A cool school app

September 6th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Keeping up with the kids’ school activities just got easier for some Hamilton parents thanks to a mobile phone app.

Parents can notify absences, check upcoming events and get notices and more through Southwell School’s app.

It has been up and running for around two weeks and is so far on about 500 phones.

The free app runs on iPhone and Android and was developed by Snapp Mobile in about six weeks, Helm said.

Southwell would have spent less than $5000 on the app, which came with a “back end” website so the school can make minor modifications.

Snapp Mobile director Joshua Woodham said more and more schools were choosing to communicate with parents through apps.

School parents were on the go and found it helpful to receive updates and alerts on their mobile devices wherever they were, he said.

Functions of the Southwell app include checking out upcoming events and copying them to personal calendars, linking parents to ticket purchasing, quick access to staff contact details, and alerts straight to mobile.

That’s a very worthwhile investment. Good initiative.


Nine new schools for Auckland

August 13th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

National will build nine new schools in Auckland if re-elected, associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye announced today.

The schools would be built as part of a $350 million investment into Auckland education infrastructure over the next four years, Ms Kaye said.

The announcement was made during a visit to Ponsonby Primary School with Prime Minister John Key this afternoon.

“We have recently invested in new schools in areas like Hamilton and Queenstown, and Auckland is an obvious candidate for significant new investment,” she said.

The new schools would be spread across the Auckland region, with four likely in the northern region, three in South Auckland, and two in West Auckland.

An additional 130 classrooms would also be built at existing school sites across the Auckland region to deal with forecast roll growth, Ms Kaye said.

A further eight schools would be renovated.

“We will deal with major redevelopments at Western Springs College in Western Springs, Southern Cross Campus (second stage) in Mangere East, and Sherwood Primary in Browns Bay as first cabs off the rank if we are returned to Government at the election.

That’s a significant amount of money for Auckland schools.

Funding would come from a mixture of the Future Investment Fund — which contains the proceeds from asset sales, and existing baselines including possible public/private partnerships, Ms Kaye said.

Those awful partial asset sales, helping fund new schools. How terrible.

Stuff reports:

Labour would make the same investments if elected, as it was “business-as-usual, baseline capital investment for any government,” he said.

How? Will they add this to their $17 billion? These are capital works being brought forward many years, which are not currently funded.

Cunliffe said public-private partnerships were the “trick” of the announcement.

“Now this is creeping privatisation of the education system – there is no economic case for it, there is not enough risk to be managed in a school to justify the higher private cost of capital,” he said.

A PPP is not privatisation. In the last Labour Government David Cunliffe was a huge proponents of PPPs. But if Labour is ruling out PPPs, where are they going to find the money? It doesn’t grow on trees.

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Test kids when they enter school

July 6th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Children whose knowledge isn’t up to scratch when they start school should be tested so the funding they require can be measured, a new report on child poverty says.

Children in poverty “do not leave their daily life circumstances at the school gate”, says John O’Neill, author of the latest report from independent charity The Child Poverty Action Group.

I agree. But considering the primary teachers union is against even national standards, I can’t imagine they’d ever go along with testing all five year olds. But I say it is essential you do know their capacity when they start school.

Teachers could already identify students with learning problems – the challenge was getting the funding to help fix it, Post Primary Teachers’ Association president Angela Roberts said.

“The thing we like about decile funding is that it acknowledges some schools require greater resources than others.”

But taking a step back and reassessing how much it cost to educate a child and then adding in all their other needs would be a better funding system, she said. “Funding is about the needs of a kid, not the location of a school.”

I agree. The decile system is a blunt tool. It would be preferable to individually assess each pupil, and have funding dependent on what their needs are.

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Is it the parents refusing the hair cut?

June 17th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The 16-year-old student suspended for having long hair could be back at college while waiting for his court hearing – if he agrees to a haircut.

Lucan Battison was suspended from St John’s College in Hastings on May 22 and hasn’t been back since.

The school’s lawyer said yesterday that his suspension was lifted by the board of trustees on May 30, to allow him to return on the condition that he cut his hair first.

But his parents are standing firm, and still intend to go to the High Court on Monday to seek a judicial review of the school’s decision.

Father Troy Battison said yesterday: “Lucan has always maintained he wants to go back to school, but he wants to be able to tie his hair back and, to be honest, it looks tidier tied up anyway.”

He said he could understand the school wanting to instil respect and discipline in students, “but my son knows both of those, whether his hair is tied back or not”.

Lucan told TV One last night he did not think it was fair “to be excluded from school just because of my parents”.

That’s an interesting comment. That suggests it is his parents, not Lucan, who are insisting he not cut his hair. I can’t imagine a 16 year old would be the saying I’d rather go to court. so why would his parents be demanding he not cut his hair?

His father, who has long dreadlocks, said …

Okay, now it is all making sense.

If you choose to go to a Catholic integrated school that has a policy on hair length, don’t complain when they enforce it. There are plenty of schools around that don’t have such a policy.

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Why didn’t he just cut his hair?

June 13th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A hero schoolboy is heading to court in a rare legal fight after he was suspended from college because his hair is too long.

Lucan Battison, 16, who received a bravery award in April for helping to save two women from drowning, was suspended from St John’s College in Hastings just a month later after being told he needed a haircut.

His father, Troy, has gone to the High Court seeking an urgent judicial review of the school’s decision. The case is likely to be heard later this month and principal Paul Melloy and the board of trustees will defend their actions.

When contacted yesterday, Troy Battison referred questions to lawyer Jol Bates, who said legal proceedings were “very much a last resort”, and the family wanted to get Lucan back to school as soon as possible.

So why doesn’t he just cut his hair?

Alternatively enrol in a school that doesn’t have a policy on hair length.

But if you choose to go to an integrated school (which is a choice, no one is zoned for it), then you have to accept their rules. If you don’t like them, then choose a school without a rule on hair length.


Labour against paying the top teachers more

June 12th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government’s $359 million expert teachers policy has proved to be the latest in a series of “epic failures” in the education sector due to a lack of consultation with teachers and Labour will soon announce a better model it says.

The Government policy which would see “expert” and “lead” teachers identified and paid extra to act as role models across several schools was slammed by primary teachers union the NZEI and the NZ Principals Federation after they met to discuss it this week.

What the story doesn’t mention is that the PPTA has said:

The government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success (IES) program has been a positive example of sector collaboration, says PPTA president Angela Roberts.

Roberts welcomes today’s release of the working group report on the initiative which will see schools across the country collaborating rather than competing.

From PPTA’s point of view the consultation over IES was comprehensive, robust and genuine, Roberts said.

“We stepped up to the challenge and engaged as fully as it is possible to do.”

The sector had worked hard together to find pragmatic answers and there had been significant movement from the originally unacceptable cabinet paper, Roberts said.

“You know it’s collaboration when it’s hard work – and this was really hard work.”

“We feel cabinet has heard us,” she said.

Now the PPTA is not exactly a friend of the Government’s. It opposes the Government on many other issues. It would not be saying that there has been genuine consultation and changes – unless there had been.

NZEI National President Judith Nowotarski said leaders from national and regional principal and teacher groups had sent a clear message that the policy, as it currently stood, was “unacceptable and unworkable” and “identified the lack of direct benefit for children in this policy”.

School leaders were concerned the policy would remove highly rated teachers and principals from their schools for two days a week, which would impact on children’s learning.

The PPTA actually deals with this in a blog post:

4. The evidence is lacking

There is plenty of evidence on the professional benefits of mentoring and the positive results that focusing on collaboration rather than competition will bring.

5. There is growing disquiet and concern in the sector…

Only in a small part of the beltway in Wellington.  Elsewhere schools are thinking about what clusters they are already in and what they need to do to be ready to pick up the extra staffing and funding that will come in next year.  Listen carefully – that is the sound of professionals collaborating.

Again why would the PPTA say this, if they did not think the policy was beneficial?

Labour’s education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the fact that teachers and principals were willing to turn down pay rises of up to $40,000 a year “reflects how bad they believe this policy is”.

It’s more a reflection that the NZEI just wants a Labour-led Government so National Standards can be abolished.

Mr Hipkins said Ms Parata had learned nothing about working with teachers.

“She has overseen epic failures including the class size debacle, the Christchurch schools mergers, charter schools and National Standards. And let’s not forget Novopay.”

Again I quote the PPTA blog:

1. There has been no consultation.

This might be true if these changes had been legislated in place but that’s not what happened. The $359 million was an employer offer made to unions for them to bargain and amend with the aim of eventually putting it into their collective agreements.   If using the democratic structures of unions to made changes for teachers isn’t consultation what is?

Strange that this article quotes the NZEI and Labour at length, and doesn’t even mention the views of the PPTA.

But I welcome the (almost) clear sign from Labour they they oppose this policy (they pretended to support it when first announced). This gives people another reasons to vote National.

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Investing in Educational Success initiative moves forward

June 4th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Hekia Parata announced:

Education Minister Hekia Parata has welcomed advice from sector leaders on the Government’s $359 million initiative to raise student achievement, saying it maintains momentum and strengthens the path forward.

Ms Parata has released a Working Group report that provides support and advice on the Investing in Educational Success initiative announced by the Prime Minister in January.

“Raising student achievement is one of our Government’s top priorities. This investment strongly supports that by building quality and consistency of teaching and leadership across the system,” Ms Parata says.

“Like us, parents will be very pleased we’re making such good progress on something that will make a real difference in our schools and classrooms.

“Unions and groups representing teachers, principals, boards of trustees, and others in the sector have worked closely with the Ministry of Education to produce a report that demonstrates very practical thinking.

“I want to acknowledge the expertise and experience Working Group members brought to the table to advance this work. I know they’re as committed as we are to raising achievement so five out of five kids succeed.”

This has been a good example of how Government can work with stakeholders. The Government announced the policy and funding, but said they’ll work with unions and others on exact details. And they have accepted some of the changes proposed by teachers and unions such as making sure teachers have both relief and inquiry time built into their week, so they can participate in the sharing of skills.

The full report is here. The key details are:

  • Communities of schools would form to encourage collaboration. Participation is voluntary.
  • There would be:
    • Community of Schools Leadership Role (for Executive Principal)
    • Community of Schools Teacher (across community) Role (for Expert Teacher)
    • Community of Schools Teacher (within school) Role (for Lead Teacher)
    • Principal Recruitment Allowance (for Change Principal Allowance).
  • Selection to the roles would be subject to meeting agreed professional standards or criteria, which are to be developed by an expert writing group
  • Release time would be provided to schools for across-community roles to fulfil their functions
  • A payment should be established to support boards of trustees of the most high need schools to broaden their recruitment pool and assist them to recruit a high quality principal. 
  • The provision of Inquiry Time would allow other teachers across a Community of Schools to access the expertise that the new roles would make available. 
  • A Teacher-led Innovation Fund (TLIF) would be established with a budget of $10 million over the coming four years. 

The NZEI has been participating, but has a general policy of disagreeing with anything National proposes, regardless of its merits. The PPTA, according to my sources, has been much more constructive, and are responsible for many of the changes proposed in the working group report. It’s a good example of the difference between constructive engagement and mindless opposition. At the end of the day the NZEI will have to decide whether they wish to campaign against thousands of their own members being able to get paid $10,000 to $50,000 a year more!

To be fair to NZEI they have been participating in the working group. They are just unable to publicly ever state that something National does could possibly be beneficial because they’re still sulking over national standards.

The PPTA response is worth quoting, and is here:

The government’s $359 million Investing in Educational Success (IES) program has been a positive example of sector collaboration, says PPTA president Angela Roberts.

Roberts welcomes today’s release of the working group report on the initiative which will see schools across the country collaborating rather than competing.

From PPTA’s point of view the consultation over IES was comprehensive, robust and genuine, Roberts said.

“We stepped up to the challenge and engaged as fully as it is possible to do.”

The sector had worked hard together to find pragmatic answers and there had been significant movement from the originally unacceptable cabinet paper, Roberts said.

“You know it’s collaboration when it’s hard work – and this was really hard work.”

“We feel cabinet has heard us,” she said.

In stark contrast to the NZEI position. If I was a primary teacher I’d be asking my union why they are constantly badmouthing a plan to allow the best teachers and principals to earn up to $50,000 a year more.

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Press says Parata listened

May 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The proposal that the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, put forward yesterday for changes to five schools in the eastern suburbs is a compromise and will not please everyone.

It does, however, demonstrate that the minister has been prepared, as she promised, to listen to the submissions made to her from the community and to change her mind in some areas. The consultation process will continue – the schools still have 28 days to respond to this interim proposal before Parata will announce a final decision.

I’d say the Government has been very flexible and accommodating with its decisions around Christchurch schools. Around 25% of initial decisions have changed.

It is a pity that this level of consultation was not undertaken before rather than after the appallingly mishandled initial announcement for the reorganisation of Christchurch schools was made last year.

Yep. That poisoned the well. The primary fault lay with the Ministry, but the Minister is responsible and should not have just left it to the Ministry to do.

So far as the eastern suburbs were concerned, Parata originally proposed that five schools – Aranui School, Avondale School, Wainoni School, Chisnallwood Intermediate and Aranui High School – be combined at the Aranui High site to create one school that would take pupils from year 1 to year 13.

The idea was to take account of the fact that many of those schools had facilities and grounds that were damaged and had suffered sharp declines in enrolments that were expected to continue, probably for several years.

Parata’s new proposal is to combine four schools, leaving Chisnallwood Intermediate to continue to operate separately. This compromise, if it goes ahead, will please Chisnallwood, which strongly opposed the original proposal, but will disappoint Avondale, which also did not want to join with the other eastern schools.

It should also please Aranui, Wainoni and Aranui High, since it largely reflects their submission to Parata that they have a similar spirit, were a natural fit and should unite at the Aranui High School site.

Leaving Chisnallwood out of the new proposal makes sense. A very large proportion of its enrolment already comes from outside its zone. If it had been combined with the other schools, most of those pupils would almost certainly not have gone to the new site.

Does seem sensible.

Yesterday’s announcement leaves 17 still to hear final decisions on whether they will merge or close by the end of this month.

After the uproar at the beginning, the ending is much less tumultuous. To some degree, that must be because of the intensive discussions that have taken place in the interim.

If Parata deserved blame for the botchup at the beginning, she deserves some credit for being prepared to listen and if necessary change her proposals since then.

A fair editorial.

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Labour even complains about new schools!

March 10th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Newstalk ZB reports:

Two new schools are to be built in north east Hamilton, but the plans are not without controversy.

Minister of Education Hekia Parata has announced a primary school will be built in Flagstaff by 2015, and a secondary school by 2016.

Labour MP Sue Moroney says locals have been calling for a secondary school for five years, but the primary is not seen as such a priority.

“The proposal for a new primary school? Well that’s come out of left field, or right field as it might be.

“It’s not the priority. The community is very clear about its priorities, they want the secondary school in place.”

Hekia Parata says the evidence shows the primary school will be needed first in the area, which is growing rapidly.

Just because you are in opposition doesn’t mean you need to oppose everything the Government announces. Criticising the Government for spending $10 million on a new primary school for Hamilton is not likely to help you win the seat.

There are projected to be an extra 600 primary age students in North-East Hamilton by 2016.

The new secondary school will be the first new one in 40 years I believe. It reflects how strong the population growth there is.

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Editorials on Chch schools

February 19th, 2013 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press editorial:

The big reduction in the number of schools being forced to close or merge, announced by Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday, is more than welcome. It ends the anxiety of the many Christchurch people who faced their most cherished community asset being torn from them or drastically altered, reduces pupil and parent fears and gives teachers more certainty about their jobs.

The Government should be congratulated for at last properly consulting people about the plan and for taking heed of concerns. Even greater congratulations should go to the schools, parents and supporters for gathering the facts and ensuring that the Government took them aboard. This was a demonstration of people power at its constructive best.

There is nothing as good as winning an argument by having the facts on your side.

Now it emerges that much of that outpouring was avoidable had the Ministry of Education built its plans on sure facts and consulted more effectively before the wholesale announcement. Had it done so, the first plan would have been something like that now proposed and would not have hit the city like a load of lead. People would have been much more accepting of change because they would have been informed about its need and contributed to its detail.

It is clear the original proposals were not just communicated badly, but were in some cases based on faulty info. The Herald touches on this also:

The outcry that greeted the announcement of the plan in September made its revision inevitable. The revised version appeared yesterday. Instead of closures and mergers of schools across the city the closures now appear to be confined to areas worst hit by the earthquakes or where rolls had been in steepest decline.

While there is anguish in any school that has to close – and the date has been set sooner for them under the revised plan – some of them had to go. The city’s schools had a combined capacity for about 5000 more pupils than attended them before the earthquakes and its school-age population had dropped by a further 4300 by July last year.

It is hard to argue that nothing should change at all, based on the surplus of 9,300 places.

If the original plan had been confined to those sorts of areas it would probably not have incurred the wrath and derision it received. But somewhere in the higher echelons of education, the earthquake was seen as an opportunity to redesign schooling as we have known it in this country. The whole of Christchurch was to be a template for “something different and innovative to support improved outcomes in education”.

The ministry’s document talked of “shared campuses” for everything from early childhood to tertiary education, and educational institutions that would comprise not just schools but “dental clinics, doctors’ surgeries, mental health and other support services such as counsellors, social workers and therapists”.

To this end, the planners hoped to knock down and rebuild much more public property than had suffered serious damage.

The original plan was based on the “ideal” but failed to take account of how disruptive change can be. The revised plan appears to be based on necessity where change is minimised unless there is little alternative.

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Christchurch Schools details

February 18th, 2013 at 12:22 pm by David Farrar

The details are all on the dedicated website. A summary:

  • Only 19 out of 215 schools in Canterbury are affected, representing around 5% of Canterbury pupils
  • 12 schools that were proposed for closure or merging will now remain as they are.  They are Bromley, Burnham, Burnside, Duvauchelle, Gilberthorpe, Linwood Avenue, Okains Bay, Ouruhia Model, Shirley Intermediate, and Yaldhurst schools, and the two kura – TKKM o Waitaha and TKKM o Te Whānau Tahi
  • Seven schools are proposed to close
  • 12 schools are proposed to merge into six schools
  • Five schools in Aranui are proposed to merge into one Year 1 to 13 campus but this is still being consulted on
  • Two schools have closed voluntarily
  • Two schools are being rebuilt on their existing sites
  • Five brand-new schools are being built
  • Eight schools are being rebuilt on new sites
  • Further consultation on interim decisions has been extended to 31 March 2013

It will be a hard day for the pupils, teachers, staff and parents of the 19 schools that face closure or change. My thoughts are with them. Also with those who will now not be impacted and will be very relieved and can focus on the future of their schools.


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Getting it right this time

February 18th, 2013 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

The Government will announce interim decisions for 31 schools earmarked for possible closure or merger as part of its ”education renewal plans” for the city at noon on Monday.

Schools will have six weeks to respond to those decisions. A final decision on the schools will be made in late May.

The 31 affected schools have a total roll of about 5500 kids, or 7.6 per cent of the school population in greater Christchurch.

The schools will be informed of the interim decisions first on Monday, at their schools as they have requested, before the decisions are publicly announced at noon.

A letter for parents will also be sent home with all children at the affected schools outlining the decisions and what it means for them.

Information about each school will be available on the shapingeducation.govt.nz website.

An 0800 number has been set up, which parents can call if they have any questions. That number is            0800 746 338       and will be active from noon Monday.

I have to say it looks like the Government has learnt from what went wrong last time, with the way they have handled this latest round.

Last time people were summoned to a room, and found out the proposed fate of their school from the colour of their name tag.

This time, the process looks much much better. The schools have been asked how they want to be told. Each school has someone coming in to them – to tell them first. The Government has made clear any decisions are interim, and that there is six weeks to submit before final decisions. There is a letter to each parent, a dedicated website and an 0800 number.

Now this doesn’t mean everyone will like the decisions. Inevitably any decisions on mergers and closures will be upsetting for those affected. But the population loss and damaged buildings and land has made change inevitable. Also 92% of pupils in Canterbury will be unaffected by any decisions.

Also important to recall that the education unions have called a strike for tomorrow – regardless of what is announced. The unions have decided in advance to oppose whatever is announced. [It seems the strike may have quietly been called off according to one report.]

I, for one, am going to wait to see the details.

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The Christchurch Schools announcement

September 24th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Beck Eleven at The Press wrote:

Few people embrace change. That’s just science. Nonetheless, it is inevitable, especially in this post-quake era. However, I find it incomprehensible how Education Minister Hekia Parata, ably assisted by Bulldozer No 1, Gerry Brownlee, could possibly have thought the way they announced changes to Christchurch’s schools would go down well.

You would hope that hundreds of hours of research had gone into how many schools needed to close, the criteria for each and rock solid, defensible reasons for the changes. Then, one would expect a few more hours nutting out the best delivery method.

There are screeds of literature and academic theory dedicated to the psychology of change, so why on God’s Rubbled Earth would the news be delivered to principals who were given coloured name badges before being told if the colour of their name badge equated to a closure, a merger or status quo. I can’t even bear to give the Government’s term “rejuvenation” any more air.

It sounds like a terrible and humiliating rip-off version of New Zealand Idol or New Zealand’s Got Talent.

While I admit it would take some extraordinary being to deliver the news in a way that would be acceptable to the majority, surely someone suspected this would be the thorn that turned Christchurch into a wounded lion?

They gave out colour named badges to principals, and then announced whether their colour meant their school survived or not????

How on earth could anyone think that was a good idea? Jesus Christ. Someone actually sat down and said “Hey let’s give them different coloured name badges, to indicate what happens to their schools” and no-one else said “That’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever said!”.

I’m staggered by that degree of insensitivity and stupidity. Now I know Ministers do not get into the details of whether or not people get coloured name tags, so I don’t blame them. But they need to ensure either their Departments have a CEO and managers who know how to handle issues like this, or insist that such details get run through their office.

With reflection, almost everything about the announcement was flawed. Having one “big bang” announcement was the wrong way to do it. Summoning all the principals and board chairs together may have been convenient, but made things worse.

As Beck Eleven has said, any change is difficult and challenging. School closures or mergers are some of the most difficult. We’re talking the jobs of principals and teachers. The security of neighbourhood for parents, the incredibly important friendships for pupils. If any reorganisation needs maximum sensitivity, then school closures and mergers are it.

If I was the relevant manager in the Ministry of Education, what I would have done is:

  1. Appoint a dedicated liaison for every school that could be impacted
  2. Have them go in and meet key stakeholders in each school
  3. Keep the school informed on what is happening on a “no surprises” policy
  4. Share with them the data on which a decision will be made. Ask them for input and data.
  5. Telegraph well in advance what the likely scenarios are. If closure is likely, be honest and say “That is the likely outcome, but the decision is not final”
  6. When there is a draft decision, have someone go to the school, and in order tell the principal, board, and staff. Don’t summon them to come out to you.
  7. Have support services available to those affected.

You’re still going to have upset staff, parents and pupils due to the nature of the decisions. But you won’t have got the same degree of anger and pushback, as has occurred.

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10 ways to recognise a good school

September 24th, 2012 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports Professor John Hattie’s 10 indicators for parents:

1. In the playground, do the students look each other in the eye? Or do they avoid each other, or sit in cliques.

2. Diversity breeds fresh thinking. Can they show you genuine evidence it is encouraged?

3. How do they measure success? By the achievements of the few or of the many?

4. Ask to meet the best teacher. If they tell you they’re all good, they’re not thinking clearly.

5. Who do students turn to? Every student should have someone who knows how they are doing and will spend time with them.

6. Do new students make friends in the first month? It is a critical indicator for success: how does the school make sure it happens with all students?

7. Do they like mistakes? Learning starts from not knowing, so do they embrace that? Do students feel confident enough to talk about errors or not knowing something?

8. Are students “assessment capable” in this school. Can they talk about how well they are doing, where they are now and going next?

9. Do they use acceleration for all? Are students enabled to learn at different speeds?

10. What feedback do students get? Ask – “what did you get told about your work today”?

I especially like the suggestion to look at the playground and asking to meet the best teacher.

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Christchurch Schools

September 14th, 2012 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Principals were reduced to tears as their jobs, schools and communities were put on the chopping block.

In an announcement marred by confusion, the Education Ministry said 13 Christchurch schools would close and 18 could merge. Five Aranui schools will also combine into an education “cluster”.

Teachers and pupils have huge emotional attachments to their schools, and I can well understand how upset people will be at these decisions. It is worth noting there are 216 schools in total in the Christchurch area.

However these closures are not happening because the Government just wants to save some money. To the contrary the Government has committed $1 billion of capital spending on schools and educational facilities in Christchurch. The closures and mergers are because there are 3,000 fewer students, and some existing schools are too damaged. These school closures are basically an after-shock of the earthquake.

Shirley Boys’ High School principal John Laurenson has dismissed a proposal to merge the school with Christchurch Boys’ High School as “absurd nonsense”.

Education Minister Hekia Parata yesterday announced a major overhaul of education in Christchurch. One idea was the proposed merger of the two schools. However, the ministry has since backtracked and now says it is waiting on geotechnical reports, which were unlikely to be ready until next year.

Laurenson said Christchurch Boys’ High School was simply not equipped to cope with the influx of students.

“We are not going to merge for the most practical reason. I have 1300 students in the school, I think Trevor McIntyre at Christchurch Boys’ will have something similar.”

“To simply say that Shirley closes and suddenly Christchurch Boys’ High School is equipped to double in size is absurd. They don’t have the land, they don’t have the infrastructure. It’s nonsense.”

Laurenson attended a meeting yesterday held by the ministry and said a summary sheet released by them was “grossly misleading”.

“It appeared to tell the community that Shirley Boys’ High School was going to close and be merged with Christchurch Boys’ High School.”

Laurenson said he was “very cross” with yesterday’s events. The announcement had only managed to “deeply hurt my community and my people”.

“That simple misinformation that came out has been quite devastating.

“What has happened is an example of NCEA Level One not achieved – the information that went out is misleading and it’s been picked up by media people and suddenly it’s viral. We’re now telling the community ‘relax all is well and the ministry is busy retracting a vague statement’.”

Laurenson said the ministry’s media person had spoken with him and other principals and accepted it had been misleading.

There really is no excuse for a mistake of this magnitude.  The communications material which went should should have been double and triple checked to ensure it was crystal clear. What was always going to be a difficult and upsetting announcement became a mini-fiasco. The document that went out should not just have had a sentence on each school. There should have been a detailed report on each school documenting exactly what was planned for that school and why. And the summary document should have been checked to make sure it was consistent with that.

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School Libraries

October 10th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Press reports:

Schoolchildren will be asked to help fill the roles of Christchurch support staff facing job losses, a support staff worker says. …

“In one case, a librarian has lost her job, a part-time position will be created and that person will be assisted in the library by students,” she said. “Our students go to school to learn and receive a quality education, not to work in the library because there is not enough funding in the school to provide a librarian.”

Well at my secondary school, several dozen students helped out in the school library. Far from stopping us from receiving a quality education, it enhances our education. You got to learn more about how the library worked, got to read more books and also a degree of responsibility.

Being a good geek, I ended up Head Librarian in my final year. We had a gap of several months between staff librarians, so us students ran the library for an extended period of time. It was a great experience in learning adult responsibility.


Let students and parents decide

July 12th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Amanda Fisher at Stuff reports:

After huge community pressure, including a hikoi to Parliament, the education minister has partly backtracked on proposed mergers of schools.

In May, Anne Tolley announced her decision to merge three Kawerau primary schools into one, close Kawerau Intermediate and turn Kawerau South School into a year 1 to year 8 primary school.

That was despite four of six schools opting for a different outcome, and a petition signed by 70 per cent of the town’s adults. About 250 people joined a May hikoi from Kawerau to Wellington.

However, Mrs Tolley announced yesterday that a Maori immersion kura, going up to year 8, would be established on the current Kawerau North School site. She has delayed deciding the fate of the intermediate, which could be merged with Kawerau College, saying any changes would not take effect before 2013.

However, the three intermediates – Kawerau North, Kawerau Central and Putauaki primary schools – would still merge.

I think it is regrettable that our funding model means that the Minister is the person who has to decide which schools are viable, and which ones are not.

Ideally schools should be fully delegated their funding – property, salaries, IT, operations etc. And parents and students should be able to choose which school they wish to attend, with funding following them.

That way, then the Minister would not have to decide on school mergers. If a school can attract enough students to remain viable, then good on them. If their roll shrinks to the point they can not cover their costs, then they close.

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Wellington Primary Schools

December 20th, 2010 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

A friend of mine has their kids at St Marks (which by coincidence was my intermediate school) but it has got too expensive for him as fees have gone up 25%.

They live in the Hutt but are happy to move to the right suburb to get into the right school.

Any readers out there have any recommendations or experiences with primary schools in Wellington. if so, please share them in the comments.

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Bulk Funding

October 17th, 2009 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Trevor Mallard blogs:

Anne Tolley will announce a progressive introduction of bulk funding for schools starting soon with the staffing component for guidance and careers counsellors being abolished and a small increase going into the bulk operations grant.

Now it comes from Trevor, so it is hardly reliable, but we can all keep our fingers crossed that it is actually true.

Bulk funding is in fact how almost every other part of society operates.

Hospitals don’t have their staff paid out of one budget on a fixed scale, and an operations grant for everything else.

Universities don’t have their staff paid out of one budget, and an ops grant for everything else.

It is pretty much only in the school sector that you have this abnormal arrangement.

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Plan for dealing with disruptive kids too late says PPTA

October 1st, 2009 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Education Minister Anne Tolley unveiled plans at the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) national conference in Wellington yesterday to put 12,000 parents of disruptive kids through parenting courses and give 5000 teachers from low-income areas extra training to deal with violence.

PPTA president Kate Gainsford said the plan was “a step in the right direction” but was not enough to help secondary teachers already dealing with disturbed and violent students.

“It’s a great idea, we won’t see the results for another decade, and that’s just too late,” she said.

Hmmn, who has been in Government for the last decade? Is the PPTA saying Labour should have done this in their first year of office, rather than leave it to National to come up with solutions in their first year of office?

“It needs to be supplemented at the adolescent level now.”

That would be nice, and it is tough for teachers with disruptive adolescents. But in an era of limited funding, the targeting of the scheme at kids when they are much younger will have the most impact in the long term.

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Dom Post on teachers

September 2nd, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A stinging editorial:

At least one school head has outrageously threatened publicly to undermine the education policies that contributed to National’s election win last year it promised to set literacy and numeracy standards for primary-school kids, and make the results available to parents.

Teachers, afraid that, because such results will be subject to the Official Information Act, the public will be able compile “league tables” that show how each school compares with its fellows, pretend theirs is principled opposition. Rubbish. Their objections are political this Government is not stuffed with former teachers and university lecturers and visceral. …

They fear any weaknesses will be exposed and that parents, some of them able to see for the first time that the empress in front of the class is naked, will opt to send their littlies to a school that does better. …

Though inspirational teachers are integral to the process, at the heart of public education should be the six to 16-year-olds for whom it is compulsory.

And regrettably often, these kids are let down. Last year, research showed that 90 per cent of prisoners are “functionally illiterate” their reading and writing skills are inadequate to cope with the demands of daily life.

Yet most of these inmates passed through a New Zealand primary school. As these kids struggled to read, write and do arithmetic, their teachers happily collected pay rises they saw as entitlements.

How can these teachers live with themselves knowing they have failed so many children? How do they explain the uncomfortably long tail of under-achievement throughout the public education system? How do they rationalise the millions the taxpayer must now spend helping the illiterate and innumerate recover wasted years? …

You know the more some schools try to suppress information and stop the public knowing how well the school is doing, the more you wonder what they are hiding.

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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 schools, 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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Dom Post on school assessment

July 8th, 2009 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post editorial:

Education Minister Anne Tolley should stick to her guns.

Parents are entitled to know how their children are doing at primary school and, if unimpressed, should be able to march them off to a school that is performing better, taking the state funding attached to him or her with them.

Hear hear.

Regrettably, this Government is not brave enough to go that far. But it should not resile from implementing its “national standards” policy in the teeth of opposition from principals and unionised teachers or buckle to their wish to have such information kept secret. …

What is it exactly that teachers and principals so fear? What is wrong with sharing with taxpayers those who pay to keep state schools operating just which schools do well and which do not? Is it that teachers’ methods might be scrutinised if their pupils are not keeping up with their countrywide cohort? Are they afraid that pay rises might not be forthcoming if it turns out that the youngsters in their class are falling behind?

A fear of accountability I say.

If so, principals and the NZEI would profit from looking across the Tasman to Labor-ruled New South Wales, where a similar row has erupted. There, the Greens and the Coalition equivalent to our National Party have joined forces in the NSW Senate to make it illegal to compile league tables backed by fines of up to $55,000 for organisations such as newspapers from statistics publicly available on a federal website. Labor’s deputy prime minister, Julia Gillard, has ridiculed the NSW ban.

While Labour in NZ wants to make school assessment data more secret than the SIS.

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Blog Bits

June 18th, 2008 at 3:12 pm by David Farrar

Poneke laments how Waterfront Watch’s campaign against the Wellington Hilton, has meant no waterfront development is likely for a decade. Instead we are left with those awful tin sheds.

Bruce Simpson at Aardvark covers the efforts of Associated Press to claim that even using their headlines is a breach of the US DMCA. This may be very significant if bloggers are not able to significantly quote articles in order to critique them.

Whale Oil detects more links between The Standard and Labour or more specifically labour.co.nz. The Standard responds. A great thread for those who get hot with talk of DNS and MX records :-)

The Economist looks at the school system in Finland and Sweden.

And since I’m coming this far north, I want to take in Sweden too. That social-democratic paradise has carried out school reforms that make free-market ideologues the world over weak at the knees. In the 1990s it opened its state-education system to private competition, allowing new schools to receive the same amount for each pupil as the state would have spent on that child.

The Dim-Post has some solutions for the South Auckland crime wave:

  • Limit numbers on all polytechnic courses teaching home invasion and armed robbery techniques.
  • Increase existing levels of sedatives and oral contraceptives in Manukau water supply.
  • Create an economic disincentive to homicide by amending the Emissions Trading Scheme to double carbon fees on vehicles used during a murder
  • Introduce cultural sensitivity training to South Aucklands migrant communities teaching them to be more open and tolerant towards the kiwi tradition of random assault and pointless execution style killings.
  • Point to multiple Asian murders as irrefutable statistical evidence for sending ‘em all back.

Also, finally not a blog but of interest to EFA watchers is this note of a meeting between Federated Farmers and the Electoral Commission over the EFA.

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School’s unfunded mandates

June 10th, 2008 at 6:27 am by David Farrar

A group of 15 school principals have written an open letter to the Minister of Education Chris Carter saying

“We do not concur with your statements that current funding is enough to provide a quality basic education.”

So what is the problem. Hasn’t funding increased? Well yes it has, but so has the paperwork:

In an open letter to Education Minister Chris Carter, the principals detailed Government innovations they claimed were not fully funded and had increased pressure on already-stretched finances.

The list of 21 included pandemic planning, maintaining electronic student management systems and running the healthy lifestyle programme Mission On.

“We respectfully suggest you provide for the current demands before introducing new and more underfunded priorities,” the principals wrote.

So what are they doing about it?

Northcote College principal Vickie Barrie said in a separate email: “Schools will not engage in the Government’s new Schools Plus initiative until the minister has recognised the dire funding situation secondary schools find themselves in.”

Schools Plus is a major initiative that aims to keep New Zealanders in education or training until age 18.

It was outlined by Prime Minister Helen Clark in her opening address to Parliament this year, as part of a “quantum leap” in changing the aspirations for young people.

Wow, that is a slap down for sure.

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