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Auckland Primary Principals Association

Hon. Trevor Mallard
30 August 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until: 9.00 am 30 August 2000

Auckland Primary Principals Association


I have seen many of you at conferences and other gatherings since I have been in this job. And over the years I have learnt a lot from you and your colleagues throughout New Zealand. The policies we have been implementing come out of the talks I have had with you over the years. Thanks for your help.

Like all jobs this one has its high and its low moments. For example making decisions about which schools will remain open, or which will recapitate in small towns with too many schools for the population is necessary but its not easy to make the announcements. On the other hand it is great going to schools to open new libraries and refurbished admin blocks. I will get lots more opportunities to go to this sort of function because the Government will spend $638 million over the next two years on school property – an $88 million increase on last year's funding. There is going to be great progress in the modernisation of schools.

We have already implemented many of the policies we promised to do. But there is still a long way to go.


School funding

Bulk Funding was as you know abolished by the Education Amendment Bill and we backed this up in the Budget with more money for schools. Significantly more.

The new funding formula that the Government has established includes an operational funding base component, a per pupil component, and a decile component.

Schools get a base amount of $1,000, a per pupil amount of $70, and a further per pupil amount ranging up to $329.88 depending on their socio economic status, their decile ranking. There will be a specific examination of the effect of this formula on special schools.

Overall there is $107 million to distribute to all schools as a result of ending bulk funding including $45 million of new money set aside for schools expected to enter bulk funding, but never distributed. There has also been a 1.8% increase to operations grants, which makes an additional $15 million available.

The Government has also agreed to new flexibilities around what schools can spend their operational funding on as part of our policy to incorporate some of the positive experiences from bulk funding into the wider school system.

I am confident this balance between the dual systems that have been operating is a fairer way of meeting the Government's responsibility to fund schools and provide children with a real chance of using education to fulfil their potential.

Some bulk funded schools will receive less money this year than they did last year. This is by no means a 'punishment' to those schools which have had a considerable financial advantage over like schools, but rather a weight they must bear, as all schools are put back on an even keel.

Bulk funded schools have established many education initiatives that meet the needs of their communities. The kind of innovation they have shown will be possible under this system.

I look forward to other schools having access to more money and more flexibility to cater for the specific needs of their school community.

I have asked schools to report back to the Ministry of Education by 30 November on the type of areas and initiatives on which they are spending their extra resources.


Enrolment schemes

The changes to the school enrolment scheme system were also in the Education Amendment Bill.

Students now have an absolute right to attend their neighbourhood school. In the old system there was a myth that parents got to choose the school. But there is really no sense in pretending there is a choice when a parent does not have the fundamental choice to send their child to the school next door. And schools pick and choose the rugby stars, the very clever and the children of the rich and influential.

School zones will be determined in much the same way they have been – through consultation with the school community, and neighbouring schools, and with final approval from the Secretary for Education who checks that the scheme is fair and reasonable.

Most existing zones comply with the new legislation and will continue to exist.

An important change to the legislation is our support for more transparency and fairness in relation to out of zone enrolments. This means that siblings get priority and ballots will be used where necessary.

Education Council

The Education Council will have a significant impact on the quality of children's learning. A group of people representative of all kinds of teachers have met and done the initial thinking and discussions about the setting up of the council.

I have released the consultation document they developed. It seeks the views of parents, teachers, the education sector and other interested parties on proposals for the council. The document has been sent to every school in the country as well as other organisations and it's available online.

The Education Council will replace the Teacher Registration Board and will promote best practice and high standards in the profession in both schools and early childhood education.

My vision is for an Education Council that provides a new professional forum for teaching, and plays a major role in maintaining and developing the capability of the teaching profession.

The standard of teaching is critical to learning.

When the Education Council takes over from the Teacher Registration Board it will have wider powers and additional responsibilities. The final composition and functions of the Education Council will not be decided until the results of the consultation have been analysed.

I envisage that the majority of the Council will be teachers. This consultation is an ideal opportunity for teachers to influence the shape of the organisation that will support and promote the teaching profession in the future. I hope that you are completing and sending in the consultation response forms.

The proposed functions of the council also include administering a new requirement for police and character checks of all staff working in schools and early childhood centres. Currently only teaching staff are subject to such checks as part of the registration process.

The Government feels this is an important aspect of our responsibility to make schools as safe as possible for children.

The Education Council will be established through the second Education Amendment Bill to be introduced to Parliament later this year and passed next year.

Homework Centres or Study Support Centres

You will have heard that I am inviting primary schools and community groups in low decile areas to apply for funding to help them establish homework centres.

The Government announced in this year's Budget that it would spend $7.5 million over four years for homework centres based in low decile primary and intermediate schools.

We hope to establish about 150 centres throughout the country and the application process is now open. Preference will be given to joint applications from community groups and schools, or to groups of schools working co-operatively to meet community needs.

It is really important that children gain good study skills and habits early in their schooling. Many children's home circumstances do not support this for a range of reasons. For example in some cases there are simply too many people in the house. Where two and three families need to share a house it is quite difficult to find a quiet space to read to Mum or to try out the speech you are making to your class tomorrow morning.

The sort of homework centres we want to encourage have operated on an ad hoc basis for some time now. There have been some wonderful success stories and we want to help establish more as well as supporting existing centres which often run under great uncertainty.

Funding for homework centres will depend on how many hours they are open and how many children they are supporting. Centres will have to be supervised by registered teachers, but there will also be other supportive adults. Parents may take part. And the centres will have things that some of the homes do not have. They will have computers, the internet, quiet places, reading books, reference books.

I hope communities throughout the country will get behind this initiative.

Ministerial Review of ERO

Next week the team appointed to review ERO will come together to begin their investigation into the role, functions and placement of the Education Review Office.

The chair of the review team is to be Stan Rodger whose extensive experience in state sector functions and structures I greatly value. The team members Jane Holden, Anne Meade, Barry Smith and Alan Millar bring a blend of skills including knowledge of change management, review processes, professional standards and a broad background in education.

The purpose of the review is to:
 ensure that we have an effective review and support system for schools and early childhood centres;
 investigate best practice benchmarking systems for school and centre evaluation;
 make sure that we have the best possible links between external evaluation and the interventions and self help that will promote best practice;
 find out how best to manage close liaison between ERO and the Ministry of Education in providing appropriate support for schools
 investigate whether there would be efficiency or effectiveness gains in amalgamating ERO and the Ministry of Education.

We want the review team to examine ERO's review processes, the support processes within the Ministry of Education and within schools themselves. We want them to look at how outcomes are identified, how performance is measured and above all to find out how the results of external evaluations are best used to help improve education outcomes for students.

Ultimately schools are funded by the taxpayers. As Minister for Education, I have a responsibility for ensuring that taxpayers get value for money from every dollar spent on education. Schools share some of this responsibility to the taxpayer. We must not lose sight of the need for transparent accountability.


Conclusion

Now I would like to hear from you. Whether it is questions or statements about things you would like me to know about it is over to you.


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