deputy chair Anthony Mackay is an internationally recognised education expert whose name is synonymous with school and system leadership, improvement and innovation.

“The other members of the council are among New Zealand’s foremost practitioners and education experts.


So here are some short facts and some links to the people Hekia has chosen for us:

Barbara Ala'alatoa, from the Sylvia Park
School website.
Barbara Ala'alatoa is the principal of Sylvia Park School in Auckland.  Sylvia Part School is part of their local Community of Schools and in this article, Schools eager to share expertise, (Stuff, 1/5/15) demonstrates her keenness on the IES model.  "Sylvia Park principal Barbara Alaalatoa has one response for the people who've said the COS concept with its lead teachers and principals won't work."  Ala'alatoa was awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2014 Queen's Birthday honours for her services to education.  When Meteria Turei last year asked John Key in Parliament about hungry children in school needing lunches supplied, Ms Ala'alatoa was one of three principals whom Ms Parata rang to ask:

Metiria Turei: Which of the decile 1 and 2 schools that John Key visited—Māngere Central, Waimate Main, Flaxmere, Huntly, Huntly College, Manaia View, Pt England—told him that only one or two of their kids needed feeding every day, when each of those schools have a lunch programme provided by either KidsCan or some other charity in their community?  

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, by definition, I suppose, if they already have lunch provided, then actually they would not raise the fact that they need lunch, so that is rather self-defeating. Secondly, it may be lost on the member, but I have been the Prime Minister since the end of 2008. The question the member asked was for the 1 year from 2013. But in the interests of trying to get to the bottom of this debate, at 1.41 this afternoon I took the liberty of ringing the Minister of Education. I said: “Please ring for me three schools that are decile 1 or 2 and ask them how many kids have not come to school today with lunch.” That was done completely randomly and with no information. Here are the facts. Phillip Heeney of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou, Ruatōria, a decile 1 school—people are free to ring the school—

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said, at 1.41 p.m., with absolutely no knowledge, these are the facts. At Te Waiu o Ngati Porou school, Ruatoria, decile 1, how many children came to school today without lunch—answer, zero. Barbara Ala’Alatoa, Sylvia Park School, decile 2—one to two kids, maybe. Iain Taylor, Manurewa Intermediate—decile 1 school, roll of 711—maybe 12. Yes, there is an issue where some children come to school without lunch. That number of children is relatively low.

Claire Amos - from her website.
Claire Amos is a deputy principal at Hobsonville Secondary School and was last year elected as the secondary teacher's representative on the current Teachers Council.  I have had the pleasure of sharing a table with Claire at various ULearn workshops and breakouts and discussions via Twitter and blogs.  While we do not always agree, Claire is a very astute and passionate teaching professional.  No where is this more evident than on her blog post Why I am standing for EDUCANZ anyway, where Claire describes the conflict she has gone through to make her decision to stand and received a lot of flack from various members of the profession (including me).  Claire said in this blog post, "I am also disappointed that in choosing to stand for EDUCANZ anyway it means I am forced to step down from the PPTA. I am a person who has deeply and passionately supported the PPTA as a member and as a part of the PPTA ICT Advisory Group. But I respect PPTA has made a decision, so I will leave, for now at least....   I believe I could bring an articulate and positive secondary voice to EDUCANZ. I am passionate and well informed about educational issues and constantly seek ways to support and challenge NZ educators to be future-focused, open and reflective, as well as being recognised as the hardworking professionals they are."

Simon Heath is the principal of Renwick School in Marlborough since 2008.  He was a recipient of a Woolf Fisher Trust Fellowship in 2012.  This article Renwick principal Simon Heath appointed to Education Council (Stuff 3/2/15) stated:  "Heath has been involved in numerous education working groups.  He is a past - president of the Marlborough Principals Association, and has been a member of the Marlborough e-Learning Project, and involved in the Eco Schools project at Renwick School.  He is currently chairman of the Mistletoe Bay Trust, and is on the Education Ministry's Principals Reference Group."

Ripeka Lessels is the principal of Te Whata Tau o Putauaki (which I would link to the website, but there is no real information from Ms Lessels to give you a feel for her), part of the Principals Council for NZEI and is well known in the Kawerau district.
 
Iva Ropati is the a former rugby league player for the Kiwis, Paramatta Eels, the Warriors and various English league clubs.  Laterly he has been the principal of what is now One Tree Hill College (formerly Penrose High School) and now is the principal at Howick College.

Lynda Stuart is the principal of May Road School in Auckland and a member of the NZEI National poverty and other issues low decile schools face.  She is also on the NZEI Principal's Council and is the current NZEI representative on the Teachers Council.
Lynda Stuart.  Photo sourced from Voxy.
Executive.  Her school is a low decile school, so she is often a spokesperson for NZEI on matters regarding poverty and issues that affect low decile schools.

Professor Helen Timperley is based at the University of Auckland and is well known for her research on classroom practice, assessment, inquiry cycles, self review and professional learning.  Every school in New Zealand will have at least one copy of a publication which Prof Timperley has contributed to and she is held in high regard in the teaching profession.

Clare Wells is the one representative from the early childhood sector on EDUCANZ.  She is the CEO of New Zealand Kindergartens Inc.

Ms Parata's release also included the following:

“The selection process was thorough, rigorous and robust, and conducted according to State Services Commission guidelines.

“145 nominations were received and the 24 nominees shortlisted were  interviewed by a panel comprising Education Review Office chief executive, Iona Holsted, the former principal of Wellington High Prue Kelly, who was  recently appointed to oversee new teacher and principal positions in Communities of Schools, and Institute of Directors Board Service Advisor Kelly McGregor.

“The field of candidates was extremely impressive and I want to thank everyone who participated in the process,” Ms Parata says.

On July 1 the new council will take over responsibility for all matters to do with the registration and disciplining of the teaching profession from the Teachers Council. But it also has a wider mandate to lead the teaching profession and raise its status.


This is just a quick overview of who Ms Parata has appointed.  While some names are familiar, others are not, and I look forward to more information about each member becoming more available in the coming weeks to the teaching profession.  After all, we have to pay for this body which had 99% of submissions opposing its formation.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

How the generations ahead of me have screwed my generation and those after me.

I think everyone would agree that New Zealand is a different place to the country that faced a snap election in 1984.  For starters, shops are open on Sundays, it is easy for people to nip over to Sydney for a weekend, and the range of food choices in food courts and restaurants is beyond what we had in 1984.  Did we have food courts in 1984?
 
What happened?
 
Neoliberalism entered our political sphere with a force in 1984.  I was 10, in Standard 4, and becoming politically aware of what a government was and how its decisions affected me and those around me.  When David Lange's Labour won that election it changed the New Zealand I knew, that my parents knew.  Everything was turned on its head, and my generation and those after have reaped the consequences of neoliberalism.
 
Andrew Dean (picture from TVNZ via Google).
Several weeks ago, Jessica Mutch from One News interviewed Rhodes Scholar Andrew Dean for Q&A as he released his book Ruth, Rodger and Me.  This book covered Dean's reflections on how the policies of former Finance Ministers Ruth Richardson and Rodger Douglas have influenced his life, the lives of his contemporaries and society as a whole. 
 
This article Speaking for the generation born after Rogernomics (The Press, 1/5/15) also sheds more light on how Dean came to form his views and write his book.

Some have hailed Andrew Dean as the voice of this generation.  "His generation feels disconnected from society, and told that the discomfort of their stressful, competitive lives is necessary to have a competitive economy, though Dean doubts some of the assertions the young are asked to swallow."  (Stuff Business Day, 26/4/15)
 
Andrew Dean, at 26 years old, has written this book as a young man who has grown up knowing nothing but neoliberal politics.  I approach this as a member of the generation before him, whose lives were the guinea pigs of neoliberalism and even worse to come.

During the interview, Jessica Mutch pointed out that Ruth Richardson and her contemporaries had a different environment as they set up their lives - free tertiary education, cheap housing, standard employment conditions - all the things that Rogernomics and Ruth Richardson and the like worked to deconstruct in the early neoliberal years in New Zealand.  All the things that those of my generation, Andrew's generation and onwards have not been able to access.

Andrew Deans was able to interview Ruth Richardson at her home.  In the Stuff article, Speaking for the generation born after Rogernomics, it was written:  "As for Richardson, who Dean visited at her home near Christchurch, he says there could have been a temptation to do "a Conradian Heart of Darkness thing. You begin by going up river and then you arrive at Kurtz."
"Nice image, yet she too was generous, welcoming, thoughtful, kind and funny, while remaining "very forceful and certain of herself and what she believed". Dean talked about losses and Richardson talked about benefits. There was no sense that her thinking had changed over time."

During the Q&A interview, Jessica Mutch asked Andrew Dean, "Cause some of the ways you describe it in the book is that... young New Zealanders at the moment, are experiencing discomfort and disconnection, like a social phenomenon, in a way.  Can you explain what you mean by that?"

Andrew Dean replied, "A set of beliefs that suggest that being uncomfortable makes our lives better, that we'll be more productive, that we'll strive further, that we'll be better citizens if we are less comfortable.  So that means cutting welfare, that means implementing student loans.  And I suggest that the result is that for some people, some people, will be resilient, will be able to work through that, and the large number will be negatively affected by that and will live diminished lives.  Disconnection is the way that many people become alienated, especially young people from their communities which they might have belonged.  There is strong evidence for that, but no where stronger than in voting I think, where young people in the last election, I think it was 63 or 64% turn out for 18-30 year olds, it was above 85% for people over 65.  And when the New Zealand General Social survey asked people why they weren't voting, 46% of non voters said they did not feel like they belong to New Zealand.  If I am right the disconnection has been the result of the reforms, that it is not accidental.  It is built into the ideologies, very deeply."

This statement from Andrew Deans is very applicable to the last two elections where voter turn out has continued to fall, the level of apathy voters have towards their vote making a difference.  The recent UK election has all these hallmarks as well.  What is happening in both countries at the moment?  Huge neoliberal social policies such as the downgrading and abdication of responsibility of government in public health and education as well as various social services like housing and work readiness, and yesterday's TVNZ announcement that Dr Jonathon Coleman, Minister of Health, is looking to Social Bonds to pay for mental health services has already been implemented in the UK and US with no actual outcomes or dividends documented yet.  This is a link to the Social Bonds Pilot by the Ministry of Health.

Of course New Zealand is quite advanced down the neoliberal pathway.  We have already seen so much in the last 30 years.  When my brother and I were born in the 1970s, my parents had no concept of us having to pay for our education or that jobs would be as rare as hen's teeth as we left school in the early 90s.  The world had changed dramatically from when they left school in the 60s to when we did in the 90s.  The world has changed so much again in the twenty odd years since I left school.  It was hard then, it's that little bit harder now.
 
Student loans and fees were put in place just a year or two before I left high school.  I'd already seen my parent's agricultural contracting business crumble under deregulation and my Dad try to forge a new career path and my Mum return to nursing, to a lower qualification as hers had been disestablished.  I watched as rural NZ lost their post offices, councils were merged and hospitals summarily closed.  I saw a thriving town like Te Aroha lose the big employers like IRD and the power board, as well as their Farmers store, to become a place where you now almost expect tumbleweed to blow down the main street on a week day.

As I left school I had to cope with the lack of jobs and the almost impossible task to get welfare because I lived at home.  I had a gap year before starting university because I didn't get my first choice placement and decided my second choice wasn't for me in the end.  The gap year was a good move for me personally.  It gave me an opportunity to grow up a bit before going into the heady world of university.  I learned about working - short term jobs, but working none the less.  I did do some study in office management and hospitality, which has helped me in my following study and work life.

University was a struggle financially.  I avoided a student loan in my first year - it was the only year my parents were able to help with half my fees.  I paid the rest with an overdraft from the bank, which I never was able to clear until I had been working a few years after graduation.  My last year of university was paid for with a loan from my grandmother and my first Visa card.  The three years in between were student loan years.  I had a student allowance (thank goodness for my parent's accountant and a loss making business my parents owned) and I worked part time and during the summer holidays every year, at one stage holding down three separate jobs part time.  I also worked for my father for free at times (see why below) as well as the odd bit of baby sitting for neighbours.

Today, the fees are bigger.  I'd be surprised if a student today could pay half a year's fees on a student overdraft or save the money in a summer break with the casualised nature of today's workforce.

The only way my parents were able to support me during my university years was to have me at home.  I had looked at going to Massey or Auckland Universities, but my parents balked at the costs that would bring.  As we lived a quick fifteen minute drive to Waikato University, it was deemed the best choice for my study.  My mother also went back to study while I was at university.  She worked four days a week while upgrading her nursing qualification at Wintec.  My parents expected board payment from me was an HP I paid for them, and Dad did most of my mechanical work until I got a car that bamboozled him. 

It was hard enough in the 90s with the constrictions National had placed on young people and study.  Benefits were drastically slashed in the Mother of all Budgets.  The Employment Contracts Act had gutted conditions, restricted pay and changed the face of employment forever.  Unions were demoralized.  Nurses had their pay slashed by the dissolution of a nationwide collective agreement into individual DHB agreements.  I watched my Mum fight as a member of her union for 10 years to bring back a nationwide collective for nurses.  I saw our power companies privatised and sold off for "better competition", but the price of power continued to increase year on year and the increase of blackouts too, during the 90s, as the power grid couldn't keep up due to the national strategy for electricity having the rug pulled out from under it by privatisation.  I watched as more hospitals, schools and businesses closed.  Manufacturing fled New Zealand for foreign lands.  I watched the social fabric of New Zealand rot away.

My one hope was to get rid of National.  Labour had a lot of ground to make up for after letting Roger Douglas and Richard Pebble loose in the 80s, but Helen Clark was trying to redeem herself and her colleagues.  It was a huge relief when they did win the 1999 election. 
 
Helen Clark's Labour government of the 2000s was very good for me personally.  If it wasn't for this Labour government, my student loan would not have been paid off fully in 2009.  I would not be in the two superannuation schemes I am in.  I had job satisfaction in that teaching felt secure and there was wonderful professional development opportunities and exciting options as a teacher afoot.
 
If it wasn't for Clark's Labour government, NZ would not have survived the GFC as well as we did.  New Zealand survived because Michael Cullen was a fiscally responsible Minister of Finance, who despite increasing the spending government did, ran nine surpluses in a row and reduced New Zealand's overseas debt to the lowest in several decades.  Many people in New Zealand improved their standard of living under Labour in the 2000s.
 
But then John Key's National won the November 2008 election and I knew that it was over.  For starters, those opportunities that were there for teachers under Labour were slashed quickly by National.  Public sector jobs were capped and backroom workers were actively seeked out and eliminated, never mind the impact on the frontline.  This government was out to reduce the "bloated" government spending in the public sector and social spending. 

We've now seen seven deficits in a row from National and the overseas debt is four times greater and growing than when National was elected.  It currently stands at approximately $88 billion and we tax payers are forking out $10 million in interest a day as a result.  National prides itself on being financially prudent, but the last seven years in comparison to the previous nine years speak for themselves.  National, you fail the standard on financial competency.
 

But I despair more for NZ under Key's government than I ever did under Bolger/Shipley's government.  The contempt shown by this government to many citizens is of great concern to me.  The way they treat beneficiaries is with contempt and pulled away many of the hand ups to get out of the poverty trap while piling punitive strategies in for not toeing the line (see my post When Life Gives You Lemons, Dealing With WINZ Sucks Even More).  They do not treat the public sector (government workers such as teachers, nurses, DOC staff, customs, police, corrections, etc) with much respect if any either.  Backroom staff have been slashed to the detriment of what happens on the front line, and woe be told if you speak out, because, as Paula Bennett and Hekia Parata have shown, all your private details can be in the public eye as quick as lightning.
 
We saw last year thanks to Nicky Hagar's book Dirty Politics just how corrupted this current government is and how they will use right wing bloggers to muddy the waters and ruin a person's reputation.  Even ordinary people like you and I can be easily smeared by the Oily one and his mates - I know, because I was.  I have discussed this in a previous post, Beware the bullies who don't want you to exercises your democratic rights.
 
I really worry for how this country will be in 25-30 years time when I come to retire. 

I make this point about the future often: that if the government won't protect children, how can we expect it to protect its elderly?  I've been making it for nearly seven years now.
 
This government and those who voted for it (or didn't vote at all) have screwed over the youth of today by the lack of jobs and job stability.  They have introduced dodgy GERM ideology into our education system (without the will of educationalists and against best practice and research) that will not benefit children, increased child poverty and made no constructive moves to address it, locked their parents into a life of no job or home security, backtracked on free doctors visits, underfunded and denied access to so education for special needs kids and those who need that little bit extra....
I could go on... and on... and...
 
We are creating in today's society a larger and larger group of have nots.  I despair as I walk down the Victoria Street, Hamilton's main street, and see the homeless people who congregate there.  They weren't there twenty years ago!  They weren't there ten years ago!  I hear stories of more and more people struggling to find a house to live in in Hamilton and small Waikato towns.  People are living in their cars or in friend's garages.  I see which child is a have and which child is a have not when I walk into a classroom at the beginning of the day.  They stand out.  I discuss this in this post from prior to the election last year, Poverty in New Zealand: The New Haves and the Have Nots.
 
As hard as it was for my generation, as the guinea pigs, I feel gutted for those who come after me.  I have a young friend in her final year of Law at the University of Waikato.  She holds down a part time job, is actively involved in her student community and the wider community as well as studying, and currently her student loan sits at above $80,000.  That is what we are saddling the emerging graduates with.  Imagine how long that will take her to pay off, how that will prevent her from getting a mortgage to buy a home, stop her from having children.  Imagine that.

In 2009 I met a new grad, with a degree in communications and marketing.  To this day, she has not had a position in the field of her qualification - because I am sure working retail at JB Hi-Fi really does not count.

I look at my nephew who turned 5 and started school at the beginning of term two in April.  He loves learning.  But I know the damage done to the education system of this country in the last seven years, and I have a fair idea of what is to come.  His mum and dad work very hard to provide for him and his two year old sister.  But their work lives are at the mercy of the market and how business is done.  What will it be like for them when they leave school?  What choices will they have for work or study?  What financial burdens will be placed upon them before they have begun to be real contributing citizens of this country?

But my point here is that when I'm old and dottery, today's kids and youth will decide my fate as an old person.  The generations before me have screwed me over (I still don't own a house either thanks to high house prices) for the last 30 years, and those generations before me will screw me over for the next 50 years because of their selfishness and the legacy they leave the generations after me.
 
And what have they taught today's generations of youth?  It's ok to screw everyone over because we are screwing you over.
 
How do we change this?
 
Well you had an opportunity to change this last year.  All you had to do was get out and vote to change the government to put a little bit of hope back into the lives of so many.  But New Zealanders last year failed the standard on being a voter.  You failed to think about how government not only impacts on yourself, but also your neighbours, the children we have now, and the children yet to come. 

You next get that opportunity for change in 2017.  Please use it.

That's why I fight, that's why I tweet, that's why I blog.  But shit,  I'm really tired.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Aged care caregivers, women and the 1972 Equal Pay Act - why the government wants to mess with it.

On Wednesday this last week I attended a Unions Waikato event hosting the Service & Food Workers Union and Kristine Bartlett, an aged care worker who was at the centre of the successful equal pay for women case.  She's told us about how she fell into being at the centre of the legal challenge.  An she literally didn't know what she was getting into until it all ramped up.
 
Maxine van Oosten, Unions Waikato co-convenor, and Kristene Bartlett.
Here is an extract from a newspaper article Win for equal pay campaign that explains some of the detail of the court process and decisions (Stuff 28/10/14):
Campaigners for pay equity are celebrating a "slam dunk" after the court dismissed an appeal against a case that could raise the wages of thousands of women across the country.
The question about whether women should be paid the same as similarly-skilled men in different industries was heard by the Court of Appeal in February.
It followed an Employment Court decision last year, which ruled in the favour of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett.
Bartlett, with the support of the Service and Food Workers Union, agreed to front a test case against her employer TerraNova Homes & Care.
The union also lodged a separate claim on behalf of a group of workers, arguing the Employment Court had the power under the Equal Pay Act to determine equal pay.
Bartlett argued her $14.46 hourly wage was less than would be paid to men with the same, or substantially similar, skills, arguing it was a breach of the Act.
Following the Employment Court decision an appeal was lodged and the New Zealand Aged Care Association agreed to help fund the case, arguing that while rest homes would like to pay their staff more they lacked the money to do so and the Government needed to increase is funding of the sector.
Employment law experts have predicted the case could have wide-ranging ramifications for a number of industries such as cleaners and nurses, setting a precedent that could mean higher pay for tens of thousands of female workers.
 
You can find out more about Kristine and the process here and here, and watch her on Campbell Live here.  You can read about what the Human Rights Commissioner has to say here and the employment court decision of August 2013 here.
 
In August 2014, Kristine's wage was $14.46 an hour.  It has increased slightly since, but when you consider that 20 years ago she was earning about $9.50 an hour, how valued are caregivers when they barely had a $5 wage increase over five years?  That works out at a 25c increase per year!!  Is that keeping up with inflation?  Sounds like slave labour to me.
 
Add this to the plight of a caregiver: there is no professional development, if any, and no career pathway for caregivers.  If a caregiver does find and do any professional development (as Kristine has), there is no reflection of this in their pay packet.  Kristine discussed the skills and roles of caregivers as something that not just anyone can walk in from a WINZ office and do.  Zero hour contracts and fluctuating hours are common, meaning that the women can not effectively budget each week and often come up short to pay rent or mortgages and other bills and often bring no lunch to work with them.
 
Consider this:  about the year 2000, Labour MP and Women's Affairs spokesperson Sue Moroney was working for NZNO (nurses union) and negotiating an employment contract with an aged care provider for the nurses and caregivers in the home.  The provider wanted to limit the hours each person worked a week to 30 hours.  When Sue asked why, the provided answered that it was physically demanding work and too much for an individual's body to cope with if they worked 40 hours a week.  Needless to say that clause was not accepted by NZNO, particularly in the light of the hourly wage agreed to and the fact that many caregivers are the breadwinners of their families.
 
So now we fast forward to 2015 and despite the fact that Kristine won this case in August 2013, and the subsequent appeal to the Supreme Court in 2014, because the caregivers don't have a national or even site wide Collective Agreement, these cargivers have not had their pay packets adjusted yet. That's still to come.  They have determined that the caregivers work should be compared to the work of Corrections officers (who earn considerably more than a caregiver).  The next step is how this will work as either a national collective or site collectives.  Naturally, aged care providers are resisting the change and they have some big help as you will see further down the page.
 
Sue Moroney was also at this meeting.  She explained that in 1990 the then Labour government had put legislation in to help enforce equal pay for equal work. But in 1991 National rescinded that law with their Employment Contracts Act. So this could have been sorted 25 years ago!  When asked why the Labour government of the 2000s had not corrected this, Sue explained that the Labour led government set up a working party to investigate and report back on pay equity and equal work.  This was disbanded when the current National led government took office at the end of 2008 and that work lays abandoned.  You can find out more about some relevant employment law to equal pay here.
 
Sue also explained that the employment court had ruled that equal pay for equal work was covered under the Equal Pay Act of 1972, and that this Act consequently means more than we had ever thought.  It's not just ensuring a woman and a man are paid the same for the same job.  It's about similar levels of work being paid equally.  It means that the Act passed by the Labour led government in 1990 and rescinded by National the following year was not needed because for nearly 42 years we have had the power to do what this recent court case has proved and not realised it.
 
Consequently, Labour and other organisations have become concerned with what the current National led government may do as a result of the employment court ruling and because the owners of aged care facilities have the ear of the government.  Sue Moroney has asked oral questions in Parliament about the government's intention towards the 1972 Equal Pay Act.  No straight answers have been given by relevant ministers.

So several weeks ago, she directly asked the CEO of the Ministry of Women in the formal business of the Select Committee meeting if they had been consulted on any changes to this Act.  The CEO said she couldn't answer. Translation: yes, this government wants to change the Act.
 
So you can see that once again the courts make a decision that is in accordance to the law of the land, John Key's government and his business cronies do not like it, so they are going to change the law, amend the Act to get their own way.  It is just like the court action won by the parents of dependent special needs adult children who look after their own kids instead of putting them into care or employing others to do so.  National changed the law on them too when the courts said that parents should be paid as caregivers to their own adult special needs children.  See the article about the court ruling here and the final budget allowance for it to happen here.
 
Sue believes that the best hope against blocking any amendments that the current government puts forward lays in the result of the Northland by-election.  If Winston Peters becomes the new Northland MP this weekend, and brings in a new list MP for New Zealand First, that will be a vote lost by National.  Sue believes with the strong support of elderly New Zealanders for New Zealand First that their MPs would not vote for any amendments to the 1972 Equal Pay Act as that would affect the caregivers who mainly work with elderly people.
 
ACT MP David Seymour will vote with National on any amendments, because, let's face it, they think the market will fix all - but we can see that 30 years of thinking like that has not helped caregivers at all.
 
Obviously Labour and the Greens would oppose any negative changes to the 1972 Equal Pay Act, which leaves the question of how the Maori Party and United Future would vote.  Sue said that many caregivers are Maori women who are the family breadwinners, so it would be foolish for the Maori Party to vote for amendments that would directly affect this group of workers.  Sue said that Peter Dunne had been supportive of her Bill regarding paid parental leave, so believed he could be convinced of the merits of opposing any amendments (and after all, in my opinion, Peter isn't getting any younger and is closer to needing a rest home than many other MPs, apart from Winston!).
 
Carol Beaumont, former Labour MP and currently working for NZNO, talked about the joint campaign for caregivers between the SFWU & NZNO on how this court ruling will be implemented.  Carol said this is a public campaign that needs the public behind the caregivers, because the public have friends and family who live or work in rest homes.   People need to talk about this - it is CAREGIVERS WEEK after all!!
 
She also said that people need to join unions.  If vulnerable workers like caregivers are in a union, their collective voice has power.
 
Since 2010 until just after New Years this year my Gran was in a rest home.  This decision was not taken lightly by my mother and her brothers and sisters, but when it became apparent that Gran was unable to look after herself independently due to dementia and the consequent ability to drive, cook and clean for herself, it was deemed the best option.  She was followed into care by her younger brother and a dear long time family friend.  Family visited them regularly and also formed bonds with the staff.
 
We saw great staff and not so great staff.  A factor in what makes a great caregiver is the empathy they demonstrate towards the loved one you have in a home.  They develop relationships with each person and know their likes and dislikes.  This was demonstrated to me one day with something as simple as a cup of tea.  The caregiver did not have to ask my Gran how she liked her tea; she just knew.  So Gran received a cup of black tea with no sugar.
 
We also knew there was not enough caregivers for the patients and work they had to do, and that they definitely weren't paid enough (staff turnover demonstrated that).  We knew because cardigans bought for Gran disappeared or Gran would be found by my Aunty on the odd morning to have not had her nighty put on the day before or her teeth would be AWOL.  When you are rushed off your feet and not valued by management, stuff like this occurs.
 
Kristine spoke of the heartbreak she and her colleagues have when they are unable to spend that special time with a frail patient who needs it because of the workload.  She spoke of the simple things like a hug for a dying man that meant so much to him, and to herself in the end.
 
But when Uncle T, then Mrs S and finally my Gran passed away, the rest home caregivers had looked after them with love, dignity and respect.  They worked with the family to the best of their ability, and mourned with us.  So we know the value of the caregivers who had found their vocation.
 
In my opinion anyone foolish enough to argue against equal pay for equal work is both mean-spirited and lacking in foresight.  Why would you bite the hand that feeds you (literally), and in your hour of need.
 
Any amendments  to the 1972 Equal Pay Act in effect puts the advances of women in New Zealand for the last 150 years back into the 1960s at least.  It shows that sexism and chauvinistic behaviours in the National party and big business and society in general are alive and well.
 
For caregivers not to be paid what they are worth and to not value the contribution they make to our society with how they care for one of our most vulnerable groups of citizens is appalling.  To make any changes to the 1972 Equal Pay Act to counter the win of Kristine Bartlett and the caregivers is to fail the standard as a human and against the vulnerable of New Zealand.