Coddington on school choice

July 12th, 2009 at 10:23 am by David Farrar

An excellent column:

It’s about time parents formed a union equally as militant as the teachers’ unions and Principals’ Federation. Because who, in the current war over national standards in education, is sticking up for the kids?

A parents’ union – not a bad idea.

The education unions whine that if these standards proceed, media will publish them, parents will compare teachers and , and do what I and hundreds of other parents do – exercise choice. Well, we can’t have that, can we?

We’re trusted to choose our family doctor, our car, our fridge, our house, our MP, but when it comes to choosing the school our children go to, if the left have their way, we must go where the State dictates. Only those who can afford it are lucky enough to choose.

Spot on.

This all reminds me so much of that wonderful British comedy written by Antony Jay and Jonathan Lynn, Yes, Prime Minister. I’m thinking in particular of the episode titled “The National Education Service” when the Prime Minister decides he will let parents take their children to any school they choose. Sir Humphrey explodes into protest: “That’s preposterous. You can’t just let parents make these choices. How on earth would parents know which schools are best?”

Sir Humphrey, the consummate bureaucrat, is then asked which school he went to. It was Winchester, he says, and it was excellent. And who chose it?

“My parents, naturally, that’s quite different. My parents were discerning people. You can’t expect ordinary people to know where to send their people.”

I’ve said this many times – Yes Minister was a documentary.

I have no doubt the leaders of teacher and principal unions, when they buy a car or house, compare brands, neighbourhoods, or performance. Why then, when parents must by law trust their most precious and loved children to other adults’ care, do these same unionists deny them the right to compare schools’ performance?

Hundreds of primary school principals are threatening to keep secret the standards data because it might lead to a “blame and shame” culture. That behaviour graphically illustrates where their best interests lie, and it’s not with their pupils. Perhaps they need reminding of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

Once the date is made available, I’m wondering how hard it would be to do a mashup with it on Google Maps. People could see schools in their local areas, and their assessment data. You could even add stuff in like decile ratings, level of school funding etc.

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29 Responses to “Coddington on school choice”

  1. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    The trouble with all of these community action groups is that they become dominated by the left, for the followers of that ideology are generally the only ones with the time to participate.

    Every other person is too busy making a living, and paying the taxes that keep the left in the style they’re accustomed to.

    Leftists are often dole bludgers, sickness beneficiaries, glide timing public servants and various other parasites on the productive sector, and can therefore dedicate a lot more of their time to their cause.

    I wish what Deborah suggests could come to pass, but in this country, full of apathetic uninformed politically confused hound dog lamers willing to let the left run their lives at every turn, not much chance of ever amounting to anything.

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  2. Viking2 (10,695 comments) says:

    I have no doubt the leaders of teacher and principal unions, when they buy a car or house, compare brands, neighbourhoods, or performance. Why then, when parents must by law trust their most precious and loved children to other adults’ care, do these same unionists deny them the right to compare schools’ performance?

    Well if you have ever been in sales you will know that teachers are the worst of customers to sell to. They don’t know what they want and worse they can never make up their minds about a purchase. They are time wasters to be left to the newbies.

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  3. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    All fine in theory but how are you going to interpret the mish mash of data that you are going to receive. any results are going to be severely rorted by teachers teaching to the test. How do you judge cause and effect, socio-economic and cultural effects, yearly variation etc..

    All this information needs to be related to what sort of child you think you have.

    My experience is that most schools vastly over-rate themeselves often indulging in shameless self promotion to parents- who like to self reinforce their choice of school.

    When choosing an educational institution you really need to talk to the principal first of all, see if your philosophy matches theirs, see if they are on top of funding and staffing issues, also talk to someone at the local intermediate school if you can- they see the finished products.

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  4. radvad (620 comments) says:

    I have always said to parents “who knows what’s best for your kids, some politician, a legion of faceless bureaucrats, or you?”

    If parents had control over their kids education spend would they want it to be spent on social engineering? I doubt it. That is a big reason why school choice will only be introduced over the left’s dead body.

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  5. radvad (620 comments) says:

    Furthermore, to get the benefit of choice, it only has to exist. This applies across the board, whether supermarkets of schools.
    Even if you do not overtly exercise your choice you still benefit.

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  6. KiwiGreg (3,129 comments) says:

    The only argument I can think of against parent choice for schooling is “parents might/will make bad choices”. And of course they do (like to smoke around their kids, drive them without appropriate restraints, feed them badly, fail to discipline them, beat them, give them stupid names, belittle them, help them develop neuroses, in many cases to have kids at all, the list is endless).

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  7. Sonny Blount (1,829 comments) says:

    Imperfect indicators are a reality of all endeavours people undertake.

    To be successful in anything you have to find the best markers available and measure them, it doesn’t ultimately matter if they’re not perfect, the key point is you must be measuring something and taking responsibility for those results.

    I don’t buy the ‘blame and shame’ and ‘not a good measure’ arguments. There’s nothing stopping the PPTA producing its own rankings and measures based on what it believes makes a good school and convincing parents theirs is the best indicator.

    ‘Teaching to the test’ is fine by me. Just make a decent test. It’s what real life is like.

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  8. Ross Miller (1,624 comments) says:

    From my small experience with the private school sector I would argue that at least half of the parents I had dealings with made considerable sacrifices to enable their children to receive the sort of education they believed was generally unobtainable in the state school sector. They keep their old car; holidays were forgone and the like as they struggled to pay the fees. But they put up with that in the knowledge they were investing in their childs future …. an education ethos which has at its central point the extending of the student rather than dumbing down to the lowest common denominator.

    Faux outrage now ensues from the socialist trolls who will claim that choice only exists for the wealthy … bullshit. You will find children from all walks of life attending private schools including those of serving senior Labour MPs (let’s not talk about the hypocrisy there).

    The freedom to choose must be strengthened to ensure that anyone who is prepared to make real sacrifices in order to get what they know to be the best possible deal for their children are encouraged to do so. The recent decision by National to double the $20m subsidy to the private school sector (capped at that level since 2000 by Labour) is to be applauded.

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  9. Sonny Blount (1,829 comments) says:

    Faux outrage now ensues from the socialist trolls who will claim that choice only exists for the wealthy … bullshit. You will find children from all walks of life attending private schools including those of serving senior Labour MPs (let’s not talk about the hypocrisy there).

    Good point Ross. My parents were both teachers and I was sent to a private school. This is not uncommon at all.

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  10. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Did we not elect a new government? I would assume 90% of the population that give a stuff see the teachers union as been full of shit and it has been so for a fair amount of time. Where are the leaders in Wellington, lets see the size of their balls. This situation should be put to bed. For fucks sake National harden up, or is it easier to stick your heads up your arse’s and hope it will all go away. Or perhaps you really are like the socialist toss pots you replaced and freedom and choice are but words of convenience to you. You know what should be done here but is it all to hard.

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  11. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Sonny says
    “Imperfect indicators are a reality of all endeavours people indicate”.
    A self evident truth, but hardly a basis for accepting an arbitary measure at face value. The education should promote this inormation for what it is- a snapshot of a very narrow few indicators.

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  12. freedom101 (439 comments) says:

    School league tables are of no value to parents unless they have the ability to change schools, easily. Without vouchers league tables are a waste of time. In the Hutt Valley the only single sex schools are integrated special character schools, or private. For those unable to afford the fees the only other choices are large zoned state school co-ed sausage machines. Leagues tables for Hutt Valley parents would only increase anxiety as they would find out how poorly, in some cases, their local zoned school is performing. I have lost count of the number of parents who have told me how dissatisfied they are with Hutt Valley High School.

    Over a decade ago Bethlehem College in Tauranga wanted to open a satellite college in the disused Petone Tech site. Trevor Mallard was the Education Minister at the time. The Education Ministry and Hutt Valley High conspired to preclude Bethlehem leasing the site. ONE classroom was leased to Hutt Valley High which enabled the fiction that the site was required by the state system.

    Meanwhile Trevor sent his own kids out of zone from Wainuiomata all the way into Wellington. I wonder who did the balloting that year?

    Yes Minister is indeed a documentary, as is Animal Farm. Let’s play ‘Spot the Pigs’.

    To this day Petone Tech stands empty. A school that once boasted a roll of 800. For 15 or 20 years the school facilities have been sitting there doing nothing.

    So come on National. Get your fat A into G and bring in true parental choice, and lease Petone Tech to a start up school offering true choice in the Hutt Valley. Don’t waste your time on league tables.

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  13. tvb (3,937 comments) says:

    This is all very well but I am not convinced the Government has the political skills to take on the Teacher Unions backed up by their provisional wing the Labour Party – and win. I just hope there is a plan but I am not confident.

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  14. Ross Miller (1,624 comments) says:

    National was elected on a promise to provide parents with information on just how schools were performing. And that is what it is doing. Leadership starts at the top and publication of school data will give parents some idea of the quality of education being provided.

    Of course I can understand why some Headmasters and their socialist apologists might feel uncomfortable with the notion of accountability.

    Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

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  15. richgraham (28 comments) says:

    So, Ross Miller, you claim or imply Labour Party MPs have children in private schools.
    Why not name them then – is it a secret or something ?
    Expose the hypocrisy you claim.

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  16. Whafe (652 comments) says:

    I would be willing to bet that a large number of senior politicians children go to private schools….. Does anyone have any facts on this?

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  17. Sonny Blount (1,829 comments) says:

    So, Ross Miller, you claim or imply Labour Party MPs have children in private schools.
    Why not name them then – is it a secret or something ?
    Expose the hypocrisy you claim.

    Off the top of my head, I think we can start with Trevor Mallard. Pretty sure his kids go to a private.

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  18. Sonny Blount (1,829 comments) says:

    “Imperfect indicators are a reality of all endeavours people indicate”.
    A self evident truth, but hardly a basis for accepting an arbitary measure at face value. The education should promote this inormation for what it is- a snapshot of a very narrow few indicators.

    You simply can’t get performance without measurement. You’ve got to front up to something.

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  19. Steve (4,314 comments) says:

    I wonder what an Exam is? is it a test? Could be a test of me being taught something and retaining it. This could help me in some way. I could do something all by myself without someone telling me how.

    What if the people who set Exams can not pass each other’s Exam?
    um we won’t talk about that just now, let’s have a private meeting, we need to tell each other how good we are.

    “Didn’t we do well” come on public, “Didn’t we do well”

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  20. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    I think Deborah is playing devils advocate rather than suggesting a parents union per se however it does have some merit w.r.t strengthening the independence of the PTA by removing the T part.

    So, way fwd:

    1) Publish school data publically to be included, as Farrar intimates, in websites such as QV
    2) Redesign the PTA by removing teacher participation beyond invite only access
    3) Make MoE employment status mutually exclusive with teacher union management or organising roles and activities

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  21. Bogusnews (425 comments) says:

    In 2001 I read a revealing column in the Metro mag on our education system. A senior educationalist boasted that the job of NZ schools is no longer to teach children to read and write. Their job now is to “socialise” them.

    Our whole system is now so infested with lefties and liberals that you cannot take them head on. The only way is indirectly by challenging the one area they are totally vulnerable on, which is their performance.

    Exposing schools to the open market will soon put their wooley thinking on the mat and force them to focus on education rather than transforming our kids into the likeness of some strange back room people in Wellington

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  22. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    For once this leftie agrees with something the cod-piece has to say.

    I have to do a decent job that is at least as good as my peers, and our customers have the freedom to chose our service or our competitors. I still don’t see why schools should be exempt from this?

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  23. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    Bogusnews Says:
    “In 2001 I read a revealing column in the Metro mag on our education system. A senior educationalist boasted that the job of NZ schools is no longer to teach children to read and write. Their job now is to “socialise” them.”

    Bogus – my 5yo started school recently. She can read and write about as well as the other kids in the class who have been there since February. What she doesn’t know much about yet is how to work with other kids, share the teacher’s attention, or deal with a world that is not all about her.

    Methinks, maybe, just MAYBE, this is what that “socialise” comment may have been about..?

    Kiwiblog is already well populated with apparent OCD sufferers who are fixated with socialism, but membership of this clique is not compulsory :-)

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  24. lesterpk (27 comments) says:

    So if my local Montessori Primary class doesn’t do well on the standardised test and is down on the league table because they don’t teach as strictly to the curriculum as my state school does, does that make them a bad choice?

    Or if my East Auckland State school does poorly because they have high numbers of English-as-a-second language students- does that make the teachers bad teachers?

    How do I judge? Do I even need do judge?

    Do parents really want more honesty? Because if I say your son is a little shit and he’s been mollycoddled and spoon fed all the way through school and can now only perform to a standardised standard then he isn’t going to get into Auckland Boys Grammar school and that won’t really do will it?

    No amount of standardised testing is going to tell you which teacher is right for your child. Teachers and children are both individuals and while your 11 year old sports mad son may thrive in the gifted sports mad teacher’s class your creative artistic daughter may struggle when she meets the same teacher.

    There are good teachers and some less than average teachers in all schools and in reality it doesn’t much matter as a lot of your child’s success will come down to personality and the foundations laid before they even got close to a classroom. Some children will thrive in a poor teachers class and some will struggle in a good teachers class. My son has had skilled educators throughout his 7 years at primary school but I’d rate his education as average because with 30-35 other children in the class there is no time to meet his specific needs.

    School age children spend 15% of their time ‘in front of a blackboard’ I think what parents do with them for the other 85% and the preceding 5 years before school are what really makes the difference.

    As far as money goes. There are, flat out, some New Zealand’ers who could not with even the most judicious of budgeting afford to send their children to private schools. Our family cannot forgo holidays in favour of our children’s education as we don’t have those holidays to forgo.

    A better option for us would be to be able to send our children to a decile 1 school where there is at least some money to go around. As there isn’t enough funding in our decile 10 school for books and sports equipment, let alone to support our gifted son or our friends struggling daughter both of whom the government regards as special needs. The government idea of more ‘poor’ equals more ‘stupid’ so throw money at the school is the policy that I would suggests needs the most amount of attention at this time.

    As for talking to the schools principal, good luck there- if you want your arse kissed then come talk to our school principal he’ll happily do it for you.

    If you want your children to have a good education then educate them yourself for the first five years of their life and remember that the vast majority of their time (85%) is spent with you and that it’s your job to demonstrate and expect the values and behaviour that you expect from them.

    Know your child, know your childs teacher, go into the classroom and fight, fight, fight, if there is a problem.

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  25. clintheine (1,560 comments) says:

    lesterpk – you say that parents can’t afford private schools – indeed my parents most certainly couldn’t afford such luxuries. However if we didn’t pay taxes for schools then I am sure we’d have more money to put towards the better schools. Why should people pay twice for having the good judgement to give their kids the best possible start in life?

    What do the unions *really* have to hide?

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  26. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Clearly the existing commie model isnt working with appalling literacy and maths achievement across the board while fad topics like treaty awareness and badly run school ICT get favour and resources because they are ‘sexy’ topics for MoE gimps and teachers alike.

    There is no reason to supress achievement data from parents and the community.

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  27. Lance (2,309 comments) says:

    We have our daughter at a private school.
    It is not one of the mega-expensive ones but it is serving her education well (a long story but we are convinced).

    Under the last Labour govt the money available to ALL private schools was frozen for nearly 10 years. As a result the fees went up, driving away the least able to afford it. Those pupils then went to state schools at great expense to the country.
    So Labour cost the tax payers more money, degraded education and hurt the less well off…… wankers!

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  28. Repton (769 comments) says:

    “However if we didn’t pay taxes for schools then I am sure we’d have more money to put towards the better schools.”

    OTOH, the schools would have a lot less money. You’d lose out overall. There are plenty of taxpayers who aren’t parents..

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  29. expat (4,048 comments) says:

    Repton is the northern England public school Jeremy Clarkson attended.

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