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Mallard Speech to the NZ Education Institute

Hon Trevor Mallard
Tuesday 26 September 2000 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:11.45am

Speech to the New Zealand Education Institute – Te Riu Roa, Annual Conference – Wellington

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Since I came last year to your annual meeting with Helen Clark, the name of this hotel is not the only thing to have changed.

When Helen Clark addressed you last year, she was Leader of the Opposition and the date of the election had not yet been announced. But she spoke as the Prime Minister in waiting and she spoke of a new direction that a new Government would take.

I looked over that speech the other day. I am proud of the progress we have made on the promises made to you last year.

Helen spoke of the pressures being applied to principals because the payment of the supplementary grant was being made only to boards of trustees where the principals were on individual contracts. Changing that was one of my earliest decisions as Minister.

She spoke of upgrading school facilities. The Budget included a capital injection of $160 million – the largest ever school property works programme.

She spoke of ending bulk funding. That happened with the passing of the Education Amendment Act. In doing so, we freed up significant amounts of money to be distributed through a fair formula across all schools. I'd like to make it clear here that the extra $60 million that will be in schools next year as a result of this policy is ongoing. It is not a one off payment.

Last year, Helen Clark promised to return kindergarten teachers to the State Sector Act. That happened with the passing of the Employment Relations Act – a cornerstone of Government policy to bring back balance in the conduct of employment relationships.

She promised the establishment of an Education Council and to review the Education Review Office. In both those areas, work has progressed. The council will be established through legislation introduced later this year. The majority of its members will be teachers and it will encourage professionalism in teaching and high quality standards through promoting best practice and professional development.

I am proud to be part of a Government that does what it says it will do – like restoring the rates of superannuation; scrapping the interest off loans while students are still studying; and reintroducing income related rentals for state house tenants. Those of you who teach in some of our lower decile schools should notice a flow on effect from the latter as families stop moving around so much in a search for affordable accommodation.

Like Labour governments that came before us, education is a key priority for the Labour-Alliance Coalition Government.

It is a tool we can use to help all New Zealanders have an active and meaningful role in a constantly changing society.

Education is an intrinsic good. It contributes to economic growth and prosperity and it enables people to know about, and participate in our society and to know about and care about our world.

Education makes our society more interesting, more informed, and more tolerant.

And for those reasons, it is crucial that our policies focus around improving the quality of education our children receive and make quality education accessible to all New Zealanders, regardless of their background.

This focus was reflected in this year’s Budget, with initiatives to improve literacy, raise participation and close the gaps for Maori and Pacific Island kids. In both the early-childhood and the school sectors, teachers will be key to achieving these objectives.

To improve quality we need to be clearer about what we want and expect. We must clarify the outcomes and goals we want to achieve.

For early childhood education - a national long-term strategic plan is being developed by a working group, which is made up of stakeholders in early childhood education.

The Strategic Plan will identify goals, prioritise policies and develop strategies for implementation of these policies for the next twenty years. The plan’s development is being lead by a sector-based working group, which comprises 30 members. The working group is headed by Anne Meade and has four NZEI nominees. They have already met and are on the way to reporting to us with an interim report in April 2001 and a final report by August.

Research indicates that early childhood education can close the gaps in achievement that separate children from different socio-economic backgrounds. Yet the rate of participation between Maori and Pacific children, and Pakeha New Zealanders is worryingly wide. The inability of the sector to respond to those groups is exacerbated by the relatively small numbers of Maori and Pacific teachers in the sector.

So today, I am announcing that we are extending Maori and Pacific TeachNZ scholarships to the early childhood sector. There will be more than 100 scholarships available each year to support students to undertake study to become registered early childhood teachers.

Trained and qualified Maori and Pacific early childhood teachers will be vital to achieve our goal to increase Maori and Pacific participation in quality early childhood education.

In the schools sector recent changes to the NAGs require schools to give priority to our commitment to raising student achievement in literacy and numeracy. A two-year national programme of professional development in Literacy Leadership for principals is being implemented. New materials for teachers and students that provide examples of best practice and tools to assist teachers develop a full repertoire of teaching strategies are being developed. Funding for the establishment of 121 Resource Teachers: Literacy who will work with kids in Years 0-8 in need of intensive teaching in reading and writing came out of Budget 2000. This year, approximately 535 teachers working with 14,000 Year 1-3 children have been involved in pilot programmes focused on improving the quality of mathematics teaching and learning.

Legislation later this year will not only include the Education Council but also changes to improve the ways schools report to government, to parents and the community. I want to ensure the focus is on reporting things that make a difference in the classroom – those aspects that help you as teachers improve the learning outcomes of your students.

The purpose of reporting should be to create a basis for school improvement. I have no interest in reporting for reportings sake – something that is shoved in the bottom draw til the auditor or ERO call.

These processes will help you as teachers apply the best possible learning tools in the classroom and it will help us as government make policy that responds to the real needs of schools and students.

I am acutely conscious that such changes should not add to teacher and principal workloads. Indeed, I am hopeful that if we introduce these changes over several years, they are accompanied by good professional development, and we work together to develop easy-to-use templates, the result will ease workload so that teachers can get on with their core job of teaching.

I want to talk briefly now about the staffing review which began its task in May this year.

Through that group we want to identify ways of aligning teacher resourcing and student needs to ensure the best possible learning outcomes. This should include consideration of the workloads of teachers and principals, changes to the
curriculum, Maori students’ education, Pacific students' education, and other educational needs.

All facets of the current staffing regime are being considered. I'm expecting a report by the end of February 2001 with recommendations on a long term staffing formula for schools.

One early result is that we have already moved to improve staffing levels for small rural schools. This will be implemented from the beginning of the 2001 school year. Funding of $8.59 million per annum was appropriated in last year’s Budget for this purpose. Approximately 460 schools will receive increased staffing in 2001.

For further changes, the group needs to reconcile a range of competing demands to map out a pathway that will make the greatest contribution to student learning and teacher effectiveness. We will not be able to achieve everything we want instantly – rather we will need to work out a multi-year plan to move to our desired position.

I'd like to move now to the review of special education. Cathy Wylie presented her report to me and my associate minister Lianne Dalziel last month.

We expect to be able to make some announcements in response to some of those recommendations shortly. Where practical, they will be implemented in time for the next school year. You may recall that this year's budget set aside $48 million over the next four years in anticipation of the Wylie report. We did not have to wait until next year's budget and therefore the 2002 school year to start addressing some of the special education needs she identified.

However, the Wylie report also included a recommendation to disestablish the Special Education Service and replace it with a national network of district support and resource centres. This is a major change that we felt was at the edge of the terms of reference and we have therefore called for additional written submissions on this specific aspect of the review. Those close today and we expect to make a decision in principle about that late next month. It is certainly not something we expect to implement for the start of the next school year.

I mentioned earlier the Employment Relations Act. We have gone through a process of looking carefully at the Act in relation to education contracts and there are a number of changes that I am proposing to make.

For example, to be consistent with the ERA I will be asking my colleagues to get agreement on the removal of the fixed term employment provisions from all principals' contracts and agreements.

I would just quickly like to touch on the role of support staff. I say 'quickly' because I am aware the Ministry of Education is currently in negotiations with NZEI over your collective contracts. I have to be careful not to pre-empt those negotiations, or to interfere in any way.

You will however be aware that the Ministry seeks approval from Cabinet to a proposed settlement package. I will therefore flag with you that the Government remembers its policy promise to develop appropriate pay scales, conditions and - very importantly to my mind - career structures for support staff. Part of this should involve an expectation for support staff to have paid training time.

As a Government we have already taken steps to address needs and problems across the system. We now want to move to a focus on depth in key areas. We are reviewing what works and what doesn't.

Our vision of fostering education and training to enhance and improve the nation’s skills must be tempered with the knowledge that we have limited resources. The greatest challenge for us is to make the best use of each education dollar to raise quality in schools and raise levels of participation across the population, but especially among those groups which are underachieving.

We want more value for each dollar we spend. We are developing strategies across the education system, in partnership with the sector, parents and students so that we can target our spending more effectively. These will help us prioritise what we want to do so that we can make the hard decisions, the trade-offs, that need to be made.

Not everything in education requires extra cash. Some new initiatives may be able to replace existing programmes in schools that are lower priority.

And those trade offs do need to be made. We are determined to be more than a one term Government. Showing that we are a fiscally responsible is crucial to that.

Within education, objectives for the sector are long-term. In particular, our focus on closing the gaps between Maori and Pacific communities and other New Zealanders is something that realistically will take a generation. We can’t afford to sacrifice those long-term aims for the sake of a one term spending spree.

So the challenges facing us are several. How can we have a well run, efficient network of schools that helps provide New Zealanders with the best possible future in a changing world?

We need to think more innovatively about education provision. We must ask ourselves what will best prepare our children for a society where many will find themselves in careers we haven’t even thought of yet. What will make a real difference for Maori and Pacific students in all schools.

These are not only the Government’s challenges but yours as well. I look forward to tackling these challenges with you.

ENDS

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