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Mallard Speech To Principals' Federation

Hon Trevor Mallard Speech Notes


New Zealand Principals' Federation Moot, Copthorne Plimmer Towers, Wellington

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.

When I spoke at this occasion last year, it was my first keynote address as Minister of Education.

I feel like I am now on to Round Two and since it has become a heavyweight event to be here for Round Ten.

I want to use this occasion to reflect briefly on some of the changes in the last year, but more importantly reflect on the coming attractions.

One of the hardest aspects of giving speeches as Minister of Education is deciding what to leave out. I could probably talk for several hours and still only scratch the surface of education policy. But I always try and leave a good portion of my time with groups like yours to answer questions so I'll try and keep my initial comments brief.

I will also be trying to meet with more of you at a local level this year than last year. I find smaller groups are often better for an open, and sometimes blunt, dialogue between myself and principals, teachers, trustees, and parents. While I saw a few of you last year, I would like to increase the number of these meetings that I am able to attend.

The public profile of education policy was dominated in the last year by the Education Bill #1.

That Bill dealt with a number of urgent issues that needed fixing in order to ensure a fairer and more equitable education system ¡V in particular we repealed the inequitable bulk-funding regime, and we provided a guarantee to all families that their children could attend the neighbourhood school.
And while some schools did lose money through the end of bulk funding, it is worth remembering that about 80% of schools gained more.

Last year was also the time where the Government implemented some of its key policies like passing the Employment Relations Act ¡V a cornerstone of Government policy to bring back balance in the conduct of employment relationships. We restored the rates of superannuation; scrapping the interest off loans while students are still studying, and reintroduced income related rentals for state house tenants. I hope those of you who teach in some of our lower decile schools notice the flow on effect from the latter as families stop moving around so much in a search for affordable accommodation.

This year, there is not the same level of extra funding available. In my associate finance role I work with other Minister's regularly to trim their Budget bids. We all have loads of great ideas and not enough money to go around. But like Labour governments that came before us, education is a key priority for the Labour-Alliance Coalition Government.

This year, I am working on policies that build on the old philosophy promoted by my forebear Peter Fraser. He, in partnership with the Director of Education Clarence Beeby worked for the right of all New Zealanders to a good quality education. More than any other Government before them, they believed that no matter what their family background, all New Zealand children deserved a chance to reach their full potential.

The Education Bill #2 advances those thoughts through its focus on teacher professionalism, enhancing student safety, and strengthening the institutions that provide education to students from early childhood to tertiary.

Improving outcomes for our students requires both a capable teaching profession and strong, supported, education providers. The bill demonstrates this Government's commitment to both of these.

Submissions on the bill close next month and I welcome this opportunity to talk about some of the key changes it proposes.

Reporting changes

From 2003 onwards the requirement for schools to have a school charter will be replaced by a requirement to have an annually updated school plan. The school plan will be a more structured and supported document in which school boards will set out their objectives and targets. These objectives and targets will focus on student achievement. Other categories of planning are:

„h how the board plans to meet Government educational policy objectives;
„h how the board will manage the school¡¦s assets; and
Schools will report each year against their annual plan. This represents both a change of focus ¡V a move towards schools reporting on their education outcomes, and a simplification of the current arrangements. The present public sector reporting framework imposes a number of reporting requirements on schools irrespective of their size or managerial capability. The bill will institute a new accountability system for schools based on the reality of the schools sector and focused on generating accurate and useable information on educational outcomes.

We're talking about exception-based reporting. That is, you only report back when what happens at your school differs significantly from your annual plan.

I am determined that we use this change in legislation to reduce workloads both through streamlining reporting requirements and through better use of ICT for administrative purposes in schools.

The Education Council

The Education Council will replace and expand on the role of the Teacher Registration Board. It has a number of new powers that focus on student safety. This includes conducting police checks on all employees ¡V teachers and non-teachers ¡V who work in a school or early childhood service.
However, the aspect of the council that I am most excited about is the role it will play in promoting and maintaining standards within the teaching profession. Its role in this area will include teacher education.


Other aspects of the bill

Other changes under the bill include:

„h A provision to regulate school hostels.
„h A mandatory code of practice for the care of international students.
„h Changes to the teaching of the health and physical education curriculum so that schools cannot opt out completely from teaching the sexuality aspects of the curriculum.
„h Increased powers of intervention in poorly performing schools.


The review into sport, fitness and leisure

I'd like to cover a few other issues before we open up for some comment and questions from you ¡V starting with the sports review. The amount of coverage this review received hit home to me how passionate New Zealanders are about sport. I think it would be an understatement to say that the changes proposed for the education sector received a bit of attention when the report was released a few weeks ago.

The first thing I want to make clear is that this is a report which I received from the review team but have not responded to. There's a huge number of recommendations in the report. They are wide ranging and they impact on a large number of government agencies as well as other organisations.

Responses to the recommendation for a longer school day are polarised. Of course, any change would be considered in a much wider context including the curriculum stocktake outcomes. I'm interested in hearing your views on this.

The other main aspect of the review that has touched a nerve within schools is the claim that many schools are not scheduling time for sport and physical activity. The denials from a lot of schools have been quite vocal.

I've asked ERO to have a look at this within the reviews they are doing over the next two terms to give me a better overview of the situation. Again, I welcome your comments.


Education Review Office

Of course, I can¡¦t mention ERO without talking about the review released last week. The Government has not considered a formal response to this report, but I have stated publicly that I am really happy with the thrust of the recommendations

In particular, I plan to personally support the review team's recommendations that the Education Review Office remain a stand-alone department.

When I appointed the review team, merging the ERO within the Ministry of Education was an idea that I was open to advice on. It is a point that the review team canvassed thoroughly before making its recommendation and I am happy to accept its advice.

I also appreciate the review team's recommendation that the focus of reviews should be on educational improvement, while maintaining a compliance function.

The assess and assist model that the review recommends is one that I have advocated for a long time and so far is receiving a lot of support within the sector.

I want to make it clear that the review specifies that this support should be more of the short term nature. More intense support should still be provided by the Ministry of Education and the report has many suggestions as to how those two agencies should work more closely together.

Since the review was released, a number of people have shared stories with me which support the need for such a change. One such story goes like this:

During a review process, a kindergarten is told that their gate is in the wrong place as they cannot see it from the main building and that raises safety issues. Kindergarten management ask if it would be more acceptable to move the gate to a particular part of the fence. The reviewer says they cannot advise on where the gate should be moved to.

I say, why not?

Staffing Review Group

I'll be releasing the Staffing Review Group's report in about three weeks.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Geoff Lovegrove for his work on this group on your behalf. If any of you are from small, rural schools, you may already be feeling the positive effects of the first round of recommendations from the group that we got funding for in last year's Budget.

The full report re-assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and makes long term recommendations.

But it should not be viewed in isolation. It is an integral part in a coordinated series of measures designed to improve student outcomes in the medium and long term. Some of these measures concern the ¡§what¡¨ and ¡§how¡¨ of teaching and learning; others are concerned with resource allocation, such as staffing.

There are no silver bullets in education. The Government is seeking a sensible mix of policies that collectively will serve to raise the level of educational achievement in our young people.

Conclusion

I know there's a number of other issues you want to raise with me ¡V including perhaps the announcements we've made this week on special education. Teacher bargaining rounds are also a current hot topic and while I can't comment on the specifics, it is important for me to stress that pay parity is not going to be undone either directly or indirectly by this government. Both coalition parties have a long term commitment to pay parity and I will reject any device designed to undermine it.

Before we open the floor for questions, I'd like to finish with a bit of an advertisement.

I send out a regular e-mail newsletter from my office. I regard it as a useful two-way communication tool. If you're not receiving it yet, please give me your details so we can add you to the list.

I'd now like to declare the New Zealand Principals' Federation Moot for 2001, open. Thank you.

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