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Educators Dismayed At Legislation Proposals



Speaking on behalf of the Education Forum, John Morris, Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School, said he was appalled at some of the legislative proposals recently announced by Trevor Mallard, Minister of Education.

"The abolition of bulk funding of teacher salaries is overturning by legislation arrangements entered into voluntarily by many schools in both low and high income areas. Bulk-funding serves schools and their students well by providing flexibility and demonstrating trust in the judgement of schools and their communities to do what's best for their own students. If abolition is not to be seen as a petty, vindictive manoeuvre designed to do by legislation what the teacher unions couldn't achieve by bullying, the government will have to explain what is to replace bulk-funding and how the same or greater benefits are to be achieved. By what other means is the government to express confidence in the ability of boards, principals and teachers to find local solutions to local problems, lift parental involvement, and raise educational achievement?

"Tightening enrolment schemes will tend to lock in restrictions on parental choice. It will ensure, for example, that students who would benefit from attending a successful out-of-zone school will only be able to do so if they secure places in a ballot. It may exacerbate over-crowding in popular schools and help to protect failing ones. Again it assumes boards, principals and teachers can't be trusted to make good decisions for their students.

"By contrast, the proposals for more flexible governance arrangements are aimed at allowing local solutions to local conditions and seem sensible. Why is the same approach not used when it comes to staffing and enrolments?

"The basic problem with both the bulk-funding and enrolment proposals is that they don't address the key issue of how to raise the performance of all schools. This must include giving parents more not less choice of school and allowing boards and principals more not less discretion over staffing and not just over staffing profiles but also over terms and conditions of employment and over procedures for easing out persistently poor performing teachers. It's disturbing that these proposals seem to be directed at appeasing political constituencies rather than improving education. This is a disappointing start for a government which purports to be concerned to improve education and to 'close the gaps' ", he said.


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