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10 Steps To Quality Public Education

10 Steps To Quality Public Education

Education is a pivotal issue in the lead up to the November 8th election. New Zealand children are among the best learners in the world. Our students ranked third in literacy and seventh in science out of more than 50 OECD countries in international student competency tests in 2006. However the bottom 20 percent of our students score significantly lower than their counterparts in other high-scoring OECD countries such as Finland. Poverty and socio-economic status play a large part in underachievement and disengagement from learning. In this open letter, the education sector union NZEI identifies ten steps to address the problem of educational disparity. 50,000 NZEI members in primary schools and early childhood centres challenge all political parties to work with them to ensure every New Zealand child has genuine equity of access to learning opportunities. Sustaining a high quality public education system and alleviating child poverty would create a dramatically better future for these children.

1. Participation in quality early childhood education (ECE)
ECE is a critical foundation for later learning.
NZEI’s goal is a planned national network of well resourced public services to ensure all children can access ECE. Building on the “20 hours free” policy, ECE must be accessible to those in low socio-economic areas.

2. Attract and retain quality teachers
Research shows that on-going professional development for all educators is a key factor in improving student outcomes. Beginning teachers need strong induction programmes and permanent jobs.
NZEI proposes professional development on an “as needed” basis rather than schools and ECE centres having to compete for funding.

3. Focus on teaching, not testing
Confident, inspired teachers need to work in an environment of trust. Schools and centres are already assessing student learning using tools designed to identify the next learning steps.
NZEI believes strengthening this practice and ensuring good communication of children’s progress to their parents is vital.

4. Māori medium education
Māori students achieve at higher levels in Māori settings than in mainstream schools: their identity and achievements within Te Ao Māori are celebrated and affirmed.
NZEI supports sustainably-funded implementation of Ka Hikitia as a blueprint for culturally relevant learning approaches for Māori students.

5. Valuing school support staff
Schools function best when the teaching and learning programme is supported by skilled support staff including teacher aides, librarians, ICT support, office managers, therapists and other skilled staff.
NZEI wants core support staff positions paid centrally, not through the operations grant. Pay rates, career paths and working conditions should reflect the importance of these roles.

6. Needs-based funding for special education
The right of every child to an education that meets their needs is fundamental. Schools and teachers should be resourced for the special learning needs of children with learning and physical disabilities.
NZEI supports needs-based funding for children with special education needs.

7. Class sizes
Research shows that smaller class sizes can help children with learning disadvantages, and decrease teacher workload and stress.
NZEI proposes teacher/pupil ratios of 1:15 for Maori immersion, and 1:20 for years two to eight.

8. Quality public education
Education is both an individual right and a public good requiring a network of well resourced public education options at early childhood, primary and secondary levels. Schools are at the heart of our communities and are one of our most important public assets.
NZEI wants a strong partnership between educators, communities and Government, built on a shared commitment to sustainable learning programmes and greater investment in building system capacity.

9. Support for families and whanau
Investing in the health and well-being of children and families is a direct investment in the future. It is fundamental to ensuring students can reach their potential. New Zealand’s low wages mean that 16% of children still live in poverty.

NZEI wants to see increases in the minimum wage, a greater ability for unions to negotiate multi-employer collective agreements and more investment in skills and technology to boost productivity.

10. Funding and resourcing
Sustainable funding and resourcing is necessary for an education system that faces new and complex challenges and costs.
NZEI seeks reform of the school operations grant so that schools can meet both the learning needs of students and the administrative responsibilities of self- managing schools.

Frances Nelson
President NZEI Te Riu Roa

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