Beards at school

July 21st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A group of Kapiti College students have attracted international support for a petition to allow year 13s at the school to grow tidy facial hair.

Anthony McEwen and four other students started the petition as a social studies assignment, expecting it to attract only 20 or 30 signatures from family and friends.

But it has so far received 281 signatures online, from as far afield as Auckland, Christchurch, Australia and Britain.

“They were all saying stuff like ‘What you’re doing is a great change’,” McEwen said. 

So support from people not part of the school community.

“At the end of the day, 99.9 per cent of the comments are positive.” 

Year 13 students were allowed to wear mufti to school, and to use makeup, he said. But if a student turns up with facial hair, he is taken from class and instructed to shave with provided equipment.

That did not fit with the rest of the dress code, McEwen said. “It’s facial hair. It’s not like everyone is staring at you.

“I don’t see, when we’re allowed to express ourselves through clothes, why we can’t express ourselves through facial hair.”

I can think of at least one reason.

Teenagers mature at different rates, and some need to start shaving at a quite young age, and others not until later in their teens. Most schools already have a high degree of peer pressure and/or bullying. Having some students turn up with beards etc could lead to hassling of other students for not being mature enough yet to have grown facial hair.

I don’t care too strongly either way – up to a school to decide its own policy. But there are sound reasons why a school might not want to.

Flexible school hours

March 11th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Parents say they’re “horrified” at the idea of flexible school hours and the potential chaos it will cause for families enrolled at several different schools.

The idea of schools having flexibility with their opening and closing hours is part of the Education Legislation Bill that is currently before select committee.

On Wednesday, principal Perry Rush of Wellington’s Island Bay School said he had done a “straw poll” of about 20 parents on Tuesday afternoon asking them what they thought of the idea.

“I’m at a decile 10 school so a very professional community in Island Bay and I asked a good 20 parents what their thoughts were on more flexible hours and they were horrified”.

He said parents’ responses consisted of concerns about how it would work and the practicalities of picking up children from different schools with different finishing times.

This seems a bit scaremongering.

First of all I doubt many families have children at lots of different schools.

You may have a kid at primary and secondary school. but they have different hours already – 9 am to 3 pm vs 8.40 am to 3.20 pm.

Different hours can help if you have to pick up kids from different locations.

Most kids are not be getting picked up anyway, but using public transport or cycling or walking.

But finally, wouldn’t you trust schools to be sensible and work in the best interests of their communities – so schools in southern Wellington might ensure they all have the same hours, but schools in Wairarapa may have different hours to South Wellington.

One size fits all is rarely a good approach.

Rush said the whole concept was a “minefield” and he wasn’t entirely sure what the problem was with the status quo.

Lack of flexibility for a school to determine the best hours for their parents and students. Also the lack of flexibility to try different models – some parents might like a choice of school where say the hours are 8.30 am to 4.00 pm but finishes at 2 pm on Friday.

“Why are we thinking this is important? I think it’s decidedly unimportant in terms of the structure we have for schooling and the way it works to best deliver outcomes for kids in New Zealand,” he said.

Green Party education spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty agrees with the Island Bay School community and says school hours should be best for kids and their families.

And who is best to decide – each school for their community, or the Government for every school in NZ?

ACT leader David Seymour supports the proposal and backs schools to best understand the local community and its needs, not MPs sitting in Parliament.

“What I’d say to people who object to giving schools extra freedoms is this – you don’t have to use them but that does not give you the right to stop other people having their freedom to run schools in their communities in a way that best suits their children’s future.

“I get sick and tired of these people who do not understand that giving freedom to others does not affect them and they have no right to take away other people’s flexibility just because they don’t want to use it themselves,” he said.

Well said.

I wonder if the fear of flexible hours, is that decisions will be on what is best for families, not teachers?

Schools and rules

October 27th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Paula Wine blogs:

Starting a new school means creating everything from the ground up…there is a vacuum that needs to be filled with systems, structures, curriculum, timetables, and so on.  This is both an exciting opportunity and a challenge.  It certainly forces us to clarify our thinking about everything to do with teaching and learning, because decisions need to be made.  

I reckon it would be great to be a principal and/or deputies in a new school, as you do get to create everything the way you want it, rather than just inherit it.

So what rules will we have?  We’ve all come from schools where there have been a range of rules…no cell phones, no nail polish, only regulation hair tie colour, no jewellery, no climbing trees, no skate boards or scooters past the gates, no running, no talking, no hair down, no long hair, no hair colour, no make up, no no no.  There are other rules too…students must underline in red in one class, then underline in green in the next.  A margin must be ruled for this teacher, but not for that one.  I’ve seen schools where kids need to walk single file from one building to the next, with their hands linked behind their back, completely silent.  Yet another school where kids are not allowed to clap at assembly (spontaneously) until the principal instructs them to do so.  I’ve seen assemblies where kids have to sit with straight backs and arms folded for 50 minutes.  Really? 

My question is why?  Why is there a rule that no nail polish is allowed at school?  If this is a rule in your school, I’m not judging, I just need to know, how does nail polish affect learning?  Why does nail polish matter?  And why can’t kids clap spontaneously when they feel like it?  Why does hair colour matter?  Why not climb trees?  Why do we dictate which colour a child uses to write the date?  

I understand we need some rules to keep everyone safe and for learning to take place.  I’m just posing the question ‘why?’ to many of the rules we have traditionally had, and possibly under an outdated model of schooling.  Possibly the answer is that rules are part of life, that in the workplace it’s not ‘anything goes’, that discipline is good for kids?  I don’t know, I’m just guessing really.

I think both Governments and schools should ask “Why do we have this rule” and “Is it necessary”. Some are of course, but common sense can go a long way.

One thing I do know, and this goes for students and teachers, is that as soon as you start micro-managing people with rules, they stop thinking for themselves. They become compliant or they take their genius somewhere else. Enforced mediocracy eliminates all of the colour, and we are left with grey.  

Of course structure is needed – this gives people a sense of security, but let there be freedom and flexibility within the structure to be, to grow, to take risks, to fail, and possibly to soar.

Success means little without the risk of failure.

I have noticed that when there is a problem in the play ground, and if it becomes a bother, an inconvenience for busy teachers, there can be a knee-jerk reaction to create more rules.  Yes, this will make things easier in the short term, but what a wasted opportunity.  I know in many schools, for example, there have been kids fighting over the collectable supermarket cards and toys.  I understand the appeal of banning them, but isn’t that a great learning opportunity for our kids?  Will there be elevated emotions?  Probably.  Will there be frustration, tears?  Possibly.  But isn’t this a chance to develop our New Zealand Curriculum key competencies…getting along with others, problem solving, conflict resolution, compromising, negotiating, sharing, caring, showing respect for others, communicating effectively, etc. In Barry Schwartz’s TED Talk ‘Our Loss of Wisdom’ he emphasises this: ‘What happens when we turn increasingly to rules…moral skill is chipped away by an over-reliance on rules that deprives us of the opportunity to improvise and learn.’   

Banning the cards is the easy way out, and the wrong way.

I’ve always got a kick out of self-managing or toi mana whakahaere; don’t get me wrong, I’m all for kids developing self-managing, but what tickles me is the various  (mis) perceptions of what self-management means.  Self-managing is not about sitting up straight, being quiet, being compliant. Self-managing is about our kids actively thinking for themselves, making decisions, and dealing with the consequences.  It’s about ‘managing self’.  Sadly many of our students learn to ‘play the game’ and as Hattie (2012) describes it, they learn to be ‘…physically present, passively engaged, but psychologically absent.’ That is (in my opinion) tragic.  But if we are so controlling with our rules, when do kids ever get the chance to make decisions or learn how to manage themselves?  

A great quote from Hattie. The great teachers make sure the kids are actively and psychologically engaged.

If you want to take it even further, watch the televised No Rules School about Swanson School, a school in South Auckland that has eliminated all rules at play time.  Principal Bruce McLaughlin talks about helicopter parenting, how wrapping kids in cotton wool is taking away a lot of learning opportunities for kids.  The school has introduced risky, unmanaged play because risk is good for young brain development; the prefrontal cortex bit of the brain that manages risk and controls emotion develops when you expose it to risk and emotions; the argument is that kids need this stimulus to develop, and it is better to allow for managed risk now at 8 up a tree rather than at 18 in a bar.  Some may find this too extreme, and I agree I too feel a bit nervous about the risk, but there is something to letting kids work stuff out for themselves.  There is also something to minimising control and letting kids just get on with it and play!

I wonder how long Swanson has been doing this, and how it has worked out?

Last week we visited Matapihi Kindergarten in Te Mata…hands down the highlight of my week.  While I was struck by the emphasis on beauty, the abundance of natural and recycled materials, and all the available items for self-initiated play. There was an abundance of active play and exploration of their natural environment.  It was so cool!  But,what I really noticed was the absence of teacher intervention. Although we didn’t discuss ‘the rules’ at Matapihi, it was obvious that these children were given the opportunity to sort stuff out for themselves, and ask for help when they needed it.  They were allowed to be faced with challenges (inclement weather, risky games, asking for help, negotiating game rules and problem solving) and deal with the outcome.  We smiled as we watched two boys negotiate their way down a muddy hill on a recycled skate board (wheels removed), falling, laughing, tumbling their way down, deciding it was too dangerous, and modifying their game accordingly.  No teachers intervened.  No one said ‘no’.  No one said ‘don’t get dirty’ or ‘don’t do that’, ‘you’ll get hurt’.  It was seriously cool.  It just felt like an environment that promotes the peaceful expression of each little learner as a developing individual.  It felt like their uniqueness, their specialness, was being honoured, celebrated.  It felt like not everyone conforming to same-same.  How refreshing.  And guess what?  Every child was engaged.  Every child was learning.  Every child had their needs met.  Every child was being challenged.  Every child was happy.  

I see a parallel with this and the law allowing bars to open for Rugby World Cup games without special licenses and conditions. The Police, wowser groups and the Greens all predicted awful things. Drunk people rolling out of bars past schools. But you know what, overwhelmingly none of this happened as most people can work out where to draw the lines. And we shouldn’t always make rules for the lowest common denominator.


More flexibility for schools a good idea

August 2nd, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government has considered giving schools discretionary power to decide their opening hours, and putting one principal in charge of several schools. 

The proposals were contained in a document leaked to Radio New Zealand, which also detailed the idea that schools could own and operate early childhood centres. 

The document followed on from last year’s Taskforce on Regulation as Affecting School Performance, and said education legislation was not clear about what the education system was trying to achieve. 

Radio New Zealand reported the document suggested four specific changes:

* Giving schools greater flexibility to provide early childhood education;

* Giving schools greater flexibility to set their minimum opening hours;

* Letting principals be in charge of more than one school; and

* Extending the National Student Number to support student participation in digital environments.

Schools must be open for two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon, which cannot be changed without permission from Education Minister Hekia Parata. 
The document proposes removing the requirement for ministerial consent, RNZ reported. 
These look sensible to me. Each school and their community is different and the focus should be on how schools perform, rather than how they operate.

How is it sexist?

May 9th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A Christchurch mother is fighting an “archaic, discriminatory and sexist” clean-shaven rule that meant her 16-year-old son has been banned from school for more than a week.

Kay Peebles says her high-achieving year 12 son was sent home from Hornby High School about noon on April 30 and told not to come back until he removed his facial stubble. Its school rules state that pupils must be clean-shaven.

How is it sexist? I’m pretty sure a girl with a beard would be told to shave it also!

Kids his age could drive or decide to be parents, she said, “but are treated like kindergarteners when it comes to their facial hair”.

If you don’t like the rules, go elsewhere.

Correspondence school was not an option, since he had not been suspended or expelled, and she said the more liberal Hagley College did not have room on its roll.

He’s in Year 12 and presumably has been there for four years,knowing the rules. They could have enrolled him in Hagley College from the beginning, rather than try a mid-year transfer.

She had contacted various agencies for help but while she waited for responses, her son was not in school.

“The dead ends have made it clear it doesn’t matter how good your grades or behaviour is, if you have a hairy face you will forfeit an education, a facist rule,” she said.

Does she mean facist or fascist? Either way, rather silly.

The St Bede’s Rowers

March 24th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The St Bede’s College rowers axed from their Maadi Cup rowing team for breaching airport security say they took court action due to concerns over the school’s decision-making process and have questioned whether the punishment was fair.

Or they just think the school’s discipline policy and code of conduct doesn’t apply to them.

Teen rowers Jack Bell and Jordan Kennedy were removed from the school’s Maadi Cup rowing team after being given formal warnings by police and the Aviation Security Service for jumping on a baggage conveyor at Auckland Airport on Friday.

The pupils, who had just arrived on a domestic flight from Christchurch, rode the carousel through rubber curtains and into a restricted baggage area, the Civil Aviation Authority said.

Lucky not to be arrested.

The school ruled the pupils should be sent home. However, their parents, Shane Kennedy and Antony Bell, were granted a High Court injunction allowing their sons to stay and compete in the Maadi Cup.

A statement, released by the boys and their families on Monday afternoon, said the court action was never intended to justify their actions or to suggest the school was not entitled to take disciplinary action.

“The only reason for the court action was due to concerns over the school’s decision-making process and over whether or not the decision as made was proportionate to the misbehaviour. The court action was certainly not taken lightly,” the statement said.

I’m sure the lawyer fathers knew that the court would almost inevitably have to grant an injunction. Regardless of the merits, if there was even an arguable case they would have to injunct as relief afterwards could not reverse the impact of not participating.

St Bede’s College rector Justin Boyle said he decided the boys, aged 16 and 17, were in breach of the school’s code of conduct and banned them from competing at the regatta, which starts on Monday.

The school would not have withdrawn them lightly. They want to win sporting events. But they no doubt knew that its is important for students to see actions have consequences.

Now the lesson for students may be that actions don’t have consequences, if Daddy has a good lawyer. A shame.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.