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Tolley: New Zealand Principals' Federation Conference

New Zealand Principals' Federation Conference
Venue: Queenstown Event Centre
Time: 11:00am

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā hau e whā. Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. Kia Orana, Tolofa lava, Taloha Ni, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Ni sa bula vinaka, Malo e lelei.

Good morning everyone, and thank you to Ernie for the welcome.

And my thanks to the Federation Executive for the invitation to speak with you today.

The invitation was made, and accepted, in good faith.

There have been many challenges since I spoke to you last. But one thing remains constant.

As Minister of Education I want to have a constructive and positive relationship with your organisation, alongside regular input from your executive.

We won’t always agree, but it’s my constant hope we can discuss issues reasonably and with a good dose of common sense and courtesy.

Through your executive – and my high trust email address - you have a direct line to me. I urge you to use it. And I’m pleased to say Ernie is back in the habit of sending me texts with his thoughts – and I am replying with mine!

Yes, we have differing viewpoints from time to time, but I know that the Government and NZPF share the desire for a high-performing education system. We both want all young people to reach their potential. And we both realise the importance of strong leadership in every single school in New Zealand.

So before I begin, I want to say how much I value and respect your dedication, expertise, and sheer hard work. As I move around your schools, I’m always impressed by your commitment to this country’s children and young people.



As educational leaders, you create the conditions for effective teaching and learning. You lead the partnerships with parents, families and whanau which we know are so important. You also play a vital part in supporting the development of professional and leadership skills amongst your staff members.

And in your role as key board members, I thank you for the wise advice and guidance you continue to give to both new and experienced trustees.

The Government also looks to you to lead schools in raising student achievement, and working with the initiatives we have introduced over the past 18 months An extra $6 million a year is paid to you as primary principals to recognise the work you do to lead, develop and implement programmes to increase literacy and numeracy.

Today I’d like to talk to you about just two of our six priorities in education – in particular, literacy and numeracy through National Standards, and skills and qualifications with the Youth Guarantee. And I thought I’d reiterate the positive news for schools announced as part of Budget 2010, in the context of the wider Government budget.

Research and just plain common sense tells us that successful engagement with the breadth of the New Zealand Curriculum depends on a child’s ability to do the basics in reading, writing and maths.

Our priority is that “every child achieves literacy and numeracy levels that enable their success”.

National Standards, introduced at the start of this school year, are a tool to ensure every child gains these foundation skills, and are on track to achieve NCEA Level 2. They have been designed to support the New Zealand Curriculum.

We all know that by themselves the Standards won’t change things. They merely provide benchmarks that indicate where action is needed, and inform the next steps for teaching and learning – for teachers, students and for parents.

I know the vast majority of schools, regardless of any personal opinions, are getting on with the task of implementing the National Standards.

And I acknowledge your hard work in doing so.

And while I’m not here to debate the Standards, I believe it’s important to point out that we have been listening – and continue to listen to your concerns.

A few weeks ago, your President wrote to me saying principals had urged him to re-engage with me and the Government.

We met recently and your executive explained it wanted a positive and constructive relationship.

I think that’s a common sense approach.

NZPF has taken an official viewpoint, but it’s by no means shared by all members of the organisation.

One email from a principal I received this week - and he (or she) might be here today – was extremely positive about National Standards following the first reports to parents.

The principal said for the first time in their years as a leader, “we are now seeing much more focused reports to parents being made about progress, because the Standards require a sound judgement in reading, writing and maths. It requires teachers to work cooperatively together to ensure judgements are consistent and reliable.”

And I’ve heard from principals up and down the country that they are hearing these rich conversations in their staffrooms – discussing teaching practices; discussing student achievement and discussing moderation.

This same principal pointed out there is room for improvement, but that their school will continue putting kids first and not get distracted by scaremongering.

Let’s not forget that NZPF and individual principals were among the 11,000 people who took part in consultation last year, and that this organisation and the NZEI were on the working groups which developed the Standards.

As a result of their feedback I immediately pushed out the timeframe for reporting to the Ministry until 2012.

We also made major changes to ensure the Standards were more closely aligned to the curriculum.

Your organisation, along with the NZEI, NZAIMS, the School Trustees Association and the Ministry, continues to be involved in the working group which is looking at how the data is reported and presented.

In other words – they are trying to ensure we don’t end up with misleading league tables.

Progress on this has been nowhere near as quick as we all would have liked, and I’ve decided that I will attend the next meeting to see if we can move things along.

Your executive has asked if the working group can have a look at rewording the National Administration Guideline around this and I have agreed – but without compromising the information your communities are entitled to receive, and the Ministry must have, if it is to move from centrally administering the system to supporting its performance.

We want positive, constructive ideas.

Individually, and collectively, you can continue to have input on the implementation through the three-year monitoring and evaluation programme being run by the Ministry which will regularly post its findings on the internet.

Meanwhile the Independent Advisory Group, which reports directly to me, will provide free and frank advice on any changes that need to be made, and you know who they are and can talk to them.

And I can guarantee we will make changes if that is what required, because we will get this right – our students deserve no less.

The Advisory Group has already met with some principals, and the initial feedback they’ve received is that some of you want to get this 100 per cent right straight away.

Well, we don’t expect that to happen this year. I’ve said along all along this is a bedding-in year, so take it quietly and steadily, and let’s talk to one another, not the media.

In fact, I was at a school earlier in the week and I asked a teacher how the Standards were going. She said they were reporting to parents, but as they had only just been implemented they were telling families this was an approximate idea about where the children were – but that later in the year they would have a much better view.

I told her that sounded like a pretty sensible approach – so I urge you to talk to your parents.

I know that many parents are delighted they’ve received the first of their two plain-language reports this year, and the feedback has been fantastic.

Yes, many schools already provide good information. But many don’t – and parents are thrilled to be informed and involved.

It’s not about labelling children. It’s up to you and your teachers what language you use when reporting to parents on progress and providing positive advice on what should happen next.

And I expect that reporting against the Standards should be the absolute minimum – most parents expect and want to know about the wider performance of their child in other areas such as science and art.

We can’t underestimate the importance of parents in this whole process.

They are the silent majority, but I can assure you there’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. Parents are driving this – and with their involvement alongside the expertise of schools, we can help lift the bar for student achievement in this country.

It’s also important that principals, teachers and boards are well-equipped to work with the Standards. That’s why the Government is investing $26 million in professional development – and so far 84 per cent of schools have been involved.

I’ve had good reports on the initial round of training. Some of you sent me ideas, and I’ve passed feedback and concerns on to the Ministry. That, plus feedback from round one was taken into account during planning for the second phase of workshops.

The second round explores the Standards in more detail, and focuses on areas such as reporting to parents, overall teacher judgements and moderation.

I’m hearing that up to 20% of those attending have been unhappy. I’ve heard that some trainers have been unable to answer some of the more detailed questions. That means that some schools are well ahead with their thinking and implementation, and I’ve asked the Ministry to augment the training using practitioners.

But I’ve told the Ministry to monitor the training closely, to make sure your concerns continue to be addressed. If there are questions you need answered email me at hightrust@parliament.govt.nz , or get in touch with the Ministry.

It’s much quicker doing it that way and you will get results, rather than going to the media and making threats, which is just politicking, and achieves little.

And while we’re on that subject, you are pretty unique among public servants who can speak freely in the media. May I remind you that I made representations to make sure that continues.

However – no public servants have ever been granted the privilege of picking and choosing which Government laws they choose to administer. Lawyers, accountants and all the other professionals working in Ministries can offer opinions. But it’s the Government that makes policy decisions.

One thing is certain – you won’t be able to find out what changes have been made to professional development training – you won’t be able to reap the benefits - and you won’t get to provide valuable feedback on the sessions – if you don’t go along to the workshops. But that is your choice in the end.

As we look ahead, the third round of professional development will involve providers working more flexibly to meet the needs of schools. This will include in-school support as well as more tailored support.

I’ll say it again – we are going to get this right, for the students, and for their parents.

What we should be doing is having a conversation about the next steps and how we use the $36 million in support which is available. I’m taking a paper to Cabinet soon, and will be discussing these next steps with your executive.

But if the Ministry doesn’t have information from you – then there is no chance that your school will benefit, and you will have to answer to your communities.

Parents have made it clear they want National Standards. Our children need it. We want every single young New Zealander to be given the opportunity to succeed.

And of course the Standards directly affect secondary schools.

Many principals and teachers have told me of students arriving at secondary school with nowhere near the skill level they need in reading, writing and maths and the enormous strain it puts on their resources to work intensively with these young people just to get them to year 9 skill levels.

The National Standards will mean students arrive at secondary schools with nationally consistent assessments, and in time, with higher achievement in literacy and numeracy.

While National Standards have been hogging the limelight, a lot of work has being going on behind the scenes with the Youth Guarantee.

And the Youth Guarantee is designed to meet another of our priorities, which is that “every young person has the skills and qualifications to contribute to their and New Zealand’s future”.

Budget 2010 provides funding to support the major initiatives to address this priority.

For example – over $48 million over four years will increase the number of Youth Guarantee places to 2500 each year from next year and in ongoing years, for young people currently not in training or education.

It provides 16 and 17-year olds with the chance to participate in a range of school-level courses at polytechnics, wananga and private training institutions throughout the country, free of charge.
They are studying towards qualifications in areas such as tourism, agriculture, building, plumbing and hospitality in Levels 1 - 3.

We have to change our system, to make it more relevant for our young people and to make it more responsive to their needs, because we know the longer we can keep them in the education system, the more chance we have of them gaining the qualifications they need.

As we worked to hasten the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, because of the dramatic rise in youth unemployment, it became clear, through discussion with people such as yourselves, that we needed to develop a wider vision.

You have told me we should encompass all the alternative pathways for students, both current and future, within the Youth Guarantee mantle.

For example, STAR, Teen Parent Units, school-based apprenticeships, Business Academies, Sports Academies, Trades Academies, Service Academies – and whatever else schools are working on!

I’ve asked you and your colleagues around the country to highlight the impediments in legislation, in regulations and in funding that prevent you offering students different pathways that meet their needs, rather than ‘the needs of the system’.

In the meantime we’ve made some changes and forged ahead with some new alternatives for students.

Service Academies – of which we have 11 this year – will see students take part in courses in leadership and outdoor education, and work towards reaching NCEA Level 1 Mathematics and English or above.

We are also establishing six trades academies, which should be ready to open in 2011. They will be located in Northland, South Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Wairarapa, and South Otago. These are relationships between schools, tertiary institutions and the workplace, sharing resources, staff and expertise to support students.

They'll provide wider career choices for 16 and 17-year olds, and give them greater opportunities to develop their knowledge, skills and talents through trades and technology programmes.

In addition to the six academies already selected, six additional proposals put to the Ministry by education providers are also being developed with a view to establishing formal trades academies as soon as possible.

And of course Manakau Institute of Technology’s Tertiary High School is underway – we’ve provided funding for up to 80 students, recommended by their schools to take part in this innovative project – the first in this country.

Your feedback on this process is very important, because we want a school resourcing system that creates the right incentives and provides sufficient flexibility to enable schools to meet the needs of all their students. I encourage you all to share your thoughts with me, by emailing – hightrust@parliament.govt.nz. I read each one and often refer ideas into policy development.

I’d like to end today by talking about the economy.

As you will know we have come through the recession in pretty good shape – partly due to the measures the Government took in Budget 2009 and partly due to the resilience shown by many New Zealanders.

However our track record going back several years – even before the global recession hit – shows sluggish and unbalanced growth driven by debt, consumption and government spending, rather than savings and exports. Current forecasts show New Zealand’s net external liabilities – that’s what we owe to foreign lenders – will jump to almost $250 billion by 2014 from less than $100 billion in 2000.

The Government finances face similar challenges: we are spending more than we earn and, over the next few years, Government debt is set to increase significantly. Budget 2010 makes progress in getting back to surplus sooner. It will help the economy grow faster and deliver better living standards.

Despite the economic environment, and a relatively small amount of new money – $1.1 billion only, to be shared out amongst everyone - a substantial amount was invested in education as part of Budget 2010, clearly showing the importance that Government attaches to the sector.

The Budget allocated an extra $1.4 billion to education over four years, as we continue to focus on frontline services to help lift student achievement.

This will see Total Vote Education spending rise to $12 billion in 2010/11, and all funding will be directed into those priority areas making the biggest difference to students.

I have talked over the last couple of years about giving you more flexibility and pushing more resources out into schools.

Budget 2010 provides a 4 per cent increase in operational funding for schools, well above the rate of inflation. This will mean $156 million in new funding over four years, which I know will make a difference for you.

We’ve also made a significant investment in school infrastructure. $350 million in the Budget for new operating and capital funding over four years for school property. This includes funding for building new schools and improving existing school buildings, and comes on top of Government funding of more than $500 million as part of Budget 2009.

There’s $82 million towards remedial work on leaky school buildings – an avalanche heading our way. I’m dismayed to find little information on the real state of our buildings and $22 million over the next two years will quantify just how much rebuilding we’re facing.

There’s $40 million over four years to reduce surplus school property – starting with the unsightly school buildings abandoned in communities, attracting vandalism and graffiti.

Over $48 million to continue the School Network Upgrade Project – just this week I announced the next 239 schools which are to receive Government subsidies to prepare for ultra-fast broadband. And we’re extending the National Education Network trial to up to 500 schools.

Budget 2010 will also see schools benefiting from the introduction of cash reimbursements when they are unable to use up all of their staffing entitlement. This change will cost the Government $10 million a year, and will ensure schools receive all of the resources they are entitled to.

This is in addition to the announcement we made which gives schools, eligible for new property, the option to receive an annual cash equivalent of the value of that property as operational funding, instead of constructing a new building.

And those are just some of the highlights for schools in Budget 2010.
I’ve tried to deliver on the undertakings I gave you, to give you more flexibility, to give you more resources and support, and to help you deliver a modern 21st century curriculum in a modern 21st century environment.

This Government is serious about education.

Our goal is for every student to leave school with at least NCEA Level 2.

Yes, we are ambitious – but we owe it to our young New Zealanders.

We have high expectations of them, of ourselves as a Government, and you as school leaders.

We have high expectations of our curriculum and of quality teaching – to deliver a high standard of education for our students that equips them with the knowledge, skills and values to be successful citizens in the 21st century.

They deserve it.

Thank you.

ENDS

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