School Trustees Association Conference - Mallard
6 July 2001 Hon Trevor Mallard Speech Notes
School Trustees Association Conference
Thank you very much for the invitation to open your conference¡K
(Thanks to Chris France, National President, and Chris Haines, Southland Regional President)
The theme you’ve chosen for this conference “An Education Odyssey” reminds us that we are on a journey together.
To succeed on this journey, it is important then that:
- we have a shared understanding of where we want to go;
- we keep track of how much progress we’ve already made;
- we look ahead to plan for the challenges and opportunities to come; and
- we understand the role that each of us can play in reaching our goal.
So this morning is an important opportunity for me:
- to share with you my vision for education;
- to deliver a “half term report” on the Government’s work;
- to highlight some key issues facing schooling in New Zealand in the years ahead; and
- to discuss how Government and Trustees can work together to raise achievement for all students and reduce disparities in educational outcomes.
On Tuesday, I spoke at the Learning@school conference and launched the Ministry of Education’s draft Information and Communications Strategy for schools.
Introducing the strategy, I was asked to set out my vision for education.
That vision is:
For all students, irrespective of their backgrounds, to develop the knowledge, understandings, skills and attitudes to participate fully in society, to achieve in a global economy, and to have a strong sense of identity and culture.
This vision builds Peter Fraser’s famous words as New Zealand’s first Labour Minister of Education. In 1939, he said:
“The Government’s objective, broadly expressed, is that every person, whatever his level of academic ability, whether he be rich or poor, whether he live in town or country, has a right, as a citizen, to a free education of the kind for which
he is best fitted, and to the fullest extent of his powers.”
There may be some challenges in delivering free education at all levels in today’s society with such high levels of tertiary participation, but the spirit of this vision remains.
To achieve this vision, we need to ensure that improving learning outcomes is the focus for everything we do.
- We need to ensure that all students in every community gain strong learning foundations in literacy and numeracy;
- We need to ensure that they develop the skills, the attitudes and the knowledge that they will need to participate and succeed in a rapidly changing and competitive world; and
- We need to let students know that we have high expectations for their success, and ensure that they have high ambitions themselves.
Your schools are laying the foundations for the new knowledge society we are seeking to build as a nation. If we are to succeed in returning New Zealand to the top of the international league table, we will do it because schools succeed in preparing students for the knowledge society.
Today’s children need to be far better prepared than our own generations:
- with creative, critical thinking and problem solving skills;
- with strong literacy and numeracy skills that allow them to be effective users and creators of information;
- with competence in technology; and
- with a desire to continue lifelong learning.
To achieve this, we need to ensure that all schools have strong leadership, with governors and managers focusing their energy on supporting students’ learning, effectively measuring students’ achievement and using this information to improve learning outcomes.
In the classroom, we need to ensure that teachers are as effective as they can be. The research suggests that “classroom level” differences are far more significant than differences between schools in explaining differences in students’ achievement. A key task for trustees and principals is to find ways of promoting effective teaching in the classroom by building the professional capability of teachers and creating an environment that encourages and supports excellent teaching.
“Half Term” Report
Having set out my vision of where I’d like this odyssey to take us, I’d like to spend some time taking stock of where we have got to and what we have achieved since this Government was elected in 1999.
First, the Government has made a clear commitment to focus on reducing the social and economic disparities that divide our communities. Addressing disparities in education is the most important issue - especially for Maori and Pacific students - many of whom are not reaching their full potential in the education system.
Last year, over a third of all school leavers had no qualification beyond school certificate;
For Maori this figure was 60% and for Pacific students it was 45%.
Over the last 18 months we have announced a range initiatives to reduce disparities in educational outcomes:
We have increased support for students at risk, including mentoring programmes, study support centres, resource teachers of literacy, ESOL and increased funding for alternative education;
We have increased support for schools to develop innovative solutions to local issues - including doubling the innovations pool funding for programmes developed by schools, and support for networks of principals working to reduce the number of suspensions;
We have increased support for Maori language education, we continue to develop new local education partnerships with Iwi, and we are implementing a range of local capacity building initiatives with Pacific communities.
Second, we have worked to shift the focus in education policy away from an emphasis on management, organisational issues and compliance. We want the focus to be on educational outcomes and what happens in the classroom.
Improving the professional capability of our teachers is the key to raising educational achievement and we have taken some important steps in this area.
We have developed and expanded programmes to improve the capability and supply of teachers, especially those working with Maori and Pacific students;
The new Education Council will work to promote professional exchange and professional standards.
A major effort is continuing in the development of assessment tools for teachers to use in tracking the progress and learning needs of their students.
The literacy and numeracy strategies are continuing to raise professional capability and provide new teaching and learning resources; and
The new ICT strategy I launched this week focuses on ensuring that technology in schools supports learning in the classroom and the sharing of best practice between professionals.
The third area of progress has been in supporting school effectiveness. We want to support schools to develop whole of school approaches to lifting performance.
We have delivered on our promises to remove the negative pressures for competition between schools by ensuring that all students have the right to attend their local school.
We delivered more operational funding to most schools through the redistribution of money set aside for bulk funding, and at the same time gave schools more flexibility in the way they apply their operational funding to meet staffing and other priorities.
The recent staffing review sets out priorities for improvements in school staffing. I have already announced increases in staffing for small and rural schools, and further staffing improvements will be rolled out this coming year in the context of settling teachers’ collective employment agreements.
We have also increased the in-kind support given to schools through the school support programmes, the variety of clustering arrangements, and services such as the new resource teachers of literacy.
What Role for Boards?
So those are some issues that we’ll face as we continue our education odyssey.
I’d like to talk now about the role that you can play as trustees in making this journey a success.
Some of you will be new trustees elected this year. Others of you will be experienced trustees working on boards with newly elected colleagues. Some of you will have some education expertise, but as trustees, you aren’t expected to be education experts. You bring a wider range of skills and perspectives to the governance of your schools.
Whatever your situation, newly elected boards need to think about their role and about what they can do to contribute to positive learning outcomes for their students.
Your key responsibilities are:
- to set the overall direction for your school;
- to appoint and support the development of a quality principal; and
- to monitor the performance of your school and its principal.
I know you will share my wish to see boards more focussed on educational achievement and to spend less of their energy on logistics and compliance requirements.
How can you help raise educational achievement?
Asking the Right Questions
The first thing you can do is to ask the right questions:
- Do we have a clear set of educational objectives and priorities?
- How will we know if progress is being made on these objectives?
- How does achievement at this school compare to national benchmarks?
- How are we addressing the needs of those who are not doing well, or those who are doing well but need to be extended?
- How do we judge the effectiveness of teaching and the quality of the teaching programmes in our school?
- and finally, How can we communicate best with students and their parents?
Asking questions like this and working with principals and teachers to find answers will ensure that you focus your school on the things that matter most.
School Planning and Reporting
The new planning and reporting regime being introduced through the Education Amendment Bill is designed to focus on these same questions.
It emphasises the importance of schools having a clear strategic focus.
It is based around a plan that will include the school’s goals and will also set out objectives and targets for student achievement.
For trustees, the new system emphasises the importance not just of testing students, but of using assessment information to help refine and improve the teaching strategies in your school.
New reporting framework is about giving decision makers at all levels the information we need to play our part effectively.
This will help trustees set goals and measure progress of their schools, and it will help the government to identify schools at risk of failing to deliver the best for their students.
This way we can intervene where we need to while empowering other schools to get on with the job.
Management Information and Resourcing System
Another change that will help in answering these performance questions is the development of a new management information and resourcing system for schools. The Ministry of Education signed a contract with Compaq for this last week.
This integrated system will make it easier to transfer information electronically between schools and government - reducing workloads and improving the quality of information.
It will include templates that will make it easier for schools to report to parents, to trustees and to government.
It will provide schools with new information about their own performance so this can be used to support self review and planning.
Supporting Professional Capability
The second thing that you can do as trustees to raise educational achievement is to support the principal and staff at your school to build their professional capability.
Professional development for teachers and principals doesn’t just mean attending formal courses. It means reflecting on what they do, on what works, and what can be done better. It means sharing these lessons within the school and with colleagues at other schools.
Principals’ professional development
Many of you have told me that we need to do more around principals’ professional development, and I agree. We have plenty of evidence now that effective professional leadership is a key to school performance.
In the recent Budget announcements, you may have heard about the development of a professional development programme for principals. The budget allocated $19 million over the next four years to develop the leadership and management capabilities of principals. This includes:
- an induction programme for first time principals;
- a framework to help principals and aspiring principals plan their professional development;
- a development centre to give principals and their boards more information about the principal’s strengths and areas where development is needed; and
- a new electronic principals’ network.
As part of this programme, 600 principals each year will receive online professional development and a laptop. New principals and those in the most remote locations will be first in the queue.
Setting High Expectations
Finally, one of the most important roles trustees can play is in raising expectations:
- expectations of educational achievement; and
- expectations of professional capability.
You can play a central role in setting these expectations in your school and communicating them:
- to students and their parents,
- to the professionals in your schools, and
- to the wider community.
Let me finish by asking you to think about what you can do to help us all make progress on this education odyssey.
Ask the right questions - be clear in your goals and your objectives, plan ahead and look for good information to give the answers.
Support the professional capability of your principals and teachers, and work toward continuous improvement in the teaching and learning in your schools; and
Set high expectations for achievement by all the students in your schools, and help them to exceed those expectations.
I hope you have an enjoyable and successful conference.