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Mallard Speech To North Shore Principals

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister Of Education
Speech to North Shore Principals

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

I've been told that you are marking primary product week and I hope that is going well. I launched the week on Monday and as part of the ceremony was presented with an album with photographs from 29 schools from throughout the country. It now has pride of place in my reception area and has already been admired by several visitors to the office. I plan to show it off to overseas visitors in particular as it really does provide a showcase of many of the wonderful things that are happening in our primary schools.

Bulk funding has been an issue of great concern in this area. I have had many letters on bulk funding and I know that some of you made submissions to the Select Committee when it sat in Auckland last week.

I know that some schools have benefited from bulk funding. But I remain convinced that those benefits would not have been possible without the extra money and to a lesser extent the flexibility. So there are two points I want to make clear today. The first is that there will be significantly more money in the system next year than there was this year. The second point is that much of the flexibility that bulk funding has allowed will remain.

You will be able to use that extra money however you choose – for management units, extra staff, specialist resources - whatever. The difference is that we are ensuring a base level of staffing in all schools. I think that is really important if we want quality throughout our school system.

I want to debunk some of the misinformation that is being spread about this policy.

I believe the campaign being run by National is quite frankly simplistic and fundamentally flawed. National MPs all around the country are putting press statements out that take old information about how much schools gained under bulk funding and adding it up. They then assume that all the teachers employed as a result of bulk funding risk losing their jobs.

But as I said earlier, there will be significantly more money in the school system next year which schools can use for extra staff if they wish. Some bulk funded schools are going to lose funding because we are rebalancing the system. But overall, the funding cake is getting much bigger and everyone is getting a fair slice. No-one will go back to the pre-bulk funding levels as National has suggested.

National have also distributed a standard letter for parents whose children attend bulk funded schools to send to the select committee. My major problem with this is illustrated by one case I know of where a primary school pupil came home and told her mother that the teacher said she had to sign it and send it in. I think that kind of approach really places a shadow over the whole campaign.

I think the approach of the Act spokesperson on education, who has been inciting schools to take legal action against the Government is also appalling. I shudder at the thought of money earmarked for children's learning being spent on lawyers. I know the Bulk Funded Schools Association did seek legal advice and that the advice they received outlined the Government's role and responsibility in policy making.

The Budget is in three weeks time. It will include the funding increases for schools next year. I know many of you will be anxious to know how much your school will get. I have said that the formula will be available by the end of August. I am hoping that it will be earlier than that, but there is still some work to be finalised before that detail can be released.

I can tell you however that it will have a base funding component, a straight roll component, and a decile-based component. I've been asked to comment specifically on the decile-based funding system and 'limited funding' for decile 6-10 schools.

I have no qualms in saying that I am a strong supporter of equity funding. I think it is an essential part of our responsibility in ensuring that children get access to a quality education no matter what their family background is. Those social and economic gaps we talk about have widened considerably over the last decade making the equity funding more crucial. You will hear more about that next week.

The extra resourcing is intended to assist low decile schools overcome the higher barriers to learning which students from lower socio-economic communities face. It recognises that the local environment may hinder rather than support students and that schools will need to provide additional remedial programmes and resources as a counterbalance.

So while the extra money that goes into low decile schools is not explicitly intended to
bridge the gap in the ability schools have to raise funds locally, we can't ignore the fact that there is a far greater capacity for parental support in some areas than others.

School enrolment schemes is another issue that has often caused angst in the past in this area – particularly with secondary school arrangements. So while there has not been quite the same level of community concern about primary and intermediate school enrolment schemes, I know you will be familiar with the debate on the issue.

This Government considers that students have an absolute 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 there is opposition to 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 are families who miss out on their first choice of school now. That will always be the case. 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.

The enrolment scheme and school funding changes are both in the bill currently before the select committee.

Work has already started on a second amendment bill to be introduced later this year and passed next year.

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

Our proposed new Education Council will 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.

I want to talk now about professional development even though it wasn't on your list of requests. But access to professional development is a particular hobbyhorse of mine.

If there is one thing in a school 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.

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 your input.

Before I take questions, there are a couple of other issues that I've been asked to comment on that I haven’t raised yet.

Firstly, what were the results of the review of ERO? If I was able to answer this question I would be able to make a good living as a clairvoyant. The review has not started yet but our policy on this has not changed. That is that the review should have a focus on ensuring that the audit process should include better links between problem identification and problem solving. I can’t give you any more information on the review yet, other than a hint that it is subject to Budget secrecy and as Associate
Finance Minister I'd have to reprimand myself if I told you any more.

I've also been asked about whether there is any support on offer for bulk purchase of site licences. Yes, this is something I am looking at.

In a similar vein, last week the Prime Minister announced significant funding in support of our Uniquely New Zealand work programme for the Arts and Culture. She also indicated that a Music Industry Commission was to be established to foster
local musical talent and increase the size of the domestic music industry. Schools too have a key role, through their delivery of the National Arts Curriculum, in promoting and supporting local artists.

I am currently working on an exciting initiative that will support the aims of this commission and enhance delivery of the National Arts Curriculum. This includes the provision of a contemporary music resource package and a national touring circuit of schools with workshop opportunities for young artists. It will also mean that Boards of Trustees will no longer have to pay their licence fee individually.

Thank You

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