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Trevor Mallard speech - Excellence in Teaching

Trevor Mallard speech to the ASG National Excellence in Teaching awards:

It's a pleasure to be here today as Minister of Education to celebrate a matter dear to my heart: excellence in teaching. I have in the last couple of months presented awards to top scholars and top schools and now here we are to acknowledge that what makes it all happen is excellent teachers.

Each occasion where we present awards for excellence creates an opportunity for public, tangible recognition of great successes in New Zealand education.

Quality teaching is the crucial ingredient for quality learning. We in government have a responsibility to take all the steps we can help teachers to maintain high quality performance.

High quality professional development for teachers is an essential component of this government's vision for New Zealand education. This government has an urgent commitment to closing the gaps; we are in dead earnest about making a difference to the lives of New Zealanders who have been getting a poor deal. The programmes we are developing for schools to play their part in this will need teachers with skills to match.

We cannot rely solely on the initial training our teachers had in teachers' colleges. Anyway most teachers in schools at present were trained before the administrative reforms and before the introduction of even the first of the New Zealand curriculum statements. And most were trained well before the explosion in information and communication technologies. For about half our teachers; those that are in the prime of their late forties or a bit older, initial training is now little more relevant to day to day life at school than a romantic memory.

Teachers tell me that students are harder to manage these days. We must provide opportunities for teachers to acquire new skills, new ways of managing the learning environment in their classrooms, new ways of using technology so that we can somehow capture the interest of the kids who at present are missing out.

Teachers tell me that they spend hundreds of hours making classroom resources. This has quite a lot to do with teachers striving to make programmes relevant and exciting. And it is particularly acute in the production of resources for and in Maori language.

We must make sure that relevant lively exciting resources are available and we must get our education website up and working to share the material teachers themselves are producing.

At present there is nothing in the regulations to say that teachers have to learn new skills, update knowledge, know about new curriculum, be a whizz with their computer or surf the net with expertise.

We are going to have an education council that makes participation in professional development mandatory, that makes sure that poor and badly behaved teachers are not recycled from school to school.

We will always value excellence although it is obvious that not every teacher can be a top teacher we can work towards a teaching profession in which we can be confident that every teacher is excellent.

I would like to know that all our teachers share our goal of closing the gaps. My favourite teachers work with all kids: those who are happy at school, keen to learn, well behaved, clean and tidy and those who feel alienated, who are angry and don't know how to behave and those who don't want to learn. Our high quality excellent teachers welcome all the kids that turn up in their classroom and they take responsibility for their learning needs whatever they are. And they have high expectations for all their students to achieve at the highest level possible.

Congratulations to today's award teachers. The achievement of excellence in such an important endeavour must be applauded by us all.

ENDS

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