The Independent Taskforce leading the review of Tomorrow’s Schools has today released a report recommending substantial changes to New Zealand’s education system, including the disestablishment of the Education Review Office and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
The functions of these organisations would instead by regulated by a new and independent Education Evaluation Office reporting directly to Parliament.
The report also recommends the establishment of approximately 20 Education Hubs to replace current Ministry of Education regional offices. These hubs would assume some of the responsibilities currently held by school boards to reduce competition between schools and instead encourage a collaborative education community within a region.
Chair of the Independent Taskforce Bali Haque says the Board of Trustees self-governing model set up 30 years ago is not working.
The proposed reforms aim to address competition between schools.
“Many Boards and principals struggle with having to shoulder too many responsibilities many of which are not central to teaching and learning, and the success and wellbeing of children,” Haque says.
“The job of the Education Hub would be to ensure that those schools in that hub work together for the benefit of all the children in that hub.”
Each hub would employ leadership advisors and specialist staff, such as Resource Teachers of Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) and teacher aides to support schools. They would provide additional support for students with learning needs and administer school suspensions.
“That way we ensure that students do not get lost in the system and we ensure that students are given a really fair hearing and looked after. One of our key principles here is social justice and the welfare of children.”
Intermediate schools could be replaced by middle schools catering for years 7 – 10.
“We’ve got very big questions around the future of intermediate schools,” Haque says.
“We really have got to address the issue of unhealthy school competition and we’ve seen the results of that across the country.”
Taskforce chairperson says lack of teacher workforce strategy is negligent.
Another issue highlighted was the lack of a workforce strategy for the sector. Principals and teachers lack access to professional development and career opportunities and ensuring good quality applicants for principal positions remains a key issue, particularly in rural areas and lower decile schools, the report says.
The taskforce proposes guaranteed employment for newly trained teachers and options for secondment between schools and Education Hubs and the Ministry of Education and Teaching Council.
Their research found primary schools receive about half the management staffing of secondary schools and the amount of equity funding delivered to New Zealand schools is approximately half that of comparable OECD countries.
These changes would take about 3-5 years and an unknown cost to implement, Haque says.
“The costings we accept need to be done. What we’re looking for here is a good debate on the type and the nature of the education system we want, that’s the discussion we need to make,” he says.
“We’re pretty confident over a period of time that this is doable.”
Taskforce chairperson Bali Haque discusses what will be needed to implement the proposals.
- Governance – the Board of Trustees self-governing model is not working consistently well across the country.
- Schooling Provision – there is poor provision for Kaupapa Māori schooling, inefficient management of schooling networks and inconsistent transitions between schools.
- Competition and Choice – unhealthy competition between schools has significantly increased as a result of the self-governing school model. It has also impacted on the ability of some students and whānau to exercise choice.
- Disability and Learning Support – students with learning support requirements should have the same access to schooling as other students and it is clear that currently they do not.
- Teaching – the quality of teaching is the major ‘in school’ influence on student success but teacher workforce strategies lack the necessary support, coherence and coordination.
- School Leadership – leadership is central to school improvement and yet we have few formal and planned structures to develop and sustain school leaders.
- School Resourcing – the overall resourcing for the compulsory schooling sector is currently inadequate to meet the needs of many learners/ ākonga and those who work in it.
- Central Education Agencies – a number of significant structural issues and policy settings make it difficult for agencies to be as effective as they might be.
- Regional boards proposed to take over most legal roles of school boards, including appointing principal.
- Out-of-zone enrolments would be capped.
- Intermediate schools would be abolished and replaced by junior colleges (Years 7-10), with senior colleges (Years 11-13) replacing many secondary schools.
- New funding system based on individual student characteristics to replace decile funding.
- Education Review Office and NZ Qualifications Authority abolished.
The full report is available here. Public consultation on the findings of the report is open until 07 April 2019.