PPTA supports Parata

April 24th, 2012 at 3:37 pm by David Farrar

The PPTA have praised Hekia Parata:

PPTA president Robin Duff congratulates education minister Hekia Parata for taking a firm stand against the board of Northland’s Moerewa School .

The board was sacked yesterday after extending classes to years 11 and 13 without the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) permission, with seriously questionable results.

“Primary schools may have the best of intentions, but it is wrong for them to believe they can adequately provide specialist subject delivery to students over year 9,” Duff said.

However the Principals Federation thinks the school should be above the law:

“The decision to sack the Board of Trustees at Moerewa School is a sad day for self-managing schools and their communities,” said Phil Harding, Vice-President of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation.

“Moerewa is a tiny community, working with its people to do all in its power to provide high standards of education, while achieving success as Maori,” said Harding. “Rather than being celebrated for its efforts and excellent ERO reports, the Moerewa School Board has been punished, and its senior students excluded from their school of choice,” he said. …

“Few schools would come through an NZQA audit of 84% of their students’ work unscathed, and the protracted process has kept these students in limbo,” he said. “The Ministry has funded the unit for three years, and it is tragic to see a positive innovation ended in this way.”

It may be sad it has ended, but the fault is with the school. It is a pity the NZPF defends a school with such a low achievement rate. Radio NZ reported:

The Education Ministry says the school is not offering senior students a quality education and its NCEA results are alarmingly low. An audit by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority found that 11% to 33% were passing NCEA.

“If you look at the nearest school, they are achieving results twice as high for their Maori students than have been achieved at Moerewa. The outcomes are just not good enough, I’m afraid.”

TVNZ reported:

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) audited students’ work and said it had concerns about Wikipedia being used word-for-word and work being submitted with two different types of handwriting.

Radio Waatea reports:

The Education Minister says the audit of Moerewa School’s NCEA results was launched after discrepancies picked up in a review of paperwork at Otara’s Kia Aroha College.

 Moerewa held on to its senior pupils by enrolling them in the South Auckland Secondary School run by the mother of Principal Keri Milne-Ihimaera.

 Hekia Parata says rather than scoring better than most other schools, outside assessors found just two out 16 students passed NCEA level one, two in six passed levels two and two in three passed level three.

Only 12% passed NCEA Level one. Incredible.

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Marlene strikes again

January 29th, 2011 at 3:01 pm by David Farrar

Readers may recall Marlene Campbell. She is one of the ringleaders in the Principals Federation campaign against national standards, and got national publicity for calling Anne Tolley Minister Hitler.

Well she’s at it again, with Whale supplying this e-mail:

The Sewell she refers to is is Karen Sewell, who has been Secretary of Education since 2006.

What I can’t work out is whether Marlene includes herseld in the group description of logical thinking human beings. Her e-mail and previous utterances would suggest logical thinking is to her, what pork is to a Bar Mtizvah.

Marlene is of course a public servant, paid for by the taxpayer. She is in fact effectively employed by the Secretary of Education.

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All resistance must be crushed

November 11th, 2010 at 8:00 am by David Farrar

There is a small group of activist principals who are driving this campaign against national standards. We’ve already seen how they refer to the Minister. Leaked e-mails now reveal what they plan for another of their targets – the School Trustees Association. They literally want principals to take it over. Yep, that is right – how dare there be an independent voice for parents in the sector that doesn’t always agree with the unions – so it must be taken over.

And who is at the heart of the plot? The aspiring Labour candidate for Whangarei and their future education minister.

John Hartevelt in the Dominion Post reports:

A group of rebel principals plotted to “quietly take over” an association representing 90 per cent of school boards in an effort to overwhelm the national standards debate, leaked emails suggest.

An email exchange shows principals involved in a boycott of the standards discussed “dealing with” the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

“The easiest way is for us to quietly take over regional organisations of NZSTA … Just imagine NZSTA run by principals!” an email written by Hora Hora School principal Pat Newman states.

Newman, the aspiring Labour candidate, is also one of those union activists who bullied a principal who dared to go on television and say she thought national standards were good. There is a pattern of behaviour here.

What Newman and others planned to do with NZSTA, is to effectively turn it into their mouthpiece.

His email was sent to, among others, Denise Torrey, president of the Canterbury Primary Principals Association; Frances Nelson, president of the national primary teachers’ union; Iain Taylor, president of the Auckland Primary Principals Association, and Perry Rush, Island Bay School principal.

Marlene Campbell, principal of Invercargill’s Salford School and a member of the Southland Primary Principals Association executive, which this week called Education Minister Anne Tolley “Minister Hitler”, was also a recipient. All have been vocal critics of the national standards.

Readers will know most of these names. It would be interesting to file OIAs asking for all their e-mail correspondence, to see what other schemes they have plotted.

Mr Taylor responded to Mr Newman’s August 20 email with: “Oh that the go!! Great thinking … loved ya email to her too … man she awful!!” Mr Taylor was referring to NZSTA president Lorraine Kerr, who has refused to criticise or fully endorse the standards.

How dare she refuse to join the campaign against national standards. Dissent from the union line can not be tolerated.

Mr Newman said his email was private. “The email in question was an irreverent one sent by me as a result of the frustration and disquiet I was feeling, around the fact that NZSTA had, and still does, refuse to consult with boards of trustees in any meaningful way on the national standards issue.”

A private one? Did he send it from his work computer? Mr Newman seems to have forgotten that he is employed by the taxpayer, and his school is subject to the OIA.

It was a personal comment and the recipients did not automatically agree with what the email said. “To be realistic, instead of trying to read a conspiracy theory around it, any normal reader would realise that what was suggested was done tongue-in- cheek, and is neither a feasible nor practical suggestion.”

The first line of Mr Newman’s email states: “Seriously folks, [Nelson Park principal] Nevan [Bridge] has hit a good point. At some stage we as principals need to deal with NZSTA.”

The email suggests principals could turn out at regional meetings of the NZSTA and outnumber everyone else as a voting bloc.

Doesn’t sound tongue-in-cheek does it?

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An apology to everyone but the Minister

November 10th, 2010 at 3:45 pm by David Farrar

The bloglight that shined on the principal of Salford School referring to Anne Tolley as Hitler got picked up by the media, and her board has distanced themselves from the comments of Marlene Campbell.

Campbell has also apologised on her school blog:

I regret and withdraw my ill considered and not thought through reference to Nazi Germany, I feel passionately about National Standards and I am immensely frustrated by the damage they will do to children’s learning. I really regret that my comments have created a diversion from the real issues: the negative impacts of National Standards as a policy.

I care passionately about children and their learning- some might argue too passionately- but it is that passion which drives my opposition to National Standards.

I unreservedly apologise to the parents and students of Salford for casting our school into disrepute.

So she has apologised to her students and parents, but not to Anne Tolley for calling her Hitler. What a wonderful example to the students.

Now talking of the campaign against national standards, it is important to stress again that sadly the taxpayer is being forced to fund most of this campaign. Membership of the various principals’ associations is not paid for by the principal, but by the taxpayer through Vote Education.

Whale Oil has some documents showing the extent of the taxpayer funding – around $100,000 from the regional principal associations.

The taxpayer funding of the unions comes about because it is in the collective contract. My advice to the Government is to refuse any future agreement that results in the unions being funded by the taxpayer. If a principal sees benefits from joining the principals’ union, then they can do so out of their own pocket.

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Dom Post on national standards

November 5th, 2010 at 1:59 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the head teachers’ trade union, the Principals Federation, desperately hopes the Government will make martyrs of 225 school boards of trustees by sacking them in response to their withdrawal this week of co-operation over national standards.

If the Government is contemplating such a reaction, it must reconsider.

Far better to point out that this small group is simply philosophically opposed to the National-led Government, comprises just 10 per cent of primary and intermediate schools, and is driven by only a handful of people, including two who hope to become Labour MPs.

That should be at least two.

Inspired by education academic John Hattie, the Government, from the prime minister down, is anxious to change the fortunes of those who reach secondary school with poor literacy and numeracy skills.

It was in an effort to fix that disgraceful situation that National vowed during the 2008 election campaign to introduce benchmarks in reading, writing and maths.

But because it did not consult the unions in devising the standards, teachers have long threatened to frustrate their implementation. Now some schools have acted on those threats.

Actually the standards themselves are a red herring. The unions have made very clear to the Minister that if she amended the OIA to exempt school assessment data from public access, then all their opposition would drop – as in they would work within the system to improve national standards.

The calls for trials, for reconsideration etc are pure delaying tactics. I would wager millions of dollars that they would at the end of any trial have exactly the same position as before – unless the OIA is changed to exclude assessment data.

Yet principals are public servants, obliged to follow the law. Further, their anti-national-standards campaign has a whiff of sexism about it. Anne Tolley is the first female education minister, and the federation campaign to denigrate her every move has not been pretty.

Thuggish is the term I would use.

Critics try to denigrate national standards by dismissing them as merely aspirational. But that is precisely what they should be. And in assisting their offspring to aim for them, parents must know what their children are good at, where they need help, and what they as parents can do. It is not too much to ask that those standing in the front of the class get with the programme. They fail those they profess to care about when they do not.

The unions do not accept that anyone but them has the right to set education policy.

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Principals behind boards campaign

November 5th, 2010 at 4:42 am by David Farrar

Whale Oil reports:

I have been leaked emails show­ing the co-ordination and organ­i­sa­tion inter­nally of the so called Board of Trustees revolt. What is appar­ent is that this isn’t an action being orches­trated by Boards, it is instead being run by the NZEI and the unionised prin­ci­pals. The Boards seem not to have been informed let alone the par­ents of the schools named in the revolt.

Here are two emails from Perry Rush, Prinic­pal of Island Bay School. The first email makes it clear that Board Chairs may well have not been fully informed, or informed at all about the pend­ing action.

You can read the e-mails at Whale.

The principals of course are doing this during the working day, from work premises. In other words us taxpayers are funding their campaign.

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NZPF Campaign against National Standards

October 15th, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The NZ Principal’s Federation has declined the offer of going on a working group to identify ways the national standards can be improved, and instead has launched a public campaign against them. What I love is how weak their campaign page is. Here are their five main complaints:

  1. Won’t tell you the whole story about how your child and school are doing
  2. Will harm, not help, children and schools
  3. Will confuse, not inform parents
  4. Won’t fix poverty, unemployment, crime and all the other factors that feed underachievement in our schools
  5. Will be demoralising and demotivating for the students who need help most

No 1 is a silly irrelevancy. Of course they won’t tell the only story. They are not meant to. They are not to replace school reports – they are simply an extra page that must be included.

No 2 is an ideological assertion. The fact is that schools which are identified as having students who are not at national standard levels, will in fact attract some extra modest funding.

No 3 is outrageous. Legions of parents complain about current school reports. An extra page showing whether or not their child is below, at or above the national standard for that age is bloody useful – and parents have overwhelmingly said they would like this info.

And with No 4 it won’t stop climate change either. So what.

No 5 is ridicolous hyperbole. It’s like saying you can never tell anyone they failed an exam in case it demoralises them. Any teacher worth their salt can communicate results in a sensitive manner, and regardless how cruel is it to have kids who are failing to never be told they are failing and going to leave school unable to functionally read or write unless something is done.

The sad thing is that the NZPF are not really against national standards per se. They are against league tables. If the Govt outlawed league tables, their opposition would disappear overnight. So their campaign is intellectually very dishonest.

UPDATE: A very pertinent comment is worth highlighting:

My daughter has dyslexia and auditory processing disorder, both diagnosed in Year 5. In Year 5 she was three years behind in reading. At the start of Year 6 she was four years behind in writing. Yet for the first four years of her schooling her teachers told me she was doing fine, she didn’t need any support and was “not the worst in the class”. Meetings with teachers and school management got me nowhere. It was only when I paid $500 for an educational psychologist’s report to prove to the school that she wasn’t “doing fine” that they admitted she had difficulties and gave her some support.

One year later she is now two years AHEAD in reading and only one year behind in writing. (In addition to support at school I pay for individual dyslexia tuition.) According to NZEI the schools already know which kids are “failing” and National Standards won’t help to identify them. Either my daughter’s teachers didn’t know, or they lied to me when I asked them.

According to NZPF I will be confused to be told the truth about my daughter. I wish my daughter’s teachers had told me about her difficulties much earlier, and without being prompted by an expensive educational psychologist’s report. Then I could have arranged dyslexia tuition earlier.

According to NZPF telling my daughter she is “failing” will demoralise and demotivate her. I have found the reverse to be true – in the past she used to talk about “the smart kids”. Now that she knows there is a reason that schoolwork is more difficult for her, her self-esteem has improved enormously.

This happens to far too many families – they are not told there is a problem until it is almost too late.

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The bullying principals

September 17th, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged a link on 31 August to two principals discussing national standards. One principal was a campaigner against them (and head of the Canterbury Principals Assn) and the other was a principal who supports the standards.

Duncan Garner reports on the abuse and bullying Donna Donnelly has received for daring to say she has no problems with national standards:

Tikipunga principal Donna Donnelly supports standards in numeracy in literacy. Neighbouring principal Peter Witana, an executive member of the New Zealand Principals Federation (NZPF), does not.

So he sent her a strongly worded email.

“It’s a type of bullying and I don’t accept it,” says Ms Donnelly.

Mr Witana told Ms Donnelly her support “reeks of arrogance and ignorance”, that she should be “sacked on the spot”, and that she should “get off her backside and look closer”.

Another principal told her to watch her back.

Witana is basically a union heavy. How dare he say she should be sacked, because she refuses to agree with the union.  If anyone should be facing the sack – it should be him. What sort of role model is he for pupils, when he is exposed as a ranting bully.

And Duncan reports in a follow up story:

But Donnelly continues to be targeted.

Another Northland principal Pat Newman also emailed  Donnelly for taking the spat to 3 News; he wrote;

“It was despicable. I am so sad that you call yourself a principal. When you left the Waikato the message from many of your colleagues was that you were the ‘best export they had ever made.’”

Mr Newman sounds like a spiteful 10 year old. He is also a Labour Party actvist who is seeking Labour’s nomination for Whangarei. Meet your future Education Minister!!

The vast majority of schools have just got on with implementing national standards. But consider if you are one of those principals. Would you dare to state a view that is contrary to the union? So do not be surprised when you only hear from one side of teh debate – the other side have been scared off.

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A taxpayer funded union

August 29th, 2010 at 2:36 pm by David Farrar

The SST reports:

UNDER-FIRE EDUCATION Minister Anne Tolley has labelled a campaign against national standards a “silly political game”, and slammed the Principals Association for bringing “nothing positive to the table”.

National standards, implemented in primary and intermediate schools this year, rank all children above, below or well-below benchmarks in reading, writing and maths. Now the Principals Federation is canvassing for money to fund an information campaign against the standards, with the Auckland Primary Principals Association already pledging $60,000. …

The federation is funded from annual subscriptions paid by schools out of government funding. The Auckland primary principals’ group is funded the same way and president Iain Taylor said its $60,000 would help people “learn more about the flaws in the current national standards”.

Few people actually realise that the Principals’ Federation is in fact funded by the taxpayer.  Almost all schools pay the membership fee on behalf of the principal.

As a taxpayer, I’d like a refund please.

If principals see value in joining the federation, let them do so out of their salary – like most other unions.

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NZ Principals’ Federation Newsletter

August 19th, 2010 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

From their latest newsletter:

The NZPF took the approach of engaging with the Minister to find a solution including a complete review of the National Standards system in partnership with the sector. Our preference remains still to work with the Minister and sector but until there is a commitment to work in a true and meaningful partnership, we can’t, in good faith engage with her. We do however leave the door open if the Minister should ever want to enter a partnership with us and the sector in the future. But we can’t just wait, doing nothing.

This is hilarious. Do you know why? The NZPF is refusing to actually detail their concerns about the standards. They keep saying they are flawed, but have declined every request to detail how exactly they are flawed. They say they will not detail the flaws, unless the Government agrees in advance to suspend the standards.

Their idea of a partnership, seems akin to a bank robber asking the bank manager for a partnership – hand over all your cash and then we will lower our weapon.

During last weekend’s executive meeting it passed a motion in respect of our moral obligation to our children which read NZPF encourages schools to take a principled stance on National Standards until such time as concerns are successfully resolved. By ‘principled stance’ the executive means making decisions and taking actions in the very best interests of the children of New Zealand and these may include moral and ethical considerations.

A principled stand – ha ha ha ha. And “best interests of the children of NZ” – they should write comedy. They are going to disrupt as many schools as possible to prevent parents from knowing how their kids are doing against a national standard, and claim this is to protect the children. My God.

National Standards are the most serious issue that the NZPF has encountered in its 27 year history. From many quarters there are warnings about hurtling down this path.

The most serious issue? Incredible. They are in fact a minor additional requirement, that school reports have an extra page where current reports are moderated so they can be measured against a national benchmark.

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The Principals Federation Survey

February 23rd, 2010 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Principals Federation is doing a so called survey of parents on National Standards. Of course it has no scientific merit as it is not a random sample (they are promoting through some schools), but that is not the worst part of it. Get a grip on these so called questions:

Do you think that people should be concerned about bringing in an untried, untested system into our schools, when similar systems have failed overseas?

This is what the NZPF thinks is a balanced question!

Do you think it is wrong to hold schools totally responsible for students’ learning when it is acknowledged that there are many other circumstances beyond the control of the school?

And no one is saying they do hold schools totally responsible. But the NZPF seems to thinks schools have no responsibility at all.

Do you believe that the money being spent on National Standards would be better spent on world-leading programmes, developed in NZ, that we know work with students who are struggling to learn?

This should win some sort of award for the most biased unprofessional questions ever asked in a survey.

That of course has not stopped some principals using taxpayer resources to send it onto parents.  I’ve had half a dozen parents contact me to complain. My advice to any parent who gets the survey is to complain to the School Board Chair. The Dom Post reports on Karori School:

Karori Normal School has apologised to parents after complaints about it sending home a petition protesting against the Government’s national standards.

The school has also been scolded for sending parents a Principals Federation survey about the standards, which was branded “ridiculous, biased rubbish” by a parent. The survey features 10 questions, including whether parents thought it was wrong that children as young as five or six would be branded as failing, and if they were concerned that boards of trustees had been threatened with the sack if they disagreed about implementing the standards.

Karori Normal principal Diane Leggett, a member of the national executive of primary teachers’ union NZEI, which opposes the standards, said she did not mean to offend anyone by sending out the material.

Mrs Leggett told The Dominion Post that she assumed the Principals Federation survey would be unbiased and sent it out without checking it. “It was an error on my part. I would not have sent it out if I knew it was so obviously biased. I should have checked it first.”

Well if even a member of the NZEI national executive says the NZPF survey is obviously biased, I think we can all agree it has no worth as a survey and is in fact disguised propaganda.

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Parents blast teachers union

January 21st, 2010 at 6:54 pm by David Farrar

The NZ School Trustees Assn (effectively the voice for parents) is getting sick of the union tactics:

The continued “shotgun approach” by the primary teachers union (NZEI) and the Principals Federation (NZPF) to the Nationals Standards issue is not helpful to anyone says the New Zealand School Trustees Association.

President Lorraine Kerr says the constant shifting of the ground, and arguments, hoping that one of the approaches will score a response with the school community, Boards of Trustees, and others, does not strengthen the unions’ case at all. Indeed, if they are not careful, there is a risk they may end up shooting themselves in the foot by way of an ever increasing credibility gap.

In other words, stop scaremongering.

The concerns appear to shift constantly, so it’s no surprise that many people find the whole debate somewhat confusing, and, in fact it is rapidly becoming quite tiresome, she says.

“I have every sympathy for those many parents/caregivers, who see nothing wrong with the idea that they should know how their children are doing in key areas, including literacy/numeracy, from wondering what the fuss is actually about,” Lorraine Kerr says.

And that is all it is about. Allowing parents to know how theri kids are doing in terms of meeting or exceeding the national standard for numeracy and literacy.

NZSTA has also struggled at times to identify what the issue actually is, but did get some clarity at a meeting in late 2009 when the president of NZEI stated that NZEI would have no problems at all with National Standards if the threat of league tables was removed.

Lorraine Kerr says that if that is the real driving concern, it needed quickly dealt with.

The unions need to recognise this is the Internet age. You can not prevent parents from sharing info on schools.You can’t prevent any number of people or organisations from doing comparison tables – just as you get in the health sector, the police sector, the finance sector etc etc.

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Why the flip-flop from education union heads?

December 28th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

In the last couple of months the education unions have been strident against the proposed national standards. However a copy of the May Education Review shows this was not always the case:

Educational Institute President Frances Nelson said she was “particularly optimistic” that the new standards would be useful, as they were based on and improved on a system already in use. Data collected through the tests would help teachers decide what to teach next, help schools plan ahead, and provide parents with better reports on their children’s progress.

“The ministry and minister have worked on something much more robust than anything I have seen in the world at this time,” she said.

So what has happened since May? Did she get Mallarded?

Principals Federation president Ernie Buutveld said the tests essentially reflected existing practice at about half of primary schools, while the remaining schools were probably moving toward similar systems.

Again, what a change of tune.

The reality is that the standards are a relatively modest initiative. They are not one uniform nationwide test. They are not some grade average where 50% must fail. They are simply a statement of the sort of literacy and numeracy tasks you expect a pupil to be able to perform at a certain age, if they are to be on track to leave primary school able to read, write and do basic maths.

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