Mallard Speech To Principals’ Federation
26 June 2002 Hon Trevor Mallard Speech Notes
New Zealand Principals’ Federation
Welcome to Parliament.
A couple of years ago when I spoke to your conference, I was challenged about the lack of professional development options for principals.
Last year I was able to announce budget provision - $27 million over four years – and that considerable progress had been made to start the principal leadership and development programme.
This year has seen a number of milestones in that project.
Three months ago we held the first induction programme for new first time principals. Thank you to those who e-mailed me with some feedback. It’s both heartening and useful to hear first hand how you found the course and how you were putting it into practical application. Nearly 200 principals attended that course and a continuation residential course is being held during the second week of the holidays.
Shortly after that I launched LeadSpace, a one-stop-shop on the Internet for information, communication and collaboration for principals. The launch was in Wellington. I happened to be in Rotorua and took part via a video link up. I’d arrived back from overseas visits to major software companies with the impression that the future of ICT can be summed up by the words: Anyone, anytime, anywhere and from any device - so to take part in the launch from a distance seemed quite fitting.
Because I was running a bit late, I didn’t bother changing out of my swimming gear so I think I will add ‘wearing anything’ to that mantra. I thought I had myself covered by quickly putting my shirt and tie on over my togs. I must say though, I was slightly worried when someone who had attended the Wellington launch asked me very politely the following week if I had realised how large the screen in Wellington was.
Back to LeadSpace itself.
In LeadSpace you can access information, key forms and templates, examples of good leadership practice and enter private spaces to talk and debate with your colleagues.
Currently there are about 400 principals actively using the e-net site on a reasonably regular basis, and I’m confident that number will increase once your familiarity and confidence increases. I’d urge those who haven’t logged on to LeadSpace yet to have a look at the site.
Perhaps you have received your new laptop computer - the third aspect of our principal leadership and development programme to be rolled out this year. So far 600 have been distributed. 900 more will go out in the first week of term three. Again, I have appreciated the messages from principals outlining the difference they see it making to their jobs. A couple of weeks after receiving his laptop, one principal wrote to me estimating that good use of it would shave about 10% of time off his working week. His wife wanted to thank me.
By the end of term three next year every principal in New Zealand will have a laptop. I think the distribution of these laptops and indeed a lot of the other education initiatives within ICT really illustrate the smart, active approach to government we’ve illustrated over the last two and a half years.
For example, I’m really proud of the software deal that we signed with Microsoft which allows schools to access up to date software at no cost to them. We paid $10 million for it. If every school in the country had bought the same software independently for every computer, it would have cost about $75 million. What we decided is that it was important that school software be up to date and that we could make more efficient purchasing agreements on your behalf using our bulk buying power.
The extra funding we’ve put into online resources on Te Kete Ipurangi and the partnership with the Australians on their Learning Federation project are more examples of initiatives where we can facilitate school access to high quality learning material at a very low overall cost.
And to help make best use of those resources, this year’s budget included initiatives like an extra $9 million over four years to extend the Information and Communications Technology cluster programme and tens of millions of dollars to roll out high-speed internet access to schools. That means that all schools in the country will have access to the necessary bandwidth to fully utilise the potential that modern technology offers.
Government commitment to ICT in education is crucial. Information technology is not just a desirable sidebar to education – it is an essential and effective tool to teaching and learning, and school administration.
But I want to make it clear that this is complementary – and indeed, an asset – to the core role of schools to teach children how to read, write and do maths. We will always focus on those skills. After all - you can’t use a computer if you can’t read.
Literacy and numeracy are among the key foundation skills for any citizen living in the knowledge society of the 21st century we hear so much about. And I don’t just mean post-graduate students doing work in engineering, but also the average Kiwi who wants to keep pace with an increasingly digital world.
In your primary schools a lot of work is going on to lift standards in both literacy and numeracy.
These are especially good times for numeracy. The success of the early numeracy project has been widely heralded. We’re well on the way to providing all year 1-3 teachers with an opportunity to participate in this project. You can also expect all 2003 graduates from pre-service teacher education to be familiar with the Early Numeracy Project programmes.
Following on from that is the Advanced Numeracy Project covering years 4-6.
The evaluation of this stage of the project, released today, shows an overall increase in student achievement. Students became more sophisticated in their mathematical thinking. Teacher attitudes towards maths - and the teaching of it - improved. Furthermore, student attitudes towards learning maths were improved as a result of their teachers participating in the project.
The ability of teachers’ and schools’ to communicate about maths teaching and learning was also vastly improved.
The next stage is to look at case studies of successful numeracy teaching in low decile schools, compared with those that aren’t so successful.
We hope this will allow us to gain an understanding of how to make sure everyone shares the gains. I’ll be personally interested to see whether teacher expectation affects results. One of the issues that I found most interesting in the Early Childhood Primary Link report released last year was that teachers’ expectation of how well their children would achieve was a major factor in success. I know that is a factor that the second evaluation phase of the Advanced numeracy project is looking at.
There are also some really positive initiatives in literacy in schools. In particular, I’m really confident that the AsTLE tools will be a lot of help to teachers as they cater for the different talents and needs of their pupils. Assessment can only be judged as good if it informs teaching practice.
Another plus is the Primary Literacy Leadership programme. Close to 2000 of you have attended awareness workshops. Around 900 have committed themselves to the enhanced literacy leadership programme. Your commitment to these programmes is a big reason for their success and I would like to thank you for that.
I can’t stress enough how important I believe professional development to be for both principals and teachers. It is something I hope to extend even further over the next few years. While we have focused this year on the needs of new first time principals, I am hoping to provide for more professional development for a much wider group of principals.
In September a trial will be held to create a model for Principals’ Development Centres, the fourth aspect of our principal development initiatives. Up to 50 principals will be invited to participate in the trial. It is anticipated that wider implementation will commence in 2003.
I am also hoping that you will be able to play a much greater role in talent identification of potential principals and in mentoring them.
We’re also offering more guidance to boards on how to appraise the performance of principals. With that in mind, the Education Review Office is about to publish a report into good practices in principal appraisal. If conducted correctly appraisal can make a really positive difference to the principals’ job, but the Education Review Office identified this as something that boards struggled with.
Schools in New Zealand are places of excellence and inspiration. But we can always strive to do more and to do better.
That’s a message that I am also taking onto the campaign trail as we lead up to the general election. The government has done a good job in education, but our work is far from complete.
I was involved in the development of the Labour Party education policy for the 1999 election. We focused on fairness, opportunity and security with two underpinning factors. First, we were determined to be part of a government that showed fiscal constraint … not to blow the budget in one term – a blow out which would take years to recover from economically, one which might result in short term gain but long term distrust.
We were also determined to promise only what we were sure we could deliver – to not create false expectations. Looking back over the last two and a half years I am proud of the promises we made and have delivered on.
We promised to repeal bulk funding and, more importantly, free up money that was previously sitting in Treasury to go directly to schools. We have done that. As a result, by next year operational funding to schools will have increased by $174 million or nearly 25 per cent under this government. On top of that we will continue to work with the sector on ways to get more for that money.
We promised a review into school staffing. Already that review has resulted in more than 500 extra staff in schools. Next year there will be a further 365 extra teachers in primary schools and special schools. We will be looking at increases for secondary schools when we have settled the collective agreement. My hope is that we can implement the report’s full recommendations – an extra 3700 teachers – by 2006. It might, however, take until 2007.
We promised to review the Education Review Office and look at ways that their process could ‘assess and assist’ rather than ‘assess and let schools deal with problem areas themselves. Schools are reporting that the resulting changes have made the review process more useful. Schools get a better understanding of how they can make improvements.
I think we’ve made strong progress on policies that reduce inequalities and ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed in the changing world of the 21st century.
Finally I’d like to thank your executive for the useful discussions that we’ve had over the last two and a half years. They’ve made a useful contribution to policy development.
I am optimistic that I will be addressing you, as Minister of Education next year. The decision on that, however, is up to the electorate and the Prime Minister.