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Centralist Approaches Don't Work In Education

Educators Say Centralist Approaches Don't Work In Education



At its meeting on Friday, the Education Forum reviewed the new government's education proposals and found little to commend and much of concern.

Speaking on behalf of the Forum, John Morris, Headmaster of Auckland Grammar School, said many of the proposed changes reflected a 'centralist' and 'bureaucratic' approach which simply didn't work in much of education and which often had effects contrary to those intended.

"Ending teacher salary bulk funding means putting all state schools in a staffing straitjacket and removing from boards and principals the opportunity of deciding how best to use available resources. About a third of all schools are bulk funded and use the additional flexibility very effectively in the interests of their own students.

"Changes in primary school salary funding provides a financial incentive for all primary principals to join the collective contract and, to the extent this is achieved, will remove from boards the ability to reward high performance and will instead reward all principals alike irrespective of performance.

"Tightening enrolment schemes will mean schools will have much less ability to accept students who would benefit from education in an 'out-of-zone' school. Children most likely to suffer are those from poorer homes including ethnic minorities. It will benefit home owners in more affluent suburbs.

"Ending the TIE scheme will remove from low income parents the opportunity of sending their children to private schools. It will harm those with the least ability to make school choices for their children.

"Affirming the previous government's poorly conceived Achievement 2001 school qualifications policy is trying to ensure all students end up with the same type of qualification. Under external examinations students from all schools compete on equal terms. The new qualification, with a significant internally-assessed component, will lack credibility and it will be 'which school a student attended' rather than 'how well he or she performed' that will count in selection for jobs and tertiary places. This will advantage students attending high profile schools and disadvantage those at less well known ones."

Mr Morris said that what has been decided reflected commitments to collectivism, uniformity and the teacher-unions; the interests of children came last. "Moreover, a 'one-size-fits-all' approach simply won't work in schools. Those who will suffer most are our children, and the children from disadvantaged backgrounds will suffer most of all. We need much more choice and more diversity, not less, so parents can make good decisions for their children and be more involved in what goes on in schools.

Mr Morris said that government decisions also amounted to a vote of no confidence in boards, principals and teachers. "We will find it increasingly difficult to get able people involved in school governance and educational leadership. The recruitment of able people - particularly men - into teaching is already a problem. Centralising schooling decisions and reducing local discretion will make teaching an even less attractive career path for able and ambitious young men and women. If teacher recruitment, retention and morale are to be improved, the government needs to let schools get on with the task of educating the next generation with much less control by remote ministry bureaucrats and with much more direct accountability to parents."


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