12 December 2008
PPTA government briefing to counter ‘destructive’ advice to ministers
PPTA is publicly releasing its briefing papers to the incoming government in a bid to counter simplistic and potentially destructive advice to ministers.
PPTA junior vice president Kate Gainsford said both the Ministry of Education and Treasury’s briefings to the new government have shown a complete lack of practical understanding of what works for students and teachers.
Much of the advice was a throw-back to the 1990s, where theoretical context took precedence over practical concerns, Gainsford said.
“It is full of the same tired old simplistic clichés – it is the educational equivalent of a get-rich-quick scheme,” she said.
Gainsford was particularly amazed to see both the ministry and Treasury suggest moving away from lower class sizes, with Treasury claiming investing lower student-teacher ratios produced “low returns”.
“The advice completely fails to take into account the fact secondary teachers see a number of classes every day, and if each class has 30 students, that’s a huge workload for teachers.
“It is no good for the students either. Research shows that parents want teachers to spend more one on one time with their children but students are simply not going to achieve when teachers are stretched to find that time”, she said.
Gainsford also feared a proposed shift to areas with “high returns”, such as improved accountability for student achievement would lead to bureaucratic “standards for the sake of standards”.
“If neither department is prepared to do its homework on complex issues like this, they need to go back to the drawing board,” Gainsford said.
To counter this PPTA offers its own practical advice from teachers at the coalface.
“PPTA understands the complex issues around implementation and will continue to put its resources into ensuring the unintended effects of policies are considered in the search for positive outcomes”.
The briefing papers have already been received by the new government and are now available on the PPTA website (www.ppta.org.nz).
They include information on class size and staffing, curriculum, special education, disruptive students, adult and community education in schools, leadership in secondary schools, NCEA and operations grant funding, among other issues.
PPTA trusts the National government will continue to ignore outdated advice and listen to the voice of reason, Gainsford said.