Over the last few months; actually since the start of this year, I have noticed a definite increase in propaganda…I mean… publications from our beloved at the Education Review Office (the independent reviewer of schools that is run by the government – who also runs the Ministry of Education – go figure!).
So I headed over to their website and thankfully in this technology day and age, it has been incredibly easy for people to archive their documents as PDF’s and have them available for all.
When I got there, I wanted to see just how many publications there were. I started counting.
As I was counting, I began to wonder a few things. Were these publications on a schedule? Were there certain months or time of the year that these are released? How long do school leaders get to peruse these wonderful documents before the next one gets sent out?
So as I often do, I started gathering data (which we now know to be the silver bullet in saving the education of Maori children). This lead me to some interesting discoveries, especially as we go back in time.
Initially, I went back to 2010 – the year I got my first full time teaching placement. Then I realised there were certain other things that occurred that year, such as the roll out of National Standards.
It was also soon after this, in 2011, that the Minister of Education Hekia Parata took office after Anne Tolley was somewhat swept aside (having already done the damage needed in rolling out the Standards).
So I went back further. Let’s say, 2007, then 2008, when the current government took office. That’s a good period of time.
Here’s what I found:
I wrote out the date of each publication and put it into a very simple graph.
From this, it is quite clear to see that there is a significant increase in the number of publications ERO is sending out to schools about best practises, about leadership in schools, about review, inclusivity, inquiry, and a myriad of other pedagogical egregiousness.
Volume & Numbers
Look at the numbers alone. Schools have gone from having 2 – 5 documents to read each year, to suddenly up around the 20 mark. Proponents for these documents will suggest that it is for the good of all schools to read, that it provides a more vigorous form of guidance and the assimilation of best practise across the country.
However, there are many other factors that these documents bring upon the education sector.
In 2007 and 2008 there were five publications each year. Counting up the number of days between each of these five publications, it gave school leaders and board of trustees a whopping 55 days (approx) to read, digest, mull over, and apply the findings in these reports.
By 2010, schools had less than a month. By 2013, schools were having just over a fortnight to read these publications, as the number of publications balloons to 20 publications in the year – four times the amount of reading to do. By March 2016, Schools have already received 8 documents from the Office, with an average of 12 days between each.
On average, the publications range from about 25 pages in length, to about 60, with varying degrees of content. The majority are around 30 pages in length.
In addition to this, expecting only 5 documents to be read throughout the year is not out of the realm of possibility. If we were to pay Principals their time to read these wonderful documents the cost would be somewhat minimal. The average reading speed of 200-250 words per minute applies to non-technical material. Unfortunately, as anyone who has taken the time to flick through these ERO publications, they are full of technical terms used with education, and the editors thesaurus gets a good workout as they condense twelve easy to understand words into two obscure words that generally require deciphering. For such technical material, the average drops to 50-70 words per minute. This translates to 5-6 minutes per A4 page. If the document has 30 pages, then we can safely assume that this will take the average school principal 180 minutes to read each document. That’s 3 hours of a Principal’s time to read through each document.
Let’s put that in context. That’s half of the school day (contact time).
You can start to see how this might start to grow exponentially, especially when a total of 15 hours per year might be spent in 2007, to suddenly 60 hours needed in 2013. In the three months to March this year, a whopping 24 hours would be needed to get through all the publications to date. That’s a whole day.
As we all know, time means money, and we can see how looking at the time it takes naturally moves into the cost to tax-payers that these publications might take.
In New Zealand there are a total of 2,538 schools. Let’s assume (for ERO’s sake) that each school only gets one copy of the publication sent to them. That’s easy maths. That’s 2,538 copies. A reasonable sized print run.
In 2007, there were 2,590 schools. Multiply this by the 5 publications printed in that year, and there’s a total of 12,950 documents.
Assuming that it was sent out by fast-post to schools, the cost back for postage in 2007 was $1.50.
It’s okay. I’ll do the maths for you. Its $19K and change. Yup. $19,000.
Now, it may not be quite that bad. Maybe government departments get discounted postage rights, especially when sending in bulk maybe. But still….
Fast forward to 2016. Postage for one document is $3 in a foolscap size envelope. Fast-post.
In 2016 already, there has been 8 documents sent to the 2,538 schools (20,304). We’re at $60K in postage by March.
Printing costs are another matter.
I haven’t been able to find out the company that the NZ Government or ERO might use for printing these documents.
However, going to Print.com/nz, I was able to get a rough price for an A4 portrait document. Granted, the pages are glossy (ERO’s pages are matte), and only 120gsm (ERO’s pages feel more like 300gsm) but the price is $5.42 per document.
We have to assume that the Government would get some suitable discount on this price, but this is about as good as I could find.
So. More maths.
If the cost of postage has doubled since 2007, then it is possible that the cost of printing has also doubled in that time.
So for the 12,950 copies in 2007, this would cost $35K. Adding on the postage bill, and we’re looking at $54,000.
By March 2016, using the current printing costs described above, ERO has spent $110,000. Add on the $60K postage, and there’s a whopping 170K bill to be paid.
At it’s peak in 2013, there were 20 documents sent to 2,539 schools. Assuming printing and postage will be somewhere in between the 2007 and 2016 prices, we can surmise that Printing would be about $4.07, and postage at $2.25.
All up, the ERO would be fitting a 2013 bill of some $465,017.85.
$465K for a bunch of booklets that principals would be hard pushed to find 60 hours to set aside to read, let alone implement.
For reference, I do realise there are a lot of assumptions being made, and not only those that I have mentioned above. I’m very aware that not every principal or school would be required to read every document put out by ERO. For example, some of the documents are for ECE, some for Primary, and some for Secondary, and it’s fairly certain that ERO would not be expecting Primary Schools to be pouring over a document about Science teaching and achievement rates in Secondary Schools – and vice versa. There are other areas where the implications have been stretched – I will admit to that.
But the reality is, these documents do need printing, and they do need sending, and they do need reading.
And it seems like the number of publications are only but increasing. These publications are swamping principals desks, keeping them from their core business instead of providing insight, guidance, or help. Schools are being suffocated with the sheer volume of documents clogging up the leaders and bringing them to a grinding halt, staggering and stumbling until they can breathe no more; crushed by the weight of layers and layers of 300gsm matte paged booklets.
Happy reading everyone!