Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Waikato #betterfunding Bus Tour and World Educators' Day

Last week the #betterfunding bus came to the Waikato for three days.  This was part of a joint campaign run by NZEI, PPTA and E Tu to encourage Education Minister Hekia Parata to truly engage with the education sector over funding to the early childhood, primary and secondary sectors.  After all, the joint Paid Union Meetings attended by secondary, primary and early childhood teachers and principals, as well as support staff and cleaning and caretaking staff from all sectors resoundedly rejected the Global Funding (aka Bulk Funding) model put forward earlier this year.  And for good reasons, which you can read about in Global Funding - Bulk Funding in fancy dress - why it's a bloody bad idea.

I was asked by a parent on Friday in Cambridge what was NZEI and PPTA suggesting as an alternative model.  I replied with this wee spiel:

Earlier this year Hekia Parata set up the Funding Review Panel with about 19 representatives from all over the education sector, including NZEI and PPTA.  The participants were excited, expecting they would be starting from the ground up, brainstorming and throwing about suggestions for how education should be funded in each area.
However, their hopes on the first day were dashed.  They met together in a room and then the MOE representative came in, put a pile of papers on the table and said, "These are the funding models we will discuss."
There was no innovation to be had.
This was typical Hekia Parata style of consultation - or as Rebecca from NZEI Head Office and I coined it: nonsultation.
What we really want is proper consultation and collaboration to come up with an equitable model that will adequately fund all ECE centres, kindergartens, primary, intermediate, secondary and area schools.  We need to go back to the beginning.  Let's do this right and not rush it.

Of course, with the announcement by Hekia Parata of her intention not to stand for Parliament at the 2017 election on 19 October (Education minister Hekia Parata will not contest next general election, NZ Herald), you can see why Ms Parata is in such a hurry to push through the changes she wants to implement.

NZEI and PPTA know that waiting until Minister Parata reports back to Cabinet with her recommendations and for Cabinet to make a decision is too late for making the sector's opinions, and the opinions of parents (aka voters), known.  That would be reactive. 

Therefore they made the proactive decision to launch the #betterfunding campaign.  This has involved three buses in #betterfunding livery (based in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch), a postcard campaign addressed to the Minister, and two petitions for special education funding and for support staff funding.

The buses have been in action for three weeks.  Last week the bus was in Hamilton for Tuesday, Friday and Saturday's march down Victoria Street to the rally in Garden Place.  I was on the bus for Tuesday and Friday to support the field staff from NZEI and PPTA as we visited a variety of schools and centres.

Our first stop was Hamilton West School, where the message was warmly received by parents and caregivers.  A number of staff from Hamilton West came out to help with the postcard campaign.

We dropped resources into the kindergarten on Massey Street and into Frankton and St Columbas Schools, before heading over to Fairfield Intermediate to catch them and Fairfield Primary (across the road) during their morning tea breaks.

Fairfield Primary staff brave the rain during their morning tea.

Some Fairfield Intermediate staff brave the rain during their morning tea.
We then dropped in resources to Hukanui School and left the bus on Hukanui Road to advertise the #betterfunding message during our lunch, before heading around to Woodstock Primary School to catch the staff before their lunch break ended.

Some of the Woodstock Primary School staff during their lunch break.
The bus then went to Fairfield College for their lunch break.

Fairfield College staff and students.
Fairfield College staff.
After that we went down the road to Bankwood School to drop in resources, just missing the end of their lunch break.  But we did make it to Insoll Ave School just in time for the end of school at 2:30pm to encourage parents to participate in the postcard campaign.  We then made it to Hamilton East School for their end of day at 3:00pm, where Prof Martin Thrupp from the University of Waikato also joined our postcard signature collecting team along with a number of Hamilton East staff members.

Hamilton East staff supporting #betterfunding
Sue Moroney, Labour List MP came to see us at the end to give her support to #betterfunding too.

Myself, Sue Moroney, Patrick from NZEI, Prof Martin Thrup and Shane from NZEI.
On Wednesday and Thursday the bus went to Tauranga, Te Puke, Whakatane and Rotorua, before starting Friday morning at Cambridge Primary School, in Cambridge.  After collecting lots of parent support for the #betterfunding postcard campaign, we dropped resources into Cambridge East Primary and Cambridge High School before heading out to see the admin staff at Goodwood School.

We had been challenged by Auckland NZEI staff to get a jump shot.  Denise and her fellow Goodwood administrator along with NZEI field staff Shane, Jackie and Maxine as well as I complied with the challenge.
Tamahere Model Country School, just outside of Hamilton, was our next stop.  The whole school was assembled on their courts to celebrate their Book Character Dress Up Day, so all the teachers and student teachers were dressed up as well as the children.  So the Tamahere School photo looks awesome - spot the principal wearing a pot on her head!

Tamahere Country Model School staff in full Book Character Dress Up Day mode supporting #betterfunding.
Knighton Normal School was next on the agenda.  We got there in time for morning tea before we headed around to Tóku Mápihi Maurea Kura Kaupapa Máori to meet some teachers and children from the Kohanga.

Knighton Normal staff show their support for #betterfunding during their morning tea.
After we had lunch we headed to Hamilton Girls' High School to coincide with their lunch.  Sadly the staff were very distracted dealing with the Year 13 boys from Hamilton Boys' High School doing a body paint in undies run around the Girls' High field, but some staff and students came over.

Two Girls' High staff with Bill from PPTA and Maxine from NZEI.
Two of the students who were curious enough to come and ask about the #betterfunding bus.  They agreed schools needed better funding too.
We ended the day parked outside of Peachgrove Intermediate in Hamilton, across the road from Hamilton Boys' High School.

Some of the Peachgrove Intermediate staff who came out to help us with the #betterfunding postcard campaign.
On Saturday, it was our day to celebrate World Educators' Day (which was officially during our October term break).  It was changed to Edcucators' Day to encompass the other school staff that are not teachers like support staff, admin staff, sports co-ordinators, lab techs, caretaking staff, etc.

In Hamilton we held a march from the Ferrybank Band Rotunda on Grantham Street, up Victoria Street to Garden Place.  For safety a police car led the parade and the #betterfunding bus backed up the rear.  To create some drama we had a drum band at the lead of the parade and lots of banners and #betterfunding discs flapping about.

Coming up Victoria Street.

A 360o view of the rally in Garden Place.
Professor Martin Thrupp spoke first at our rally talking about how teachers get the blame, upcoming PISA results and Poverty Action Waikato.  Martin also called us to be the coalition of the unwilling.  You can read Martin's speech in full at Save Our Schools NZ blog in this post: A coalition of the unwilling.

Waikato NZEI AC Chair Karen Morrison introducing Prof Martin Thrupp as the first speaker.

Sam Speedy from Hamilton Girls' High School explaining the PPTA view on CoOLs.
Sue Moroney spoke to the rally about the need to #ChangetheGovt in order to change the current direction of education policy, otherwise we will continue to get more of the same.  Sue Moroney also talked about the need to put the New Zealand Curriculum back in front and centre.

Sue Moroney, Labour List MP, talking about Labour's commitment to a free quality public education system.
Jan Tinetti, NZEI National Executive and principal of Merivale School in Tauranga, speaks about Hekia Parata's legacy: bringing NZEI and PPTA together in unison to fight for #betterfunding for our quality public education system.

Jan Tinetti from NZEI National Executive.
Primary Teachers Network Leader for Waikato, Michelle Ryan, explains her passion for our quality public education system.

Michelle, the Waikato Primary Teachers Network Leader.
Karen, from Anglican Action, explains the impacts of the current government's social policies on families.  She talked about how her organisation supplies food to schools for children without lunches and is now being asked for food to send home with children at the weekend so their families can eat.

Karen from Anglican Action Waikato.
Anglican Action Waikato manning the BBQ for the free sausage sizzle.
MPs from all the parties were invited as well as representatives from parties without Waikato based MPs.  David Bennett, National's MP for Hamilton East was out of the country.  Tim MacIndoe, National's Hamilton West MP, declined the invitation, but he did send a message to be read out.  This fell to Carol Webb, the Waikato Support Staff Network Leader, who said, as support staff, she was used to doing the dirty work.  Sadly, Mr MacIndoe's message showed a distinct lack of understanding of the current issues in the education sector and basically stuck to National's mantra.

Carol Webb reading out a message from Hamilton West MP Tim MacIndoe.
Green's List MP and Education spokesperson, Catherine Delahunty, said it was World Educators' Day, not Global Funding Bullshit Day.  Her message of no Charter Schools, National Standards gone by lunch time and schools as community hubs when we #ChangetheGovt was well received.

Catherine Delahunty speaking about how she was tired of listening to the rubbish National say in Parliament.
We wrapped up with a waiata, Te Aroha, and poroporoaki thanks to Bill Anderson from PPTA's Hamilton office.

Bill Anderson does the poroporoaki.
You can read the tweets I sent out on the day here:

It was a great day to celebrate teachers, principals, support staff and the like in our schools and ECE centres.  I got a cheeky selfie with Catherine before I went with some of my NZEI friends to have another jump shot with the #betterfunding bus to end the day.

It wouldn't surprise you that tweeting events like this encourages discussion on Twitter.  I can't find the original tweet that @Chrisholden24 sent me to initiate this this conversation.  Maybe he has deleted it.  But this is where I school him on the realities of Global Funding/Bulk Funding.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Why I protested Hekia Parata at the ULearn Conference

Last Thursday, 7 October, I did something a bit bold.  Something that would either be supported by the fifteen hundred plus educator colleagues in the room or something that would make me look like a prize wally.

I protested Hekia Parata as she addressed the largest annual education conference in New Zealand, ULearn16 held at the Rotorua Energy Event Centre.

In the previous week the two education unions, NZEI and PPTA held their annual conferences.  They have always been held in the first week of the third term break (except 2011 due to the Rugby World Cup), and prior to Minister Parata, every single Minister of Education has attended NZEI's annual conference.  The Minister has always been invited.

Minister Parata attended her first NZEI conference in 2012.  This event came up in my Facebook memories the other week.  She thanked us for our work as teachers and then smacked us - she told us we were doing a poor job at teaching reading and writing and science.  What she had failed to notice was that we no longer had science advisors to support teachers after her predecessor, Anne Tolley, killed off the Advisory Service at the end of 2009.

In 2013, Minister Parata was invited again.  She declined as she was going to an education conference in Istanbul.  That conference started on the Thursday, the day after our conference finished that week.  She had plenty of opportunity to visit our conference before leaving on a jet plane (to quote an old song).  Instead she sent us a video address.  I'll let you imagine how well that was received.

In 2014, no Minister.

In 2015, we were told the Minister had declined the invitation.  At the President's Dinner on the first night, a number of former NZEI presidents were in attendance.  One noted the absence of the Minister from the programme in his speech and said this was the first Minister to treat NZEI with in such a manner.  The attending invited senior Ministry of Education official was seen texting someone in the following minutes.

The next day, in the early afternoon, NZEI received a phone call from the Minister's office advising that the Minister would be attending the conference the following afternoon at 4:00pm.

After her introductions and greeting it was then that I knew she had seen my tweets about her coming.  Dianne Kahn had made similar tweets.  She also pointed referred to these tweets a few days later when she spoke at the PPTA conference.  Below is the Storify of tweets of that day:

In the days after the conference, I called Minister Parata out on her Facebook page for lying to the NZEI Conference when she said she was never invited.  For my efforts, I was blocked from commenting on her page.  This is a common tactic that Minister Parata uses with people who challenge her on her Facebook page.  We teachers and the parents of special education students call it our badge of honour.  Below are screen shots from the interactions before I was blocked from commenting on Hekia Parata's Facebook page:

Please note in the picture below that I have circled the last name the Minister used for me, which is incorrectly spelt.  A bit of a horror really after she had admonished PPTA members that week for mispronouncing students names.

Please note that I have tried to be very cordial in my posts.  I was not abusive in anyway, I was merely pointing out the facts of the events.

And this, circled in red, was when I figured out I had been blocked from commenting on the Minister's Facebook page.

The Minister conveniently scheduled a trip to look at the education systems of Massachusetts and Israel during the 2016 NZEI and PPTA annual conferences.  Apparently the fact that both these education systems rank well below New Zealand in the OECD rankings is of no consequence to Minister Parata as long as it is a valid excuse to avoid speaking to teachers, principals and support staff who are affected by her actions and policies.

I have attended every ULearn since 2011, and since 2012, despite not being on the programme, either Minister Parata or Associate Minister of Education Nikki Kaye, have turned up and taken some of the time of an invited Keynote speaker.  I was particularly annoyed in 2013 that Nikki Kaye was allowed to speak before Dr Anne Salmond at Dr Salmond's scheduled time, and therefore I missed a large chunk of Dr Salmond's address due to having to go to a very important appointment.

So when I found out that Hekia Parata was yet again disrupting the programme, I made a decision to make a protest, make a stand for teachers, students and our quality public education system, where she could see me.

When Hekia was introduced and walked up onto the stage, I picked up my chair, placed it so I would have my back to her and I sat down and held up my #betterfunding disc from our Paid Union Meetings last month.  I did not stand to waiata, against every fibre of my body because I 'get' tikanga and respect it.  I did not clap.

I am usually very anal about protocol, tikanga and respect. My body that day was very unhappy not to stand and waiata - but I was not the only person in the room to not waiata in protest on Thursday.  I found out from people who came up to speak with me later.
My protest was silent because I recognised the right of Hekia to speak as the Minister of Education and the right of my fellow attendees to hear the Minister speak, as well as the fact that we have paid a thousand dollars to attend this conference as professionals and we need to show decorum.

However, this does not negate my rights as a citizen in a democracy to send a pointed message to the Minister about her actions and policies in this role. I decided that picking up my chair and placing my back to her and holding up my #betterfunding disc was the most effective polite form of protest I could do in this setting with a Minister with plastic ears and "one eye" (in her words - referring to wearing only one contact lens during her speech).

I think we have to take every opportunity to show Hekia what we think since she does not listen.  Hekia is quite fond of calling teachers hysterical (during the speech on the day) and premature (in reaction to the #betterfunding bus launch on Monday 10th October), but I think NZEI and PPTA are actually being proactive.  There is no point protesting after the decision is made and announced - we have to be heard while the process is still (supposedly) happening and building support from the other most affected group: whanau and their children we teach. 

I know of people who did not attend or walked out of the room because Hekia was there... but there are so many people in the room no one would have noticed anyone walking out in protest.

But everyone noticed me.

I choose this form protest because I still respected the rights of other attendees to listen to the Minister and the efforts of Core Education in putting on such a high quality conference.  

This is not a cheap conference.  I know, I have personally paid the last four times I've attended, so it is pretty much a $1,200 plus (at least) outlay for me including accommodation, meals and travel.  Schools have paid a fortune to send staff members, so I'm not about to spoil that financial investment made.

The feedback has been 99% positive.  Tweets and Facebook posts at the time were positive.  People I spoke to afterwards were positive.  Many regretted not having their #betterfunding disc handy in their car (mine are on permanent advertising duty in the back window).  A lot of people on social media and in person thanked me for my protest.  No one from Core Education came to speak with me during or after the event.  I believe they thought that interfering would create a scene.  

Within two to three minutes of starting my protest, another young teacher came over and asked if she could tweet a photo.  She expressed remorse for not having her #betterfunding disc with her.  So I lent her one of mine to use.  So I wasn't too lonely.

The odd person on Facebook did not like my protest and were bold enough to say so - respect to them.  One person accused me of politicising ULearn with my protest. I contend that Core Education politicised their own event by having the Minister speak.  Others have called me disrespectful and that I was disruptive.  I'll own that to the regard it did cause a stir - but I conducted my protest in a manner to allow proceedings to continue.  

One person asked me if I bothered to listen to Hekia Parata rather than "just listening to NZEI's side of the story".  I pointed out I've been a qualified teacher for 21 years and I'm currently studying Education Policy for my Masters of Education.  I am also an administrator for Save Our Schools NZ on Facebook, so I consider myself fairly well informed on education issues and policies.

As Ms Parata progressed through her speech I know she could see me.  I know she wasn't happy to be protested at this event.  I could hear the hoha come out in the tone of her voice.

Maybe one person taking a silent but visual action was more effective than many people making a big noisy fuss, which would really have reflected poorly on the context of the event.  I would certainly risk it again to drive home the point.

Below is the Storify from the morning Hekia Parata disrupted my professional learning: