Under Tomorrow’s Schools the system worked something like this: the Ministry of Education would develop policy, self-governing schools would then implement policy, and the Education Review Office (ERO) would review implementation. The taskforce is proposing a shift away from this.
The first part of the change is a reconfiguration of the Ministry of Education.
The reconfigured Ministry would monitor and work closely with the Education Hubs and with other central education agencies. It would include a Curriculum, Learning, Assessment and Pedagogy unit to provide advice, resources and support in curriculum design, learning, assessment and pedagogy to the sector. It would also include an examinations business unit and a research unit to provide education research to the sector and contribute to integrated policy development. The Ministry would also collect system-wide performance data, including a more comprehensive National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement.
The next part of the change would see an independent Education Evaluation Office created. It would report to Parliament on the performance of our education system. It would evaluate the performance of the Ministry with a particular focus on organisational culture and responsiveness; the effectiveness of its interdependent relationships with Education Hubs, the Teaching Council and other government agencies; and its progress in meeting specified national educational goals. The Education Evaluation Office would also provide regular independent evaluation of Education Hub performance.
Perhaps the most radical proposal in this section is to disestablish the Education Review Office and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. All functions currently carried out by these agencies would be distributed across the Ministry of Education, the new Education Evaluation Office, the Tertiary Education Commission or the Teaching Council.
Has ERO had its day?
The taskforce found the quality of ERO audits varied greatly. They also had some concern over the review process, specifically that it over-emphasised ‘accelerating learning’ at the expense of other elements of school performance. Principals and teachers wanted to see the review process show less reliance on documentation and more on visiting classrooms and meeting teachers and students.
One Stuff commentator agrees.
“They are too busy worrying about paper issues, like ‘How effectively does the school promote educational success for Māori, as Māori?’ without actually visiting a class to see teaching in reality. As long as the right boxes are marked on the teacher’s plans, you get through, despite the fact that it can very easily just be a plan that is never actually used.”
Whetu Cormick of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation supports the disestablishment of ERO. And Canterbury West Coast Principals’ Association president and Burnside High School principal Phil Holstein told Stuff it seemed “odd” to have two compliance and monitoring agencies working separately.
“To have it [done] in a more cohesive way, that’s something I would love to see.”
How do we take politics out of education?
The taskforce found that politics are overwhelming educational interests.
“Principals/tumuaki, teachers/kaiako and others who work in the education sector said that too many simultaneous initiatives are imposed. These are often introduced without evidence that they will be effective, or without the genuine consultation and co-design that would make them more likely to be successful. Initiatives are also often introduced without adequate resourcing, guidelines and support for their subsequent implementation. The result, they tell us, is often confusion and implementation timeframes which are too short and which lead to repeated failure to really make a sustainable difference to the success of learners/ākonga.”
The taskforce says that unless longer-term goals and broad political consensus are developed in the education sector, it will be “very difficult for the Ministry to act as the kaitiaki and leader of the schooling sector in the best interests of learners/ākonga and teachers”.
Northcross Intermediate principal Jonathan Tredray agrees the most important thing to achieve from the Tomorrow’s Schools review is stability in education.
“That trumps everything else in the report,” he says.
Tredray says schools are constantly getting these “massive wholesale changes out of the blue” which makes it difficult for schools to progress, especially against a backdrop of increasing learning deficiencies and behavioural challenges.
Steve Mouldey agrees.
“I think we do need to somehow take the politics out of education. You’re never going to do it completely but it is crazy that it has become such a political volleyball in terms of what happens.”