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Poor report card for Tomorrow's Schools

The Government is not meeting the legitimate requirements of schools and there is an urgent need to change the direction of educational policies away from market-driven ones, says Darrell Ward, NZEI Te Riu Roa national president.

He was responding to the release today of a new study Ten Years On: How Schools View Educational Reform by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research.

"This is essentially a report card on Tomorrow's Schools and the conclusion over a whole range of areas is 'Could do a lot better', " says Darrell Ward. "Despite the failures of the reforms, however, it is gratifying that parental satisfaction with schools remains as high as it was in 1989, and that most parents are happy with the information they get about their child's progress in school.

"The report shows that school funding, the staffing of schools in low income and rural communities, teacher workload and school support are critical areas which the reforms have not adequately addressed.

"In 1990 20% of principals found school funding inadequate; now 87% do. Schools are having to spend more time fundraising and parents are having to pay more in 'donations' just to cover the basics. Both NZEI and NZSTA have called for a full review of school funding with school sector representation. This report highlights just how urgent that review is.

"As this report makes clear, the casualties of Tomorrow's Schools have been children from low income homes and Maori children - the very groups that the reforms should have helped. Schools in poorer areas or schools with a high Maori roll continue to find it hard to recruit teachers, have higher staff turnover and are more likely to employ unqualified staff. There's a clear case here for staffing incentives if the children in those schools are to have the same educational opportunities as everyone else.

"Teacher workload is another area that needs to be addressed. The average teacher workload is now 51.5 hours a week with more time needed for assessment, reporting and classroom planning. There is a real need for more non-contact time to meet the extra demands placed on teachers yet non-contact time has actually declined since 1989.

"This report also highlights the idiocy of the government's decision to dismantle the school advisory service. Schools need this support more than ever. As the report points out, principals, who work more than 60 hours a week, are too busy to be 'a major source of advice and information for teachers', and because of competition between schools teachers and principals have less access to colleagues in other schools.

"Instead of tackling these urgent issues and the many more identified in the report, this government is wasting time, money and energy on a review of the regulatory framework of schools. The message from schools and communities is loud and clear: adequate funding and more support for schools are what is needed to improve educational opportunities and achievement."


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