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Principal’s Federation slams National

14 April 2005

Principal’s Federation slams National education policy

The New Zealand Principal’s Federation has labelled the National education policy as a giant step backward, and a blatant attempt at vote-catching.

NZPF National President Pat Newman insists the fundamental problem is not the school system, but rather the lack of resourcing available.

“National claims we need to work toward a world-class education system. Let’s get something right from the start. New Zealand is already recognised internationally as having one of the best educational systems in the world. International experts queue up to copy what we are doing. It’s not a matter of reinventing and destroying what we currently have. It’s a matter of resourcing it sufficiently to allow us to build on our proven excellent practice. If National had taken this opportunity to put its money towards good educational practice, I would have been the first to applaud it.”

National’s suggestion of compulsory bulk funding will undoubtedly lead to industrial unrest throughout our schools, says Newman. “Dr Brash says that over 40% of pupils in New Zealand were educated under the voluntary bulk funding system. What he fails to recognise is that 60% of New Zealand’s school’s did not opt for the bulk funding model. To talk about the importance of parental choice on one hand and then impose bulk funding on all schools, seems to be quite strange. Bulk funding isn’t the answer to our lack of resourcing. Parents have seen firsthand the impact of bulk funding on kindergartens and hospitals – is this what we want in our schools?”

Newman says the move to introduce reading tests at seven years, and vouchers for children who fail is completely unnecessary.

“This policy is based on a flawed understanding of what is happening in New Zealand schools. We already have one of the best Remedial Reading Programmes in the world, one that is used extensively overseas. It is a programme that is taken by specialist teachers who spend two years getting these extra teaching skills on top of their normal qualifications. It’s a one on one programme, and the success rate is very high.

The problem we have is that the resourcing of this programme, even including local funding input, doesn’t allow for all children to be included. In some schools, up to 50% miss out. National’s suggestion to give vouchers to seven-year olds to see private providers after school, is nonsensical and unrealistic. What about those children whose parents are both working? What about those whose parents can’t or won’t provide transport? If National really wants to help children read, the answer is quite simple. Fully fund the existing Reading Recovery Programme so that all children who need it can get it daily, within their own school.”

The NZPF also disagrees with the idea of Trust Schools. “Overseas experience shows that Trust Schools are not necessarily the answer to improving educational excellence. National’s only reason for their proposed introduction seems to be to force competition on schools. We have yet to recover in New Zealand from the disaster of competition introduced with Tomorrows Schools. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

All educational research throughout the world shows that the competitive model is the worst possible model for schools. Trust or Charter Schools overseas have experienced widely varied results – some do better than normal state schools, but equally some perform at the same or even lower levels than state schools.”

Newman says the NZPF is tired of education being waved as a political vote-catcher. “Principals are fed up with politicians using education as a political football. We do not exist for politicians to try out their pet plans and philosophical ideas on, often without any education validity. We are here to advance the education of our children.

Dr Brash is right in saying that outstanding teachers and outstanding principals make outstanding schools. But all the National Party needs to do to make that a reality throughout our school system is provide the resources. Give us the tools to do the job properly, and our children will reap the benefits.”


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