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Mallard's Speech To Deputy Principles

Minster Of Education Hon Trevor Mallard
Speech To The Greater Wellington Area Deputy & Assistant Principles Association
Thursday 23rd March
12pm

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

I last addressed your group two years ago and spoke about the policy development process that I was working through as Labour's education spokesperson.

The feedback I received from organisations like yours was an integral part of that process and I thank you for your help in that respect.

It is much better to stand here and be in a position where I can start putting some of those ideas into practice.

As you probably noticed in the media, the new Government has just passed its hundred day mark.

Within the compulsory part of the education portfolio, I haven't made any announcements that news editors feel are sexy enough to make big headlines on the front page lead, or lead the TV or radio news, but there have been a number of changes and proposals announced that I feel are advancing our aims in education and I'll go over a few of these today.

Bulk Funding

Next week I will be announcing details of a one-off payment to non-bulk funded schools. Basically this is part of the money that the National Government earmarked to go to bulk funded schools. Under their administration, the money that will now be put in school accounts early next month, would have been given back to Treasury.

In Opposition I maintained that if the money was available as an incentive for schools who switched to bulk funding, it should be available for all schools. The one-off payment is not the equivalent to what schools will get under the new funding formula which will be introduced for all schools next year. It is simply recognition that schools that have not switched to bulk funding deserve their slice of the cake as well.

I am expecting opposition from some bulk funded schools who are predicting doomsday without actually acknowledging that there will be more money in the schools sector. It is true that some bulk funded schools will get less than they currently receive. However, many will be better off financially. You certainly would not get that impression from reading the public comments they are making without even knowing what the funding formulas will be for next year. Those decisions will be announced by the end of August. In the meantime, those schools should resist spreading misinformation.

I'd also give the same advice to the Act education spokesperson who is trying to incite bulk funded schools to take legal action against the Government.

It is a core responsibility of the Government to fund schools, and to determine the funding system that it feels is fairest to the entire school sector. We gave ample warning of our policy in this area and we will continue to work closely with representatives of bulk funded schools to ensure the transition goes smoothly. There will be legislation in the House covering this area which will be introduced early next month.

Enrolment schemes

Also included in that piece of legislation are plans to strengthen the enrolment scheme legislation. This Government considers that students have a right to attend their neighbourhood school. There is no use promoting choice when a parent does not have the fundamental choice to send their child to the school next door.

We also support more transparency and fairness in relation to out of zone enrolments. This means that siblings should be given priority and other enrolments should be decided on ballot.

The current system can result in a waste of resources where some communities have schools with significant numbers of spare places while other schools are over capacity. We intend to optimise the use of school property by stopping schools from growing through out of zone enrolments.

I am aware that we are going to get some flak over this policy. But it is the Parliament's role to examine all the arguments and come up with a system that we believe is the fairest to all. It is my role to lead that debate. There will always be families who miss out on their first choice of school. But in situations where, without an enrolment scheme, a school would be overcrowded I don’t think schools should be able to pick and choose students based on interviews, or sporting or academic ability. That to me seems unfair on a child who might only be of average talent, but who may be able to fulfil their potential at a particular school. They deserve the same chance to get into that school as a child of exceptional ability.

Governance

The third major area in the first piece of legislation covers governance and will include provision to opt for staggered board elections so that not all board members are replaced at the same time.

Second bill

The second amendment bill to be introduced later this year would strengthen further aspects of the Education sector.
Issues covered in that bill will include:

 The establishment of a Parent Advocacy Service
 Processes to report student achievement
 Teacher registration requirements and the establishment of an Education Council

Work on that legislation is still in the early stages but it will be introduced later this year with the aim of passing it next year.

NCEA

One of the decisions I have made this year which is perhaps of most interest to you is the extension of the timetable for the introduction of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.

It was not an easy decision to make but on balance there was a risk that teachers are not entirely confident in the training and support they will have had. I’ll return to this.

I am not opening the door to go backwards.

This new certificate can solve long-standing problems in the senior secondary school. It has all the best elements of the traditional examination system: externality; fairness; rigour.

At the same time it recognises that there are great many skills and abilities that examinations can’t measure and that employers want to know about.

Increasingly our society requires that young people who are fronting up for jobs or for entry into further education and training need a qualification to attest to their knowledge and skills. I believe they will get that from NCEA.

It is long past the time when the problems in senior secondary school qualifications needed resolution and it was tempting to push ahead with the previous timetable.

But the persuading factor was the support that teachers need. This has to work well. The students deserve nothing less. It can only work as well as it must, if teachers are confident in their knowledge and skills and are ready to undertake the internal assessments that are needed.

The time extension will allow us to build that confidence.

By the end of 2001 I want to be sure that every teacher of a qualifications class will have participated in at least four full days of teacher professional development — working with their peers from other schools to ensure that their expectations of student achievement are consistent; and they have common skills and understandings of what and how to assess and report.

In this respect I want to announce that the Government has decided to grant two teacher-only days this year, and request schools to build in two call back days next year to ensure that every secondary teacher can be involved in this professional development.

Professional Development

Aside from the need associated with the implementation of the NCEA, I see a need to improve the provision of professional development across the sector.

If there is one thing that is integral to a child's learning, it is the quality of their teacher. High quality pre-service education is important to this, but so is on-going professional development – especially given that most of the teachers who will front classrooms over the next generation are already in the profession. Notwithstanding the fact that the average secondary teacher is even older than I am.

As the pace of economic and technological change accelerates, teachers need to continually update and develop their skills and knowledge to meet these new demands.

While schools have their own priorities and plans for teacher development, the Government also has a responsibility to develop the profession as a whole and we support a continuation of centrally resourced core in-service and training services. We will also maintain a nationally coordinated School Advisory Service.

This year professional development will continue to be delivered as it has been in the past but the Ministry of Education is to report back to the Government with new options for 2001 and beyond. Those options will take into account the range of school and teacher needs and ways of ensuring that teachers get good value from additional funding.

Developing the leadership and management skills of school leaders is also a priority for the Government.

The demands on principals’ skills and abilities have increased over the last decade with devolution of management responsibilities and rising public expectations. It is an issue which both Principals and Boards of Trustees have said needs to be addressed from a more central perspective;

Already there is a wide range of training and development options for current or aspiring principals. But we need to look further whether there are gaps that need to be addressed. The Ministry of Education is already consulting the sector on this issue, and we would welcome the input of deputy and assistant principals.

Quality applications to colleges of education

But no matter what professional development is available, we also need to work at improving the perception of teaching as a profession to enter into. I became very concerned about this a few years ago during the 1996 secondary teacher pay round. I spoke to about 100 senior secondary school students and asked how many of them were interested in becoming teachers. Two students put up their hands and the other 98 laughed at them. I think students were very much aware that their teachers were getting a raw deal from the Government of the time. More recently I was shocked to hear second-hand of a teacher who was actively discouraging students at a careers evening from considering teaching. I hope that that attitude is not widespread.

There are issues with pay, but teachers will never be among the country's top earners and never have been. There are other issues that I think will contribute to improving the perception of the profession – such as taking a good hard look at teacher workloads.

I am hopeful that our moves towards lowering the cost of tertiary education will have some impact on this. We've started off by removing the interest from student loans for full-time and other low income students. That was clearly identified by student leaders as the key priority. With an education costing less, I hope that young people will think more about career satisfaction than merely looking at dollar signs when they are making choices about what to study.

Education Council

Our proposed new teaching council will also assist in raising the status and profile of the profession. To date, attempts from within the teaching profession to establish a professional body have not been successful.

The Teacher Registration Board (TRB) already performs some of the functions of a professional body. But there is no teacher representation on the Board and the Board lacks flexibility in its functions. The Education Council would replace the TRB and would represent the interests of employers, government, teachers and the wider community.

Conclusion

So, in conclusion, it has been a busy 12 weeks. As I said earlier, I don't think any of this will have been a surprise to you. We have worked hard in the last few years in consulting and communicating with a wide range of sector groups to develop a policy which considered the education needs of all New Zealanders. Now I would like to open up for the floor for questions.

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