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Time to reshape New Zealand’s self-managing school model

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Time to reshape New Zealand’s self-managing school model

A book released this week recommends fundamental changes to how New Zealand organises its education system, including the government agencies, boards of trustees and the way schools are connected to each other.

Vital Connections, by educational researcher Dr Cathy Wylie, concludes the Tomorrow’s Schools model is flawed and cannot meet the demands now being placed on the education system. The book is a detailed analysis of two decades and more of self-managing schools in New Zealand, ushered in by the 1989 reforms known as Tomorrow’s Schools.

“We now have a substantial body of robust analysis that shows we need to rethink the self-managing model in order to create a more dynamic learning system,” Dr Wylie says.

Dr Wylie says while Tomorrow’s Schools has allowed schools to take more initiative and given them a strong sense of their community, it has delivered uneven and inadequate educational gains for learners. It has also been wasteful, with too much reinventing of the wheel and few channels for sharing good ideas and practice between schools.

The book advocates schools remain self-managing but it puts forward a series of recommendations for change. Proposals include a national network of 20 education authorities throughout the country, with responsibility for schools in their region and charged with ensuring schools and teachers are supported and challenged and can learn from each other.

“Our current system lacks the national and local infrastructure of connections to share and keep building effective teaching practices so that all our schools can do what we ask of them,” Dr Wylie says.

The proposed new education authorities would appoint school principals, a function currently carried out at school level by boards of trustees. Dr Wylie also advocates for a single government education agency at the national level, bringing together the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

Dr Wylie is a chief researcher at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research and has closely tracked the impact of the Tomorrow’s Schools reforms since their inception. In 2011 she

won a JD Stout Fellowship from the Stout Research Centre at Victoria University, where she wrote much of the book.

Vital Connections is available from NZCER for $39.95.

ends

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