IES and the Poisoned Apple
Over the next few weeks, primary teachers are meeting to discuss the proposed changes to the IES (Investing in Educational Success) announced last year.
The changes are, to some, significant and, before I get too cynical, NZEI have done a good enough job even getting the Ministry of Education to make any amendments to their proposed $359,000,000.
However, when this was first broached with the sector, a resounding 93% of NZEI members voted to have nothing to do with it. They saw the pitfalls of such a system, such as quality teachers no longer in their classrooms, teacher workload, and the fact when it comes to education one size does not fit all, and what works in one school won’t necessarily work in another, and voted appropriately. Still, NZEI remained in the negotiating tent; however smelly; to try and make the most of a sucky situation.
Now they have a working alternative, which has many changes which I won’t go into. You can read more here.
However, it doesn’t address the fact that quality teachers and principals will essentially become part time at multiple schools, rather than full time in the classes and schools that benefit from their time and effort. The whole initiative makes busy teachers busier, and the so-called benefits it will bring to student success is hardly mentioned in any of the agreement negotiations, and instead all possible roles are discussed at length. It all seems to just focus around teacher busy-ness, and misses the point completely. This could just be because the agreement is between teachers and the government, but regardless; it somewhat surprises me that student success isn’t more of a factor.
Let us not forget that this is hailed as raising student achievement, where there is little or no supportive evidence that this will work at all.
Essentially all that has happened is turd polishing.
The Poisoned Apple
Let’s look at it like this.
The government has offered the teaching community a nice, juicy, red apple. It shimmers and shines in the light and looks delicious to a hungry princess. The soft light glints off it’s polished skin, the deep red matches the crimson lipstick of her luscious lips.
However, this current government’s education office is run by a witch with a mirror on the wall, and she has poisoned the apple with a curse, as she has done for the other apples she has tempted us with.
Teachers realised this very early on, and did not want a bar of it. They could see the money spent to buy the apple could be much better spent on other things; like an orange tree.
But the witch isn’t offering the orange tree. She’s offering the apple.
Now, NZEI advisor comes to the rescue, or so we think, and the advisor to the king talks with the witch. They discuss at length the properties of the apple, and how it could be made better, so that the princess might eat it. They decide that turning it into a toffee apple might be more appealing. They cover it with the caramel coloured glaze that drips down and turns the apple into a gooey, sticky, goodness.
While the toffee apple is much more appealing, and is somewhat irresistible in comparison with the delicious apple that was offered before. But deep down the princess knows that the apple is still poisoned and will be the end of her. Still, upon receiving advice from the advisor, she takes a bite. We all know what happens next.
The only problem is the solution requires a huntsman with a large axe. Which we don’t have.
Essentially, with this government’s attitude and treatment towards teachers, they haven’t done themselves any favours. Add to this the class size fiasco, and you have a workforce which simply does not trust or have faith in anything you try to accomplish. The way they steamrolled out the National Standards turns out to be indicative of how they have continued to operate; make it policy, and then consult with those involved. We saw this again in the Novopay disaster.
It is no wonder then that teachers were instantly sceptical of IES and picked it apart. It’s also no wonder that the Ministry seem to be rolling on regardless of the situation. I also suspect that it won’t matter what new policy the government bring out in education; teachers are simply going to oppose it purely because of this government’s track record.
Essentially the vote this week isn’t voting on whether we want the joint initiative agreement made by NZEI and the Ministry of Education or not; it’s voting on whether we want what the Ministry proposed in IES, or the joint initiative (which essentially is a no-brainer for any teacher). In the past it’s quite clearly been said, when given the choice of Ministry backed options, or NZEI backed options, go with NZEI because at least they are looking out for and supporting teachers. They have the teacher’s interests at heart.
But democratically, a vote like this is completely flawed. We’re choosing between a poisoned apple, and a poisoned toffee apple. At the end of the day, it looks the same, it smells delicious, it’s big, red, and juicy, but you wouldn’t want to take a bite.