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:


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



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?


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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


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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Enrolment schemes :

Where is this information?