Lynda wishes to make clear that while her answers reflect some initial thinking from NZEI on the Tomorrow’s Schools review, the union’s response to the taskforce is a work in progress as they are in the process of collecting members’ feedback.
Q: What’s good about New Zealand’s education system as it currently stands?
The genuine involvement of parents and communities where it is successful; however, this does not happen in all areas and therefore is not necessarily systemic.
Teachers have maintained a level of professional autonomy and have continued to be passionate about teaching and learning. Collegiality and sharing within schools is also a feature.
The system has enabled local schools to create own their identity and reflect the community that they serve e.g. the establishment of bilingual Samoan classes/other languages.
There is also the ability to make the decisions in relation to staffing and not having to wait to make decisions over the smaller fiscal matters, e.g. fixing of drains, ordering of stationery.
Q: And what needs fixing?
The total under-resourcing of education in all areas.
The inequity that it has created on many levels including that between primary and secondary. We see this in the differences between staffing and management entitlements.
The embedding of competition in the system and the unintended consequences of the decile system. Winner schools and loser schools. The flight away from some schools to the advantage of others. A market-driven focus on education. A narrow focus on what ‘ success in education’ means.
Privatisation has crept in with the reliance of contractors in areas such as professional learning and development.
A broken special education system where students who have additional learning needs are not having their needs met.
The load on teachers and principals has become unmanageable. We are unable to attract and retain teachers/ principals in the profession due to pay levels and also workload. We also see the lack of a planned approach to the workforce and the overuse of fixed term positions for our Provisionally Registered Teachers.
There has been too much emphasis on national data collection as a measure of accountability due to there being no more centralised way of knowing what is happening in schools. The use of national sampling has been seen as a second tier option rather than being utilised effectively, e.g. NMSSA.
National sampling has the ability to highlight trends and future focuses for resourcing and support without the negative links that we have seen under more individualised measurement systems such as National Standards.
The lack of appropriate remuneration/ PLD / Career pathways and job security for support staff.
Distrust throughout the sector particularly of those agencies who are charged with supporting schools.
Q: Taking a broad-brush view, what’s your take on the Tomorrow’s Schools Review taskforce report?
It advocates for transformational change of our education system. It is clear the review group has listened to views across the sector and wider community views. The report has identified many of the issues and challenges that NZEI members face and that we have heard from the sector both formally and anecdotally.
The section on a call to collective action and the statement that ‘education reform does not occur in a vacuum; it needs to be prepared for and developed in partnership with people who work in the sector and who understand its complexities’ is very important. We have seen attempts at change in education over the last decades which have not been successful largely because they have been done to people working in education, rather than done with us. It is crucial that there is ownership by the sector and a planned and inclusive approach to change processes.
Q: What do you think is the most compelling recommendation in the report?
The recommendations in the governance section about the formation of hubs, their responsibilities and roles will raise the most immediate questions for people. The idea creates huge opportunities and also risks. This is obviously an area where there does need to be much more discussion about the composition and size of hubs and how they might operate. People will want to know what the interactions between the hubs and the learning environments – whether they be schools or early childhood centres – will look like. What we know we need for schools is a trusted and supportive structure – the process to co-construct will be pivotal to the success of any overall reform.
Q: Any proposals that particularly concern you?
An obvious missing piece is how early childhood services fit into the hubs. And many of the proposals could have significantly affect people’s work, so we are currently asking members what they think about the proposals. We want to ensure that the conditions for quality teaching and learning are enhanced by any changes, and that all our members – teachers, principals, support staff, ECE staff and MoE Learning Support staff – are well represented through the process of change.