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Mallard Speech to the Catholic Schools Convention

8 September 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:1.30pm

Speech to the Catholic Schools Convention
Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

It's great to see so many of you here today. That's an indication to me of how the Catholic Schools system is flourishing.

As the first Labour Minister of Education in nearly a decade, I must also acknowledge the role of former Labour Prime Minister Norm Kirk in supporting Catholic Schools through the integration system.

Norm Kirk responded to what had been many decades of lobbying by Catholic Schools to get more support from the Government. In what was then a somewhat courageous statement, Kirk acknowledged that many Catholic schools were rundown and that it was unjust that Catholic children should receive an inferior education. The Kirk Government proceeded to design the Private Schools Integration Act that resulted in Church schools becoming part of the State system.

Since the passing of the Integration Act the position of Catholic schools has changed considerably. A school system that was once very much ‘down at heel’ is now modern, well equipped and dynamic. The network of Catholic schools has been considerably restructured and rationalised. Up and down the country there are now nearly 240 modern schools that are well situated to meet the various needs of parishes and dioceses and their children.

Special character aside, many of the challenges facing the Catholic Schools system, are the same that face the state school system.

As Minister of Education, I am overseeing a number of responses to help us, as a society meet those challenges and I would like to take this opportunity to go over some of those today.


Closing the Gaps

No doubt you would have heard about the Government's closing the gaps objective. Education is regarded as a major tool in this area.

Our focus is on raising achievement and reducing disparity. It is about addressing what is perhaps our country’s most pressing concern – the gap between those who thrive in our modern, knowledge-based economy, and those who do not. We want many more young Maori and Pacific peoples to achieve in education. We also need to acknowledge our successful young Maori and Pacific students. When we talk about closing the gaps, it is not about accepting lower standards from those achieving well. It is about lifting the overall standard and emphasising quality and excellence as benchmarks for everything that goes on in schools. It is about ensuring that all young people get a good deal while in our schools so they have a foundation for life long learning. In short, it is about equity.

The Government is deeply concerned about young people, especially Maori and Pacific students and children from families in tough financial situations, who are missing out on education. We are determined to close the gaps in educational achievement and life outcomes between disadvantaged groups and mainstream New Zealanders.

We have made a commitment to make sure that there is significant progress on this. Our Budget announcements signal a firm intention to address these issues. We have already made a number of commitments in Budget 2000. For example we have made commitments to:

 establishing the Resource Teachers of Literacy to boost support for literacy interventions ($34.4m over four years);
 increasing support and incentives to attract more Maori and pacific peoples into teaching;
 providing a programme mentoring and networks programs to improve Pacific teachers retention and assist in career development and workload management;
 establishing of a studies centres (homework centres) programme ($7.5m over four years);
 establishing a pilot professional development programme to enhance teaching and learning for Maori students in the mainstream ($2.5m over two years);
 a mentoring programme is to be established for Maori secondary school students.

Catholic schools can play an important role in building the knowledge and confidence of communities and families about education, so that they know what they can and should expect from education providers like yourselves as well as from young Mäori and Pacific students. Better relationships between schools and communities help build a supportive learning environment. We know we have a much better chance of lifting educational achievement of Maori and Pacific students if we work together with their families and the communities.

Each school, early childhood education service , tertiary education provider as well as families and community can and should play a role in setting high expectations and lifting the achievement of these young people. I understand that the Catholic schools have a considerable number of Pacific students as well as some Mäori students, so each of your schools have a role to play in helping to make this happen .


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 to utilise the money previously available only to bulk funded schools 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 decile ranking.

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 next year than they did this 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.


ICT

I've no doubt that information and communication technology will be on the shopping lists of many schools.

The world we live in is transforming into a knowledge society.

As part of a knowledge society, we need to make sure that our teachers and students are able to make good use of the tools that are available. And these tools must be used for a purpose. Information and communication technology (ICT) can be a useful tool to support effective teaching and learning. They have the potential to remove barriers to learning. This means that our new teachers will need to have competence in something more than just switching the computer on and off. When using ICT, I want our teachers to have a good understanding of the associated pedagogy and link it to the curriculum so that effective teaching and learning will take place.

This does not mean that I expect everyone to use computers all the time. I have a biro – I do not use it all the time. I have access to books - I do not use them all the time. Instead I think about what I need to do and choose the rights tools for the job. Our new teachers need to be able to make good quality decisions about the use of ICT in their classrooms. New teachers must have a good understanding of information and communications technology (ICT) and how they can be used to support teaching and learning.

ICT has the potential to transform the nature of teaching and learning. While ICT can be used to improve classroom and school administration, I don’t want us to focus solely on improving our documentation using ICT. ICT can provide administrative help to teachers, through the use of planning and recording tools. However, ICT has another role: it can help improve the teaching and learning in the classroom. The challenge for us is to work out how best to make use of the available technologies.

ICT is a challenge for us. Things are changing quickly. And we have to make decisions about what ICT we will use and how we will use it.

I know that there is a large amount of information available through the Internet. Te Kete Ipurangi, the online learning centre, is a bilingual education portal that provides access to resources for teachers. It is located at www.tki.org.nz. This site is being developed and new material is regularly being added. Te Kete Ipurangi provides access to good quality information for New Zealand teachers. Our teachers have been involved in the design and development of the content on this website. I urge you to have a look at what is available on this site.

ICT is not going to stop developing so that we can work out the single best system or thing to use. We are going to have to draw some lines in the sand and take some calculated risks. It is a significant challenge for all of us. But given our strengths, our Kiwi ingenuity, I know that we will be able to rise to these challenges.


Conclusion

It's been a busy nine months for me as Education Minister and in forum like this, is not deciding what I want to talk about, but deciding which of the many areas that lack of time forces me to leave out. So I'm going to leave it open to your questions to decide that. However, to give you an idea, some of the work we are progressing includes:

 Establishing an education council to monitor quality and standards as well as overseeing teacher registration;
 Reviewing the role of the Education Review Office;
 Developing a strategic plan and equity funding system for early childhood education;
 Working on improved assessment and reporting methods.

Of specific interest to you, may be some work we are doing to make the attendance dues rules that govern integrated schools a bit fairer. I'd also like to hear your views on ways in which we can give greater practical emphasis to the special character dimension of integrated schools. I think there are some interesting parallels between this and the groundswell of public interest in values-based education.

Finally, thank you once again for the opportunity to speak to you today. I know the Catholic Schools system works hard to contribute to a just and fair society that allows everyone to participate positively in promoting the common good. I look forward to working with you to advance this in education.

ENDS

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