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MP declined briefings on school review

7 October 2003 Media Statement

MP declined briefings on school review

Education Minister Trevor Mallard says he is amazed a United Future MP is now claiming to care about a review of Upper Hutt schools, when the same MP twice declined briefings from his office on the review of the school network.

"We have twice offered Murray Smith a briefing on the review of Upper Hutt schools but he rejected the offer and preferred to remain ignorant.

"I am astounded to see he is now stirring up the local community, causing unnecessary angst, and making outrageous claims about a subject he knows absolutely nothing about.

"This MP's approach is totally irresponsible and lazy. He is claiming he cares about local schools when in fact he is only after scoring cheap political hits. He couldn't even be bothered spending some time being briefed about the reasons for the review and the process that is being followed.

"If he had bothered, he would have discovered that the review of the schools in Upper Hutt is absolutely not money driven. I have said repeatedly that any savings from the review will be returned to remaining schools - for new education initiatives and buildings work.

"The aim first and foremost is to ensure that local children continue to receive quality education that is sustainable well into the future.

"He would have also learnt about demographic change. Reviews of school networks are being carried out because of a forecast demographic change which will see the primary school population decline by 70,000 children over the next 15 years. Upper Hutt is not immune to this downward shift in rolls, and it's essential to plan now before the damage really sets in.

"It would be irresponsible to do otherwise. This government wants to see education money actually spent on educating children rather than on wasted bricks and mortar - on buildings that are empty now or destined to empty over time. Murray Smith clearly doesn't agree," Trevor Mallard said.

Questions and answers on school reviews are attached.

BACKGROUND TO NETWORK REVIEWS

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a network review?

A network review is a process undertaken by the Ministry of Education and directed by the Education Minister. A review assesses the way education is currently being provided in a particular area and what re-organisation is needed to make sure a high quality of education can be provided for the next 10-15 years.

How do review areas get chosen?

The reasons for choosing to review a particular cluster of schools vary depending on the local situation. Any issue that presents a risk to providing quality education that could be resolved or partly resolved by a re-organisation could indicate the need for a review. Situations that may generate a network review are:

- Suggestions for change from one or more schools;

- Resources not being fully utilised;

- Falling rolls;

- A significant number of small schools in close proximity;

- Concerns over the quality of education being provided;

- A desire to find more effective ways of meeting the diversity of student needs; and

- In some instances growing rolls could generate a network review, to decide which combination of schools best meets the needs of a growing population.

What schools are involved?

State schools, kura and wharekura can be part of a network review. Integrated schools may involve themselves in network reviews but it is not possible to make changes to integrated schools through reviews because of the legislation under which they are created. Private schools are not included.

What can result from a network review?

The issues that led to a review can't be ignored so usually keeping the status quo isn't an option. A review could mean fewer schools (through closures and/or mergers), more schools, new schools or different types of schools.

How are reviews run?

The form of a review will be adapted to the particular area being covered. All are likely to work through these stages:

- Ministry identifies need for a network review and makes a recommendation to the Minister, who announces the review;

- Ministry contacts schools to be involved, and a community reference group is formed;

--- The reference group is set up to provide a platform for discussion, oversee the process of a review and to present the community perspective on education provision.

--- Membership of the reference group is shaped by community needs.

--- The composition of the reference group will include school trustees and principals, NZSTA (New Zealand School Trustees Association), NZEI (New Zealand Educational Institute), PPTA (Post Primary Teachers Association) and iwi and may include local Pasifika groups, early childhood groups, local government representatives and community organisations. Every school involved in the process must be represented.

- Reference group's facilitator is identified;

- Facilitator presents data and information and suggests some potential future schooling models for the community to discuss;

- Facilitator consults with individual Boards of Trustees. facilitator and/or Boards then consult with communities;

- Facilitator produces stage 1 report summarising all discussions and setting out possible options;

- Boards consult with their communities on report. Facilitator consults with Boards. facilitator summarises all the discussions in a report to the reference group;

- Ministry produces submission 1 for the Minister, taking the reference group's report into account;

- Minister makes a proposal and communicates this to Boards, and announces it publicly;

- Boards consult their communities and facilitator consults with Boards;

- Ministry analyses the reference group's report and produces submission 2 for the Minister presenting the results of consultation and any changed recommendations;

- Minister considers all feedback and communicates his decision to Boards;

- Boards of schools that may close then have a further 28 days to comment.

How are school re-organisations funded?

The Education Development Initiative (EDI) policy has been developed to manage school closure and merger funding. Additional money is made available to schools that remain after the review.

The amount of funding is generated from a formula based on school rolls. The same formula applies schools in all network reviews so all schools are treated equally.

The different parts of this funding are:

- a cash grant for individual schools;

- property entitlements; and

- in most cases resources for future shared school education projects.

The board of trustees, with Ministry input, then plans for the best use of the money to enhance teaching and learning in their school.

Who gets a say?

The process of a network review involves a significant amount of community consultation. When proposals are put to the Minister, there are legal requirements for consultation, depending on the changes proposed.

This means at least two periods of consultation with the community.

Once the Minister announces the review there is about a month of consultation before he announces his proposal. There is another month of consultation before the Minister makes a decision. If the decision includes a school closure then those Boards have a further 28 days to comment.

Boards of trustees may also do their own consultation with parents and communities.

Why are school reviews needed?

The Minister wants the Ministry to ensure all children have access to a quality education well into the future, whatever their background and wherever they live.

The size and make-up of communities change that means schools must also change to meet their students' needs.

The Ministry has access to a great deal of data and information relating to school and early childhood provision, performance and participation. The Ministry also provides demographic data and projections.

Across many parts of New Zealand there is a primary school roll decline which impacts on the way education is provided. This will flow through into the secondary sector. A review allows the community to assess this information, to reflect on its implications and to assist in deciding how to address the local issues.

Why do them now?

If change is necessary the best time to address the issues and to plan for the future is now. It is better to begin planning early rather than delaying until issues have become so difficult to deal with that options are limited.

This doesn't mean that all change has to be immediate.

A decision could be that some things remain as they are for now but that future changes are needed and must be planned for. If there is uncertainty about whether change is necessary or desirable, a review can help to clarify that question.

What benefits can result from a review?

- Ensuring local students have access to quality education into the future;

- Planning that takes account of demographic change and its impact on schooling requirements;

- Educational resources being used wisely and well;

- Release of under-utilised school resources back into the school communities;

- More money available to invest in better teaching and learning resources;

- Schools having workable rolls for many years;

- More co-operation between schools;

- Consideration of new models for the delivery of education;

- More viable and supportive professional communities for teachers to enhance their development and benefit their students; and

- Increased community involvement in educational debate and decision-making.

How long do reviews take?

The review timeframe is flexible to allow for all parties to have a say. Approximately it should take nine months from the first announcement to the final decision.

How can I find out more?

Information, processes and timeframes specific to a network review are provided at community meetings and discussed in detail with schools and Boards.

Local Ministry of Education offices also have information on reviews in their area.

Information is also available on the Ministry's Website www.minedu.govt.nz/

The Minister's press releases on announcements surrounding network reviews are stored at:

http://www.beehive.govt.nz/Minister.cfm?MinisterID=3


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