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Labour On Early Childhood And Compulsory Education

Labour On Early Childhood And Compulsory Education

LABOUR’S VISION

Quality education is a basic right. It must be available to all children without regard to wealth or income. It must provide opportunities for our young people to reach their potential, to go on to succeed in further education and employment, and to participate fully in society. A creative, innovative New Zealand will only become a reality if our young people receive a quality education. Our education system is internationally competitive, producing graduates that are sought after overseas. But we need to do better.

We need higher literacy and numeracy levels, more children staying in the education system longer, and we need to challenge and foster the skills of the exceptionally talented so they can lead the way in the innovation stakes. Education is important not just for helping individuals flourish, but for helping our society and economy flourish as well.

Labour will set high standards and expect achievement as the norm. In doing so, Labour also recognises that some students, and some institutions will find reaching those standards more difficult. We will continue to work with iwi, communities and education providers to ensure they have the support they need, in terms of resources, information and ideas to reach those higher goals. This will also involve working closely with other government agencies, especially those in the health and social services sectors.

PARTICIPATION AND TRANSITION

Labour wants to give more children access to quality education and, once they are in the education system, to ensure the facilities and resources are there to keep them learning longer. We want young people to feel safe and affirmed as individual, and for schools and early childhood centres to be places where diversity is celebrated. Our aim is to create successful school leavers who have the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to contribute positively and actively to society.

EARLY CHILDHOOD SECTOR

Children who experience high quality early childhood education are more likely to thrive at school, and beyond. The benefits to children and their families are clear. However, if all New Zealand children begin their lifelong learning in high quality early childhood education, our whole society will benefit, both socially and economically.

Labour in government has made significant progress in getting more children into early childhood education. Funding boosts to the discretionary grants scheme mean over 150 centres have new buildings, or have been able to upgrade their facilities. As well as providing the facilities, Labour has worked to make sure children are filling these new centres. Initiatives such as the “Promoting Early Childhood Education Participation’ programme have brought 3,500 more children into early childhood education. In addition, ongoing funding for “HIPPY’ has secured a future for this highly successful programme targeted at preparing 4 year olds for school. Although we have made progress, there is still more to be done.

Labour will help more children to participate in quality early childhood education by:

- Giving the Ministry of Education responsibility for mapping the network of early childhood services, and planning future provision, so communities have the facilities they need, when they need them.

- Extending the ECE participation initiative to more regions.

- Requiring parental involvement in the governance of all centres including those operating for profit, so we can help ensure centres are working in the best interests of the parents they serve.

SCHOOL SECTOR

Although education is compulsory in New Zealand from age six to 16, the challenge of increasing participation in education does not end at the school gate. Too many children are lost to the education system as they move between schools and between phases of their education. Still more are suspended, or “drop-out’ of the system. Many, who have the potential to gain senior secondary school qualifications, bail out before they reach the later years of school. Others, particularly those in small and rural schools, are unable to participate in the range and type of education they would like, because of isolation.

Labour has started to turn the tide on children being “lost’ to the system, through initiatives such as the introduction of a mentor programme for young Maori and a high effective Suspension Reduction Initiative in Northland. A doubling of the places in Alternative Education centres has helped retain more than 1800 young people that would otherwise have dropped out of our education system. The funding of broadband internet services and provision of free Microsoft licences for all schools have increased connectivity and reduced barriers to resources and information for those who are isolated by geography. On a broader level, supporting the two Hui Taumata Matauranga hosted by Ngati Tuwharetoa, and continuing to work in partnership with iwi around the country, has enabled the government to better engage with Maori and work together with them to improve Maori participation and achievement.

Labour will ensure children participate more fully in education during the compulsory school years by:

- Establishing a central records database to track children’s attendance at school

- Extending successful initiatives, such as the Suspension Reduction Initiative, trialed in Northland that help fix the causes of suspension.

- Creating stronger collaboration between secondary schools, employers and tertiary providers and more intense focus on career guidance

- Continuing to grow the use of information and communications technology (ICT)-based learning such as audio-conferencing, to ensure students in remote areas have access to specialist teaching which is not available locally.

ACHIEVEMENTS

While increased participation is an important first step, numbers alone are not the key. Excellence matters. We need to raise learning outcomes across the board.

Those who can reach the top should be encouraged to strive beyond traditional expectations - to set new, higher challenges. New Zealand needs every tall poppy it can get and we should not be afraid to help young people grow their talents through a high level of support.

New Zealand children are ranked third out of 32 OECD countries for average performance in reading and mathematical literacy. That’s good - but it could be even better. Like those who have the ability to break the boundaries at the top of our education system, children who are struggling with the basics will be supported and nurtured so that everyone can reach his or her educational potential.

Labour has worked with the early childhood sector over the last three years to enhance achievement in the early years. The introduction of equity funding and the annual increase to funding subsidies, as well as the development of an Early Childhood Education Strategic Plan are testament to this.

At the school level, Labour has been piloting a wide variety of programmes to test what really works to lift achievement. Among those showing most promise, are the Early Childhood Primary Links project, Tamaki Achievement Pathway Initiative, AIMHI “full-service education’ project, Otara Village of Learning, Count Me in Too, Computers in Homes, four digital opportunities projects, ICAN and homework centres.

Significant resources have been invested in getting the important “basics’ of numeracy and literacy right. For example, the Numeracy Development Project was expanded to another 17,000 primary teachers, new literacy and numeracy assessment tools have been developed for students in Years 5-7 and the number of Resource Teachers of Literacy has been doubled.

Labour will continue to invest in improving learning outcomes and promoting excellence by:

- Improving staff:child ratios in early childhood settings, as well as reducing group sizes by 2006.

- Undertaking further policy work on rolling out the early childhood strategic plan.

- Rolling out initiatives such as the Early Childhood Primary Links project that has a proven impact on literacy achievement.

- Extending the Early Numeracy Project 2001.

- Ensuring the real value of core funding for schools is maintained.

- Expanding the use of literacy and numeracy assessment tools to years 8, 9 and 10.

- Achieving broadband access for all schools wherever they are in the country, to ensure they have access to online resources that will enhance learning outcomes.

- Increasing the use of sound research to determine what is working in our education system - and having the courage to discard practices and programmes which are not working.

- Establishing a Secondary Education Advisory Group - an independent body that will envisage what secondary schools might look like and how they might function 10, 15 or even 20 years from now, so we can shape our system to best help children achieve.

- Increasing support to refugee and new migrant communities.

- Increasing the number of teen parent support programmes.

- Carrying out research into transition issues for students moving between Maori and English medium education settings.

- Adding a clause to National Administration Guideline 1 (iii) to identify gifted and talented students as a group who require identification and specific provision, effective from the 2004 school year.

- Establishing an Advisory Committee on Gifted Education to advise the Minister and Ministry of Education on areas related to gifted and talented education.

- Funding the Ministry of Education to support a professional development programme on gifted and talented education, accessible to all schools over a three-year period.

- Funding production of a booklet to provide information for parents of gifted and talented children.

- Using current and future ICT initiatives as a vehicle to enhance and promoted learning opportunities and programmes for gifted and talented children.

- Communicating the new policy on school reorganisation processes, which shifts the focus from saving money, to retaining resources for educational benefit in the community.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND ENRICHING OUR TEACHING FORCE

Quality education requires quality teaching. Over the last 15 years, New Zealand has lost focus on the importance of professional development for staff. Early childhood services and schools need more staff, to improve time spent with each child, help share the workload and allow time for teachers to develop their skills.

Although there are 550 more teachers in our schools now, than in 1999, we still need more. We need to take a proactive role in funding and facilitating staffing increases and professional development. If we are to reach the standards of excellence to which we aspire for our children, we must recruit more, quality teachers and assist existing teaching and management staff to reach the highest standards of professional excellence themselves.

As a first step in raising professional standards in the early childhood sector, Labour introduced higher qualification requirements for people responsible for the education and care of children in early childhood education services - and provided grants for them to upskill.

During this term of government, Labour established the New Zealand Teachers’ Council - an important catalyst for focus on professional standards. The work of the Staffing Review Group helped identify the priority areas for additional teachers - and 550 of those additional teachers are already in our schools. Furthermore, the scholarship and incentive packages for trainee and returning teachers have started to make an improvement in the number of people studying to become teachers.

Other people are also involved in the running of our schools - support staff, para-professionals and boards of trustees, not to mention principals. Their professional development and training needs are also important and need examination and support. Leadership and Management Development for principals has begun, with all first time principals being offered training before they start the job - and a lap top to help them work effectively.

Labour will continue to improve staffing levels and put the focus back on professional development by:

- Ensuring all staff in early childhood centres are qualified and registered teachers by 2012.

- Encouraging the newly formed NZ Teachers’ Council to enhance the quality of initial teacher education and ongoing professional development.

- Working with the NZ Teachers’ Council and teacher education providers to define specific areas of skill and knowledge that are required for registration of graduating teachers. These include, but are not limited to, currency of knowledge in literacy and numeracy teaching, special and gifted education.

- Encouraging teacher education providers to develop advanced qualifications based on action-research in classroom settings.

- Offering an accelerated student loan repayment system for teachers as an alternative to government subsidies on superannuation contributions. This would be available on payments made above the minimum.

- Establishing international exchanges for teachers wanting to work overseas, in their profession. The exchanges would be for 1 - 2 year periods and involve assistance with fares and relocation grants.

- Providing training to improve the professional capability of teachers and principals, throughout the early childhood and schools sector in ICT.

- Completing implementation of the recommendations of the Staffing Review Group, providing an estimated 3,000 extra teachers by 2007.

- Continuing to improve and develop resources for teachers working in Maori and Pacific Islands languages.

- Giving the Ministry of Education a role in facilitating access to training for school support staff, in the same way they do for teachers.

- Discussing with the special education community and the school community generally, the place of teacher aides and para-professionals in the care and education of special needs children to ensure students are given the appropriate level of support.

- Working with providers to ensure that training undertaken by school trustees in governance and administration is recognised on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.

- Working with providers to ensure that the induction package offered to all first-time principals is recognised on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

Schools and early childhood centres need to have the policies, structures and skilled staff to be inclusive of all students. They also require responsive, coordinated support from external agencies driven by strong national policies on inclusion.

During this term of government, the review of certain aspects of the policy known as SE2000 has taken place. As a result of the Wylie Report, access to special education support has been improved, through changes to criteria for the Ongoing & Reviewable Resourcing Scheme (ORRS) and more flexible provision of the Severe Behaviour Initiative. Resources have been developed for Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLBs) and classroom teachers. In terms of structural support, the Specialist Education Service was disestablished and Group Special Education was set up within the Ministry of Education, showing Labour’s commitment to responsive, coordinated services. Labour in government has also commenced research on support for students with physical disabilities, and will undertake further research, linked to professional development, on best practice special education programmes in different settings.

Labour will continue to facilitate improvement in special education by:

- Requiring the Ministry of Education to provide information to school managements and Boards of Trustees about their obligations under the Human Rights Act and ideas for making schools positive places for everyone.

- Reviewing resourcing policies to ensure that they are fair and they support the development of inclusive schools and early childhood centres.

- Developing collaborative seamless services that overcome fragmentation, gaps and overlaps, including support for collaborative approaches between schools, families, the Learning Support Network and outside agencies.

- Ensuring that policy development and operational decisions at all levels reflect a commitment to the core principle of “schools for all’.

- Providing support to schools to build their own capacity by developing school based problem-solving teams that provide immediate and ongoing structured support to individual teachers rather than relying solely on external support.

- Developing robust monitoring to ensure programmes benefit children’s learning

- Ensuring specialist support strengthens early childhood service and school systems capacity to cater for all students as well as providing support to individuals.

- Providing training for special needs co-ordinators, teachers working with ORRS students, and mainstream teachers and teachers aides to ensure that the goal of “inclusion for success’ is able to be achieved.

- Reviewing the operation of school clusters to ensure that Learning Support Funding is allocated to meet the needs of students.

- Ensuring that strategic planning for special education provision is effective at national, regional and local level, and that key stakeholders (including representative groups) are involved at every level.

- Requiring all pre-service teacher education providers to train teachers to teach students with disabilities. This material will be compulsory and embedded throughout pre-service training.

- Supporting all early childhood services and schools to meet their obligations to disabled students.


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