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Trevor Mallard Speech To Independent Schools

Education Minister
Trevor Mallard
To Independent Schools Conference


Last time I spoke at this conference it was as Opposition Spokesperson. I must say that speaking to you as the Minister of Education is much more satisfactory. In fact the whole job is much more satisfactory than that of spokesperson. These days I am able to take policies through to the point where the next step is not just a firm well-informed policy but is actual implementation.

You may have noticed however that quite a lot of what I have done while in this job has not had much to do with independent schools. But I have been keeping my promises. I am dismantling bulk funding and give the left overs to the schools who continued to have their teachers' salaries paid centrally. I did promise to do this and the bulk funded schools had plenty of warning. I have done some exceedingly sensible things about school zoning. I have made decisions about the way schools are funded and staffed. And I am setting up a staffing review group to inform decision making about how schools will be staffed in future. None of these decisions are likely to affect you directly but they are important steps in strengthening the state school system.

There is the decision to delay implementation of the NCEA by a year in order to ensure that teachers are ready and that parents and students know what it is and does. Now this does concern a number of you.

I will have more to say about each of these matters later.

New Zealanders have always placed a high value on education. Education to most New Zealanders is regarded as a basic right or something they are entitled to. Even more, as a right or entitlement that is provided free of charge for all children whatever their abilities or disabilities and wherever they live. Compulsory education in the state sector is still provided free of compulsory charges. With the changes to the zoning regulations we are trying to make it clear that entry into the local state school is unrestricted by academic standards or prowess on the sports field.

This belief in education, as a universal entitlement or right, has underpinned the development of our education system and has ultimately determined the shape of the state education system. Historically most New Zealand children have attended their local or nearest state school. But we have since very early days always made room for independent schooling for those who decide that the state system is not for them. That policy continues under the present Government.

In New Zealand the independent sector market for compulsory education is made up of independent schools and home schoolers. Currently both these providers receive at least some state subsidy.

In relation to the state sector, the independent education sector in New Zealand is very small.
Only 4 percent of New Zealand students attend independent schools.

The Government's overarching policy objective for its schools is to close the gaps between winner and loser schools and between achievement levels of different sections of our population.

Some children are not achieving much at school and they are disproportionately Maori and Pacific Island children. Poverty, substandard overcrowded homes, violence, alcohol and drugs are affecting children's progress. We are determined to raise the educational achievement of all students and we have already begun programmes to do it as soon as possible. We have programmes to strengthen the state schools network and improve the quality of schools.

Every child, whether they have special needs or not, has the right to receive an appropriate education.

The basic Special Education 2000 framework aims to improve the support available to students with special needs.

However, we believe that there are still some areas of concern that need to be reviewed to ensure that the policies are working on the ground for students, parents and schools.

The Government also believes in quality outcomes for students with special needs and recognises the value of professional development for staff in schools.

Students in independent schools are eligible to receive funding/assistance through any of the three SE2000 initiatives targeted at students with HIGH needs. However, students who have moderate sensory and/or physical disabilities, are also eligible to receive services through the policy.

Independent schools are expected to meet the moderate special education needs from their own resources.

Where the policy provides individually targeted funding, students in independent schools are eligible.

Of course these legislative changes will not apply to students attending independent schools.

The Education Amendment Bill number 2 to be introduced later this year will establish a Parent Advocacy Service. This will be a service that will advocate on behalf of students and parents. It will be provided through the office of the Commissioner for Children.

We want this service to help parents to resolve the kinds of problems that sometimes arise between parents and schools including independent schools. Parents, and particularly those whose own school experiences were of failure and humiliation need to be able to communicate with schools in order to help their children to achieve. The Commissioner for Children doesn't currently have powers to overturn school decisions and this won't change.

Teachers are a key ingredient in education and how teachers do their job and what they know about the content of their teaching is paramount in making a difference to student achievement.

This Government's commitment to professional development and its support for an Education Council will contribute to ensuring teachers and principals are supported in the work they do and are encouraged to grow and become even more effective.

Professional development and support for teachers is central to achieving a high quality teaching force.

The education sector, including the Independent Schools Council, raised concerns over the last government's plans to devolve a greater portion of professional development funding to schools.

The last Government's proposed system involved high transaction and administration costs and a lack of quality control.

Remote communities and small schools would have been especially disadvantaged and it would have led to increased workloads especially in smaller schools.

We support a continuation of centrally resourced core in-service and training services because we believe this will encourage:

· more integration between pre-service, in-service and advanced teaching studies,

· better quality control, and

· more certainty that funding will be spent on professional development.

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

Independent schools currently have access these services and this provision will continue.

We all know that the educational leadership of the school principal is crucial to a school's success.
Developing principals' leadership and management capability is also a priority for the Government.

The demands on principals' skills and abilities have increased over the last decade with the devolution of management responsibilities and rising public expectations.

Already there is a wide range of training and development options for current or aspiring principals. But we need to look at whether there are gaps that need to be addressed.

This is an area where we would especially welcome feedback from all principals including principals of independent schools.

The Government will introduce legislation later this year on the establishment of an Education Council, which will replace the Teacher Registration Board. This Council will provide leadership in the development of the profession.

The Teacher Registration Board (TRB) is now entirely self-funded through teacher contributions and all members are Ministerial appointments. The TRB lacks flexibility in its functions, it can de-register a teacher but has no ability to impose lesser penalties. And, it cannot suspend a teacher during inquiries. There should be an arrangement where the interests of employers, government, teachers and the wider community are all represented.

I also intend to introduce legislation later this year, which will require mandatory reporting of teacher misconduct. I have heard of a number of cases where a teacher's gross misconduct has been hushed up and the teacher has left the school and continued their career in teaching unchecked. We must do something to stop this happening. The school in which the teacher offended will have to manage the teacher's departure responsibly then schools appointing new teachers will be able to rely on the information they receive when they check registration.

We need to be able to rely on some kind of deregistration or suspension of registration to deal with teachers who we do not want in our schools. All schools, all students and the rest of the teaching profession will benefit from a rigorous registration procedure.

Independent schools will take part in the responsibilities and advantages of this legislation.

Although independent schools are not contracted to deliver the national curriculum many independent schools choose to do so. You are also to be congratulated on taking the lead in the development of values education.

Peter Fraser said in 1938:
schools that are to cater for the whole population must offer
courses that are as rich and varied as are the needs and abilities
of the children who enter them.

There are now new national curriculum statements in all but one of the seven essential learning areas from the three r's to health and physical education. We are well on the way to a curriculum that is as rich and varied as Peter Fraser envisaged. The new statements shift the focus away from what teachers have to teach and towards what we want students to know and be able to do. This means greater emphasis is being placed on assessment because we want and need to know what students have learned more than just knowing what teachers have taught. Schools have put a lot of time into professional development in assessment as a result of this.

This leads me to the introduction of National Certificate of Educational Achievement the new qualification for senior secondary students.

As you will know I have decided to extend the timeframe for the introduction of the certificate.
It was not an easy decision to make but on balance there was too much risk if teachers were not entirely confident.

The extended timeframe is not opening the door to go backwards.

This new certificate can solve long-standing problems in the senior secondary school:

The NCEA has all the best elements of the traditional examination system: externality; fairness and 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

The NCEA aims to report in a way that will stand the test of time.

By setting standards for maths (or geography) we will be able to attest whether 15 year old students can solve quadratic equations, (or identify the causes and implications of a natural disaster); then, in the future, we will be able to test to see if students can do, or understand, those same things.

By being explicit about standards, and devising sensible methods of assessment, we can remove forever the arguments over whether standards are falling or not. The percentage mark alone does not reveal what was expected or what was achieved.

More importantly, the setting of explicit standards makes it clear to students, their parents, potential employers, or further education institutions the basis for the professional judgements that made about students' performance.

The broad design of the certificate means that students whose interests and abilities take them in other than traditional academic tracks, can have their achievements recognised too.

This is crucially important.

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.

Over a considerable length of time, the school leaving statistics have shown a damningly consistent pattern. Mäori students and Pacific Island students are seriously over represented among those who leave school with no qualifications. There is no longer any excuse for that.
As I have already said this Government is determined to see the gaps between Mäori and non-Mäori achievement reduced - as soon as possible.

This does not mean lowering our expectations of Mäori or anyone else.

What it does mean is setting the standards that society expects of all students - the standards all youngsters must reach if they're to play a part in society - and ensuring that the resources and support are in place to help all students reach them.

The decision to announce the extension of time was not simple. It is long past the time when the problems in senior secondary school qualifications needed resolution.

The NCEA offers many advantages for students and people who will use the students' qualifications.

It was tempting to push ahead with the previously announced timeline. 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 ensure that confidence.

The judgements which teachers need to make in qualifications assessment are not simple judgements; they are professional judgements. Professional development training will help to inform those professional judgements.

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.

The record of learning associated with the NCEA will provide a comprehensive record of student achievement and a student's assessed strengths and weaknesses.

For example, knowing a student got merit in arithmetic and statistics, and a pass in measurement, but did not reach the required standards in algebra or geometry, is very much more useful than knowing only that the student got 53% in mathematics. In the NCEA conventional subjects will be reported both ways - if a mark is your preferred way of reporting, you can use it. If you want more information, it will be there.

I hope that you will support some fairly comprehensive professional development for teachers. We do need to do as much as possible to ensure teachers are confident in their knowledge and skills and are ready to undertake the internal assessments that are needed.

The Government has no legal obligation to provide funding for independent schools. I have already told you that the Government will maintain state funding of independent schools. The current level of funding to independent schools will be frozen and the current per pupil funding rates capped.

The per pupil funding rates will not exceed the 2000 per pupil funding rates
The aggregate level of government expenditure on independent schools will be capped at the projected 2000/2001 fiscal year cost.

In implementing this new policy the Ministry of Education will initially set per pupil funding rates annually on the basis of roll projections and will adjust these rates according to actual rolls to remain within the total appropriation.

The 1999 election manifesto stated that Labour would not award any further TIE scheme placements.

Those students currently on the TIE scheme will remain on the scheme until their entitlement expires. Parents will continue to receive the caregiver allowance.

There are currently approximately 588 students on the TIE scheme some of whom still have six years of entitlement remaining. Without any further placements the final TIE students will leave the scheme in the 2006 school year.

Last year the Independent Schools Council commissioned PriceWaterhouse Coopers to prepare a report on the impact of Government Funding on the Independent Schools sector. While this report found that most of the schools examined were making an operating surplus, the report also concluded that in the longer term some independent schools may be in financial danger.

The report's findings were premised largely on an analysis of the revenue side of independent schools finances and based on the view that there exists limited potential for significant increases in revenue from independent sources. On the cost side, however, the same report showed that independent schools expenditure was greater than that of state schools. The reasons for this were that independent schools had on average much lower pupil:teacher ratios, higher levels of fixed assets and capital expenditure and a higher level of indebtedness.

I am working on a scheme for copyright fees for which schools are currently liable to be paid in one central annual payment. This will benefit all schools, particularly those that at present are risking prosecution every time they use the Once Were Warriors theme in their music classes.

I cannot go without talking about Jan Kerr. I know that Jan Kerr is leaving you. Jan Kerr has done a great job for the council. She is an excellent lobbyist, knowledgeable, articulate and original. Her vigorous and assertive yet endlessly charming stewardship of all matters to do with Independent Schools is legendary. She is herself all the things we seek for education: she is innovative, client centred, articulate and visionary. Her skill in representing the concerns of independent schools in the corridors of power will be hard to replace and I congratulate Kings College on capturing Jan. Good luck for the future Jan. I guess that you will very soon be back in Wellington lobbying and networking to benefit your Kings College projects.

Thank you.


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