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TEFANZ Annual Conference - Trevor Mallard Speech

Hon Trevor Mallard
29 August 2002 Speech Notes


TEFANZ Annual Conference

Thanks for inviting me here to speak on the first day of your conference.

It is great to be addressing the teacher education community so soon after being elected for a second term.

It is an honour to be asked to serve again, as this Government refocuses its efforts to give every Kiwi kid a quality education and an opportunity to learn.

The next three years are sure to bring challenge and change for teacher education. You will be looking at the issues over the next couple of days.

I will be looking to organisations like TEFANZ, along with the Teachers Council and the new Tertiary Education Commission to help us lift the quality of teachers.

Today I want to explain our mission to improve the quality of teacher education over the next three years.

We all know that a good teacher not only inspires and motivates their students.

A good teacher makes the difference as to whether a student flourishes – or not.

The child on the receiving end of a poor education wears it for the rest of their life.

Our best students are right up there with the world’s best but we still have too great a gap between those who achieve and those who don’t.

These differences show up very early on and carry on through the system.

We need to ensure that no student gets left behind – and we plan to make this a priority for the next three years.

All around us I see good working examples of where we could be heading.

Innovative projects like the Early Childhood Primary Links Project in South Auckland are lifting the reading ability of children at school entry and boosting the number of six-year olds who can read.

Such projects convince me that students from any background can - and should - succeed.

Up and down the country we have teachers and schools that integrate very effectively Mäori tikanga and language into teaching across the curriculum.

We need to keep lifting the bar, ensuring that quality practice becomes more widespread.

We look to TEFANZ and all teacher educators to keep abreast of leading edge practice.

New structures and systems are now taking shape.

You will need to work with and through the new Teachers Council and the TEC.

The building blocks of the new environment are still being cemented into place - the Council is not quite a year old, and the TEC is yet to open its doors.

These are the two bodies that will - in many ways - set the scene for teacher education in the years ahead.

The Council offers a springboard for building professional leadership among teachers and for fastening the minds of the profession on effective practice.

There will be a need to invest initially in developing its structure and systems.

It would be fair to say that the Council got off to a difficult start.

Over recent months the Council has worked hard to get its new functions up and running – and I know it has had its share of problems.

Compulsory police vetting of non-teaching staff, for example, has led to some tensions in schools and early childhood settings.

Meanwhile, I am delighted with the appointments of Stan Roger as chair and Margaret Kouvelis as director.

The election process is well underway, and the Council is on the way to becoming the professional organisation we all want it to be.

I know you are aware of the signals sent by the fourth TEAC report and the Teacher Education Strategy about collaboration and consolidation.

Meanwhile the moratorium on new teacher education providers and new programmes remains in place.

The cap on student numbers in PTEs for 2003 continues to be controversial.

But many of you will be aware of exemptions where we are satisfied programmes are anticipating labour market issues like secondary and early childhood teacher supply.

I am also in favour of enhancing requirements for initial teacher education.

I anticipate a move towards four rather than three year qualifications over the next few years. The Qualifications Working Party has recently been looking into this issue.

I will continue to give priority to practice that enhances the quality of early childhood teaching.

Once a child has a strong learning foundation in place, we need to focus on key areas like problem solving, creativity, information management and interpersonal skills.

Equipped with these skills, tomorrow’s students will be in a position to create wealth by brainpower – one of the key elements of an increasingly digital world.

But we have a long way to go.

Providers are a key influence on teacher capability.

Three years from now I want to be confident that, as a sector, you are instilling in your students what is emerging from the work around literacy, suspension reduction, numeracy, assessment and ICT.

I expect you to enshrine in your students the attitudes and abilities to effectively teach kids from different backgrounds and cultures and who have different values.

I expect you to develop in your students the abilities to analyse and apply evidence based research findings to enhance and improve their teaching practice.

More generally, as a sector I expect you to develop much stronger connections with teachers at the chalk face.

Here, the Council and TEC will be our standards setters - if you like, they will be the enforcers.

We need to feel confident that applicants are properly screened before they begin their courses.

We need to know that they are meeting clear and useful standards during initial programmes.

We will be looking to providers, too, to ensure that no graduate walks out the gate until they are ready for the schools, classrooms and students of today and the future.

I was also pleased to see the Council taking a lead with their conference on flexible learning.

I have already said quite a bit today about initial teacher education.

I now want to turn to similar challenges in the area of in-service teacher education or professional development.

As I have already mentioned, we have seen some impressive results emerging from the literacy, numeracy and ICT strategies, and from the assessment strategies.

We want teachers and schools to be more focussed on improving learning and a clearer sense of standards.

In primary education there is a strong shift to changing thinking away from assessment of learning to assessment for learning.

We keep underlining this message.

It needs to extend into secondary schools.

The NCEA creates the possibility of shifting the focus more onto learning and gives greater confidence in the professional judgement of teachers.

We also want to foster leadership.

Too many teachers and schools feel done to.

While the underlying approach to policy is one that is a “high trust” model this is not recognised widely by the profession.

The Teachers Council offers one opportunity and I expect them to pick up the challenge. They have a key role to play.

I want to focus on developing cultures of schooling improvement.

By this I mean developing a wider framework within which school support fits, as does the ERO with its “assess and assist” approach.

The school planning and reporting changes and all the work on assessment are relevant here too.

I am keen to see teachers engaged in on-going learning and working towards higher qualifications during their professional lives.

Teacher education providers are obvious sources of potential qualifications, such as Masters degrees in Teaching and Learning.

I would like to see providers working together to design and offer higher degrees that involve teachers in action research and collaboration – in the sharing of good practice for example.

In my view, initial qualifications just represent the beginning of a professional life of continued learning and striving for relevant knowledge.

An issue I am keen to tickle along in the months ahead is bringing pay, qualifications and performance more closely together.

We have already started talking about it with the teachers unions.

Some providers have argued for it in their submissions to the Qualifications Working Party.

It is an issue the Ministerial Taskforce on secondary teacher remuneration is likely to look at.

Expert or excellent teachers need to able to choose career paths that either involve them more in sharing their expertise with colleagues, or moving into management roles.

We need to retain such teachers to support and guide student teachers, beginning teachers and other staff in their kindergartens, centres and schools.

A teacher needs recognition for the time they spend upgrading their qualifications where this directly relates to lifting performance.

The trick here is figuring out how we measure and reward such effort.

The retraining courses for experienced primary teachers with subject specialisation will help us attract more people into secondary teaching, especially in key subject areas.

We are also looking to enhance the range of subjects within the Secondary Subject Trainee Allowance.

I know some of you have had input into the thinking on this.

In conclusion, I am excited about our mission to improve the quality of teacher education over the next three years.

It can be done- with time, and with a commitment to the profession that carries so much of this country’s hopes and dreams.

I acknowledge a level of uncertainty among providers in the short term - but I think the new tertiary environment offers much to strive for.

I welcome initiatives that address issues of quality and supply.

I am determined to see well-prepared, confident and capable teachers taking their place in the schools of 2003 and beyond.

I look forward to a fully operational Teachers Council and TEC working with the Ministry, the ERO, and providers to ensure this is a reality.

These organisations are increasingly standing together, and they have, with providers, the focus and capacity to make a powerful difference.

Together, we must join forces to identify, disseminate and apply effective teaching practice.

I see this as a priority for my second term as Minister over the next three years.

I have high expectations that the sector will respond to this challenge.

ENDS

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