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NZEI Te Riu Roa Annual Meeting

Hon Trevor Mallard
24 September 2002 Speech Notes
NZEI Te Riu Roa Annual Meeting

Thank you for the opportunity to address this conference. I am pleased to be here again, this time in my second term as Minister of Education.

This government is ambitious for New Zealand. We want to improve our economic performance so that all New Zealanders have security, opportunity and the best possible standard of living.

Education is critical to our success.

Your goal to make sure every child reaches her or his educational potential is one we share.

We want to make sure every child is secure in the knowledge of who they are and of their place in the world.

We want all children well prepared to contribute to and participate in a world where technology plays a dominant role in our lives.

An extraordinary amount has been achieved in education in the last few years. It has been both demanding and inspiring.

We need to build on the successes. And we all need to be involved in making that happen.

We need to be clear about what we want the education system to deliver.

There are four key outcomes.

- Strong learning foundations
- Successful school leavers
- Motivated and self-directed life-long learners
- Knowledge creation and innovation

How do we meet these outcomes?

We focus on access to quality education, improved participation, supporting and strengthening professional capability, and lifting educational achievement.

Over the next three years we want to ensure all students acquire the core literacy and numeracy, and enthusiasm for learning, that will equip them for later learning and life.

We know the median performance of our children in maths, science and reading ranks in the top handful of developed countries.

We also know, we face a much larger tail of underachievement than many other nations.

The PISA study shows that a group of students - mainly those from low-income families and Maori and Pasifika children - are not achieving as well as they could be.

The key factor here is having high expectations for all students.

It calls for an honest assessment of where students are at and an open mind as to how much – and how - they can achieve.

Our Numeracy Development Project stands out as a beacon of professional development and support helping boost teacher capability and student achievement.

It works to sharpen the way children communicate, process and interpret information.

Teachers are learning more about how students come to understand numbers and numeracy.

We are seeing students posting big progress – regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, region or decile.

The NEMP monitoring shows that the project may have contributed to gains for Maori students in particular.

We are therefore expanding the scheme to another 17,000 primary teachers.

A lot of energy - and dollars - are going into building up foundation skills at an early stage.

New literacy and numeracy assessment tools have been developed for students in Years 5 to 7, and the number of Resource Teachers: Literacy doubled.

As an aside, I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to preview the asTTle material. I am sure you will be as impressed as I was and that you will find the material useful, effective - and time-saving.

Rolling out the early childhood strategic plan is a major focus. The plan provides a roadmap for the sector and the future of early childhood education.

Its three key building blocks are increasing participation, improving quality, and promoting collaborative relationships.

Ensuring children develop literacy and numeracy concepts, approaches to problem solving, social and cooperative skills and an enjoyment of learning in the early years is critical.

We know the benefits of quality early childhood education can be seen in children’s performance for more than five years after they start school.

Key aspects of the plan include better supporting parents to be involved in their children’s early learning and working with communities to establish quality services.

We know in teacher-led early childhood education services, that qualifications are critical to the level of quality services offer.

Our commitment is that by 2007 – half of regulated staff will be registered teachers, with all regulated staff qualified and registered teachers by 2012.

We are spending more than $10.5 million for initiatives to lift teacher numbers so this target can be met, including 90 additional incentive grants for those who missed out in 2002.

Forging closer links between school and early childhood education curricula and teaching practices, and lining up early intervention and special education are also key features of the plan.

Innovative projects like the Early Childhood Primary Links (ECPL) 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.

The ECPL initiative builds bridges between early childhood education centres and primary schools to support children from low socio-economic areas at a critical time.

The Picking Up the Pace component of the project involves delivery and evaluation of concentrated professional development in literacy instruction.

It is aimed at groups of early childhood education and new entrant teachers in decile one schools in Mangere and Otara with high percentages of Maori and Pacifika students.

The project saw a big jump in the reading and writing achievement of new entrants, irrespective of home factors such as parental education, family income and language.

This reinforces my earlier point that low rates of progress in literacy are neither inevitable nor unchangeable for children in low decile schools.

This again highlights the importance of families and teachers having the highest possible expectations of what children can and should achieve.

It also highlights the need for greater collaboration within and across the teaching profession.

That’s why we have decided to roll-out the ECPL.

ERO has recently undertaken reviews of mathematics and science education for students from years 1 to 8.

The reviews identified concerns surrounding teacher content knowledge and the availability of appropriate professional development and support for maths and science teachers at this level.

The reviews concluded that the key to raising student achievement in maths and science is building on best practices and supporting teachers.

Today’s schools and early childhood education services work with a diverse range of students whose learning needs must be met.

Early childhood centres and schools are often part of a wider network supporting families, including government agencies.

As the Minister of State Services I have been involved in an extensive project which aims to strengthen the public service.

Part of that work is looking to reduce fragmentation and promote cross-agency collaboration to ensure people have access to information, support and services when they need it.

I want to acknowledge the importance of the role of the principal and whole school strategies.

At the school level, one of the most important initiatives for the next three years will be the new planning and reporting regime.

The aim is to keep the focus at the school level on student outcomes.

I’m talking here about the systematic analysis of learning achievement and the ongoing improvement of school learning strategies.

It’s not about paper work or filling out forms – nor is it about comparing schools. This government is not into simplistic nonsense like league tables. It’s about helping each school to be the best it can be.

At the system level, I will continue to work to ensure necessary supports are in place – around ICT, schooling improvement, curriculum and assessment resources, staffing and resourcing.

Part of that system support is teachers’ employment arrangements. And there are three things that I want to say before I finish. First, I know you are considering the issues around entrenchment and I think we should keep talking. Secondly, I have for many years promoted qualifications and margins for qualifications as being an important device to drive quality. Thirdly, I have always taken a principled approach to pay parity and will continue to do that.

It is also great to see the retirement savings scheme finally launched and I would encourage primary teachers to sign up. I have talked to NZEI about exploring ways to make the funding available for retirement savings transferable, to accelerate the repayment of student loans.

Finally, I want to say that there are some fantastic things happening in early childhood education and schools.

This is in no small way, due to the great work of the professional leaders and advisors, teaching and non-teaching staff, boards, parent committees and communities.

If we are to see:

- every child reaching her or his educational potential
- every child secure in the knowledge of who they are and of their place in the world
- every child well prepared to contribute to and participate in a technology driven world

then we need to focus on the critical factors that make the real difference.

The list of things that are good to do in education is probably endless.

We cannot do them all because time and resources are limited.

I want to talk with the teaching profession and move forward with a shared view of what makes the difference to teaching and learning.

We need to consolidate our gains, explore the possibilities, and find innovative, leading-edge solutions to support and improve student achievement.

It’s our future.

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