By: Simon Collins
Auckland University is proposing to terminate its mainstream advisory service for teachers – even though the Government has promised to create a new national advisory service.
The university’s Dean of Education Mark Barrow has told school principals that his faculty has agreed – “with a heavy heart” – to transfer its teacher support unit Team Solutions to the university’s commercial arm UniServices.
A proposal that has gone out for consultation with the unit’s 77 staff does not specify how many jobs will go, but a university spokeswoman said “services that cannot be sustained financially will be terminated”.
She said the faculty’s revenue from professional development for teachers and principals had plunged from $15.5 million in 2016 to a projected $4.1m this year after the former National Government opened up field to a free market in 2016.
“As a result, we lost $1.6m last year on provision of this service and expect to lose $2.5m in 2018,” she said.
“We have contacted the Minister of Education to explore any Government plans that might change this picture in a reasonable timeframe and there appear to be none. The current situation clearly cannot continue.”
Barrow said UniServices would maintain specialist services such as Reading Recovery, which is funded by the Ministry of Education, a Play.sport programme funded through Sport NZ, and support for Māori-medium schools.
But the university will stop providing centrally-funded teacher support to mainstream schools, such as training teachers to teach maths for Year 3 or literacy for secondary schools.
“The university at this point has made a decision that it is not going to continue with that centrally funded PLD [professional learning and development],” Barrow said.
“We have had two years to make that work, and found that it doesn’t work.
“The problem is, and this happens incredibly frequently, a PLD member gets booked up through the ministry, and then we’ll get a ring from the principal the day before saying this can’t go ahead.
“We have already flown the person to Tauranga to do it and they can’t do anything. It’s just unsustainable.”
The faculty’s director of professional learning and development Camilla Highfield said the universities received base funding for teacher professional development until 2011, and continued to win major contracts when they were managed nationally until 2016.
But national contracts ended in 2016, apart from one for digital technology. Since then schools have been able to bid for their own training, regional panels have chosen the best bids, and schools have been free to choose their own training providers from an accredited list.
“We have grown in the last two years to having more than 60 providers and more than 600 facilitators, so the work has been diluted across a whole range of people,” Highfield said.
Hipkins told Cabinet in March that he intended to “establish an Education Advisory Service which will share best-practice, act as mentors and advisors to teachers throughout New Zealand, and oversee all centrally-funded PLD”.
His “Tomorrow’s Schools” taskforce is due to report by November 9 on, among other things, the future roles of education bodies including “the yet to be established Education Advisory Service“.
A paper for this week’s Post Primary Teachers Association’s annual conference argues that the new service should be run by the Ministry of Education because the universities have already lost key staff.
“Few tertiary institutions now carry the expertise in PLD provision that they used to,” it says.
“There is a lack of commitment to school education from tertiary leaders. The University of Auckland’s decision to lay off significant numbers of staff in the Faculty of Education and Social Work is an example.”