By: Simon Collins

Principals respond to the report of the Tomorrow’s Schools Taskforce.

A plan for regional “hubs” to take powers from elected school boards of trustees faces a growing backlash, with two groups of schools uniting to fight it.

One group representing a majority of the Auckland Secondary Schools Principals Association is slamming the plan as exacerbating the biggest problem they face – a critical teacher shortage.

Whetu Cormick says a majority of principals oppose giving the hubs power to appoint principals and teachers. Photo / File

A wider national group calling itself the Community Schools Alliance says the plan threatens the distinctive identity of schools ranging from Māori iwi schools to conservative Auckland Grammar.

The plan, proposed by a taskforce led by former principal Bali Haque, would set up about 20 regional “hubs” to “assume all the legal responsibilities and liabilities currently held by school boards of trustees”.

The plan aims to close the divide between rich and poor schools that has developed under the 30-year-old self-managing model called “Tomorrow’s Schools” by giving the hubs powers to use principals, teachers and resources where they are most needed.

NZ Principals Federation president Whetu Cormick told his members yesterday that principals who have replied to a federation survey so far oppose four key elements of the plan:

  • Boards of trustees with diminished responsibilities advising on curriculum and assessment.
  • Hubs governed by a board appointed wholly by the minister.
  • Five-year contracts for principals.
  • Principals and teachers being employed by hubs.

He said most principals wanted to allow each school board to

Richard Dykes says the hubs would draw money and staff from schools at a time of a critical teacher shortage. Photo / Jason Oxenham

choose whether to stay as they are or accept reduced board responsibilities and access services from a hub.

Auckland Secondary Schools Principals Association president Richard Dykes, of Glendowie College, said reshuffling the bureaucracy would draw money and staff away from schools at a time of a desperate teacher shortage.

“If there is one absolutely shared viewpoint, the crisis in Auckland schools is the shortage of quality staff, and we fear that pouring time and financial resources into rearranging the bureaucracy will push the most critical issue further down the tracks,” he said.

In an article for the Weekend Herald, he says that, to be effective, the proposed hubs would need significantly more staff than current Ministry of Education regional offices.

“Where would this [staff] come from?” he asks

“The Haque report suggests from schools. This would be great as it draws in the expertise of educators. But it would also draw valuable talent away from schools at a time when we have a chronic shortage of teachers.”

Northcote College principal Vicki Barrie said rearranging the bureaucracy would not solve New Zealand’s “long tail of under-achievement”.

United against ‘hub’ takeover, from left: Vicki Barrie (Northcote), Grant McMillan (James Cook), Richard Dykes(Glendowie), Greg Pierce (Aorere), Steve Hargreaves (Macleans). Photo / Jason Oxenham

“We have limited time and limited resources. We have to do the thing that is going to make the biggest difference,” she said. “The first thing that needs to happen is that there needs to be a significant pay increase for teachers.”

Tāmaki College principal Soana Pamaka said hubs would be “removed from your community”.

“What works for the Pacific community in Māngere is not going to work for the Pacific community in Glen Innes,” she said.

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