Education Act 1989 – My Submission
Below is my submission to the Education Act changes. I’ve taken the time to write down my thoughts and views as best I can. In no way am I suggesting I have all the answers, nor that my answers are the best. But at the very least I have made an effort to curve some of the changes that the Government is trying to make. As expressed in my previous article, if you take some of these changes to their logical conclusion, it leaves for a not so pretty picture of our education system.
You can make your own submission here:
1. What should the goals for education be?
The goals for education should be to allow children to be children, and to learn as the individuals that they are, and to have success in the areas that are important to them.
This takes into account all areas of a child’s learning, their culture, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic background, and individuality.
It values Māori students as Māori students, Pasifika as Pasifika, Boy as Boy, and Girl as Girl and is inclusive of every child as an individual. It embraces students to be themselves, and to succeed as themselves; not by what is put upon them by a teacher, a school, a community, or a government.
It does not allow for putting students within a box. It does not suggest that all students learn a particular way, at a particular rate, or in a constant and consistent way.
Everyone learns differently, and the only way to acknowledge that is to value every child as an individual; and because they are an individual, success for them may be very different to success for another student.
2. What process should be used for setting a national priorities statement for early learning and schooling
Any process for setting any priorities across the country need to have a degree of democracy about them. There needs to be reasonable discussion and discourse about them, and those who are ‘on the front line’ need to be consulted. Any expectations of schools does need to be made clear, though each school or kura needs to be able to have the flexibility to make those expectations work for their learning community and wider community. Schools should be worked alongside by the Ministry to ensure that any priority on a national scale is able to be implemented and what it looks like for each individual school or kura.
3. What should the roles and responsibilities of a school or a kura be?
Making a board’s role and their responsibilities clear is a must. As the staff representative of our school’s board, there are many things that the board is doing that may or may not be their responsibility, and the guidelines around this is nearly always vague.
The role of each board should be:
- Ensuring that each learner achieves the best that they can. This includes working in partnership with their Māori whānau and community.
- Working with and consulting the wider community to ensure that each learner is supported at school and at home.
- Working with other boards and education services within their community to share ideas, resources, and initiatives that work, bearing in mind that every school and community is different, and what works for one community, may not work for another.
- Consulting with the community over how to shape their school; as a learning environment, as a community hub, the atmosphere, the direction, and the culture of the school or kura.
The responsibilities of each board should be:
- Setting policies to guide and direct school and kura management.
- Ensuring the school’s curriculum aligns with both the New Zealand Curriculum, the requirements of the Act, and the needs of each learner.
- To be good employers of staff. This includes being involved in the appointment process and performance of staff, but always in conjunction with other professionals in the school, such as the Principal, Deputy Principal, or others in the school management team.
- Providing a safe environment to learn in. This includes physical and emotional well-being within the school.
- Setting a strategic plan that reflects the goals and priorities of the community and its students.
4. What changes could be made to simplify planning and reporting:
Boards should focus on the strategic goals of the school. This is an important part of their job as members of the parent community of a school, and as previously stated, is important for each school to have its own direction based on the community wishes. This should be carried out with suitable consultation.
Removing requirements for “high performing” schools is ambiguous, because of the subjectivity of the term “high” and “performing”.
Having boards work together does not necessarily mean less administration, and I know that each school has it’s own learners at heart, and any idea to work with other boards will be somewhat superficial.
Boards should focus on their own school, and do what is best for their learners, without having to worry about other schools or communities.
Should the Ministry see it fit, a report template for Boards to work through would simplify the process; though this template would have to be fairly generic to allow for the diverse nature of schools around the country.
5. How can we better provide for groups of schools and kura to work together more to plan and report?
As mentioned, this may or may not be a good idea. School boards should focus on their own school. Any planning should seek to improve their own school, and any reporting should be for their school, as this is the school that they know.
It is also very difficult to comment on this particular question without seeing the obvious link and prompting to mention Communities of Learning / Communities of Schools, which fits under the IES – which is identified as a matter not covered in this consultation.
6. How should schools and kura report on their performance and young people’s achievements to parents, family, whanau and communities?
Schools and kura should report on their performance and young people’s achievements to parents, family, whanau and communities in ways that are deemed suitable or wanted by their community. This should be found out within the consultation process.
A set of indicators should only be set if they are deemed necessary by the Board or community and should not be set by any government on a national level.
Any performance report that is made for public should be done in a way that maintains confidentiality of its students. It should be written with the intention of informing its community, and not the general public. This will eliminate any temptation for the Ministry or the media to enter into creating league tables, and should provide each school community with a picture of what the school is doing well with, and what the school is working towards.
There is huge concern around giving schools that are doing well more freedom, as this is entirely subjective. As mentioned, a set of indicators should not be enforced across every school in New Zealand, as they would need to reflect the schools individual goals, aims, and any direction set by its community as per its consultation with parents and whānau.
7. What should the indicators and measures be for school performance and student achievement and well-being?
These should be decided by each individual school and only by the school, based on the learning needs of its students, and upon the direction set by its community. This should be in an endeavour to value and invoke a school culture that is unique to each learning community, school, kura, or wider community.
8. What freedoms and extra decision-making rights could be given to schools, kura and Communities of Learning that are doing well?
Schools should be given the right on when, how, and what it reports to its communities. As mentioned earlier within this submission, it is a slippery slope when additional rights and freedoms are given based on performance, given that this is such a subjective and generic term.
9. What ways could boards work more closely together?
School boards could work together by having a shared resource that is used or shared between schools. This could include something like a shared community school pool, or sports ground. It could also include learning resources that are shared between schools, or even include digital resources that are shared online. Proffessional Development of each board could be shared and attended by multiple boards.
10. What do you think about schools and kura having the flexibility to introduce cohort or group entry?
It seems to me, having been involved in a school for 6 years now, that the only reason why this is on the table for discussion is because schools want to make it easier to report for cohorts of students, rather than individually when each individual completes a year of school. If National Standards was not a factor, I see no reason why schools would want this flexibility, given that if you had a family waiting to enroll their child for a term, that the family would probably go to another school.
Seeing as any submission is not able to call into question National Standards, it becomes difficult to comment any further.
It is also concerning if a child is already behind in their learning, and doesn’t start school for 3 months while they wait for the next cohort entry, how much further will they be behind?
11. What do you think about making attendance compulsory for children once they have started school or kura before they turn six years old?
This is a good idea. I was unaware that this wasn’t already in law.
12. What additional supports or responses could be used to address problems that arise in schools and kura?
Before one begins to start investigating into addressing problems that arise, one needs to identify what makes a “great” school. There are many great schools – one of which is the one I teach at (which is why I still teach there). We have an amazing community, a great ethos and atmosphere, and a fantastic, dedicated young staff. We struggle to live up to any measure in regards to the National Standards and the 85% expectation, but we do more than our best for the students that walk through our gates. We had students fly in from around the country and from overseas to attend the school’s 50th Jubilee, while another well reputed school in the wider area had to cancel their 50th Jubilee due to lack of interest. We have sports teams which has represented our school in local sports tournaments, and have won competitions both in sporting achievement, as well as in fair play.
Our school is a great school.
However, to those who look at our school purely from a data and assessment point of view, we wouldn’t be considered a great school. I am more than certain that we are just one such school with a similar story all around the country.
Support for schools that could be used to address problems need to work WITH the school, working alongside it so that both the school community, staff, and the students feel valued and feel part of the solution, rather than the suggested “top-down” model of serving improvement notices, or auditing the school, or replacing people on the board. Any review of this, including those from ERO, are almost false, as they come in for a day to meet with the senior leadership team, and then start looking at data and paperwork. These would be more beneficial to “problem schools” if they worked in the school, alongside the staff and students and got to know the school, how it works, what the challenges they face are, and work with the staff and board to put suggestions in place to solve the problems. The “top down” approach does not work. It imposes a set of ideals on top of a school without taking into account any of the challenges that the school is facing each and every day, and are not excuses, but actual reasons behind some of the problems. This targeted approach is how teachers should work with their students, yet for some reason, this is not replicated in other areas of the education system.
13. How should area strategies be decided, and how should schools, kura and communities be consulted?
Each school needs to be directly included in any discussions around any strategies that apply to them. This should be done in a timely fashion, and be conducted with enough time for each school to reach a suitable outcome.
14. What should be taken in to account when making decisions about opening, merging or closing schools?
There are so many factors that should be taken into account when opening, merging, or closing schools.
It should be based on:
What the school feels should happen
What the school board thinks should happen
What the school community thinks should happen
Roll growth or decline in the area
It should not be based on:
Academic performance of the school
15. What do you think about the proposed changes to improve how enrolment schemes are managed?
This should be left to a consultation between what the school thinks is best for their enrolment, what any Community of Learning agrees upon, in conjunction with the Ministry.
I think it is dangerous territory we head into with any piece of legislation which starts to use the words “this discretion is very limited” when giving the Ministry the right to override any decision made by the school.