Graeme Stoop hand-in-hand with the ministry to reduce local control: addressed to boards of trustees and principals
While the education review office is supposed to act independently from the ministry of education, they are instead working hand-in-hand to reduce local control. It is probably partly explained by Graeme Stoop being the frontrunner for the vacant secretary of education position. The hand-in-hand working can be observed in the special studies the review office will announce it is to undertake this year. They will tie in with pre-set ministry policies; in this way giving a veneer of credibility to them.
Ever since he allowed to go through in the Explanatory note for national standards legislation, farcically incorrect statistics, Graeme Stoop has been deeply unpopular amongst primary teachers. There was only one statistic of significance in the Explanatory note and that was 57% put forward to represent the percentage of schools successfully collecting and using assessment information for literacy and numeracy. The statistic should have been 93% and 91% (from the 2007 review office report). What teachers have had to put up with over the last four years!
In a recent posting I listed a number changes the Treasury was advocating and now being considered for action by the ministry.
- centrally-organised appraisals of teachers and principals
- involvement of the secretary of education in appointment procedures
- tighter accountability procedures
- clustering of schools (with a concomitant loss of intermediate school identity in particular, and primary schools in general)
- property management taken from school control
- value-added procedures
- and bulk funding.
My sources tell me bulk funding is not being given serious attention.
None of these policies are supported by research, and nearly all go against, for instance, OECD recommendations.
Your principal will tell you about how wrong the government is in the back-to-the basics curriculum these policies are based on.
Now let us look at the two areas to be reported on by the education review office this year:
- school appointment processes, especially of principals
- teacher and principal appraisal with an emphasis on links to the charter (that is national standards).
In other words, forget everything except a narrow version of reading, writing, and, numeracy. Is that really going to prepare your child for the 21st century? This will be of no help in advancing reading, writing, and numeracy. (Australia has had national testing for five years and spent nearly a billion dollars on it. The Australian auditor-general has just issued a report saying it has made no ‘discernible improvement’.)
A few days ago Graeme Stoop made an attack on New Zealand primary teachers, and then singled out teacher aides for special criticism. Sure enough: Special Needs funding has been cut, and there are more cuts to come. Is this what you want? I have been going into schools in an official capacity for 45 years (teachers college lecturer, senior inspector of schools, and visiting lecturer) and still am. Teacher aides are hugely valuable in bringing to children that brilliant and magical one-to-one.
From an absolutely reliable source I can confirm the ministry is working on:
- teacher and principal appraisals
- the secretary gaining new powers to control principal appointments
- reducing the number of teacher aides in schools.
Is this what you want? Were you asked? Do you really think this will help your children in their learning? Do you really think improvement in education comes from politicians and bureaucrats in Wellington? Do you really think your principal and teachers would give you a bum steer on something that means so much to them? Is this where you want school education to be?
Today I attended a board of trustees meeting of a low decile school I love and admire. The mood was sombre verging on despair. The board discussed 24 new 5-year-olds that have been enrolled this year, with eight of them needing additional support of some kind. The school is already paying the wages of a number of teacher aides to support those already at the school and now they have received a circular from the ministry stating that Special Needs funding (under some category) is no longer available. So here we have mainstreaming being pushed as a policy then funding being cut. Is this some kind of huge transcendental joke? Well, I’m not laughing neither were the board of trustees.
And where in all this is the School Trustees Association? Completely out of its depth I suggest.
Earlier this week Hekia Parata was grandstanding about new schools to be built in Christchurch and in a week or two she’ll be talking about school buildings for the 21st century. All hot air. Every school in New Zealand has school buildings for the 21st century, including this wonderful school I visited today, it happens to be the century the buildings are in.
Then another blow, to release funds in other parts of health service, the public health nurse will no longer visit weekly. She will only come on request.
I talked to the principal of the school about charters due by March 1. The school has, of course, no choice but to use the ministry format. It would seem any pretence of local input has been put aside. The principal told me that the 20 pages to do with national standards completely dominated the charter document. Is this what you as trustees anticipated: the school being wrenched from its local roots?
I suggest that school education needs to be returned to communities and their teachers. We’ve had enough. We cry out for democracy.
And the symbol of how wrong things are going? The head of the review office in furtive manner and on the basis of no research evidence at all, working with the ministry to take away our teacher aides. Well I’ll make no bones about it: I want to take away the vocational prize the head of the review office is so dismally seeking.