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Mallard Speech To Secondary Principals Conference

Hon Trevor Mallard
Speech Notes
Speech To Secondary Principals Conference


Welcome to Parliament and thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.

When the Prime Minister opened your conference on Sunday, she gave you an overview of the vision of fairness, opportunity and security that the Government has for the future of New Zealand and how education fits into that vision.

My colleague Parekura Horomia shared with you the passion he has for improving educational outcomes for Maori. I want to acknowledge that Parekura has one of the most difficult jobs in the country. We've worked together in education for 15 months now and on several occasions that he has been in my office, often late at night, with his head in his hands, describing to me the almost impossible role in being Maori and being a Minister.

While our solutions might be different, I don't believe there would be a single person in this room who would not acknowledge that as a country, we cannot afford to ignore the very real needs in Maori education. Parekura's strength has meant more focus and a good solid medium term programme.

And on the subject of our education team, I want to state how pleased I am that we have been joined this week by your former colleague Marian Hobbs.

Marian was an enormous help to me in developing the education policy that Labour campaigned on for the 1999 election. Her recent experience as a practitioner in the education sector already brings a valuable dimension to the Cabinet table. It will be great to have her as part of a tight education team.

I know your conference is about a 'vision for the future'. Both Helen and Parekura did speak of their long term and wide ranging vision.

I want to fill in the gaps with some of the detail.

In particular, I will talk a fair amount about the NCEA because I have a vision that next year's Year 11 students will work towards their Level 1 certificate and not have a cloud hanging over that qualification.

I'll speak more about this later. First I want to quickly go over some of the developments in education since I became Minister.


Education Bills

The Education Amendment Bill # 1 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of urgent issues that needed fixing in order to ensure a fairer and more equitable education system ¡V in particular we repealed the inequitable bulk-funding regime, and we provided a guarantee to all families that their children could attend the neighbourhood school.

The second Education Amendment Bill is currently before the select committee. It focuses on fostering teacher professionalism, enhancing student safety and on 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.


Planning & reporting

Most of you will know that we are looking at changes to the planning and reporting requirements for schools. Our aim is primarily to help schools work through what they are trying to achieve and whether they are achieving it. Rationalising the reporting system and the use of ICT will also help to reduce workload over time. The new requirements represent a change of focus ¡V a move towards schools reporting on their education outcomes, and a simplification of the current arrangements.


Education Council

We are forming an Education Council. There has been some criticism that is focused too much on policing the profession and not enough on inspiring it. In my view it needs to do both. I make no apology for wanting to ensure that our children are safe. However, as the Council progresses and builds the supports for the profession I believe it will spend more time on professional leadership, and that it will help to build a more constructive dialogue between the profession and policy-makers.


Property

We've invested $638 million over two years in school property, and introduced the five year property plans to provide more fairness and security.

As a Government ¡V we see school property as a worthwhile capital investment. But we are not prepared to spend money without first making the best use of existing property and facilities. When investing in one school, I will also always think about the implications for the other schools in the area.


ICT

I've taken a particular interest in ICT both in the education sector and one of my other portfolio areas of state services.

In Education ICT can be used to stimulate and enhance learning. Indeed even in my time as Minister I have noticed a marked change in the way schools are using ICT in the classroom. It is evolutionary. At the most basic level, students learn about ICT ¡V they learn how to send an e-mail, or type a word document. The next stage is about learning with ICT ¡V for example using it to search the Internet to get information for a social studies project. The last, most sophisticated phase is when real change happens. It is when students learn through ICT and it becomes an integral part of the teaching process. More and more schools are reaching that most sophisticated stage, which is very exciting.

Good use of ICT in schools will help a generation of young people to grow up comfortable and confident with modern technology. If children miss out on that experience in schools, their future options are significantly limited.

When I became Minister, I was happy with the ICT strategy for schools and I think there has been significant progress on it. But world wide developments in this area move so quickly that it is something that has to be constantly revisited. I have decided it is time to review that strategy to look at where we are and where we need to be in three years time.

For the strategy to be of value, it must be relevant to principals, teachers, researchers and academics with an interest in education. Small reference groups are involved in drafting an updated strategy. Those of you who will not be able to be involved in the early stages will have an opportunity to have your say when the draft strategy is released for comment.


Principal leadership

Educational leadership is vital in ensuring the best possible learning takes place in schools. We have been working for some time exploring issues related to principals¡¦ leadership and management development. Some of you may have been part of focus groups that the Ministry held in the latter part of last year. This work has identified preparation for new principals as one of the key issues.

The next phase of this work is research to better define the skills, knowledge and attributes needed by first-time principals to be effective in their positions. I am currently considering options related to principals¡¦ development and will be in a position to make some announcements in the next few months.


Staffing Review

Two weeks ago I released the Staffing Review Group¡¦s report. Arthur Graves was your representative on that review and I'd like to thank him for his input. In a way, Arthur was a prologue to this conference in that he was the joint nomination of your two organisations. I understand that the joint conference has been a success and I look forward to further collaboration.

The full staffing report re-assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the current system and makes long term recommendations. In particular, secondary schools have welcomed the review's focus on pastoral and guidance support. Over time it will result in 2000 extra secondary school teachers.

But it should not be viewed in isolation. It is an integral part in a co-ordinated series of measures designed to improve student outcomes in the medium and long term.


Recruitment and retention

Of course the staffing review does attract questions about recruitment and retention.

Some of you may have seen the vacancy survey that came out earlier this week. It¡¦s a snap shot picture of the vacancy situation on the first day of the year and among other things, it's very useful for doing year by year comparisons.

This year, we've compared well. In secondary schools there is a slight increase in the number of vacancies but we are still in a better position than five years ago. In particular, it will come as no surprise to you that maths and science are the subject areas with the most vacancies.

What has heartened me since that survey was taken is that despite the fact that there are more students in secondary schools, and schools have chosen to spend an extra $26 million of the bulk funding money on staffing, the last three education gazette secondary job advertisement numbers are lower on average than the previous three years.

But recruitment and retention is not an area where we can afford to be complacent. I am finalising some Budget initiatives in this area.

But I also feel that as professional leaders, and leaders in your communities, you also have a role to play. That role is to promote teaching as a valuable and valued profession ¡V especially among your brightest and most talented students.


National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA)

NCEA has been a bit of a topic of interest in the last few weeks ¡V and in particular the reporting aspects.

I must confess that I was quite bemused by National's decision to abandon the NCEA. From the number of e-mails that flooded my office, I think many of you were too.

If the issue of secondary school qualifications was not such a serious one, it would be severely tempting to goad National MPs. Their comments are so ill informed even though the system that I am working with is fundamentally the one that they designed.

What adds to the irony is the 'concerns' they have listed are areas that the previous administration would have received a 'no credit' in. I was so concerned about the lack of planning and resourcing in some areas of the NCEA that I delayed the implementation by one year and have worked to prepare for the change so that the first students through the system do not suffer as a result of teething problems

I think the differences all mean that there will be increased public confidence in the system. For example -

„h There will be exams at year 11, 12 and 13, not just at year 11 and 13
„h The proportion of assessment to be carried out by external as opposed to internal assessment has been raised from 50 to 60%
„h A literacy and numeracy 'benchmark' has been introduced to ensure no student can obtain a senior school qualification without foundation skills in both these areas
„h Moderation has been strengthened by the inclusion of site visits as part of the verification process.
„h $2m extra and two days time per year has been put aside for teacher professional development.

Today I am also confirming that the end of year reporting of the certificate will include a grade average. Personally, I think that the information that will sit behind that mark will be more useful ¡V especially to employers and to determine access into restricted tertiary courses. I know many purists of the assessment based model will see the information as useless. However, the feedback from parents is that they would also like a number to indicate their child's overall performance in each subject. In the early stages, it is important to help people feel comfortable with the new system. It shouldn't look too different and that is why I think the number should be expressed out of 100. It is something that I would want to review in about five years time to see if it is still wanted.

I've brought along an example of how the results might look. It will be focus tested with schools, parents and students over the next few weeks in order to get the clearest design possible.

Finally I'd like to say this about the NCEA.

I have confidence in it. More importantly, I have confidence in your ability to deliver it well.

I'll tell you why.

The success of NCEA will largely depend on the teaching profession understanding standards and assessing against them. It is a matter of teachers having faith in their own ability to make professional judgements. I know that as professional leaders you will ensure that happens.


Conclusion

This Government is committed to raising achievement and excellence within the New Zealand education system. We want an education system that operates within a climate of innovation and application. We want to be honest when things aren¡¦t going right and we want to be prepared to help those learners, teachers and schools who struggle and need help.

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 how we can provide the best education possible for our children. We must ask ourselves what will best prepare our children for a changing world, 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?

Our vision 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 and achievement for everyone.

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